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    Posted October 10, 2014 by
    ecotraveler
    Location
    North Carolina

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    The Devils Courthouse

     

    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     ecotraveler photographed the vibrant beauty of autumn in Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. The park offers stunning long-range views of the vistas and close-up views of the Appalachian mountains. "There's so much to see and do and so much history and lore, you can spend weeks hiking and exploring natural and cultural wonders,” she said.
    - Jareen, CNN iReport producer

    Natural Wonders, intriguing cloud formations, sudden Summer snowstorms, curious titles, and vibrant Fall colors are all happening now on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina.

    Hotels warn leaf peepers to book early to insure a hotel stay in the Asheville area, especially from October 1 - 31, peak season for Fall color. Another option is to pull into one of the colorful campsites, from primitive to outfitted RV along the Parkway.

    Mother Nature has provided optimal warm sunny days, chilly nights, and an occasional rain which turns to snow at the higher elevations around Asheville this year. All of these work together to provide just the right formula for a beautiful and vibrantly colored Fall along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

    Weather is ever changing and quick to blow in beautiful cloud formations and condensation on the parkway. Brochures say to expect snow by the time November rolls onto the NC parkway and local emergency personnel report that snow is common even in June at the higher elevations, which is an awesome sight, but be prepared.

    On October 4, it was a sunny 61 degrees at the base of the parkway at PP 385, but the ascent toward Mt. Pisgah at 5,721' led to temperatures plummeting to 32 degrees and snow at 7:30 PM.

    Weekends bring a lot of hikers, bikers, cyclists, and families, while weekdays are slightly lighter with vacationing or the older, non working crowd. Beautiful sunsets can be found along the parkways 469 curvy and rolling miles, and currently traffic is light to moderate now, but fill up with gas and bring water and snacks if you plan to cruise the beautiful scenery in the coming weeks, as more of the mountains color up and draw leaf peepers from around the world.

    The historic scenic byway begins at mile post (MP) 0 in northwestern Virginia near Waynesboro and traverses mountains and piedmont to its culmination at the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, south of Asheville NC at parkway post (PP) 469. If that's not enough color, hiking, picnicking and just reconnecting with friends and family for free, it connects with Skyline Drive to the north where you can wander another 105 miles through the history and colors of Shenandoah National Park for a fee.

    This week at the southern end of the BRP, Graveyard Fields at PP 418.8 was the winner, with other areas soon to follow, highest elevations first. It measured at 50% of it's color capacity and offered viewers an intriguing and tormented natural history, with a beautiful kaleidoscope of colors from pale yellows to rich goldens to rusts and reds. It's high elevation of 5,120 feet at the overlook aided by intertwining streams encouraged the abundance of deciduous trees there to swap their green for layers of beautiful colors. 

    The many waterways in the area also offer hikers trails that range from short and easy to steep and difficult with breathtaking views of waterfalls. The highest elevation east of the Mississippi is recorded to be a short distance from the parkway at Mt. Mitchell, which juts up an impressive 6,684 feet. This area is dominated by evergreens so is a lush green all year round. The state park at PP 355.4 will take you to Mt. Mitchell via Rt 128 for beautiful vistas, a museum, restaurant, camping, trails, and nature study.

    All along the parkway, the evergreen hemlocks, fir, spruce, and the variety of pines provide their woodsy scent and shades of deep to lighter green year round. In Fall, the Dogwoods and sumac are often the first to change to a vibrant red, and the higher you climb now, they're joined by more reds from blackgum and the prolific bunches of Mountain Ash berries the birds love. Their scarlet berry bunches pop against the silver grey of bark, lichens and moss on the trees.  Oaks and maples sport a variety of shades from yellow to deepest oranges, and birches and tulip trees throw in their soothing yellows. 

    Colors are popping up and out now at all elevations from curious rock layers that record millenniums of historic, climactic and geological changes. Acorns are already dropping from deep orange oak trees, and crunch under your feet to add to the menu of red berries for wintering birds.

    The timing is perfect for the Sourwoods, at varying stages depending on elevation and exposure now. It's unique purplish color forms a beautiful backdrop for the creamy white cascading flower stems that still gracefully adorn its branches and totally morph this green leaved tree into a spectacular Fall wonder. 

    Some believe Sourwoods provide the best nectar for local bees to produce the best honey in the world ... if and when you can find and afford it.   At PP 422.4 the overlook at Devils Courthouse still beckons hikers, history lovers, and the curious who park in the lot and then trek the moderately steep .4 mile uphill trail to the cave nestled in the mountain that looms almost 300 feet above the overlook. Steeped in Cherokee lore and legend it's been believed that the devil holds court there, and the Cherokee Indians believe Judaculla, a giant, lived and danced there. 

    The hike to the Devils Courthouse offers views of rare plants along the path. Some can only thrive at this high elevation, and at the top, a spectacular view of the Pisgah National Forest tempts photographers to brave the edge of the rugged mountain to snap a photo or two.

    The parkway encompasses over 81,000 acres of diverse soil, climate and natural wonders, including non-native species of insects, plants, and animals. A few bare trees have popped up along the BRP, and provide an especially ominous setting that appears to be staged at Devils Courthouse to add to the allure of the foreboding rock formation.  

    It's reported that the Hemlock Woolly Adelgidis insect is a non-native that's attacking the evergreen Hemlocks along the parkway. To fight back, the National Park Service is releasing a particular beetle that feeds on the Woolly Adelgid, in hopes of saving this important and beautiful shade tree at Linville Falls, another very popular hiking and stopover at milepost 316.4.

    The Blue Ridge Parkway is a treasure in any season and a must-do, and improvements continue to be made to enhance your parkway experience, like stairs and boardwalks that make a previously formidable hike more doable for everyone...... man or beast.

     

    For up to date road closures,blooms, and Fall color reports, dial 828-298-0398

    The Visitor Center at MP 384 is open year round for info

    For kids, enhance their experience by visiting and registering at: http://kidsinparks.com

    For Musical entertainment schedules: call 276-236-5309

    For facilities (cabins, gardens, parks, etc) 828-271-4779


    PHOTOS:

    Sunset

    Historic Graveyard Fields

    Waterfall

    Mountain Ash berries

    Changing leaves among layers of history

    Sourwood Tree

    View of the Devils Courthouse from the Parking Lot along the Parkway

    Leaf peeper taking photographs of Pisgah Nat'l Forest from atop Devils Courthouse

    Boardwalk to the falls at Graveyard Fields

    Typical Tourists at Graveyard Field

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