When the Parkway was laid out, and the mileposts added, I suppose its creators assumed it most often would be traveled from northeast to southwest (in other words, starting in Virginia). Thinking we would like to travel farther north when finished, we’ve chosen to run it the opposite direction.
This first leg of the journey began at Asheville, NC and ran to the end of the Parkway at Cherokee, NC.
As we moved farther up the parkway later, there would be several historical sites, but on today’s drive, the appeal was the fantastic scenery!
The Parkway is just as it’s name implies, a road running along the crest of the mountains. Nowhere is that more evident than when looking down upon the road from an overlook above.
At Milepost 431, you encounter the highest point on the Parkway, at 6,047 feet.
Shortly after this photo, we experienced what would become the norm for several days…an afternoon thunderstorm.
The Parkway comes to an end at the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is also at Cherokee, NC.
Having been there several times before, and arriving past lunch time, we decided to eat and head back over the mountains. We chose the first restaurant we came to, The Little Princess.
Turns out, we could not have chosen better. The fried fish plate with onion rings and slaw was delicious, and almost more than we could eat. Not enough, though, that we couldn’t stop in for ice cream at the dairy bar next door.
The dairy bar is conveniently located with steps leading down to the Oconaluftee River, luring “tubers” to stop for a snack.
Back on the Parkway, the rain had stopped, leaving behind miniature waterfalls on the rocky ledges.
Devil’s Courthouse’s sinister appearance contributed to many folk tales in the area.
Within the mountain is a cave where, according to the legends, the devil holds court. The Cherokee believe it to be the private dancing chamber and dwelling of the slant-eyed giant, Judaculla. The one half mile climb to the top gains almost 300 feet in elevation, so we decided not to try it. However, as you can tell from the close-up, many do.
There are many formations along the drive that make you wonder…how and why did that form in the manner it did, such as this one titled Pounding Mill?
It was a great day for our first day on the Parkway. Here are a couple of my favorite panoramic shots from the day (click on any photo to see it larger).