Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) – Alligator Back Overlook
Mile Post 242.4
This is the farthest north we went on BRP. The hill definitely resembles Alligator back. This overlook offers an exhibit on raptors and mammals of the area. Once called “varmints” and killed on sight, hawks, owls, bears, foxes and snakes are now recognized as an inseparable part of our environment. This is the best overlook to observe them.
Blue Ridge Parkway – Mount Jefferson Overlook
Mile Post 266.8
We took a 15 minute long break from driving at this overlook. The reason is that we had driven under this mountain on Highway 211 to reach Boone from Virginia. There is an exhibit here on Mount Jefferson (4,683 feet). A cave near top of the mountain is said to have provided hiding place to slaves fleeing to Ohio before the Civil War. The mountain is now part of the 474-acre Mount Jefferson State Park. The mountain was renamed for the town of Jefferson in Ashe County when the park was created.
Blue Ridge Parkway – Linville Falls
Mile Post 316.4
We drove to Linville Falls Visitor Center, which hosts about 350,000 visitors annually. Linville Falls is reportedly the most beautiful fall along the Blue Ridge area. The Ranger at the Center told us to follow the track to Erwins View Trail that will take us to four overlooks and that is exactly what we did. The 1-mile long uphill trek took us to a high overlook from where we were able to see the falls deep in the ravine below. We met many visitors here and befriended a number of them (picture 1 and 2).
While we were hiking back, we turned to our right toward the half-way point offering a closer view of the falls to our left and of Erwin Overlook high above us to our right. We saw some families who had descended down to the fall and were swimming or basking in the sun.
We continued back and took a last turn to our right to reach the rapids of the Linville River. The falls could not be seen from here as it was hidden due to huge boulders to our right.
A day at the Grandfather Mountain
Grandfather Mountain is proven most popular tourist attraction of North Carolina and when we explored it we could see why that would be. It is recognized by the UN as an International Biosphere Reserve. Some other destinations that we have visited and are listed on the same list are Niagara Escarpment in Ontario, Canada and Lal Suhanra National Park in Punjab, Pakistan.
Grandfather Mountain is a habitat for 12 rare and endangered animals, reptiles and insects and 30 rare and endangered plants. The Virginia Big-eared Bat, the Carlolina Northern Flying Squirrel, the Spruce Fir Moss Spider, Heller's Blazing Star, Blue Ridge Goldenrod, and Bent Avens are considered "critically imperiled globally because of extreme rarity".
Once we entered the Mountain, our first stop was at a spot of two gigantic rocks, one of them named Split Rock for the obvious reason shown in one of the pictures.
Grandfather Mountain - Hiking up to bridge
After visiting the Wildlife Habitats and the Nature Museum, we drove towards the famous mile-high swinging bridge. However, after driving a little distance on the road we found signs saying parking area for hiking to the mountain peak. We parked our car at that lot and decided to hike towards the peak.
It was a steep climb, but was not difficult as the path was well maintained (photo 3 and 4). Every now and then, we would see a group of deer giving us a good look and then disappearing in the woods. Just like trees in Bruce Peninsula National Park and the Fathom Five National Marine Park back in Ontario that we hiked in July, we found trees with their roots on the surface trying to get a hold of anything they could find (photo # 2). All of us had lots of admiration for trees trying to make their stand in this way. Wildflowers were blooming prolifically, some hanging to the most fragile of soils (photo # 5). The hike took us right under the mile-high bridge, where we took a little breather (photo 1). The path finally ended at the corner of the souvenir shop by the steps leading to the bridge.
The hikers should note that there are a number of trails that either go over the ridges (most difficult) or deep into the woods (moderately difficult).