blue ridge parkway

Day 63 – Blue Ridge Parkway (Virginia Part 2)

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Day 63 of a Year Long Road Trip Along America’s Scenic Byways

The dogs and I returned to the Blue Ridge Parkway near the border of Virginia and North Carolina. We made two stops on the Parkway, Smart View and Mabry Mill, before jumping off to visit Eastern Tennessee.  Reader’s Digest explains the names of each stop fit the description mountain folk applied ages ago. 

Smart View

Given all the stunning views I enjoyed yesterday, I couldn’t imagine what a right, smart view would include.  At Smart View, I was taken more by the view of the old, log cabin perched on the hillside than the vast vista of mountains beyond.  Anyway, after a short walk around the picnic area, the dogs and I moved on to Mabry Mill.

smart view on the blue ridge parkway

Mabry Mill

From 1910 to 1935, Ed Mabry ran the mill, a blacksmith shop, and a woodworking shop just to name a few of the businesses that contributed to his reputation as the man that could “fix most anything”.  The mill building, separated into three sections, housed a sawmill, a gristmill, and a woodworking shop. 

In the gristmill, Mabry only ground corn as opposed to some of his competitors which also ground wheat.  He used his sawmill during the rainy times when the water flow increased and used his jigsaw and other tools in the woodworking shop to produce wagon wheels.

mabry mill on the blue ridge parkway

How to Make Moonshine

The site also included a whisky still to brew moonshine and a mule powered sorghum mill and evaporator used to yield molasses.  I found these items interesting as I had never seen such apparatus.  I also enjoyed learning about the production process which was documented on display signs.

To make moonshine, cornmeal, malt, and sugar are mixed with water and fermented in barrels for several days to almost two weeks.  The fermented mash (beer) is heated in the copper still.  The vapor is then transferred to a flake stand which contains a spiral tube (also known as the worm) that is immersed in a constant flow of water.  The worm condenses the vapor into liquid which flows into another barrel to hold the corn whiskey.

moonshine apparatus on the blue ridge parkway

How to Make Sorghum Molasses

Sorghum molasses became popular during the Civil War when sugar and corn syrup supplies diminished.  A mule, attached to a ten foot sweep, walks in a circle to operate the rollers which crush the cane stalks.  The rollers extract a bright green juice that is strained and then cooked for several hours in an evaporator.  Ten gallons of juice produce one gallon of syrup which is bottled once it reaches the proper consistency.

Eastern Tennessee

We enjoyed the morning on the Blue Ridge Park which also turned out to be the last of the sunny skies.  The afternoon brought thick thunder clouds and rain.  As a result, we skipped a few planned visits in Eastern Tennessee, including Watauga Lake and Cherokee National Forest.  Given my recent luck with National forests, the rain was probably a blessing! 

And as for the lake, the magical setting created by low hanging clouds over a jade colored water surrounded by mountains was in perfect view through VANilla’s passenger window.  While searching for the next Walmart in Elizabethton, I stumbled across a historic site that I plan to visit in the morning.  In the meantime, I enjoyed a spinach salad at Fatz Café before camping in the Walmart parking lot for the night. ETB

Map of My Road Trip Across the USA

For a summary about my road trip across the USA, click HERE. For the interactive map, see the below link.

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

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