The Blue Ridge Parkway on Snow Skis (6 Photos)

The first wave of snow has come and gone. After a couple days confined to the cabin, the roads cleared enough so we could get out, get some fresh air and exercise, and restock the pantry before the whopper of storms blows in shortly.

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About a foot of snow on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Soco Gap and we had to break our own trail.

With the storm coming we’re likely to be snowed in for the next few days. We should see somewhere around another foot at my house, though things could get pretty deep up on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Photo-jackie-busch-on-skis

Jackie glides by - it's not rare to see her off her BMW motorcycle when the weather gets cold

We’re grateful for the opportunity to get out. Cabin fever sets in pretty fast, especially when you are used to being outdoors. We start climbing the walls after 3 days.

Photo-snowy-blue-ridge-parkway-view

Just aim the pointy ends down hill and relax - looking over the edge of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The drops can be substantial.

So long as the power stays on, and it usually does, we’ll be fine. There are folks further north who would be glad to swap places.

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The parkway is not our exclusive winter playground. It's rare to have it all to yourself any time of year. We meet a snow shoer, then more skiers.

I’ll spend the next few days squirreled away in my  office revising another one of my Smoky Mountains motorcycle ride maps. It’s easier to get the tedium accomplished when there’s nothing else you can go do.

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View from about a mile up the parkway. You're looking towards Cherokee though I never saw the casino. From higher up, at Waterrock Knob, you can't miss the huge buildings.

The reason I bother to post something like skiing the Blue Ridge Parkway is that it happens less often than you might think. There are only a few times each year the conditions are just right. They could have been better today, but it was good enough. It was a lot of work busting trail uphill. The downhills were not too bad at all.

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The four of us packed down a nice trail to follow when we turned about for the downhill run. The dogs could barely keep up.

It’s hard to believe I was out on my motorcycle mapping the best rides in the Smoky Mountains just a few days ago. With any luck I’ll be out again by the end of next week. But for now, it’s hunker down time.

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Wayne Busch
Wayne Busch – Cartographer
– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com 
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Another Cold Winter Day – Photo – Snow on motorcycles

Photo - Snow on motorcycles

Still too cold to ride. It will be better near the end of the week.

Blue Ridge Mountain skies are blue, but it’s barely in the 20’s. I’m going to wait for the weather to get above freezing before I go back out so it has a chance to melt any ice. The roads are salted, but up in the high parts there  can be spots where it’s too wet and shady to work well.

I’m making good progress on this new map revision, it’s almost done. I’ll still need a few more days to finish re-riding all the roads and catalog the new ones. In the mean time I’m getting it as close to done as possible.

Stay warm!

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Wayne Busch
Wayne Busch – Cartographer
– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com 
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Blue Ridge Parkway Snow Photos – 12-5-10 Soco Gap, NC

Riding was out of the question today – too icy. Instead, we took a hike on the Blue Ridge Parkway to enjoy the recent snow fall.

Photo - Parkway entrance at Soco Gap

The Blue Ridge Parkway access at Soco Gap on US 19 just west of Maggie Valley, NC

Soco Gap is the last (paved) Blue Ridge Parkway exit before you reach the south end of the parkway at Great Smoky Mountains National Park just north of Cherokee (13.3 miles).

Photo - Parkway gates

Don't think the parkway goes unused when it's closed to traffic for the winter. Look at all those footprints. For the next few months it's a playground for hiking, biking, and skiing.

So far, it’s not much of a snow. There was a bit over an inch accumulated with a layer of ice underneath. If we get a couple more inches tonight, there’s a chance the Blue Ridge Parkway may be decent for cross country skiing tomorrow.  It’s just as likely to melt away.

Photo - snow on the Blue Ridge Parkway

That's not a fox, it's one of my dogs - Sophie. I was surprised to see so much snow had stuck at just 4500 feet elevation.

It doesn’t feel cold enough for a significant amount of snow to accumulate. 1000 feet lower in elevation most of it is already gone. I wonder what it’s like up high? If we get more snow tonight, maybe I’ll go up higher tomorrow.

Photo - Snow on Blue Ridge Parkway

This section of the Blue Ridge Parkway makes a steady climb to reach the Waterrock Knob overlook in about 6 miles. That's a bit more than we wanted to walk today. The first overlook hasn't been cleared and there's no view.

We were fortunate to be out of the wind on this side of the mountain. We dressed expecting it, so we were quite comfortable when the extra protection wasn’t needed.

Photo - Blue Ridge Parkway Snow

The snow is like a ghost - you can see the yellow lines on the road. Rumor has it drunken ghosts wander the parkway at times - just look at those footprints!

We walked as far as the Thunder Struck Ridge overlook at Milepost 455, about 1 mile.

Photo - Blue Ridge Parkway Snow

Thunder Struck Ridge is a great place for sunset photos.

It’s a faster walk going back – all down hill. The dogs love the Blue Ridge Parkway in the winter and so do Jackie and I.

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That's my other dog Ajax wearing a snow beard. The parkway is their playground in the winter too.

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Wayne Busch
Wayne Busch – Cartographer
– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com 
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1st Snow – Not the End of Motorcycle Season In the Blue Ridge

Here’s a couple photos I snapped this morning on my post office run in Waynesville, NC. We’ve had the first real snowfall of the winter season, though you’d better enjoy these pictures now – it will all be gone tomorrow and temps will be near 70 early in the week. It’s hardly an end to motorcycle riding season in the Smoky Mountains.

Photo - 1st snow in Waynesville

The first snow storm always causes excitement. Most of this white stuff will be gone by this afternoon.

It’s the extremes that get all the publicity and it may give the false impression the winters are harsh and enduring here in the Smokies. Temperatures fluctuate throughout the season with alternating cold and warm spells. By the middle of the week, temps will be near 70 again and this will all be forgotten. Halfway between the balmy south and the frigid north, the blue ridge mountains live in the in-between zone. Sometimes the northern weather drifts south, but it soon gets pushed back by the warm winds from the south.

Photo - 1st Snow in Waynesville, NC

Most of this will be gone by this afternoon and the warm weather will return early in the week.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is closed of course, but that’s no real handicap to finding places to ride. With the leaves off the trees it’s a whole different world and you see the things that are hidden during the summer months. Even during February and March you can find those days warm enough to get out and enjoy a nice spin on the motorcycle. So enjoy these snow photos now. In a few days it will be forgotten.

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Wayne Busch
Wayne Busch – Cartographer
– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com 
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Blue Ridge Parkway On Ice – Photos / Video

With all the snow and cold weather we’ve had this winter, riding the motorcycle has been only a dream. This afternoon, we headed up to the Blue Ridge Parkway to enjoy it in full winter glory.

An ice storm hit last night. Damage was extensive.

While “Snowmageddon” hit Washington we were largely spared it’s fury in the high mountains of western North Carolina. We picked up a few more inches here and there to what was already a significant accumulation. What we did get with this storm was ice. You can see the trees bent over from the weight of it.

Photo - skiing the parkway

Cross country skiing on the highest sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway

For those of us who live here, the Blue Ridge Parkway becomes our winter playground when it closes for the colder season. This section has seen park service traffic to maintain a communications tower. It made for nice skiing.

Jackie Skiing

When the snow is good, the skiing here is great

We started at Wagon Road Gap where US 276 and the Parkway meet at on of the highest crossings. From there, we headed east towards Asheville.

Ice was bringing down trees the whole time we were out.

The coating of rhyme ice, while beautiful, was causing extensive damage. The surroundings were filled with the almost constant sound of limbs and even entire trees breaking from the weight of the ice. Large branches lay everywhere. In places, every tree had been snapped and I saw none higher than about 12 feet, their tops broken off. A hike in the woods would be deadly.

Heavy ice coats and brings down surrounding trees.

We skied as far as the Pisgah Inn near Mount Pisgah passing through the Frying Pan Tunnel. Along the way we ran into a convoy of rangers hauling in equipment to repair the communications tower which must have been damaged by the storm or its aftermath.

Jackie approaches the Frying Pan Tunnel.

Being one of the highest and most rugged sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway, there are more tunnels in this area than any other. Most are not very long, like this one, though the majority are curved. This is a spectacular scenic area in summer. What a contrast and compliment in winter.

The group pauses to take off skis to walk through the tunnel.

The nice thing about this route is it’s a very gentle climb from Wagon Road Gap to Mount Pisgah. Up hill on the way out, but downhill on the way back. Skiing takes on a whole new aspect when you change from uphill to downhill.

Wayne makes up some time on the downhill sections.

By the time we reached the Pisgah Inn it was shrouded in thick cloud and I couldn’t get any close up photos of it or Mt.Pisgah. The inn is closed of course, though the joke of the day was getting a beer and a meal once we reached it.

The Pisgah Inn seen from distance.

Few people ever see the Blue Ridge Parkway like this. It is admittedly a rare occurrence in recent times, at least until this year. Now it’s to the point we look at this a realize just how much snow has already melted and remember how deep it once was. We’ve not had ice like this though, and it will be spring before we realize just how much impact it had.

Wayne, the author,makes the most of a snowy winter

My wife shot some video of our excursion and posted it on You Tube. It really captures the scenery and the experience, and shows just how bad a skier I really am. Enjoy.

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Smoky Mountains Dig Out After Freak Blizzard

This is what too many of my southern motorcycle friends believe is normal winter weather in the Smoky Mountains – freezing temperatures, snow everywhere, ice covers the roads, and we huddle around our home fires waiting for the the spring thaw. It’s rarely the case, but just to reinforce the misconception here’s a photo of the storm during it’s peak on Friday –

Photo - snow falls at Foxfire Cabin in Waynesville, NC.

Photo from the peak of the snow storm on Friday at Foxfire Cabin here in Waynesville, North Carolina, the heart of the Smoky Mountains..

The last time this area had a snow like this was the great blizzard of 1993 which is still talked about with reverent infamy. I was not living here for that, though I was passing through the area and forced to stop. Little did I know years later I would come to live in that very same small mountain town.

We got something in the neighborhood of 15 inches of the white stuff which started out light and powdery then became wet and heavy later in the night. We lost power for a good while, many still wait for it’s return. No internet service, even the cell phones stopped working a while. My wife was working in Asheville and despite leaving work at 1 PM, it was after 4 when I finally got her home from what is normally a 30 minute drive. The snow came faster than the crews could keep up with it on the interstate and once the hills started icing, the wrecks piled up. She got stuck on an incline, managed to work free and get off the highway, only to get trapped in the bowl of an icy intersection not far from home. She got towed into the parking lot of the nearby Lowes.

I managed to get there to rescue her and only made it up the hill to the house by piling several hundred pounds of rocks in the bed of the truck and letting the air out of the tires. We enjoyed the rest of the weekend shoveling the driveway and then the road so I could get her out to work this morning. I am one sore dude.

Just to prove to my warm climate friends that this is a fluke, just look back at the past couple blog posts to see I was indeed out on the bike earlier in the week, and as soon as the roads clear, I’ll be back in the saddle again. It will probably be after Christmas though, as another snow storm seems headed our way on Thursday. Honest guys, this is not typical!

Photo - Wayne skis the Blue Ridge Parkway

In the mean time I'll be skiing the Blue Ridge Parkway as soon as I can get there.

Don’t feel bad for us here in mountain paradise, we roll with the punches. There will be plenty of motorcycle riding to come in the months ahead. And when live gives you lemons, put on the skis and head for the Blue Ridge Parkway as soon as the roads are clear enough. PS – don’t eat the yellow snow, it has nothing to do with the lemons.

Wayne@americaridesmaps.com

>> Go To America Rides Maps.comhttp://americaridesmaps.com

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Snow Comes to the Blue Ridge Parkway – Photo

It’s not the first snow we’ve had this fall, but it should be the first decent accumulation in the Carolina mountains. While the motorcycle will be sitting it out, and the Blue Ridge Parkway will be closed to traffic, it will be one of the first places I try to get to tomorrow if we get a good dumping. Once those gates are shut, it becomes our winter playground and you’d be surprised how much time we spend up there. That great road turns into a wonderful cross-country ski trail a few times each year.

Photo - snow on the Devil's Courthouse on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Devil's Courthouse overlook after a snowfall.

I took this photo last year on the Blue Ridge Parkway at the Devil’s Courthouse overlook on one of those cross-country skiing days. They don’t happen often. The winds at elevation tend to blow the snow off the roads before it gets a good enough base to last. You’ve got to strike quickly to enjoy it.

We’ll see what tomorrow brings. I just put new snow tires on the truck so maybe we can make it. They won’t plow up high for a day or two at least and the drive up is usually more exciting than the skiing. Next week it will all be gone and I’ll be back out on the motorcycle again. But for now, let it snow!

Wayne@americaridesmaps.com

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