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Blue Ridge Mountains

Blue Ridge Mountains

The Blue Ridge Mountains extend from southern Pennsylvania to northern Georgia and are an important constituent of the Appalachian Mountain system. On the south side are the Black Mountains and Unaka Mountains of North Carolina and the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee.

The highest peaks, both in North Carolina, are Grandfather Mountain (5964 feet) and Mt. Mitchell in the Black Mountains, at 6684 feet the highest point east of the Mississippi River.

The Blue Ridge Mountains are composed of some of the most ancient rocks found in the Appalachians. Untouched by Ice Age glaciation, the present smooth contours of the mountains, as well as the gaps in their structure, have resulted from eons of weathering and erosion.

Blue Ridge

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Blue Ridge, also called Blue Ridge Mountains, segment of the Appalachian Mountains in the United States. The mountains extend southwestward for 615 miles (990 km) from Carlisle, Pennsylvania, through parts of Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, to Mount Oglethorpe, Georgia. The range, a relatively narrow ridge, is 5 to 65 miles (8 to 105 km) wide, with average elevations of 2,000 to 4,000 feet (600 to 1,200 metres).

Included in the Blue Ridge system are the Black Mountains—with Mount Mitchell in North Carolina, at 6,684 feet (2,037 metres) the highest peak east of the Mississippi River—and the Great Smoky and Unaka mountains. Among the notable Blue Ridge peaks are Mount Rogers (5,729 feet [1,746 metres]), the highest point in Virginia Sassafras Mountain (3,560 feet [1,085 metres]), the highest point in South Carolina Brasstown Bald (4,784 feet [1,458 metres]), the highest point in Georgia Stony Man (4,011 feet [1,223 metres]) and Hawksbill (4,051 feet [1,235 metres]), in Virginia and Grandfather Mountain (5,946 feet [1,812 metres]), in North Carolina.

The whole region has been intricately dissected by many small streams, and three major rivers have cut gaps through the ridge—the Roanoke, James, and Potomac, all in Virginia. Beginning south of Front Royal, Virginia, the Skyline Drive runs through Shenandoah National Park and connects at Rockfish Gap, Virginia, with the Blue Ridge Parkway, a scenic motor route that runs southwestward to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The mountains lie within Chattahoochee, Cherokee, Nantahala, Pisgah, Jefferson, and George Washington national forests, and more than 700 varieties of trees and plants have been catalogued. The region, although traditionally known for its isolation, contains numerous small farms with picturesque log cabins. Intensive truck farming, tobacco production, and cattle raising are important activities. The hardwood forests of the Blue Ridge are a source of timber, and some minerals are worked. In addition, the region is renowned for its traditional, folk, and bluegrass music, which is highlighted at the Blue Ridge Music Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia at the border with North Carolina.

Virginia’s State Fossil

This distinctive scallop is the state fossil of Virginia and is the first fossil described from North America in 1687. Chesapecten sp. are commonly found in strata exposed along Coastal Plain cliffs along major rivers in southeastern Virginia and eastern North Carolina. Chesapecten jeffersonius is the index fossil for the Lower Yorktown Formation, and is distinguished by the number [&hellip]

What’s New in Virginia Geology

Scots-Irish Heritage

The relocation of lowland Scots to Northern Ireland in the early 17th century created a cultural group today referred to as “Scots-Irish.” Unwanted in an unfriendly land, these Presbyterian Scots suffered persecution from their Catholic Irish neighbors as well as from the Anglican English. Over the course of the century, many Scots-Irish immigrated to the New World.

Other Scottish and Irish families came as well, including many of the Highland Scots who were defeated at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Famine in Ireland also played a major role in Irish immigration to America during the mid-19th century.

Scots-Irish Immigrants Help Create a New Country

Although many of the Scots-Irish immigrants settled near the ports of Philadelphia, Charleston, and Savannah, some were drawn to the piedmont region of North Carolina. During the Revolutionary War, Scots-Irish militia men were instrumental in defeating the British at the Battle of Kings Mountain. After the war, the mountains of North Carolina were opened to settlement, and many Scots-Irish established small farms and homesteads.

Blue Ridge Mountain Culture Heavily Influenced by Scots-Irish Traditions

Scots-Irish settlers brought with them the agricultural, music, craft, and storytelling traditions of their homeland. Living in small, relatively isolated communities, Scot-Irish settlers sustained their cultural ties through the preservation of these traditions and had a profound influence on shaping the distinctive agricultural, music, storytelling, and crafts of the Southern Appalachians.

Visitors can learn more about heritage of the Scots-Irish and Scots at a variety of museums, interpretive centers, and historic sites in the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, including:


The Blue Ridge Parkway was born at a time in American history when social change was at the forefront of political events. The idea resulted from a combination of many factors, the primary one being that jobs were needed. Trained engineers, architects, and landscape architects were left unemployed by the Great Depression, and thousands of mountain families were verging on poverty. The recent openings of two popular eastern parks, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Shenandoah National Park, were already attracting tourists to the naturally beautiful but financially poor area, and the increasing availability of the automobile foresaw a new generation of motoring vacations.

A Scenic Motor Road

Actual construction of the Parkway didn’t begin until late in 1935, although the plan had been in the works for the two years prior. At that time, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had visited Virginia’s first Civilian Conservation Corps camp while they were working on the Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park. Liking what he saw, he soon approved the concept of constructing a scenic motor way linking the two new parks, Shenandoah and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. After much wrangling in Congress over acquisition, funding, and the location of the road, it was decided that the Parkway should follow the crest of the southern Appalachian mountains through Virginia and North Carolina, and that the necessary rights-of-way should be purchased by the states and then turned over to the federal government to be administered by the National Park Service as a park. Although the Parkway differs from the usual national park in its narrow land-holdings (at times shrinking to a width of only 200 feet), it is still managed like any site in the National Park Service.

The Beginning of Construction

Progress was slow at first, as CCC crews surveyed deep into the mountains and realized the enormity of the task at hand. No maps, reluctant landowners, extreme weather conditions, rocky terrain, and snakes were only a few of the obstacles encountered. Many mountain roads were little more than ruts and could not even accommodate the equipment needed for construction. Foremost in the minds of the crews was to create as little scar as possible, and great care was taken to design and build the roadway so that it blended into its natural surroundings. Construction took place in sections as land was purchased, rights-of-way approved, and contracts secured. Progress was steady until World War II, when funds were diverted for the war effort. The 1950s and 1960s saw a slowing in construction, until by 1968 the only task left was the completion of a seven-mile stretch around North Carolina’s Grandfather Mountain. In order to preserve the fragile environment on the steep slopes of the mountain, the Linn Cove Viaduct, a 1,200-foot suspended section of the Parkway, was designed and built. Considered an engineering marvel, it represents one of the most successful fusions of road and landscape on the Parkway.

The Finishing Touches

Overall, some twenty-six tunnels were blasted through the mountain ridge, with dozens of bridges needed to make rivers and creeks passable. More than 200 parking areas, overlooks, and developed areas were incorporated into the design so that motorists could enjoy a leisurely ride through the mountains. The road itself ascends to more than 6,000 feet at Richland Balsam overlook in North Carolina, and descends to just over 600 feet at the James River in Virginia. Hundreds of easements and agricultural use permits were negotiated with Parkway neighbors in order to ensure views of rustic rail fences, livestock, and shocks of corn and wheat, with no intrusive billboards and minimal residential development. The 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway was officially dedicated on September 11, 1987, fifty-two years after the groundbreaking, although various sections had already been in use for decades. In one sense, though, the Parkway may never be completely finished. Efforts continue to acquire property near the boundaries in an effort to provide better protection for land and views that the park service already owns. The Parkway, having once been derided by a Michigan congressman as “the most ridiculous undertaking that has ever been presented to the Congress of the United States,” has proven its value to the more than 600 million visitors who have passed along it since its beginning.

Parkway History Books

Images of America: Building the Blue Ridge Parkway
by Karen J Hall and FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway

Karen J. Hall accounts the behind the scenes construction for the Blue Ridge Parkway which began as a dream in the late 1800s and became reality in 1983 when the 469-mile scenic highway was completed.

Anne Mitchell Whisnant reveals what the Parkway’s seemingly unruffled scenery tends to obscure: the road owes its appearance as much to the negotiated resolution of conflicts as it does to the natural features of the mountains or the work of landscape designers.

75 Years of the Blue Ridge Parkway

The sign marking the commencement of construction for the Blue Ridge Parkway is an unassuming gray roadside plaque, a few hundred yards from the North Carolina-Virginia border near Cumberland Knob. The low profile seems appropriate here. The parkway’s pleasures are subtle, harking back to a time when traveling was about the journey, not just the destination.

Around every bend, it seems, awaits another enticing vista, whether it’s a hawk’s-eye view of a river valley, a peaceful pasture crowded with cows, or a tree-covered peak. About 16 million people visited last year, making it the National Park Service’s most popular attraction (by comparison, Yosemite and Yellowstone national parks each attracted over 3 million people in 2009). “The Scenic,” as locals called it in the early days, celebrates its 75th anniversary this year.

On September 11, 1935, about 100 workers started clearing and grading land on Pack Murphy’s farm, beginning the parkway’s initial 12.5-mile-stretch from the Virginia- North Carolina border south to Cumberland Knob. It was the first of 45 segments of the parkway, which traces 469 undulating miles from the northern entrance at Rockfish Gap, Virginia, where it connects to Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park, to Cherokee, North Carolina, and the eastern entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The country’s ultimate crooked road tops mountain crests, dips into river valleys and meanders through farmlands and national forests. It crosses four major rivers, more than 100 gaps and six mountain ranges, dropping to 649 feet above sea level near the James River in southwest Virginia and climbing to 6,053 feet near Mount Pisgah, in North Carolina so there’s a wide range of ecosystems.

Planners envisioned the parkway as a new kind of road. “It is the first use of the parkway idea, purely and wholeheartedly for the purposes of tourist recreation distinguished from the purposes of regional travel,” wrote Stanley W. Abbott, the landscape architect whose vision guided the parkway’s design and central themes.

“Like the movie cameraman who shoots his subject from many angles to heighten the drama of his film, so the shifting position of the roadway unfolds a more interesting picture to the traveler,” Abbott wrote in 1939 after much of the route had been set. “The sweeping view over the low country often holds the center of the stage, but seems to exit gracefully enough when the Parkway leaves the ridge for the more gentle slopes and the deeper forests.”

The Blue Ridge Parkway crosses four major rivers, more than 100 gaps and six mountain ranges. (Johner Images / Alamy) About 16 million people visited the Blue Ridge Parkway, making it the National Park Service's most popular attraction. (Visuals Unlimited / Corbis) Along the two-lane road, there is not a single billboard, stop sign or traffic light. (Tony Arruza / Corbis) A worker surveying the Blue Ridge Parkway corridor. (U.S. National Park Service) On September 11, 1935, about 100 workers started clearing and grading land on Pack Murphy's farm, beginning the parkway's initial 12.5-mile-stretch from the Virginia-North Carolina border south to Cumberland Knob. (U.S. National Park Service) Workers line drainage ditches with rocks along the Blue Ridge Parkway. (U.S. National Park Service) Bridges are built to allow motorists on the Blue Ridge Parkway to cross over streams. (U.S. National Park Service) Entrances to the parkway appear regularly, but they are unobtrusive with no hint of civilization in sight. (U.S. National Park Service)

Along the two-lane road, there is not a single billboard, stop sign or traffic light. Utilities are buried. Signs are few. Only the mile markers are a constant. Entrances to the parkway appear regularly, but they are unobtrusive with no hint of civilization in sight. The parkway succeeds in fulfilling Abbott’s desire to eliminate the “parasitic and unsightly border development of the hot-dog stand, the gasoline shack, and the billboard” so that the natural scenery prevails. Cruising along at the speed limit of 45 miles per hour is like taking a step back in time.

Abbott, who earned his degree from Cornell University and had worked on the Westchester and Bronx River parkways, referred to the parkway as a “managed museum of the American countryside” and he sought to purchase right of ways that would preserve the vistas. He wanted to create a series of “parks within parks,” places to hike, camp, fish and picnic. So at intervals the ribbon of highway, endless skyway, widens to include recreational areas, what Abbott called “beads on a string, the rare gems in the necklace.”

Over the years, the park service has added or restored cultural attractions like the Blue Ridge Music Center at the parkway’s midpoint, which features concerts in an outdoor amphitheater or Mabry Mill, a century-old gristmill and Johnson Farm, a restored 1930s living history attraction. The many small towns along the route, like Floyd, Virginia, and Asheville, North Carolina, have seized upon their arts and crafts and musical heritage to become cultural destinations.

“What continues to catch the imagination of the American public and why they come to the parkway is the diversity,” says Dan Brown, who retired from the park service in 2005 after five years as the parkway’s superintendent. “The parkway traverses some of the most outstanding natural areas to be found in the eastern United States and it also travels through some very special cultural lands. The American public has always been intrigued by the southern Appalachian culture. The music and the crafts of the region are second to none.”

A scenic drive along the spine of the Blue Ridge had been proposed as early as 1906. In 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt visited Shenandoah National Park and was impressed by Skyline Drive, then under construction. Senator Harry Flood Byrd of Virginia suggested a mountain road extending to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Roosevelt expressed interest and Byrd secured backing from elected officials in North Carolina and Virginia. On November 24, 1933, Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes announced approval of the parkway and $4 million was allocated to begin work.

Abbott and his contemporaries were admirers of Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer of Central Park. Just like Central Park, the parkway would appear to be natural, but that appearance would be the result of human imposition. Politics would play a part as well, as individual landowners, towns and states fought over the route (North Carolina won the biggest battle over Tennessee to host the southern portion of the parkway).The first 50-mile section near Roanoke opened in April 1939. About two-thirds of the road was completed by 1942, when the war halted construction. All but the section with the Linn Cove Viaduct, in North Carolina, was completed by 1967.

Little of the land was pristine. It had been timbered, farmed and commercialized. So thousands of trees and tons of dirt were moved. Much of the early labor was done by hand. The Public Works Administration’s first contract paid men 30 cents an hour for a six-day week.

“I can’t imagine a more creative job than locating that Blue Ridge Parkway, because you worked with a ten-league canvas and a brush of a comet’s tail. Moss and lichens collected on the shake roof of a Mabry Mill measured against the huge panoramas that look out forever,” Abbott said in an interview years later.

Anne Whisnant, a longtime parkway traveler and author of Super-Scenic Motorway: A Blue Ridge Parkway History, notes that the designers’ desires often met with political reality. “The fact remains they were pushing this through a populated landscape,” she notes, taking land by using eminent domain. The designers wanted a 800-to-1,000-foot right of way, but in Virginia, in particular, they couldn’t get it because the legal mechanisms were not robust enough. To Whisnant, that means the parkway through Virginia is a less satisfying experience, more interrupted by access roads and with more views encroached by development.

Abbott pioneered “scenic easements” that allowed the park service to acquire all development rights without having to pay for the land, in essence buying the view at a considerable savings.

As the park ages and homes along its narrow corridor become more popular, it faces increasing pressure from encroachment of those view sheds. “Most of the parkway landscape, the things people love about it, is borrowed, “ Whisnant says. “There is a big job working closely with those who own the landscape in trying to create some kind of joint sense of benefit so we all work to protect it.”

Looking back, Whisnant says the parkway’s history is comforting when she thinks of the road’s future. “A lot of the problems facing the parkway have been endemic and central since its first day,” she says. “What each generation has to do is take up the challenges, think about them and make decisions. Do we value this or not? If we do, how do we act so it’s preserved? It’s the same thing we’ve done for 75 years.”

German Emigration History – The “Good old Germans” of Virginia (archive)

“There’s a toothbrush, toothpaste …” Clemence and Hartmut Fröhlich from Siegen pack their bags for a two-week trip to the east of the USA. “And you know, if something is missing: It doesn’t matter, you can buy it there.” ‘There’ in this case means: “Virginia is the area. I think so.” Correct. The Merrys are on their way to Virginia. Located on the Atlantic coast, crossed by the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah River. Had it not been for John Denver, even fewer Germans would have heard of this delightful landscape. The emphasis is on: heard.

Hartmut Fröhlich also knows the John Denver song. Still, nothing about the Virginia trip appeals to him. But his wife wants to go there – and she has prevailed. “I was the one who wanted to do that. For cultural reasons. And then we held a conference, the two of us.” “

Hartmut Fröhlich is a retired senior public prosecutor. His wife is a family and trauma therapist. Both are united by a love of travel. On this tour, for the first time, they disagreed. To get one thing straight up front: Hartmut Fröhlich changed his mind on the first day in the USA. In the end, he was absolutely thrilled. “It was definitely worth it for me. And it was good that my wife was so pushy and always said, come with me!”

In fact, Germans tend to underestimate the east of the United States. Jörg Becker from the German-American Society Siegen-Wittgenstein knows that too. He organized this private trip. “I’ve been working on the trip for nine months. Not every day, but every now and then. It was quite an effort.” The lawyer from Siegen studied in the USA. It was then that he discovered that a group of Siegerländer emigrated to Virginia 300 years ago. The 42 miners founded America’s first contiguous German settlement.

Many Germans also moved to Pennsylvania. Especially religious refugees from the Palatinate and Saarland. Their descendants are the Amish who still live in Pennsylvania or Ohio today. Just like 300 years ago. Without electricity, without running water, without cars. Because they drive in horse-drawn carriages, the so-called buggies, and still work their fields with horses or oxen. The tour group that has joined the German-American Society and Jörg Becker wants to see all of this. First up is Culpeper, Virginia. To where the first Germans founded a settlement.

Proud of family history

For Americans, this 300-year history of settlement is a big deal. Especially for Marc Wheat. He is the President of the Germanna Foundation in Virginia and responsible for ensuring that Americans and Germans stay in touch. Marc Wheat is a typical American: tall, strong, always in a good mood. But above all, he is one thing: proud of his family history. “My great-great-great grandfather was a pastor in Oberfischbach and vice-principal of the Latin school in the Nikolaikirche. And I come from other families from Trupbach and some villages around Siegen.”

No matter how difficult the places are to pronounce, Americans almost always know where their ancestors came from. “Eisern, Niederfischbach, Freudenberg, Heidelberg, Wuppertal, Munich, Netphen …” Everyone is happy that their distant relatives from Germany are finally visiting them. Hundreds of Americans have come to greet the German tour group.

37 “Good old Germans” embrace the group when they arrive in Virginia. Actually it should have been 38. The American Ellis Hitt traveled from Ohio specifically to meet his closest German relative. “Eberhard”, a third cousin. But as much as Ellis Hitt searches, he cannot find Eberhard in the German tour group. “And I asked: where is Eberhard? And they said to me: He was standing at passport control without an ID.” – “You didn’t let him leave the country.” – “He wasn’t allowed to fly with me!” – “OH NO !!” “

Meanwhile, those with passports meet outside the headquarters of the Germanna Foundation in Virginia. There is an emigration museum in the building. Even unannounced Germans are very welcome here. “I know one German word: diversion.”

However, some descendants of the emigrants speak more than just one word of German. “I actually wanted to tell you that.” Like Maddison Brown, for example. He belongs to the Germanna Foundation of Virginia and leads large and small German tour groups through the old settlement areas. His tours always end with the wonderfully beautiful views of Shenandoah National Park. “Exactly. We leave at eight thirty. And every car gets a map of this part of Virginia. And at half past eight we arrive in the park. There we have free admission because we are an ‘education group’.”

Shenandoah-Park und Blue Ridge Mountains

In the park at the latest, it will become clear to German visitors why so many emigrated to this area. “Gigantic. We don’t have that. It’s terrific and cannot be compared with anything.” What Karin Ohrendorf from Siegen thinks is the view. The view extends for kilometers in Shenandoah National Park. It is located in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Numerous rivers end in huge waterfalls. If you want, you can walk for days through densely forested areas without meeting a person. However, there are black bears in Shenandoah National Park. Madison Brown of the Germanna Foundation has come across one in this area: “I’ve seen more bears than snakes here.”

Black bears are actually considered harmless. But if you want to be on the safe side, book a tour with one of the park rangers. “Well, I think we won’t see many animals today. Our group is too big for that. But especially hikers who are traveling alone get to see bears, deer and, if they’re unlucky, skunks. We’ll be one of them Make short circuits. It’s an hour and a half long and has fantastic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Shall we go? “

Betty the ranger. didn’t promise too much. The paths are well developed. But even those who are not good on their feet will get their money’s worth in this park. Because the famous Skyline Drive leads 170 kilometers over the ridge, across the entire park. Everywhere there are places to stop, look out and pause. Even Michael London, known as Little Joe from Bonanza or series like “Our Little Farm” and “An Angel on Earth” “sang about Shenandoah Park.

Even if German tourists tend to avoid the American East: Americans like to vacation there themselves. Whether in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia or New Jersey. Instead, Germans are drawn to Miami, Florida in droves. Americans prefer the more comfortable climate in Cape May, New Jersey. Las Vegas in Nevada casts a spell over the Germans. Americans prefer to go to Atlantic City. Here they are largely among themselves and stroll: “Under the Boardwalk.”

The national park ranger, Betty Gatewood has hiked almost everywhere in the USA. She likes it best in the east. “I have to say, it is incomprehensible to me what draws Germans to hot, steamy Miami or roaring hot Las Vegas. Anyone who strolled along the boardwalk shouldn’t miss it: Miami Beach, where tourists are greeted by hundreds of waiters every evening armed with menus to be ‘asked’ into the restaurant. “

The East is also popular with Americans because of the many different festivals, events and fairs. Cleveland, Ohio is said to have the biggest Oktoberfest outside of Germany. It is really big. And there is yodelling there too. Very American, however.

Americans celebrate differently

The Oktoberfest time is considered the most beautiful time of the year in Ohio. During the annual “Indian Summer” the foliage turns into colors that not even the German autumn has to offer. The leaves of a maple tree are at the same time: yellow, orange, light red, wine red and green. Hundreds stand next to each other and make an unforgettable impression.

Those who vacation here in late summer and autumn only have to pay attention to signs at the entrances to the town. The agricultural fairs in particular – the so-called county and state fairs – are definitely worth a stop. For a small entrance fee, you get great things on offer. The pumpkins in particular reach unimagined dimensions.

Pigs, cows, horses, chickens: they are all polished to a high gloss and brought to the “fair”. The cow with the thickest udder, the chicken with the largest eggs and the pig with the best grunt compete against each other. At the same time there are rodeos, live music and lots of good humor. Americans celebrate differently. The hymn should never be missing. But they also dance differently, and they listen to different music, and above all they drink significantly less alcohol when they party. That is what makes such events so recommendable.

Twin meeting and Amish settlement

Even completely sober, you see twice a year in Ohio. That is when the world’s largest twin meeting takes place in Twinsburg. Up to 2,500 couples come to such meetings. In the end, the pair of twins that looks the most similar will be chosen. But even that which is least similar receives a price. “What’s your name, and where are you from? However. That’s your price: the Gold Medal for the most alike twins”

Hundreds of twins made it to the finals. For example the 70-year-old ‘King Twins’ from Miami, who are discussing who looks younger: “I am the boss. And three minutes older.” “Doesn’t she look older?”

Or the 16-year-old twin brothers Kim and Wild from Michigan, who just got their driver’s license. However, only ‘one’, which they then alternately show at traffic controls: “It’s cool to look alike!” Ben and Marc have been coming to Ohio from Colorado for six years. They do everything together, they say. Nobody could ever keep them apart. Not even her own mother. She has tried many times to feed the same twin twice.

The 30-year-old twin brothers Ian and Alan have the longest way to travel. You have been from Sydney, Australia for five years. Every year with the same wish: you are looking for twins to marry.

The largest Amish population in America lives just 30 kilometers from Twinsburg. You emigrated from Germany and Switzerland around 300 years ago and – in addition to English – you still speak German. And love to explain why Amish clothing is mostly black, blue and purple and doesn’t have buttons or zippers. “The men want to show that they are all equal in the community and all have the same rank.”

In Ohio, the Amish towns are easily identified by their names. They are called Berlin, Fryburg or Strasburg. There are no traffic lights and no police here. Only street signs that indicate slow-moving carriages.

The second largest Amish group lives in Pennsylvania. In a place called “Bird in hand”, that is: bird in hand. The tour group of the German-American Society goes there and visits an Amish farm that is open to tourists. And since German is spoken in Amish Country, communication is not a problem. Question from a tourist: “Do the Amish use tractors to cultivate their fields? Yesterday we saw one on the tractor.” Answer Amish: “Yes, the Amish have tractors. But they don’t use engines, they use generators. They don’t want the tractor to be a car. American life is a slow life.”

The decelerated world of the Amish fascinates tourists. But the very next day it goes back to Germany. With many impressions and the knowledge that the Blue Ridge Mountains are worth a trip: “Gigantic!” – “I do not regret it”

History of Our Organization

Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains (FBRM) had its humble beginnings in the Purcellville Train Station where a small group of western Loudouners came together in late 2006 to explore the idea of an organization dedicated to protecting the Blue Ridge Mountains in our region. This founding group was Inspired by a white paper written by Lella Smith, whose family owned a homestead on the Ridge, urging the Loudoun Preservation Society to establish a Blue Ridge Heritage Area. Citing Civil War skirmishes, gypsy encampments, Native American lore, Conestoga wagon outfitting stations, and “dancing grounds,” Lella’s paper pointed out the need to celebrate and preserve the rich cultural, historical, ecological, and recreational features of the mountains she had grown up on and come to treasure at a time when the mountains were (and continue to be) at increased risk as a result of development and environmental deterioration.

In 2007 Friends began to take on its identity. Formed as a 501(c)(3) organization, Friends undertook the process of articulating its mission, creating a powerful vision, settling on a permanent name, and setting up governance in the form of a Board of Directors and its first set of by-laws. By December of 2007, Friends was geared to host its first event: a Sunday afternoon of story-telling at the Bears Den hostel featuring old-timers from the Blue Ridge, mountain music, and a chili pot-luck provided by the Board. Buoyed by this event, Friends has gone on to build its membership and make its mark in a variety of ways over the last decade plus. Signature achievements include:

        • undertaking research to identify and catalogue the key ecological, culture, and historic features of the Blue Ridge as well as threats to the Blue Ridge in our focus area download the detailed report
              • earning the Stewardship Forest designation for Blue Ridge Regional Park as a result of restoration work there during annual Stewardship Volunteer Days from 2009 through 2017
                    • convening two summits of conservation organizations in the region to explore how we might leverage collective impact, as a result of which the Blue Ridge Conservation Alliance was birthed (see https://blueridgeconservation.org/ )
                          • establishing the Friend of the Mountain award to recognize organizations and individuals who make significant contributions on behalf of the Blue Ridge
                                • establishing the Jane Pratt Blue Ridge Education Scholarship to commemorate Friends founding member Jane Pratt, and to honor high school seniors who have demonstrated commitment to the environment and stewardship on the Blue Ridge renamed the Jane Pratt & Jed Shilling Blue Ridge Education Award to memorialize Jed Shilling, Jane’s husband and an FBRM Board member
                                      • partnering with like-minded organizations such as the National Wildlife Federation, Virginia Native Plant Society, and the Regional Park Authority to address considerations particular to our stretch of the Blue Ridge
                                            • advocating with the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors on behalf of the Blue Ridge re: such issues as Chesapeake Bay zoning regulations, mountainside ordinances, alternative septic systems, the PATH alignment, the use of toxic herbicides by Dominion Virginia Power, the AT&T facility/tower application, and the Loudoun County Comprehensive Plan
                                                  • establishing an Endowment to support scholarships and stewardship activities
                                                        • staging a concert-fundraiser featuring the Furnace Mountain Band at Franklin Park Performing Arts Center to commemorate Friends’ 10 th anniversary
                                                              • collaborating with the Town of Round Hill, the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, and others to create a land management plan and develop landscaping featuring native trees at Sleeter Lake Park.

                                                              Over the years since its founding, Friends has evolved and grown in both its structure, its scope, and its membership. In 2014 Friends hired a part-time administrative assistant and recently brought on a part-time communications consultant to expand the content of our bi-weekly newsletter, “Happenings Around the Mountain“ and assist with other communication/outreach initiatives. In addition to the Board of Directors, four standing committees focus, respectively, on land use member and donor development celebrations, communications, and outreach and education.

                                                              Friends participates in various local festivals and hosts events each year to preserve, enhance, and celebrate the mountains and to engage membership. Friends also holds key roles in the Loudoun Preservation and Conservation Coalition and the Blue Ridge Conservation Alliance. . . and plays an advocacy role as needed in response to threats to the Blue Ridge. Consistent with our mission, Friends looks for opportunities to partner with like-minded entities in initiatives to preserve, enhance, and celebrate the Blue Ridge in our region.

                                                              Human and Natural History: Blue Ridge Parkway

                                                              The Blue Ridge Mountains, that first, hazy blue ripple of Appalachian summits encountered when motorists head west from more coastal areas, run from North Carolina to Pennsylvania. The Blue Ridge Parkway straddles that range for almost 500 miles. It also straddles a remarkable slice of human and natural history. Best of all, a batch of Blue Ridge Parkway visitor sites bring that story to life.

                                                              A Focus on the Terrain

                                                              Farther north, through Virginia, and into Pennsylvania, the Blue Ridge is at times a narrow serpentine spine of summits. The Blue Ridge in North Carolina contains many named sub-ranges as it broadens into a vast geographic jumble near the Great Smokies. Here rise many of Eastern North America’s highest peaks.

                                                              The broader Appalachian region starts west of the Blue Ridge with the Great Valley. This verdant patchwork of farms and winding rivers forms a dramatic backdrop for the Parkway in Virginia, especially north of Roanoke (and along the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, a nice extension that adds another 100 miles to a Parkway vacation).

                                                              Geologic History

                                                              The Blue Ridge got its start during the Silurian Period 350 million years ago. The tectonic collision of Africa, Europe and North America about 320 million years ago bumped up the Blue Ridge to jagged heights.

                                                              Millennia of freezing and thawing, rain, snow, and wind have reduced these once loftiest mountains on earth. When the glacial sheets of the last Ice Age advanced south 25,000 years ago, the onslaught polished New England’s peaks, creating steep notches and glacial cirques. Though the glacially scoured peaks of New Hampshire are lower than the highest Blue Ridge peaks, the colder climate of New England creates an Appalachian timberline, similar to the Rockies, where nothing but alpine plants grow (above about 4,800 feet).

                                                              The Southern Appalachians soar to heights much higher than that (nearly 6,700 feet), but being beyond the reach of the ice, they rise in tree-covered roundness, albeit rocky and awesome nonetheless. The Ice Age climate was nevertheless much colder in the South, and the many northern species pushed ahead of the ice ultimately found a home on Blue Ridge summits. Today’s Southern Appalachian ecosystem still harbors flora typical of the northern United States.

                                                              Human History

                                                              Evidence suggests that humans lived in the vicinity of the Blue Ridge after the last Ice Age as early 11,000 years ago. The Cherokee Indians were the major Native American tribe of the Blue Ridge region, interacting at times with Piedmont, or foothill, tribes to the east, and other Iroquois tribes to the northwest. Permanent towns, sophisticated political decision-making, hunting and artfully integrated cultivation of beans, squash, and corn were typical of the Cherokee lifestyle.

                                                              Sporadic contact with Europeans started in the mid-1500s, and the Cherokee were known as early adaptors of what they considered to be the best non-native technology. During the French and Indian War, from 1754 to 1763, tribes in Eastern America split into those loyal to France (and their claims to the Midwest) and England (and their more coastal American colonies). Indian military power in the Appalachians played a key role in the eventual domination of Eastern America by Britain.

                                                              By the time of the American Revolution, major migrations of Scots-Irish, German and other immigrant groups were flowing down the Great Valley, depositing people east of the mountains into Piedmont North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. American colonists had also begun settling in, and crossing over the Blue Ridge, among them Daniel Boone.

                                                              Between the pressure of increasing settlement by outsiders and the impact of exotic diseases, the tribes of the Blue Ridge region were dramatically reduced. In 1838, Andrew Jackson forced 16,000 of the remaining Cherokees in North Carolina to walk to Oklahoma in the “Trail of Tears,” one of the most tragic instances of injustice in American history. A small band of Cherokee landowners were able to stay, and joined by others who hid or returned, the Eastern Band of the Cherokee was reborn. Today, the Cherokee’s Qualla Boundary Reservation is a major Parkway attraction.

                                                              By the Civil War, the highest mountains of the Blue Ridge region had a widely scattered assortment of small towns, hardscrabble farms, and an emerging culture based on self-sufficiency. That started to change when railroads began to penetrate the mountains by the 1880s, bringing paid jobs and logging operations. Timber cutting decimated the environment and led to the passage of the Weeks Act in 1911 and the establishment of the national forests, and eventually to Blue Ridge region national parks in Shenandoah (established in 1935) and Great Smokies (established in 1934).

                                                              Check out these Parkway sites where human and natural history come alive.

                                                              James River Watergap/ James River Face (Milepost 63.

                                                              Imagine the titanic forces needed for Virginia’s biggest river to flow placidly through this breach in the Appalachians. This water gap—a typical Appalachia formation—is sure to impress. Such gaps played a key role in westward expansion, and the one here was a corridor for an early turnpike, railroad, and canal. A major highway and rail line still course above the river. The canal is gone, but the James River Trail leads across a bridge from the visitor center to the opposite bank where a lock is still visible at this lowest point on the Parkway. The Trail of Trees (same starting point), one of the Parkway’s best interpretive trails, covers the geology of the water gap and the diversity of the floodplain forest. The cliffs and crags on the south side of the river comprise the James River Face Wilderness, an 8,900-acre federally designated wild area.

                                                              Cumberland Knob: Start of the Parkway (Milepost 217.5)

                                                              As the Parkway celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2010, Cumberland Knob plays an important role as the spot where construction on the high road started in 1935. There’s an historic marker at the state line and plaques by the information station focus on the role of landscape architects in the building of the road.

                                                              Stone Mountain (Milepost 229.7)

                                                              Not far inside North Carolina heading south, pull into the Stone Mountain Overlook to look down on the granite domes of this National Natural Landmark. A nearby state park (just 15 minutes off the Parkway from Roaring Gap, at Milepost 229.7, via US 21, then right on NC 1100) has easy trails that reach great views of the dramatic slabs popular with rock climbers. There’s also a campground, picnic area, and great trout fishing.

                                                              Grandfather Mountain International Biosphere Reserve (Milepost 305.1)

                                                              One of the most significant single mountains in the East, craggy Grandfather is the world’s only privately owned, UN-designated International Biosphere Reserve. It also has the distinction of being the namesake of it’s own geologic feature: the Grandfather Mountain Window. This granitic rock, among the oldest parts of the Appalachians, was once covered by younger rock that has eroded away. The many unique and endangered species on the mountain include Heller’s Blazing Star, Michaux Saxifrage, and Blue Ridge Goldenrod. The biggest part of the peak is a new North Carolina state park. A smaller part of the mountain is a popular travel attraction with a nature museum and a motor road to 5,300 feet where visitors cross the Mile-High Swinging Bridge

                                                              Linville Falls/ Linville Gorge Wilderness (Milepost 316.4)

                                                              Linville Falls is the Parkway’s most dramatic waterfall (by volume of water) and the cataract plummets into another noteworthy feature—the Linville Gorge, a more than12,000-acre federally designated wilderness known for rugged, little-marked trails suitable for the most experienced hikers. Luckily, easy trails on Parkway property provide great views of the falls and the Gorge. Linville Gorge is North Carolina’s “grand canyon,” a meandering cleft up to 2,800 feet deep, carved by the same river that leaps over the falls. William Linville and his son were scalped in the Gorge in 1766, hence the name.

                                                              Craggy Gardens: (Milepost 364.5)

                                                              Perhaps the most stunning bloom of rhododendron on the Parkway occurs on the high crests of the Craggy Mountains, just south of Mount Mitchell. The peaks are covered with grassy meadows (see Southern Balds) and low-growing heaths that permit great views from a variety of easy trails. There’s a small visitor center and a picnic area.

                                                              Cradle of Forestry (Milepost 411.8)

                                                              The 6,500-acre Cradle of Forestry National Historic Site, the nation’s first school of forestry, is a must-see stop for Parkway visitors. Nowhere is the amazing story of our nation’s national forests more stirringly told. To manage his lands, George Vanderbilt of Asheville’s Biltmore House, hired forester Gifford Pinchot in 1889, and then Dr. Carl Schenck, a German forester, who in 1898 started the United States’ first forestry school. A decade later, North Carolina supported the Weeks Act that created the national forests and the agency’s first chief was Pinchot, Vanderbilt’s first forester. And after Vanderbilt’s death, his lands were among the earliest parcels of the new national forests. Trails interpret the rustic campus. There’s an early sawmill, logging railroad engine, and state-of-the-art exhibits in the Forest Discovery Center. US 276 to the site is part of the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway.

                                                              The Parkway’s Cool Cabins

                                                              The Parkway preserves some atmospheric examples of America’s early log structures. Brinegar Cabin (Milepost 238.5) is one of the best and the only Parkway log cabin listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. This (and adjoining structures) is the real thing: an original cabin built circa 1880 by Martin Brinegar at a lofty 3,500 feet. In summer there’s a small garden behind the structure. Carolyn Brinegar’s original loom is inside and there are summer demonstrations. Other great cabins include Polly Woods’ Ordinary, an early hostelry at Peaks of Otter (Milepost 85.6). The Trail’s Cabin (Milepost 154.6) has a great view on the Smart View Trail amidst plentiful picnic tables. Puckett Cabin (Milepost 189.9) and Sheets Cabin (Milepost 252.4) sit beside the Parkway. And Caudill Cabin (Milepost 241) is visible far below a dramatic drop in Doughton Park’s Basin Cove backcountry. A visit to it is a great day-hike (see trails).

                                                              Cone Manor (Milepost 294)

                                                              Moses Cone (1857-1908) and his brother Cesar amassed a fortune in North Carolina's post-Civil War textile industry. Cone popularized blue denim cloth and became known as “The Denim King.” With the heart of a preservationist and the mind of a forester, Cone created a mountain estate and offered jobs in the new orchards and fields to the original landowners. His memorable Victorian mansion Flat Top Manor is one of the Parkway’s most historic structures. The downstairs is used as the Parkway Craft Center and tours are available of the upstairs living quarters. Cone and wife Bertha are buried on a breezy meadow-covered hilltop that’s a short hike from the mansion.

                                                              Linn Cove Viaduct (Milepost 304)

                                                              Not every historic site is old! This S-shaped, computer-designed span is an engineering wonder that leaps away from the cliffs to spare the fragile mountainside. The bridge was created by adding each new section to the last, often over midair. A handicapped-accessible trail explores under the bridge.

                                                              Mabry Mill (Milepost 176.2)

                                                              This scenic gristmill is so iconic that postcards in multiple states have claimed it. The mill, living history programs, and a wealth of outlying exhibits on the Mountain Industry Trail provide some of the Parkway’s most fascinating insights into how mountain residents lived. The mill was built in 1910 by Edwin Mabry, a miner, blacksmith, and chairmaker. He and his wife Mintoria Lizzie Mabry lived here until 1936 grinding corn for the Meadows of Dan community. There’s also an 1869 log cabin where you can see cloth being woven on an old loom in summer. Mountain musicians often perform on weekends.

                                                              Gillespie Gap (Milepost 330.9)

                                                              Your Cooperative History

                                                              Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation has come a long way since 1936 when the cooperative's power lines were energized to light up the landscapes of our beautiful rural northwest North Carolina counties.

                                                              Life in the days before the late 1930's was dark and filled with manual labor from dawn to dusk for rural folks. While electricity had come to many towns and cities, it remained elusive in more distant areas because existing utilities found it unprofitable to bring it to rural areas.

                                                              Little did we know in 1935 that life would soon change for areas like ours when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into creation the Rural Electrification Administration (REA). This action recognized that support was needed to help rural areas become electrified. But it was the self-sufficient, enterprising residents of rural areas who worked together&mdashmany by the sweat of their brows&mdashto form cooperatives and bring electricity to their homes, schools, churches, farms and businesses.

                                                              How people formed their cooperatives and brought electricity to rural areas is one of the nation's greatest examples of economic democracy. Men and women petitioned, educated and organized to bring power to their communities. They drew lines on rough paper maps and secured signatures for sign-ups. They obtained pledges of land for the paths of the lines so the cooperative could build powerlines to serve them and their neighbors. Line crews, often aided by eager members in the community, cleared rights-of-way and dug holes, while others followed with poles and hardware. Last came the crews to hang the line.

                                                              The official "birth" of Blue Ridge Electric was recorded on September 19, 1936. It was that day a small group of farmers met with G. F. Messick in the jury room of the Caldwell County Courthouse to organize what was then called Caldwell County Electric Membership Corporation. This same year, the movement for cooperative rural electrification was in such high demand all across the country that Congress passed legislation making the REA permanent with provisions for cooperatives.

                                                              By 1938, Blue Ridge Electric began serving its first members under the name of Caldwell Mutual Corporation: 155 homes, six stores, four churches and a few schools in Caldwell County. Later that year, Watauga County was energized by the cooperative and by the following year, Alleghany County saw its first wondrous glow of lights. Two years later, the cooperative rechartered under the name Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation which now serves some 77,831 meters over approximately 1,525 square miles.

                                                              In March 1998, Blue Ridge made the decision to purchase Beall Oil Company enabling us to establish our first &ldquofor- profit&rdquo subsidiary - Blue Ridge Energies, LLC. This Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) provides propane, heating fuels, and heating appliances to a growing territory from showrooms and offices in Lenoir, Boone, West Jefferson, Sparta, and Morganton, North Carolina.

                                                              A second for-profit subsidiary, RidgeLink, LLC, was established in October 2008. RidgeLink was formed to help Blue Ridge Electric provide value to its membership by more fully utilizing the fiber optic system the cooperative has put in place for its electric system. The company provides broadband and telecommunication services to other businesses that provide end-use internet access services.

                                                              Because the energy landscape is evolving and new technologies are becoming available, our consumers need an energy company that can help them understand how these exciting new energy solutions fit into their lives. To do that, Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation made some fundamental changes in October 2016. The first change was our new name&mdashBlue Ridge Energy&mdashas our cooperative and propane and fuels subsidiary began operating under one brand.

                                                              The new Blue Ridge Energy is your complete source for innovative energy solutions, encompassing both your member-owned electric cooperative and our propane and fuels subsidiary. We&rsquore expanding our offerings to give you more ways to improve your life and as the energy landscape evolves, we&rsquoll help you understand how new technologies and solutions can best serve you. As always, we&rsquore here as your trusted energy advisor and to make life better for those we serve!

                                                              Today, this cooperative still provides essential power to an evergrowing Northwestern North Carolina. While we have progressed and continue to prepare for the future, Blue Ridge Energy remains committed today to the same principles upon which cooperatives were founded. Owned by the members we serve, we are a local business formed to provide affordable access to electricity. We return any margins in the form of capital credits to our members, and the cooperative is governed by a board of directors elected by the membership. The mission is to provide reliable and affordable electricity and energy services. Our guiding purpose is to be a major shaper of the future in our area which results in people achieving new levels of economic prosperity. That's the higher calling of an electric cooperative like Blue Ridge Energy. And that's why we're proud to be a part of all the communities we serve.

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                                                              Watch the video: Blue Ridge Mountains (January 2022).