It's been almost a year since Winter Storm Jonas hammered Western North Carolina with over a foot of snow so this story is long overdue!
For me January 22, 2016 was a perfect day. I love snow and on this particular day the snow just kept coming! Overall I measured 16 inches of snow perfection that Winter Storm Jonas provided for me and my family to play in and with. The next day, January 23, brought tremendous wind which made playing in the snow and any sort of winter photography very difficult. Early in the morning of January 24, I knew a full moon, the Wolf Moon, would be setting over one of my favorite spots on the planet, Bad Fork Valley Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Bad Fork Vally has vast long range views that show off the undulating valleys of Pisgah National Forest. It also boasts an incredible look at Mt. Pisgah which stands at over 5700' tall. Although one must climb a steep mountain and hike through the the longest tunnel on the entire Blue Ridge Parkway, Bad Fork Valley is well within walking distance for me from where I live. The combination of a full moonset and deep snow along the Blue Ridge Parkway fueled my desire to document this event with my camera.
On the morning of January 24, I woke up early at 4 a.m. and dressed as warmly as I possibly could. My hike was to be exactly three miles uphill to my destination and then the exact same three miles down the mountain back home. The only somewhat level ground would be through the Pine Mountain Tunnel which is 1320' long and the longest on the entire 460 + miles on the parkway. The first mile up to the parkway was steep and deep with snow. I questioned why in the world I was doing this several times as I trudged through the snow which was well above my knees. Although it was a difficult hike it was extraordinarily peaceful. The full moon was high in the sky and provided me plenty of light as it bounced off the snow crystals in the forest. I reached the parkway and was treated to 4' snow drifts in some places that the wind had blown around the previous day. It was spectacular!
Literally every step was a challenge because the snow was so incredibly deep. Once I made it up to the Parkway the trek did not get easier. I still had a gradual climb to my final destination and the snow remained up to my knees.
Despite the temperature dropping another few degrees the walk through the Pine Mountain Tunnel was the easiest part of the journey simply because there was no snow on the road and I could walk at a normal pace without having to lift my legs extra high with each step.
The Pine Mountain Tunnel is special to me for a few reasons. When you exit this particular tunnel on the Blue Ridge Parkway heading south it opens up to pure forest. There are no city lights or noise pollution of any kind to be seen or heard. It's Pisgah National Forest at its finest. I find the silence and solitude extraordinarily soothing.
After a few minutes of shooting my hands were beyond cold and uncomfortable. The moon had set and it was time to start my trip back down the mountain. Here are a few cell phone selfies I took on my way back home.
Here is a video that a friend of mine made with his drone from the Sleepy Gap Overlook on the morning of January 24. #iluvsno Video and drone credit to Lucid Daydreams.
After writing this blog and reviewing my pictures eleven months later I am so happy that I made this trek to this special place on this particular day. I look forward to many more experiences like this in 2017. Thank you for checking out my blog! I'll do my best to post more of my experiences in 2017 so please stay tuned and have a great year!