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Blue Ridge Mountain Beauty
It is hallowed ground to me. The peaks whisper their secrets on the tails of the wind with the soft breath of history. The Blue Ridge Mountains are nothing less than nature's art with God's autograph attached. They paint the horizon with hues so deep in contrast and so vivid with stroke, my heart flutters in its magnificence. These mountains are rich in life and untold stories. They celebrate the splendid best of earth's offerings. Albert Einstein once said "Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better."
The Cherokee word "Gadalutsi" is roughly translated to mean "wave upon wave" in reference to the way the mountain vista seems to go on forever. The Cherokees believe they have always lived here in these mountains. The finely crafted tools and spearheads found by geologists confirm that an ancient people lived here indeed as far back as 11,000 years ago. This land furnished all their needs from food to medicinal herbs to material for shelter, clothing and tools. The Cherokee governed themselves democratically and lived in harmony with the awesome nature that surrounded them.
The earliest settlers in the Blue Ridge Mountains were the Scots-Irish. These pioneer farmers introduced a variety of crops from their homeland including apples, sweet potatoes and tobacco. They raised cattle, sheep and hogs. They also brought with them a wealth of music tradition in the form of ballads. Instruments played were mostly the banjo and the fiddle and the settlers managed to preserve their music heritage for years to come. These English ballads had a huge impact on what eventually became known as bluegrass music. To this day this music tradition is enjoyed by both locals and visitors alike.
The raw beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains has inspired artists and writers for generations. Artists such as Rudolph Ingerle and Amelia Watson were motivated not only by the picturesque scenery but by the mountain lifestyle. They were able to capture the spirit of place. Many writers have also found their muse in the vistas. Carolyn Tyree Feagans and Thomas Wolfe crafted stories that celebrated the character of the mountain people in all their glory. John Keats once said "The poetry of the earth is never dead".
The Blue Ridge Parkway had its birth over 75 years ago. Construction began in the latter part of 1935 and was initially a product of the New Deal's efforts to put people back to work after the Great Depression. It was an enormous task considering the terrain, reluctant homeowners along the way, extreme weather and the lack of maps. Despite all this, construction of the scenic highway forged slowly ahead. Crews took great care to design and build the roadway so that it would blend in with the natural surroundings. The Blue Ridge Parkway is 469 miles long and was finally completed in 1987, fifty-two years after the ground breaking. Twenty-six tunnels were blasted through the mountain ridges and dozens of bridges were built. It's highest point is at 6000 feet at Richland Balsam overlook in North Carolina and the lowest at just 600 feet at the James River in Virginia. The Parkway has seen over 600 million visitors since its completion.
Thomas Jefferson to Maria Cosway in 1786 - "...where has nature spread so rich a mantle under the eye? Mountains, forests, rocks, rivers. With what majesty do we there ride above the storms! How sublime to look down into the workhouse of nature, to see her clouds, hail, snow, rain, thunder all fabricated at our feet! And the glorious Sun, when rising as if out of a distant water, just gliding the tops of the mountains, and giving life to all nature."
They say there are many haunted places in the Blue Ridge Mountains. In Abingdon, Virginia, a young woman haunts the Martha Washington Inn looking for her lover. Passing over Lovers' Leap bridge in Independence, Virginia you might see the ghost figures of a young man and woman holding hands and jumping over the bridge. George W. Vanderbilt is said to still be hanging around in the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. They also say if you leave pink flowers on the grave of a woman buried at Pleasant Gardens Baptist Church in Marion, North Carolina, you will see her walking down the road with a knife in her hand the following day. These are just a few of the local ghost stories.
Alice Walker from The Color Purple (1982) - "I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it.....People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it's always trying to please us back."
"There's an old ma, sittin' in a rockin' chair
He's got the best beagle dog in the county I've been told
But his shotgun done got too rusty
That 'ole beagle dog he done grown a little too old
As he stares up into heaven, I'm sure I know the reason why
He's thinking about that promised land in them Blue Ridge Mountain skies"
The Marshall Tucker Band (from Blue Ridge Mountain Sky)