Monday, July 20, 2009

Blue Ridge Parkway....The Mabry Mill

The Blue Ridge Parkway is reputed to be "America's Favorite Scenic Drive". I don't know about America, but it is our favorite scenic drive. We first discovered the wonders of the parkway in 1997 on a 6-month RV trip (prior to full time living). We came back here again in 1999 on another long RV trip. In 1999 we stayed on the parkway for 5 weeks just traveling from one campground to the next. The parkway is 469 miles long and it runs along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains from Virginia and into North Carolina. The bluish haze you see hovering over this mountain range is produced by emissions of hydrocarbons and water vapor from forest vegetation...hence the name "Blue Ridge Mountains".

On this visit to Virginia we have no time for an extended tour of the parkway. So, we had to make do with an afternoon trip up to Mabry Mill, south of the city of Roanoke. The drive from the city to Mabry Mill on the Blue Ridge Parkway shows adjacent farms throughout the area. Farming has been a way of life in southwest Virginia for generations. As you drive along, you are rewarded with great views from many lookout areas.

This is a photo of the 2-lane parkway on our way to Mabry Mill.
You can see these split rail fences throughout the region as you take a leisure drive south. Here we are at one of the roadside lookout areas. This view is looking out to the east.

Here is the beautiful Mabry Mill (milepost 176 on the parkway). Mabry Mill is operated by the National Park Service as an exhibit of mountain culture. It has become one of the most photographed attractions on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Besides the mill and surrounding grounds, there is a gift shop and small restaurant.
While we waited for the summer music program out behind the mill, we walked around the grounds and took many photos. (see next posting for music program photos)
The century old gristmill was owned by Ed and Lizzy Mabry. Ed built the mill and the couple ground corn for their neighbors for 3 decades. It created a community gathering place for the folks who called this area home.
My Cousin Gail took our photo with the mill as a background feature.

Here is a view from the back of the mill looking toward the front, and the parkway road.

Although no longer an operating gristmill, that does not deter visitors from taking many photographs of this beautiful building. is another view of the mill. I just couldn't stop taking pictures.

Behind the gristmill, the National Park Service gives cultural history demonstrations throughout the day. Here, outside this original cabin, are period chairs and spinning wheels. Inside the cabin they have a weaving loom. There was no demonstration of weaving or spinning going on at this time.

Another feature of the area is the split rail fence (again). This was right behind the demonstration area by the mill.

This is the blacksmith shop, which is an original building. Inside an actual blacksmith was working at his craft. He was available for questions and photos.

This is the modern day blacksmith. He was waiting for the fire to get hot enough for his project.

The Mabry Mill is one of the most popular gathering spots on the entire parkway. The sights and sounds of rural life in Appalachia resonate from this place on a regular basis during the summer season.
There are many campgrounds on this parkway. They have dump stations and fresh water available, but no hook-ups. On our visits here during '97 and '99 we were driving a 30-foot Southwind motorhome and we had no problem getting a campsite. Now we are driving a 40-foot motorhome and we would be hard pressed to find a lot of campsites available to us. There are one or two at each campground, if we were lucky to get one before it was taken. We drove through Rocky Knob campground on our way back to Roanoke just for fun. The place was half empty. Recession? Who knows? I do recommend that if you are in the area, give some of these campgrounds a try.
Bye for now!

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