Asheville and the Blue Ridge Parkway, October 2000

In April of 2000 I went to a meditation retreat at Southern Dharma Retreat Center, about an hour outside Asheville, North Carolina. On the way back to Georgia I drove a fair distance down the Blue Ridge Parkway. I decided then that I needed to come back and spend some time in the area, which I did in early October that same year. The fall is the most popular time to visit the Blue Ridge because the trees turn colour and the temperatures aren't as high as the summer. I would have gone a week or two later to hit the peak of the fall colour, but I had a couple conferences to attend towards the end of the month. All images are linked to larger versions of the same image, just click on the image.

I spent most of the first day on the road from Georgia to Asheville, so I didn't take too many pictures that day.

More pictures of the Blue Ridge Parkway here.

I spent my second day in the Asheville area on the Blue Ridge. It turned out fairly foggy. That was disappointing when I was going to the top of Mount Mitchell (the highest point in the Eastern U.S., at 6600 feet or so) because I could barely see the ground below me from the top of the observation tower, but it does make for some very fine pictures.

The observation tower at Mount Mitchell. More pictures of Mount Mitchell here.

I had been instructed that while visiting Asheville, I had to see the Biltmore Estate. At $32 a head, this isn't exactly cheap, but it's pretty spectacular. Like Hearst's Castle in California, there was no photography inside. It's a beautiful building, as you'll see from the photos I took. Is it worth the price? I suppose so. I shelled out another $10 or $12 for the "Behind the Scenes Technology" tour (one of several "Behind the Scenes" tours you can take), and that was worthwhile: they had done some very interesting things to get that building running around the turn of the last century. The tour and tastings at the winery was also fun.

Biltmore Estate. More pictures of Biltmore here.

I spent the third day of my trip at Chimney Rock Park. About an hour's drive outside Asheville, this park is centered around a huge chunk of rock that is slowly (a matter of millenia, not weeks) falling off a cliff face. This is the "Chimney Rock." There are several cliffside hiking paths, and unbelievable views wherever you look. It was stunningly beautiful.

The namesake "Chimney Rock" of Chimney Rock Park. More pictures here.

On the final day of my long weekend, I drove back to Georgia, taking a detour north when I hit the Great Smokies National Park to visit Clingman's Dome (the second highest point in the Eastern U.S.). The decision was pure serendipity: as I got near the peak of Clingman's Dome, I discovered that the trees were completely covered in frost - but the ground was untouched. As you'll see below, this made for one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen in my entire life. Unlike Chimney Rock, I can't repeat this event just by driving north again. I nearly lost my fingers to frostbite taking pictures at the peak, but it was all worth it to see such beauty and be able to record it (to some extent).

A frosted plant at Clingman's Dome. More pictures here. 
by giles