There’s a reason they call it the Blue Ridge.
After a week with some serious rain, the sky was clean and bright, with landscape greens and blues at their best. A perfect day to drive along the Parkway, stroll around Blowing Rock, and of course make a stop at Kilwins for some toasted coconut ice cream.
Along the way, we came across a Park Ranger equipped with a stuffed cinnamon-colored black bear (yes, they are not always black) to help promote the National Park Service’s exceptional Junior Ranger Program. When I expressed sadness at the demise of the little bear she assured me he had a very long life as a youth educator. If you have kids or grandkids, be sure to check out the Jr Ranger Activities, they are terrific.
We learned the black bear population has come back from a low of 400 to somewhere in the 20-30,000 range in this part of the country. No wonder there are so many bear-sightings this year.
BTW, we also learned Carolina coastal bears enjoy a richer diet and are much fatter than their mountain relatives.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a hikers paradise. With more than 70 trails along the North Carolina portion of the Parkway, you can find something for every level and interest, from easy to strenuous.
Close to Blowing Rock, near Parkway Craft Center at Moses Cone Manor is the Julian Price Memorial Park featuring a beautiful lake and lovely picnic grounds. BTW, you can rent canoes and row boats by the hour at the boat ramp on Price Lake. Just a few yards from Price Lake you will find Sims Pond (milepost 295.9) and a nice hike with a variety of scenic pleasures.
Officially the Green Knob Trail, this trek is also referred to as the Sims Pond Trail. The well-cut, 2.4 miles loop trail takes hikers 500′ up through dense forests with ancient soaring trees, across pretty little streams, over massive logs, under the Parkway (at .06 miles), across pastures complete with perfectly proportioned apple trees and resident cows, to fields of wildflowers and butterflies.
There are a few strategically placed benches along the way to relax (or rest) and take in the sights, sells and sounds of nature at its best. The most strenuous part is about a 20-minute section up to the pastures, where you are steadily climbing. Generally, a moderate hike, the trip takes anywhere from 50 to 90 minutes, depending on how fast you hike and if you take a break to enjoy the experience.
Simply put, the Green Knob Trail has something for everyone.
For info on trails along the Parkway, visit: www.blueridgeparkway.org/