Yesterday’s explorations north of Asheville brought me back to many familiar roads, several good new ones, and far too many unpaved and unsuitable trails that had to be investigated regardless. With leaf season past its peak thanks to some windy storms, I followed the Blue Ridge Parkway north and paused along the way to see what remains. There’s still some good color down low, but it’s mostly yellows, browns, and gold that hold fast to the branches for another week or so.
Northeast of Spruce Pine, NC, an excellent motorcycle ride can be enjoyed on Penland Road. It diagonals between the the too heavily trafficked US 226 and US19E and is a welcome relief from the four lane bustle. Near the midpoint sits the tiny hamlet of Penland and the ancient Penland Post Office.
I’d passed by it many times, noting it’s location, but never paying it much attention as it appeared to be abandoned. Yesterday, seeking a spot to stop and consult my map, I found it’s very much alive and functional despite its antique appearance.
The female postmaster seemed to welcome the intrusion of me poking about, snapping a few photos, and inquiring about the location. She tells it’s slated for restoration thanks to the efforts of the nearby Penland School of Crafts.
Discovering sights like these is one of the best reasons to get off the Blue Ridge Parkway and explore the wealth of back roads that weave throughout the Smoky Mountains. Were I to photograph and visit all of them I’d get little mapping done. Trust me, there are plenty more awaiting your discovery and the roads and motorcycle rides that lead to them are what keep me going.
The Blue Ridge Parkway projects an image of isolated mountain wilderness that doesn’t truly reflect just how many people have lived adjacent to it since times before there were cars and motorcycles. Think about it – something like popular Mabry Mill on the parkway could never have existed were there not a community that needed and supported it. Many of those communities persist and the roads which connect to and lie nearby the Blue Ridge Parkway are the gateways to discovering them. Discover America Rides Maps and find this wealth of hidden treasures.