The "Ice Cliffs," Grandad called them. He always wanted to go see the Ice Cliffs. They were on the list that we intrepid sight-seers made in the last years of his life--Buffalo Mountain, the Brown Mountain Lights, Stone Mountain, Burke's Garden, Roan Mountain, Cumberland Gap. He and Grandma Lois had been prolific travelers in his post-retirement years. The Blue Ridge Parkway was one of their favorite destinations. We'd always had in mind to go to the Ice Rocks
, but we'd never made it there. By their very nature, their presence results in road closures. No one wants to slide off the mountain going to see them, after all. After a mild Winter with one big blast of cold air at its end, we were inspired to seek them out after looking at the icy cliffs outside our little town.
Having driven by them many times on warmer days, it was a simple matter of looking in my Parkway guides.
In it, they were called the "Ice Rocks" and found to be in Doughton Park.
I think we got there just in time. I bet the last of the ice will be gone this week.
While it was a small show, compared with other years or earlier in the Winter, it was no less impressive.
The ice that had fallen showed some serious water at work.
It was fifty-five when we arrived, but the wind sweeps ups these stone cliffs with some ferocity.
That quick trip I made back to the car for coats and hats--that was a wise one!
It was like being in a great freezer with big fans blowing on you.
The wind was so swift at one point, it was hard to walk.
I had given Mike my hat and put up my hood.
The wind was trying mightily to blow it off my head.
I thought this photo was too funny when I saw it.
You can see here the better part of the ice that was remaining at our visit. The cliffs go on a bit more, with a little fringe of ice at the top. You can see photos of them during a more typical year here
. While it wasn't much, comparatively, we all found it to be a powerful, magical place. We have firm plans to come back next Winter to see them again. Roan was thrilled at the idea that the ice would come back and probably be more next year. He kept sharing the news with great excitement and really wanted to bring a big piece home. That is what I find frightening about climate change--the security that we have known, both for food production and for simple seasonal joys from nature, is at risk.
This wonderful write-up
gives a good history of the area. It tells that the facilities in the Doughton Park area have been closed for some time. Indeed, the coffee shop where we ate with Grandad in 2008
was not only closed, but appeared to have the glass out of the windows. It's heartbreaking to me to see our public lands lose funding to keep things in operation. The current political climate is even more depressing. I've written here and there over the years about facilities and staffing falling by the wayside, and it seems things will only get worse. It does, however, drive me to spend more time visiting these places. We vote with our dollars, after all, and visitors to National Parks matter in a big way.
I don't mean to end on a sour or sad note. Despite the complexity of the Parkway's beginnings and the uncertainty of its future, it holds a special place in my heart. It calls to me in a very deep way, one of my great loves. Now that the children are beyond the baby years and into the bouldering years, I think it's time we spent more time there again.