If you’re tired of sitting around campus because you don’t know what to do with your free time, it’s time to find some friends and take a short trip over to the Blue Ridge Parkway, located between Cullowhee and Waynesville.
The Blue Ridge Parkway has many activities as well as some of the most beautiful sites in the United States.
“People do all kinds of things on the parkway,” said Ann Childress, Chief of Interpretation and Education. “They come up to have a picnic at an overlook, or to just simply ride on the parkway, be it in a car, on a motorcycle, or on bicycle to take in mountainous views. We also have a visitors center at Water Rock Knob at mile post 451.2 that’s open seven days a week from nine to five and there are some exhibits in there and a nice walking trail.”
If you want to hike, the Parkway offers 100 trails of all skill levels where you can see wildlife and plants of all kings, some that are unique to the area. In some of the developed areas, which are few and far between, they have hands on demonstrations of mountain life, and during the summer, rangers give guided walks and campfire programs.
If you just want to ride around, there are several turnoffs where you can take in picturesque views of the mountains. Or, if you would like to stay awhile at the Blue Ridge Parkway, there are several places to put up a tent to camp overnight or for a week. There is Linville Falls with access to the trails into Linville Gorge at mile post 316, Crabtree Meadows with access to Crabtree Falls trails, as well as Mount Mitchell State Park at mile post 340. Blue Ridge Parkway also offers the highest campground, Mount Pisgah at mile post 408.
The Blue Ridge Parkway goes through North Carolina and Virginia for 500 miles. Along the road there are exhibits were information can be found on mountain culture. At the entrance to the Cherokee Indian Reservation, there is information at mile post 457.7, at mile post 382 there is the Folk Art Center, as well as various information posted at many of the overlooks.
The planning for the Parkway itself was started in late December 1933, as part of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal plan to create jobs to help get the United States out of the Great Depression, but the actual construction started in 1935.
Most of the work was done by hand by men who lived in barracks in temporary work camps. World War II slowed the construction of the Parkway, and it wasn’t completely done until 1987, 52 years later.
So, when you have some time this summer, or even in the fall, get out of your room and take off. All you need is a few hours or a day or two. The Blue Ridge Parkway is the perfect quick getaway or camping adventure. Its beautiful scenery and rich history insure that you’ll have a good time, or better yet, a peaceful one.
The closest entrance to Western Carolina University is located on Highway 23/74 on the left after the Balsam exit.