All a matter of scale

You do know that quite a bit of the Blue Ridge Parkway is lined with…nearly covered by…trees, right?

And it twists and turns, goes up and down, as it follows the mountain ridges.

So, sometimes we come around a corner and are met with quite a different scene than when we last had a view of the vista.

On the day of this photo, the sky had been fairly nondescript, with sort of a generalized skiff of thin clouds up kind of high…not interfering with the view, but not adding much either.

But we came around a corner and saw this great new towering cumulus cloud. I stopped to shoot!

During the course of about 10 frames, the cloud moved sideways quite a bit, but it also grew taller quite a bit! This was my final frame at that overlook.

In this frame we are looking in a fairly narrow field of view because of the close trees on either side. But our depth of view is terrific…probably 75 miles.

Look at how many changes occur across that field of view: lovely sunshine here at the camera, the huge cloud growing to our left and already dumping rain back under its leading edge, the fairly solid overcast beyond the cumulus straight out and to the right, and so many hills and ridges that we lose them in the blue haze before they quit.

As close as that cumulus cloud looks, it never affected our travel that day…and we later drove directly across its location in this photo, but it had moved on.

My takeaway from all this: we are such tiny parts of this great big world, and as much as we might see, we understand and experience much less of it.

Bad weather is good!

The first several summers we spent in these mountains (the elevation where we’re parked is 2250 feet), I was bored after a couple weeks.

The view from the Parkway was always lovely and green, and there were usually some nice clouds for texture in a photo.

But it was just an endless series of hills and ridges covered with what looked from a distance like green moss. Lovely. Let’s go.

Last year, we headed out for a scenic drive, and were dismayed to see that very dark clouds were rapidly blowing in from one side. It looked like the section of Parkway where we were headed would be enveloped by rain by the time we got there.

We talked about turning around, but decided to press on just to experience the ride through the tunnel of green during a monsoon. Besides, the road up into the mountain ran right beside a creek, and it might have some good action to watch!

It was actually rather uneventful. The fury of rain was modest and brief.

Except, on the other side of the storm, there was a different look to the hillsides, and the view from the Parkway was more dramatic than we’d seen before.

I regret to tell you that I spent my time that day admiring the view rather than capturing it with my camera!

But this image illustrates my point at least a little. The stripes from the heavens are shafts of light, not showers of rain. But give the scene 20 minutes, and we could find rain almost anywhere in our view!

Mood rock

Yesterday in the late afternoon, we stopped by the Parkway overlook that positions Looking Glass Rock so centrally in its view.

Or tried to stop by. It was wall-to-wall with cars and people! And the great central view that provides such a vista was overgrown with weeds six feet high!

Actually, I was able to find a parking spot way off on the edge, and was able to find a narrow opening in the trees along that edge…and squeezed off a simple shot of The Rock.
We decided to revisit some nearby overlooks, to see if there were any decent views we had previously missed…or dismissed for some reason. And yes, there were!

Indeed, none offered the same deep and expansive vista, but one in particular provided a nice, close view of The Rock while still showing some very nice context…see below!

The two photos in this post were taken only 25 minutes apart, but the light had changed quite a bit, and the day’s humidity and slight haze had progressed into some occasional puffs of low-lying cloud and more noticeable filling between peaks.

The mood is quite different between them, don’t you think?

Moon rise over The Rock

Each month, on the night of the full moon or on the night before, there’s a chance to get a photo of the rising moon while there is still enough light from the setting sun to illuminate the foreground landscape.

The combination of rising full moon and setting sun varies each month, sometimes occurring 45 minutes apart and sometimes occurring within mere minutes. It’s good to compare the night before full moon, in case its combination works better.

On this evening, the moon rose only 4 minutes before sunset, which meant the sun was actually down by the time the moon cleared the small mountains on the horizon. Further, the sun actually set behind the Blue Ridge Parkway, so its light was cut off even faster.

If we had come up the night before, moon rise would have occurred an hour and 10 minutes before sunset! We would probably have had a tough time seeing the moon as it rose.

The three photos here were taken at 8:39pm, 8:41, and 8:43, and the camera position was only slightly changed from the first shot to the second. Just those slight differences in time produced some interesting changes in the scene.

Because the sun’s light dropped away so quickly after the moon rose, the scene is quite dim, and I purposely avoided artificially making it lighter with my processing software. I hope you are able to click on these images on a computer monitor so you can see the full effect of the progression of the rising moon and surrounding landscape.

Like a rock

We have taken a real liking to this view from one of the Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks.

It happens to be fairly close to where we frequently join the Parkway. But its attraction is several things: it’s wide (so we don’t have to worry about hogging a vantage point), and it offers a wide and deep eastern view (which allows pleasant late-evening soft sunlight to illuminate the view).

But really, its greatest claim to fame is the close and prominent view of Looking Glass Rock.

You’ve already seen a fun photo from this overlook: the July 12 post titled “Have you noticed all the clouds”. I love that scene.

I used this particular photo of the Rock because of the near-absence of clouds!

Tomorrow’s post will have some very special views of Looking Glass Rock….

A tale of three towns

Less than 10 miles to the east from where the coach is parked is the remarkably named settlement of Bat Cave.

Blink, and you’ve missed it. The namesake cave is not publicly identified, although it is the largest granite fissure cave in North America. It is closed to the public, in order to avoid spreading a disease that affects the particular specie of bat that makes its home there.

But the few blocks of town are located on the banks of the Broad River, and the setting is memorable.

With not much reason to stop, you keep going, following the winding road alongside the river, and within 6 miles you have encountered the small towns of Chimney Rock and Lake Lure.

Chimney Rock is named for the impressive granite structure that towers over the town. Lake Lure is named for…Lake Lure, a lake created by a dam across the Broad River.

Together, these three tiny, classic North Carolina towns offer quite an eyeful of gorgeous mountain scenery.

The Chimney Rock edifice is the focus of a State Park. We chose to pay the fee on a cloudless day, so we could climb the mountain and take in the 75 mile view.

We thought it was worth the effort:
That photo was taken from Opera Box. Here’s what the box looks like…with my faithful guide, Ross:

They certainly add nice texture

We’re still talking clouds.

Just look how much more interesting the sky becomes when all these puffy chunks…and layers…of clouds slowly float past.

And look what they do to the sunlight on the hills and valleys of the many mountains in our view! Bright spots chasing away shadows.

Complex layers of clouds

Often the clouds around here take on many forms…all at the same time.

It helps to have a grand view.

Just plain gray layers overhead. Some pretty color glowing in the distance. Huge billowy white thunderheads growing in the distance. And it teases you with patches of blue throughout.