Sunday, October 7, 2007

Blue Ridge Parkway NC + Grayson Highlands State Park VA: Sept 27- 29 2007

This trip took us to a number of places--it was a good trip. Locales visited included Rural Retreat Lake, Rural Retreat, Va.; the Blue Ridge Parkway (the 40 northern most miles in NC); and Fall Festival at the Grayson Highlands State Park, just 5 miles above the Va-NC border.

Rural Retreat is located approximately 5 miles east of I-81, south of Wytheville and and north of Marion. This little town is known for being the place that Mountain Dew was concocted at the local drug store.

The water level at the lake was quite low, and I would not recommend camping at this lake, even though it did have RV hookups.

However, this site is listed as being the Va Birding and Wildlife Trail location, and we did see some unusual birds and wildlife here. First, we saw and heard a number of killdeer. And, a bittern [type of heron] plus a form of grebe. To top it off, we witnessed a beaver swimming across the water, leaving a nice "vee" behind him. And, there were the usual number of ducks and geese.

From Rural Retreat, we continued south on US Rt#11, determined to locate the Appalachian Trail crossing. While there are no signs identifying this momentous spot, we determined that the actual crossing occurs just south of the Mountain Empire Airport, at the Rt# 683 crossing from I-81--and where the middle fork of the South Holston River is, right by a redwood stained exterior restaurant. This locale would be northern Atkins.

On the next day, Friday, we drove across Rt#16 from Marion, past Sugar Grove and into Vollney. From there, we headed down into NC, crossing both the north and south forks of the New River. My wife drove us to a place she visited as a child: Shatley Springs, a family-style eating establishment. All you can eat, country cooking. Then, we passed by Jefferson and joined the Blue Ridge Parkway at the Northwest Corner Trading Post and proceeded north.
Memorable spots included the Devil's Garden overlook, a place we had caught a sun rise several years ago--with wild boars rooting around in the nearby woods! The Doughton Park area was also impressive. Pilot Mountain can be seen off in the distance.

We reached Low Gap, and left the Parkway to follow a highway into Galax. In driving through Galax [south to north], we were able to see the downtown area, including the Rex Theater [bluegrass music every weekend] and Felts Park, home of the Old Time Fiddler's Convention. From this point, we picked up US Rt#58 heading west towards Grayson Highlands Park. We arrived at the Park around check-in, 4:30pm.

In the morning of the next day, we drove from our campsite down to the picnic area, location of the fall festival. We choose our second row seats to the sound stage [30 feet?] and looked at various vendor stands. Across the way, old time crafts were being practiced, including the making of Molasses from sugar cane grown from nearby Sugar Grove, apple butter making from local apples, and Appalachian style iron rendering. Several pictures from the iron rendering are below.

The first bluegrass group was named "True Grass". Pictures and two video (movie) clips are presented below. You need Windows Media Player to view/listen to them. These clips were taken with my Canon S3 IS camera. Cloggers appeared on the dance stage throughout the day.

Unknown group:

True Grass:

Crafts Area:

Long Line for the BBQ Chicken Dinner

In the afternoon we were charmed by local guitar player and instrument maker Wayne Henderson of Mouth of Wilson, Va. Wayne and his group played a number of old time songs replete with humorous commentary. The pictures of him and his group plus a single video are presented below.

Wayne holds his own festival in June at Grayson Highlands: the Wayne Henderson Festival and Guitar Championship.

Wayne Henderson Band

Wayne Henderson

The Park Superintendent:

For details on all of the events at Grayson Highlands State Park, the friends of Grayson Highlands maintain a very niche web site:

True Grass_1

Wayne Henderson

True Grass_2

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