Sunday was to be a day of relaxation and enjoying nature … on the Blue Ridge Parkway. And while there were wild turkeys to be seen on two occasions during the drive, and plenty of laurels and rhododendrons blooming, the views weren’t so great.
Assuming that, especially with 80-degree days on several occasions already, Mabry Mill and other attractions on the parkway should have opened shortly after Easter or at least by mid-April, the initial trip up the mountain was to get breakfast at the Mabry Mill Restaurant.
Needless to say, hopes were dashed as the car pulled into the parking lot to find just three cars parked and a sign on the door explaining they were closed until May 1. Just two days away!
So, breakfast was had at a little local restaurant in Meadows of Dan, Va., where others explained they had done the same … gotten to Mabry Mill only to find it closed and looking for other eating establishments traveled back to Meadows of Dan.
Certainly, with no staff needed other than to open a gate, Little Man could run and play in the grass at Groundhog Mountain. Wrong!
As the car pulled into the turn off for Groundhog Mountain, a wooden gate blocked the entrance.
With no hope being held out, the next stop to try would be Cumberland Knob — man, what a view from that spot of the land below, including Mount Airy, the Granite Quarry, Pilot Mountain … sometimes even Winston-Salem. But of course, the last resort, too, was not open yet for the season.
While at a small “overlook” that travelers are supposed to be able to see Pilot Mountain from (the trees have grown up so high that there is nothing visible from the overlook), within a three-minute span cars from Maine, Alabama and Rhode Island pulled in as they traveled along the parkway. And at the Meadows of Dan restaurant, a car from Maryland was parked in the parking lot.
It is discouraging to know that people are enjoying the warm weather, traveling the parkway and vacationing in this area, but are unable to enjoy the stops along the way that their taxes help fund.
Yes, there is no reason to have some of those areas open during the cold weather, and it is hard to anticipate such an early spring/summer as the area has experienced this year, especially to budget for it as far as contracts with restaurant staff at Mabry Mill.
But, when the weather gets warm early, there is no reason the National Park Service couldn’t go ahead and open areas like Groundhog Mountain and Cumberland Knob to the public so they can enjoy the nature that abounds. Just put up a sign that says “no bathroom services available until May 1” if there is concern about pipes freezing during a sudden late cold snap.
This just means another breakfast trip to Mabry Mill is being worked into plans for the near future.
Wendy Byerly Wood is the associate editor of The Mount Airy News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 719-1923.