Gentle on the Land

I've had the idea for 5 years... Wouldn't it be cool to run the entire Blue Ridge Parkway?

frontpagephoto2When the Blue Ridge Parkway was conceived in the 1930s, I doubt anyone imagined someone would be so foolish as to run it. The road was built for cars! Stanley Abbott was the original Parkway Architect. One of his design principles was to build a road that "lay gently on the land". By the time milepost 469 is in sight, I will wish they had leveled out more stuff! 🙂

You know I'm kidding. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a national treasure born out of difficult economic times and built through struggle and even controversy. Its beauty grows out of the Appalachian Mountains from which it was carved and the care of countless surveyors, designers, and workers. The Parkway's footprint is small compared to modern superhighways--but who would want to run any of those?


The run will begin with great anticipation. I want to see every curve and undulation. I want to see things even a cyclist would not notice. I want to photograph every overlook, admire every bridge, and meet as many people as I can.

I want to "feel" the process that shaped the road. In my mind I want to hear the sound of saws cutting trees, earth-moving equipment, dynamite blasts, stone mason's chisels, sighs of people who received much-needed jobs, but also the voices of people whose farms, land, homes, and lives were disrupted to make way for the road. I want to reverse-engineer the minds of the politicians, public servants, business leaders, road planners, and designers who made decisions, large and small, to make the road what it is.

I want to celebrate the achievement... not that it's perfect or was perfect in concept or development... but to celebrate what we know could not be built now in the same form. Who did it? How did they pull off a project involving the federal government, 2 states (really 3 if you include the one that was "left out"), a 469-mile ribbon of land, 1000s of properties, 10,000s of people, across 52 years of construction? What were the forces that produced perseverance to complete the goal?

The Parkway is not all "past tense"; it's a living, dynamic entity. I want to celebrate the continuing work performed by dedicated, capable people to maintain, improve, and enhance the Parkway experience for all to enjoy.


The run will also begin with great apprehension. Can I do this? I'm a good runner but not a great runner. And I'm old with a long history of running injuries. Will I be able to thread the needle between sufficient daily progress and the harshness of the climate and terrain? Three to four hours of running every day is not only a physical grind but matter of mental endurance as well. Whatever the outcome, I'll put everything I have "on the road". (It has been done once before, much faster than I could ever do it. That feat will be the topic of another blog post later this week.)


Know this event is not a solo effort. David Still and Denna Miller, members of the RaysWeather.Com team, have worked tirelessly to plan the event. Sponsors will be paying most of the bills. RaysWeather.Com meteorologists will be covering the forecasting while I am literally "on the road". Other runners will be joining in the run most days. Someone will be around to get us from hotels to road and back, supplying fuel and water along the way. And my dear wife, Rhonda, has put up with the training, complaining, and pain as I prepare for the event.

Between now and mid-June, we'll blog, photograph, and video the journey. The event will be documented in every way we know how.


Most importantly, if you love the Blue Ridge Parkway, find a way to "Relay with Ray" by donating to the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation or finding a Friends Project for which you can give your time. The last two generations of Americans created a treasure for us. We must strive to preserve the Blue Ridge Parkway and make it even better for our grandchildren. Our grandchildren will need to camp, hike, fish, climb, and play--finding inspiration in these mountains. As "wilderness" becomes harder to find, they will need the Blue Ridge Parkway more than we do.

21 Comments on “Gentle on the Land

  1. Go, Ray! Setting goals and achieving them is all a part of the human psyche. What an admirable goal, and there is no lovelier place on earth to perform it. I will be following your blog as you progress with anticipation and prayers for safety.
    PS. Who ever said we old people can’t achieve new goals?!!

  2. Ray- I’ve seen you running several times on the Greenway and you out run me every time and I’m in my 30s. You’ve got this!

  3. Ray, enjoy the journey…share as much of it as you can as many of us can’t follow alone other than via your posts…

  4. Ray,

    Great adventure awaits . We will be cheering you on and if you happen to be near Brinegar Cabin/garden on a Tuesday we will gladly plan your lunch. The BGG (Brinegar Garden Gang) is a group of Volunteers who love the parkway and especially the garden.


  5. This is so awesome, Ray. I spend a lot of time on the parkway photographing and am still in awe of it every single time I’m there. It will be an amazing journey and definitely one for the forever memories.

  6. You are truly a blessed man to have the opportunity to fulfill one of your bucket list items. What an awesome way to experience God in a way that most of us haven’t! The miracle of the glimpse into his vast mind is chilling! May He bring people across your path that need to hear about Him. This is just not a run, it is a ministry. You are His disciple only instead of wearing sandles you get to wear awesome running shoes! He has prepared you for no greater time as this! He carries you in the palm of His mighty hand! Safe travels!

  7. what a wonderful and fun goal for you. It will be such a beautiful journey seeing His marvelous creation!! Best of luck from the Cookes who look forward to this blog…

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