The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Doughton Park - Backroads Tour

By Bob Heafner © 1985-2012

Issue: October, 1985

An old home along the way.An old home along the way.Autumn in the Blue Ridge puts a chill in the air and a spectacular array of colors across our hillsides. It is an almost magical time of year when pumpkins are displayed in roadside markets by local farmers and the aroma of apple butter and molasses drift on wings of mountain breezes. Fresh-cut firewood stands stacked by the wood shed and the canning jars are filled and stored in the pantry awaiting the wintry days ahead. The scent of wood smoke hangs above the cabins in the hollows, adding the perfect touch of flavor to a perfect time of year.

My Dad seemed to have an internal clock that was set to alarm when winesap apples were ready in the mountains and each fall he would bundle us into the car and head for the hills. The rides were always peppered with Mom's words of caution, "Now you better slow down on these curves Arnold." I must admit that Dad's driving had plenty of room for improvement because once the elevation started rising, his eyes were glued to the breathtaking beauty. He would stare in awe at crimson maple leaves and munch his way to bliss on one of the crisp winesaps that were kept from the bushel basket he'd put in the trunk.

A small stream at mile 2.5.A small stream at mile 2.5.Those trips and Dad's enthusiasm created a special place for mountain autumns in my heart that will never diminish. It is a time when the mountains are offering their best to each of us and the wonder of nature is spread like a blanket of glory across every hillside. This month our BACKROADS tour is short but it travels a portion of the Blue Ridge that will be fantastic during the month of October when the leaves are at their peak. We hope you enjoy the ride, the scenes and the memories of your Blue Ridge autumn along this month's tour route.

Our entire tour will cover a total distance of 20.6 miles and will require less than one hour from beginning to end. We will begin at the intersection of North Carolina state road 1143 and the Blue Ridge Parkway. This intersection is located just south of Blue Ridge Parkway mile post 246 which is 68.3 miles south of Meadows of Dan, Virginia and 45.9 miles north of Blowing Rock and Boone, North Carolina.

BACKROADS tours always make a complete loop back to the point where we started. The underlined numbers at the beginning of each paragraph indicate the total number of miles we've traveled from our point of beginning. The numbers in parenthesis ( ) indicate the distance from the last point of interest that we passed.

This is a BACKROADS to explore and we hope you and your family enjoy every curve in the road.

Union Primitive Baptist Church at mile 7.6.Union Primitive Baptist Church at mile (0.0) Traveling south on the Blue Ridge Parkway we will turn right onto NC state road 1143 (Elk Knob Rd/Miller Rd), just after passing Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 246 on our right. The beautiful old two story farm house on our right as we turn is The Farm House craft shop. The house is over 100 years old and of course visitors are always welcome to come in and browse.

0.1 (0.1) Following SR 1143 (Elk Knob Rd) as it curves to the right we will cross a small bridge at this point.

0.3 (0.2) Here we cross another small bridge.

0.4 (0.1) Here we turn right onto SR 1193 (Cleary Rd/Meadowfork Rd).

0.5 (0.1) There is a large Christmas tree farm on our left here.

1.6 (1.1) SR 1142 (Roberts RD) turns left here but we will continue to follow SR 1193 (Meadow Fork Rd/Cleary RD). The old church on the left here is the Pleasant Grove Church.

2.5 (0.9) There is a beautiful small creek on our right.

2.7 (0.2) Here we cross another small bridge.

Brinegar Cabin at mile 12.9.Brinegar Cabin at mile (0.3) At this fork in the road, SR 1193 (Cleary RD) turns right but we will bear to our left on SR 1141 (Meadow Fork Rd).

3.6 (0.6) There is an old apple orchard and a picturesque view to our right here.

4.2 (0.6) At this stop sign we will turn right onto NC Route 18.

7.6 (3.4) At this point we will turn right once again on to SR 1193 (Air Bellows Gap Rd) just after passing the Whitehead Store. The little church on our left after we turn is the Union Primitive Baptist Church. It was founded in 1934.

7.8 (0.2) Here we cross another small bridge.

7.9 (0.1) At this point SR 1133 (Pine Swamp Rd) goes straight but we will turn right and continue to follow SR 1193 (Meadowfork Rd).

8.0 (0.1) There is another beautiful little mountain church on our left here.

8.1 (0.1) At this fork in the road, SR 1193 (Meadowfork Rd/Cleary Rd) goes to the right and SR 1131 (Waterfall Rd/Air Bellows Gap Rd)) to the left. We will follow SR 1131 (Waterfall Rd/Air Bellows Gap Rd).

9.4 (1.3) SR 1132 (Pruitt Rd) turns right here but we will continue to follow SR 1131 (Air Bellows Gap Rd).

9.5 (0.1) At this fork in the road SR 1131 (Waterfall Rd) turns right but we will go left on SR 1129 (Air Bellows Gap Rd).

9.8 (0.3) Here there is a beautiful view of the valley on our right.

10.4 (0.6) At this point, SR 1129 (Brown Rd) turns left but we will turn right onto SR 1130 (Air Bellows Gap Rd).

10.9 (0.5) The view on our left here is FANTASTIC.

11.0 (0.1) At this point, SR 1131 (Waterfall Rd) turns right but we will continue on SR 1130 (Air Bellows Gap Rd).

11.6 (0.6) Here we pass through a narrow tunnel beneath the Blue Ridge Parkway.

11.7 (0.1) Here the road makes a hard left turn but it should not be a problem for automobiles; however, this tour is not for motor homes. After rounding the bend in the road we will be at a stop sign where we will turn left onto the Blue Ridge Parkway at Air Bellows Gap just south of Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 237.

12.9 (1.2) On our left here is scenic Brinegar Cabin where weaving demonstrations on antique looms are held daily.

15.5 (2.6) We are now passing Bluff's Lodge Coffee Shop and Service Station.

20.6 (5.1) We are now back to our point of beginning at the intersection of SR 1143 (Elk Knob Rd/Miller Rd) and the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 246.

This is a beautiful drive around and through Doughton Park which consists of approximately 6,000 acres of spectacular mountain beauty. The Park is a portion of the National Park system and offers over 20 miles of well marked hiking trails.

We hope you enjoy this tour as much as we have and by all means take along your camera and picnic lunch.