Going to the Clouds Road
We enjoyed the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park in Montana. As we road up and up, it truly felt like we would be able to reach the sun. I had this same experience as we were driving up the side of a mountain toward mile marker zero on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia – except this time we were driving into the clouds.
On our journey south, we turned east into West Virginia towards Virginia and the beginning of the Parkway that runs through Virginia and North Carolina. What I was seeing around me was so very beautiful in the rain and fog but I knew these conditions are challenging for photography. Just before we left home I read a post by professional landscape photographer Rick Braveheart giving tips on taking photos in rainy, cloudy, foggy conditions. A little knowledge can give me a large amount of confidence so I became excited about capturing the soul of these mountains.
When I got out of the car at the visitor’s center the wind was whipping the drizzle against my face. I started thinking about how the people who have inhabited this region for thousands of years endured living in these conditions, with fewer creature comforts than I enjoy.
The smell of soggy leaves and moist soil touched a spacial place in my soul. I took in the deepened fall colors produced by rain on leaves, and the darkened trunks of forest trees. When possible I ventured out of the car with camera in hand to capture what my heart was seeing.
We were oriented by mile posts, a great map provided by the National Parks Service, and the two guidebooks I had purchased. There were spaces to pull off the road for viewing about every half mile along the first 100 mile stretch of Parkway. I wanted to stop at each.But I knew I had to be conscious of time because I wanted to do the whole 469 miles. This meant driving past some of the pull-offs, looking for those that held the most promise for learning about the mountains and providing good picture-taking opportunities. The resources I read said to plan on covering 30 miles in an hour (they were right) – so I knew I had many hours ahead of me. What I wished for was a week for each 100 miles – but we don’t like hotel living that well.
We arranged our trip so we started the Parkway on Wednesday and found there were very few cars as we drove up and down and round the curves, following the ridge of the mountain – looking down to the valleys below. We were aiming for the small patch of blue off in the distant sky, hoping for brighter skies. I wanted to experience the mountain views in all types of light.