Wednesday, May 12, 2010


We set out for our second day on the Blue Ridge Parkway only to run into a wall of fog and rain. Pictures I took from the windows were spattered and useless. As we crossed into the State of Virginia, the climate changed; warmer; lower elevation; some different plant life.
It remained overcast for the rest of the day, but the rain stopped for periods of time, one time, just as we arrived at the Mabry Grist Mill.

Bill Mabry built a complicated set of  flumes to carry water from two creeks to the water wheel. He was a chair maker, a blacksmith, he owned a still. He milled wood and ground corn and wheat into flour from this mill that he built himself. He was a renowned handyman. 

 He ran the mill and his wife, Lizzie Mabry, ran it after he died. The park service bought it and refurbished it after her death. A park service employee or docent operates the mill during the summer months for people to experience a working water-wheel driven mill. The blacksmith shop, above,  is also still usable and demonstrated by docents.

These huge old millstones need sharpening occasionally.
At higher elevations we saw clusters of wild flowers or small patches skittering across the meadows.  This day showed more flowers blooming, fields full of  a single flower type. We still saw walls of rododendron bushes, some as high as 30 feet, though none in bloom. The bush azaleas were everywhere showing yellow, apricot and an occasional pink bloom. Many dogwoods are in bloom. If you go, consider the different times of year. Pictures in the visitors center revealed October a spectacular time for shows of fall color.

 One of the CCC built stone bridges. With 200 creeks and rivers in the park, these wonderful stone bridges are common and picturesque.
The 600 to 1000 foot easements that make this park so unique are beginning to face encroachments the park system admits. They also note invasive species and wildlife as habitat elsewhere becomes eroded. As we neared the town of Roanoke we spotted a set of modern apartment buildings, that immediately seemed intrusive and out of place.  The real beauty of this park is never seeing a billboard, a commercial sign, a truck, no stoplights, no heavy traffic, no plastic bags or paper garbage along the roadside. Its a step back into history. Its what America must have been like all over this country, clean and beautiful and natural, the envy of other countries. An amazing place.


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