map0005Our second day on the Parkway took us from Asheville to MP 330 where the Museum of North Carolina Minerals is located.

Our day began with a stop at the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center.

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map photo2The center has many displays, including an interactive digital map. 

Taking up one entire wall, it had a slider bar that when moved horizontally across the map, opened videos showing different stops along the Parkway.

The next stop was at the Folk Art Center.  The two story center had beautiful quilts on display on every wall.  There was a large display of projects from a nearby college Creative Arts department.  Downstairs was a craft center displaying and selling all manner of local crafts.  No photography was allowed inside.2012-07-17 Blue Ridge Parkway, MP 396-330 (6)

The sky could not have been any better for photos… bright blue with fluffy clouds, making the overlooks very photogenic.  Even on a pretty day, though, there is still a haze about the mountains.  One display says that the visibility is 80 percent less now than 40 years ago.  Some of the haze is due to the moisture given off by all the vegetation, but much of it has been caused by man and his pollution of the environment.

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Much of the Parkway is lined with stone cliff cutaways.2012-07-17 Blue Ridge Parkway, MP 396-330 (11)

Often, there are homes visible far below in the valleys.

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Craggy Gardens Visitor Center sits at the base of a mountain.

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The area gets its name for the many rhododendrons also known as azaleas that bloom in the spring.  We were past that point on our visit, but there were still several wildflowers blooming.

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While we were there, the clouds rolled in, bringing the first of the daily showers.

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The Craggy Pinnacle Tunnel is one of the most photographed tunnels on the Parkway, created right at the edge of the mountain.

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Often the best scenes are right after the showers.

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Glassmine Falls is falling for more than 800 feet from the mountainside miles away, just visible from the Parkway.  It is one of the tallest waterfalls east of the Mississippi.  At the base of the falls is the old Abernathy Mine, where mica was mined.  Mica resembles thin sheets of glass, which is where the falls got its name.  The overlook is the closest permissible viewing of the falls.

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zoomed in

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A short path led to a higher point with a panoramic view of the mountains beyond.

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Our “turning around point” for the day was at milepost 330 where the Museum of North Carolina Minerals is located.  The museum is not large, but contains nice displays.

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On the return trip, we decided to take the short drive up Mount Mitchell to its peak, the highest point east of the Mississippi (6,684 ft).  The mountain was named after a professor, Elisha Mitchell, who determined its height in 1835, and fell to his death at nearby Mitchell Falls in 1857, trying to verify his earlier measurements.

The clouds were rolling in by the time we reached the summit, and the rain began as we left the truck. 

I had just time to snap a couple of pictures before we ran for shelter at the nearby snack stand.  The resulting panoramic shot is probably going to become one of my favorites of this trip.  This is truly my “Blue Ridge” shot.

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As the rain began to pour, we purchased cups of hot apple cider, thinking as soon as the rain passed, we would take the short trail to the observation tower.

Unfortunately, when it did abate, the fog was so thick we knew there was no point going on to the observation tower.  2012-07-17 Blue Ridge Parkway, MP 396-330 (122)

As we started down, the rain began again, making the narrow mountain curves a little scary.2012-07-17 Blue Ridge Parkway, MP 396-330 (129)

Naturally, as soon as we got off the mountain, the rains quit and the skies cleared.

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