Knowing when the time is right to catch the best fall colors in our own North Carolina Mountains is a bit tricky. Go too early and the color won’t be vibrant – but wait too late and sparse limbs offer little in the flaming tradition that leaf peepers adore.
Take my advice – now is a good time!
We left last evening and took the route up highway 18 to the Blue Ridge Parkway entrance closest to Doughton Park – my favorite spot. But the beautiful old stone bridge sported a bright orange detour sign – Parkway North Closed to Thru Traffic.
No problem – we just kept driving toward Sparta, took highway 21 over to the next parkway entrance and it too had a detour sign that said – Parkway South Closed to Thru Traffic.
My beloved Doughton Park rocks with long range blue mountain ridges and the perfect hiking trails might not be accessible if we couldn’t go north at Laurel Springs or south of Sparta. The rocks that sit out in a field of tall grass and lend themselves to contemplation are simply favorites of mine and we always go there in the fall. Sometimes I go there alone to think. To miss them in autumn and their hiking trails with split rail fencing would be like not having turkey at Thanksgiving.
We pulled over at Little Glade Mill Pond and took one of the Detour Maps from the information box.
Doughton Park was accessible after all. We simply had to go back to Laurel Springs and get on the parkway north – even though the sign said closed. It wasn’t actually closed until just passed the Doughton Park entrance.
And we figured while we were there we might as well check out the mill pond. We were glad then that we had gone too far. It was so beautiful with the gold and red leaves reflected in its clear water and the wildflowers along its banks were gorgeous! We even saw fish swimming around in the crystal water and threw in a few popcorn kernels just to watch them splash up to the surface.
Then we proceeded to the Stone Mountain Overlook before leaving that section and heading back to Laurel Springs.
Doughton Park was as always – divine. With cool temperatures and light breezes we needed jackets, but the hiking also helped keep us warm. And guess what? We were all alone. If you ever wanted to experience the Bluff Mountain Trails and the wide open fields of tall grass that meet the tree line where it meets the blue tiers of mountain peak layers, and you also wanted to avoid crowds, this is your time! Everyone thinks they can’t get there, just as we initially did. But you can.
Of course this lack of traffic has caused the restaurant to close that is just across the street from the park and has wonderful food. But no bother, take a snack!
If you want further information contact www.nps.gov/blri. The road closure is due to reconstruction of the historic stone guardrails and will have the section from milepost -232.5 to milepost 236.9 closed until the summer of 2012.
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