The term "breathtaking" is overused, but literally today at one point I looked to my left and it took my breath away. Day 19 took me to the 5600' level on Mount Mitchell. I'll mostly let pictures tell the story.
Day 18 Run
Run by the numbers: 18th day, 360 miles total, 20 miles today, 3 tunnels today (6 total out of 26 along the Parkway), almost 4000 feet of climbing, 1 tallest mountain east of the Mississippi River. I started at the camping area for Crabtree Falls near Milepost 340 and ended at Walker Knob Overlook past Mount Mitchell near Milepost 360.
After a rolling but net downhill start, the climb began at Hwy 80. I went through 3 tunnels (MP 344.4, 344.5, 339). After mile 10, a 1.5 mile descent began before the final climb up the base of Mt Mitchell. The Parkway loops around Mt Mitchell at the 5200' and 5600'.
I got some rare photos looking south from the Blue Ridge Parkway on Mt Mitchell. These will be pretty rare since traffic is not allowed to stop along this section. You would have to be on foot or bike to get them.
The best way to tell the story of today's run is in the photos on http://www.BRPWeather.com/. It was all about long-range mountain views today. From BRPWeather.Com, zoom into the region around Mt Mitchell and click on the photo icons. By the way, you can upload your photos to BRPWeather.com also; just click on the Photo link and follow the process--it's quick and easy!
Well, the videos are short and not my best. I focused on getting the run done instead of talking today. Here's the starting and ending video...
This is our third night at the Big Lynn Lodge. We could not have enjoyed our stay more. Hoyt and Michelle Johnson and their staff make a friendly, relaxed environment. If you are looking for 5-star accommodations, you'll be disappointed--but if you are looking for a beautiful, inauspicious, relaxed, affordable lodge with good food, this is it. To the right, see my blogging office this evening from the side porch of the lodge.
Parkway Attractions and History
Crabtree Falls (with the campground and picnic area) is a popular spot. We did not have time to hike to the falls, but I have seen many photos--beautiful!
Mt Mitchell is the highest mountain east of the Mississippi. The Parkway runs across the southern rim, but you can drive to the top. Mt Mitchell is a North Carolina State Park. Rhonda went to the top while I was running.
Mr. Browning's Touch
You may know that the original report of the committee appointed to recommend a Blue Ridge Parkway route was to turn the road west from Linville into Tennessee near Roan Mountain. The road would have then stayed on the Tennessee side of the state line to the Great Smokies. The process and lobbying efforts that resulted in the North Carolina route being accepted was full of controversy and intrigue. This process is detailed in Super-Scenic Motorway: A Blue Ridge Parkway Historyby Anne Mitchell Whisnant.
One of the key figures in that process was R. Getty Browning. He also became Parkway Engineer and the Senior Locating and Claim Engineer for the Blue Ridge Parkway. I love Browning's story and life because he demonstrated such expertise in so many areas: technical (highway engineering), route selection, lobbying Federal administrators, an outdoors-man (who hiked virtually every inch of the North Carolina Parkway route), etc. Twice in the early 1930s, he was given the task of presenting the North Carolina case to the routing committee. His technical and persuasive skills are widely accepted as being a (if not "the") primary reason the Blue Ridge Parkway follows the route I ran today (and for the rest of this run). He was a man of substance and tact--a rare combination.
As I was running (and walking those steep uphill stretches) today, particularly from Hwy 80 to Mount Mitchell, I was in awe of the skill it took to get to 5600' elevations near Mt. Mitchell but with a grade that was manageable by auto, bicycle, and on foot. In a world of too much specialization, here's a salute to the people who possess multiple talents and excel at multiple skills. Clearly, R. Getty Browning was one of those people. My day (and everyone else's out there today) was due to his abilities. Mr. Browning retired in 1962 after nearly 30 years of work on the Blue Ridge Parkway. He died in Blowing Rock, NC, in 1966. We owe so much to this man.
The Day 19 is mostly a descent toward Asheville and the French Broad Valley. We start at Walker Knob Overlook, just north of Milepost 360, at 9 AM (or as soon as I can get there from Little Switzerland). We'll run past Craggy Gardens then down toward Asheville. If you want to start at Craggy Gardens (where much more parking is available) we'll be there around 9:45. Here are details of the plan... http://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/1099646808.