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Hiking and Traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway: The Only Guide You Will Ever Need, Including GPS, Maps, and More

Winner of SATW Eastern Chapter Writing and Photography Contest

Hiking and Traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway: The Only Guide You Will Ever Need, Including GPS, Detailed Maps, and More is the only guidebook to provide a detailed description of every official National Park Service trail along the parkway. In addition, if it is a trail and it touches the parkway, it is also in the book—including public pathways on national park, state park, national forest, municipal, and private lands. Maps are provided for easy navigation, and official parkway trailheads have GPS coordinates. Included are the scores of miles of the Appalachian Trail that parallel the parkway, and points where the Mountains to Sea Trail comes in contact with the roadway. As he has done with all of the trails in each of his hiking guidebooks, Leonard walked every one of the more than 130 official parkway trails with a surveyor's measuring wheel to insure distance and description accuracy.

However, true to its title, the book is more than just trails. Descriptions are given for every overlook, including elevation. There's an elevation change chart for bicyclists, minimum tunnel heights for RV travelers, and sightseeing information for nearby towns. In addition, there are details about developed and backcountry campsites, rest rooms, water fountains, dining and lodging, picnic areas, a roadside bloom calendar, parkway milepoints, history of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Parkway, advice and precautions, and an overview of regulations and ranger offices.

The book is available from local and online bookstores, but if you purchase it through this website Leonard will donate a portion of the proceeds to the FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which assists in maintaining and enhancing the beauty of the scenic roadway.

From the Introduction:
What is it about these Blue Ridge Mountains that continues to draw me to them time after time and year after year? I have now hiked their full length, from northern Georgia to central Pennsylvania, five times. I have driven each mile of the Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Yet, after each excursion to the Blue Ridges, I find the yearning to return stronger than before.

Maybe it is the sense of discovery I feel each time I venture into the mountains. The place names themselves are a constant source of enticement and entertainment. How can I resist trying to find out what happens in Bear Wallow Gap or what Rough Butt Bald really looks like? Will Graveyard Fields be as spooky as it sounds? Will tears come to my eyes when I walk over Onion Mountain? What the heck is The Lump? Does a rock castle really exist in the gorge and does anyone maintain the Craggy Gardens?

The idea of walking all of the trails of the Parkway occurred to me while I was on one of these small, personal quests. Wanting to understand the geology of the mountains, I was on the Greenstone Self-Guiding Trail trying to concentrate on the information presented on the trail signs. Yes, I was gaining knowledge on the origins of the mountains, but the beauty of the surroundings was also thrilling me. The bright sunshine, filtering through the leaf canopy of the oak and hickory trees, danced about to create varying shadows on the underbrush of mountain laurel and rhododendron. Warm air rising from the hazy green of the Shenadoah Valley wrapped around my skin like a welcomed shawl against the coolness of an early spring day. A couple of wildflowers were just beginning to break through the coarse, rocky soil next to the trail, adding a dash of color to the brown and gray forest floor.

If I could derive such pleasure from walking just one little .3-mile trail, how much more would I enjoy and get to know these mountains if I walked all of the trails on the Parkway?