Kristin Potenti Photography

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Photographer based in South Florida specializing in Travel, Portraits, Event & Commercial Photography

The Blue Ridge Parkway- Where the Journey is the Destination

I had been looking forward to this road trip along the renowned Blue Ridge Parkway just outside of Asheville, NC for a long time. I was so excited to finally see the infamous show of color from the trees in the Smoky Mountains. We stopped for a quick breakfast at a diner down the street from our Airbnb and headed towards our first stop, the North Carolina Arboretum. I had seen pictures of the park online and thought it would be a nice way to start the day. In essence, a preview of what we were about to experience.

 We entered the parking lot and pulled into a spot under a line of trees in full color. I grabbed my camera and started taking pictures; I just couldn’t resist the urge.

Colorful Fall Tree Foliage

Fabio laid down in the crisp leaves inhaling deeply, taking in the woodsy scent and crisp clean air.

Man Laying in Leaves

We looked at each other and cracked up laughing. We had just spent a half an hour in the parking lot of the arboretum. Brushing ourselves off we headed towards the entrance where a beautiful formal garden of mums and cypress trees greeted us. 

 

A path on the opposite side led us through more natural plantings of North Carolina’s finest shrubbery, trees and flowers. 

We spent about an hour meandering down one path, then another, our eyes glistening with delight at the sheer beauty. Knowing we had quite a few hours of driving ahead of us we bode the arboretum goodbye, and drove off towards the Blue Ridge Visitors Center. 

We entered the visitor’s center and my eyes landed on stacks of pamphlets, brochures and magazines. Fomo (fear of missing out) took over and I picked up almost every marketing piece on display; at least 15 pounds worth, lol. You never know what interesting tidbit you’ll find in the local publications.  We spoke with a guide to pick her brain a bit on which direction we should head and decided the south loop would be our best bet (the green line on the map below). 

 

Map of the Blue Ridge Parkway Near Asheville, NC

Finally on our way, we turned up the music and wound the car through the vibrant woods.

Winding Road in the Woods on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Sunbeams streaming through the tree canopy cast a golden glow on the already perfect fall day. Soon we saw the appeal of the parkway. Every 5- 10 minutes there’s a place to pull off the road to enjoy the expansive view that extends for what seems like hundreds of miles. Layers upon layers of color as far as the eye can see, the trees create a brilliant mosaic design. 

Experienced folks sat upon folding chairs munching on the picnic lunch they had packed. Others sat up in the bed of pickup trucks parked on the side of the road.

 A rumbling in my stomach made me acutely aware of our lack of preparation and the possibility there may not be anywhere to stop for lunch flitted across my mind. I flipped through my treasured collection of pamphlets searching for a sign of a lunch stop. Nothing. I traced the lines of the map with my finger and saw a promising fork and knife symbol.  Restaurant, it must mean restaurant. We continued driving and just about where the fork and knife symbol were on the map was a parking lot with people milling about. I scanned the crowd for signs of food. Yes, some hands were carrying takeout containers. I knew it! I scurried out of the car to find further proof and came upon a man selling wine and beer who pointed me in the direction of the Pisgah Inn restaurant. Climbing the stairs, I patiently waited to put our name on the wait list.

 Fabio joined me on the outdoor balcony overlooking the never-ending expanse of colorful foliage. Simply breathtaking. I hunted around for the best camera vantage point, climbing a little hill, stooping down and peering through the brush. An unexpected perspective can create an interesting image in almost any situation. 

I headed back to the restaurant and we were soon inhaling the Pisgah Inn’s finest fried chicken. Whew, starvation avoided.

 Our journey along the parkway continued, pausing every so often to enjoy an overlook and take a few pictures. The Graveyard Fields area was particularly impressive, a relatively flat field awash in burnt umber tones leading up to a rich carpet of intensely colored tree tops.

I walked up the road a bit to check out the waterfall we had just passed. The trees opened up to a completely surreal view of Yellowstone Falls, a waterfall nestled amongst the vividly hued trees. I laughed as I spied on the people exploring the falls through the zoom lens. 

We were nearly at the exit to head back to Asheville when I saw an absolutely golden stream of light highlighting the most luminous landscape we had seen yet. I jumped out of the car and ran across the street to join a man photographing the spectacular scene. “You better hurry up, he said, I’ve been waiting here for half an hour for this light and it’s perfect right now.” I started snapping away, zooming in and out then swapping for a wide-angle lens. I love to capture a scene in a few different ways. Changing the angle, zoom or point of view tells a more dynamic story.

Skipping back to the car, a childlike glee filled my soul and I acknowledged the special significance of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s one of the few trips I have taken where the journey was the destination. In every day life I often remind myself to enjoy the process of whatever it is I’m doing, not just the completion of a task or project. Thanks yoga. This trip through the Smoky Mountains was about just that. Taking time to enjoy the moment, the process, the journey.