Starting at the Museum of North Carolina Minerals, we continued northward.
The Parkway was quite often bordered by wooden rail fences.
The Blue Ridge Parkway gets it’s name from the Blue Ridge Mountains, but it runs on the ridge itself in many areas, as is plainly visible here.
We stopped to take photos above the Historic Orchard at Altapass.
We were planning to attend a local barbecue and bluegrass festival later in the day, so did not take time to stop at the orchard.
A little farther along, we stopped at an overlook where we could look back at the orchard on the mountainside.
Looking the other direction
A little off the Parkway near MP 316 is Linville Falls. We hiked the Erwin’s View Trail. The trail, rated moderate, crosses the Linville River behind the small visitor’s center,
and then winds upward through the woods.
Near the falls, the layers of rock resemble flowing water.
There are two upper falls,
The river bubbles over the rocks,
Then narrows, and churns around a bend, where it drops over the larger falls, not visible at this point.
We continued on the trail another .2 miles to an observation point for the lower main falls.
This long shot captures both the upper and lower falls.
As the day progressed, once again the clouds began to form over the mountains.
(Do you see the glimpse of the road ahead in the photo below?)
The Linn Cove Viaduct is an engineering marvel. Constructed of 153 concrete segment, only one of which is straight, it is huge. I found this excellent shot online, either taken from a point high on the mountain, or from the air.
There is a visitor center at one end of the viaduct, and a path that leads under the structure.
These are our shots as we drove over it.
And this zoom shot is from an overlook beyond the viaduct.
What amazed me more than anything in the story of its construction was that very little of the surrounding habitat was disturbed in its building. For some of the construction pictures and more on the process, see my earlier post on the Parkway’s history.
Beyond the viaduct, we traveled the Parkway a little farther to MP 295 near the Julian Price Memorial Park, containing a campground and picnic/hiking area. We then headed back the way we had come.
The skies continued to darken, and a storm looked imminent. We decided that going to the festival as we had planned probably was no longer a good idea. Usually we pack a lunch, but hadn’t today, planning on the barbecue. We decided to stop at the Orchard at Altapass and see if they served lunch.
Sometimes your best plans are made at the last moment, and the decision to stop at the Orchard proved the point, but first, a little on the history of the Orchard.
Through this area, the old Clinchfield Railroad loops and tunnels through the mountains. 4000 immigrant workmen labored from 1905 to 1908 to complete this difficult section of track; over 200 of them were to lose their lives. The railroad brought timber and mining companies to the area, providing a way to transport the natural treasures of the mountains and forever changing the lives of the mountain families. A community sprang to life, called Altapass, meaning “High Pass”.
When the building was completed, the Clinchfield Railroad built an apple orchard on this section of land. The area was perfect for growing apples, situated on the mountain in such a way that it was almost frost proof. Before long, it was producing State Champion apples at the rate of 125,000 bushels and providing many local jobs. Every family for miles had at least one member working at the Orchard.
Then everything changed again. The Clinchfield ceased to provide passenger service, and plans to build the Blue Ridge Parkway came to fruition. Following an ancient buffalo path, layout for the Parkway route passed through the center of the large orchard. Area residents and business owners forced the issue all the way to the Supreme Court, but in the end, Parkway planners won.
What was left of the Orchard fell into a state of disrepair. Then in 1994, a half century later, help came in the form of a lady named Kit Trubey. She purchased the orchard, and began the work of preservation along with the help of her brother Bill Carson and his wife Judy. The portion lying above the Parkway was sold to the Parkway to assure its perpetual preservation. The remaining land will be protected by conservation easement.
Today, the work continues with hayrides, story telling, butterfly tagging, free mountain music and dancing on weekends and a store to sell ice cream, fudge, country products, local crafts, and of course, apples. The Orchard at Altapass is a success once again.
As we parked, we could hear the strains of mountain music, and to our delight, when we entered the building, a mountain clogging demonstration had just started.
This clogging was different from any we’d seen. Much of it was “free-style” with one of the dancers calling directives, many of them new to us, but several we recognized from square dancing, such as “promenade” and “swing your partner”.
We have helped with many square dance demonstrations where participants from the audience got to experience being in a square, but this time the tables were turned when we had our chance to be a participant from the audience. We joined the last dance, and I’m sure didn’t do much clogging, but had a lot of fun, even learning a few calls such as “wind the yarn”.
Afterwards, we were really hungry and found a lunch wagon set up outside selling, of all things, barbecue; we got our barbecue dinner after all.
When we returned to the barn, a small country music band was setting up. With the first song, folks left their chairs to dance, until the small dance floor was full.
What a nice time we had after just stopping on a whim. On the way out, I purchase a half peck of the only apple ripe at the time, Lodi (they produced the tastiest applesauce we have had since making our own from the apples we grew on the farm years ago!)
A volunteer offering tastes of ice cream also offered me a taste of Key Lime Pie hand dipped ice cream; one taste, and we also had to have a dish of ice cream to finish our day.
The Orchard and its entertainment was one of our best experiences yet on the Parkway, and one we won’t forget soon!