At least once a year, I travel the full-length of the Blue Ridge Parkway — from Mile Marker 0 near Waynesboro to Mile 469 at the entrance to Smokey Mountains National Park.
The Parkway has been a central part of my life since I first visited it at age 5. I hiked its trails as a kid, explored raging teenage hormones with young ladies at Rocky Knob Overlook and photographed its beauty for most of my life.
But as I travel the Parkway nowadays I worry and wonder about its future. My motorcycle lurches over broken pavement and potholes while disrepair and overdue maintenance add glaring contrasts to the natural beauty and once-popular stops now greet visitors with locked doors.
Otter Creek, Doughton Park and Bluffs Lodge & Restaurant closed this year. No vendors stepped foward to take over the facilities after Forever Resorts pulled out at the end of last season. The grapevine says the vendor who took over Mabry Mill this year is telling the National Park Service she won’t be back in 2012.
Floyd County depends on traffic from the Parkway to feed its growing tourism business. The county contains more miles of the Parkway than any other jurisdiction in Virginia. But the Parkway all too often seems like part of an era whose time has passed.
Maybe people are just too busy and in too much of a hurry to travel a leisurely 500 miles at 45 miles per hour. Maybe enjoying nature is out of style in an era of Gameboys, texting and wireless internet.
I don’t know but as I travel one of my favorite roads I wonder just how much longer it will be available as one of the treasures of our area.