Tag Archives: Blue Ridge Parkway

Random act of kindness in the midst of tragedy

By Lynn R. Mitchell

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Tragedy hit at 6:45 a.m. EDT on Wednesday morning southeast of Roanoke, Virginia, when the WDBJ-7 TV shooting exploded onto news networks and social media. Horrified viewers watched the on-air murders of television reporter Alison Parker and camera man Adam Ward who were ambushed while on a remote live-broadcast location on the shores of Smith Mountain Lake, a popular resort community.

As morning news shows dropped regular programming and reported minute-by-minute updates, law enforcement officials were in hot pursuit of the gunman.  The gruesome images along with gripping details rippled out into surrounding communities in the Commonwealth and across the nation as the shooter, a disgruntled fired WDBJ-7 employee, led a chase that began at the lake. It continued to the Roanoke airport where the gunman changed cars before speeding north on I-81 through the Shenandoah Valley.

Listening to the news as it broke that morning, we were snugged in our corner of Augusta County, safely away from the tragedy that was unfolding about two hours southeast of us. Or so we thought.

My Richmond sister Lori and cousins Faye and Sharon were in the Valley to visit for the week. Our plans on Wednesday were to meander and explore the Blue Ridge Parkway from Afton to Peaks of Otter where we would enjoy lunch at the lodge overlooking Abbot Lake and Sharp Top Mountain, and then return home in the evening.

However, before we could leave the house we found ourselves drawn to the TV screen as we watched the horror of the unfolding news. As a result, it was late morning before we left, driving through historic downtown Staunton on our way to I-64, Afton Mountain, and Milepost 1 of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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That was when, while continually monitoring Twitter and Facebook on my iPhone, we saw that the police chase of the shooter had entered our area with law enforcement searching I-64 east to Fishersville and Afton Mountain in Augusta County, and I-81 north to Verona, also in Augusta County. Area schools were on lock-down. We decided to stay on Route 250 as we drove to Afton instead of taking a chance of getting caught up in any kind of police action that could take place on the interstates.

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Nelson 151 and other back roads

By Lynn R. Mitchell

1Sunday afternoon road trip! With mostly-sunny skies and temps in the 80s, we headed out to meet friends for lunch and do a little roaming along the mountains. Driving from Staunton to Afton where Ron King’s Gourmet Popcorn food truck was open for business, we continued down Rt. 250 to Rt. 6, following the curvy mountain road into the Rockfish Valley where we turned onto Route 151, the scenic byway that offers three breweries (Blue Mountain, Devil’s Backbone, Wild Wolf), six wineries (Afton Mountain Vineyards, Cardinal Point Vineyard and Winery, Flying Fox Vineyard and Winery, Hill Top Berry Farm and Winery, Pollak Vineyards and Winery, and Veritas Vineyard), a cidery (Bold Rock Hard Cider), and a distillery (Silverback) as well as farm fresh produce, restaurants, shops, inns, and the entry to Wintergreen Resort.

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Along the Blue Ridge Parkway

By Lynn R. Mitchell

19Wildflowers and wild bears … all part of enjoying the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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July wildflowers of western Augusta County

By Lynn R. Mitchell

1It’s summer! I took my camera today as we roamed the mountains and valley, packing a lunch up to the Blue Ridge Mountains to picnic where the temps were in the 70s. Driving where the wind took us on this hot summer day, temps topped out at 90 degrees in Waynesboro but it was a slightly cooler 86 degrees west of Staunton. The wildflowers were in full bloom under cloudy skies that became sunny in the afternoon, leaving the mountains in a haze, and the beauty of it all was breath-taking. The wild red berries above, with the Appalachian Mountains in the background, are plentiful throughout the Shenandoah Valley but I’m not sure what they are called.

2Queen Anne’s Lace is plentiful along roadways and in fields, a delicate grouping of tiny white blossoms that populated the ditch along this particular back road with the Appalachians in the background.

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Peaks of Otter Lodge offers early season discounts

Peaks of OtterBy Lynn R. Mitchell

Peaks of Otter, located at Milepost 86 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, offers an oasis in the midst of the Jefferson National Forest with a lodge, restaurant, general store, gift shop, and the outdoors complete with extraordinary views and history. Stroll around Lake Abbott, enjoy a meal in the dining room overlooking Sharp Top, slow the pace to unwind and renew.

Peaks of Otter is offering mid-week special early season discounts on rooms for April (from $99) and May (from $119). As spring takes hold in the mountains, there will be the annual Mother’s Day Brunch Buffet, a multi-course Vintner Dinner, invigorating guided hikes, and an adventurous orienteering treasure hunt with Muddy Squirrel, and Greg Redfern’s back for captivating lakeside stargazing. They even have free Wi-Fi for those who cannot get unplugged. For more on rates see the website.

For more photos of my visit to Peaks of Otter from September 2013, see Lunch at Peaks of Otter and Just reopened, Peaks of Otter now a victim of government shutdown.

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Peaks of Otter opens today, other Parkway sites to follow

By Lynn R. Mitchell???????????????????????????????

The Peaks of Otter Lodge and Restaurant, located on the Blue Ridge Parkway, reopened today for the 2015 season, welcoming visitors back to the mountains and planning to offer a special Easter Sunday lunch.

Other Parkway tourist spots will begin opening over the next weeks. Roanoke Mountain is not longer utilized as a campground but will open April 17 as a picnic area.

Mabry Mill Restaurant and Gift Shop as well as campgrounds along the Parkway open May 1, and the Blue Ridge Music Center as well as the Rocky Knob Visitors Center will open on May 2.

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell

September 2013
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October 2014 … 20 things to do in and around Staunton, Va.

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Historic Wharf District in downtown Staunton.

By Lynn R. Mitchell

Voted as one of America’s Top 20 Main Streets by Travel and Leisure magazine, the central Shenandoah Valley city of Staunton was also recently named one of the 20 Best Small Towns in America by Smithsonian magazine as well as Virginia Living magazine’s Best of 2012. Known as the Queen City, Staunton was founded in 1747 and was named for Lady Rebecca Staunton, wife of Virginia’s Governor William Gooch.

With views east toward the Blue Ridge Mountains and west toward the Appalachians, Staunton is an historic slice of Virginia that offers restored Victorian homes, cozy downtown shops, and small-town atmosphere. Patriotic holidays find her streets lined with American flags, and the always-popular Christmas parade takes place each year on Beverley Street, the main thoroughfare that is lined with restaurants, store fronts, the Dixie Theater, the city courthouse, and old-fashioned lamp posts.

There are many things to do during the leaf season that peaks in October so here are some places and events you may find interesting. Check back often … this list will be updated throughout the month. It’s autumn in western Virginia.

1. Trolleys
A great way to get around downtown, Staunton’s two trolleys are inexpensive, and pick up and discharge passengers at stops located throughout the city. More information can be found at the Staunton Visitors Center on New Street.

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Foggy Ridge Cider in southwestern Virginia

By Lynn R. Mitchell
Originally published in September 2013

“It is indeed bad to eat apples. It is better to make them all into cider .”
Benjamin Franklin

The back roads of Virginia never disappoint, and this adventure was no exception.  Foggy Ridge Cider … what a delightful discovery on the back roads of Virginia as we explored communities near the Blue Ridge Parkway! You’ve heard of Dugspur, right? No? It’s a tiny little community tucked away off Rt. 58 in Carroll County, and that was where we were headed to check out this award-winning cider. After all, September is apple season in the Commonwealth.

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Does God let bad things happen to good people?

Jerry Baldwin 3By Jerry Baldwin

I was talking with friends last night and the conversations came around to questioning why God lets bad things happen to good people. This morning as I read a devotional by John Maxwell, it seemed timely and helped put the conversation into perspective:

Driving the 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway is an explorer’s delight. From northern Virginia to the Tennessee-North Carolina border, there are wonders around every bend in the mountainous road. You may see wildlife, a pioneer cabin, gorgeous vistas, a country church, a stream or waterfall — the beauty never ends. The Parkway is not for the hurried; it is for the expectant — those eager for new experiences and discovery.

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Monday is fee-free day at Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park logo 2By Lynn R. Mitchell

Happy birthday to America’s National Park Service. In celebration of being 98 years old, they are offering a fee-free day on Monday, August 25, for Shenandoah National Park as well as all National Parks. It will be a great day to visit America!

 

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Saturday on Afton at King’s Gourmet Popcorn

By Lynn R. Mitchell

??????????We stopped at King’s Gourmet Popcorn Saturday morning on our way to the Blue Ridge Parkway and said hello to Ron King. He was making caramel corn (you can see him through the open window of the food truck stirring). It was mid-morning and he had customers beginning to show up ahead of the lunch crowd. With caramel corn in hand, we said goodbye but as we passed by hours later, he was swamped with folks sitting at the picnic tables eating some of the goodies he offers.

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Cool summer day at Humpback Rock

By Lynn R. Mitchell

Humpback 1New split rain fence was put up last week at Humpback Rock Farm at Milepost 5 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Today it was overcast with fog obscuring the well-known rock outcropping at the top of the mountain … cool temps around 70 on this August summer day in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

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Foggy day at Humpback Rock

By Lynn R. Mitchell

??????????Humpback Rock was hidden in fog above the Humpback Farm Saturday on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 5.

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell
August 9, 2014

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NL’s Calvin Trice: ‘Approval, well wishes for Afton popcorn vendor’

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Ronald King addresses BZA as Carrie Eheart listens.

By Lynn R. Mitchell

Staunton News Leader reporter Calvin Trice has a great article about Thursday’s Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals hearing where Ronald King, owner of King’s Gourmet Popcorn on Afton Mountain, appeared to request a permission to continue his business (see Approval, well wishes for Afton popcorn vendor). Calvin wrote:

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The Popcorn Man victorious with Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals

7a1f1-23By Lynn R. Mitchell

It was the last item on Thursday’s agenda at the Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals meeting. Everyone else left so only supporters of Ronald King were left to address the board toward the end of the public hearing. Mr. King, owner of King’s Gourmet Popcorn on Afton Mountain, was questioned by the board and then two members of the public spoke on his behalf.

It was officially listed on the agenda:

A request by Ronald King, for a Special Use Permit to have outdoor storage and display in conjunction with a food service vehicle on property owned by Skyline Swannanoa, Inc., located at 5186 Howardsville Turnpike, Afton, in the South River District.

In lay language, he needed a special use permit to remain in operation in addition to his business license and health department clearance.

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