As autumn approaches peak near Asheville, the Blue Ridge Parkway at times becomes a very long and narrow parking lot. Drivers jockey for spots in the turnouts offering views down into the valleys, or find their own precarious perches in non-official parking ledges to capture the hopefully not literal to die for views.
Spending an afternoon cruising up and down the parkway seemed like time travel. Going up, leaves grew brown and finally the trees were bare. Driving downhill, the color grew, until the elevation was low enough that green mingled with the riot of colors. In most places, the peak was somewhere around 3000 to 3500 feet, though there were patches of amazing color everywhere. I had an extended conversation with one woman who had spent three days driving the parkway south from Virginia and decided that the exact spot where we were happened to be the ultimate peak.
Sunset was subdued after a cloudy and drizzly day. But minutes after the official sunset time, a lovely mist settled on the distant peaks softening their edges, and the foreground mountain glowed with color. The species diversity of these mountains was expressed in the hundreds of subtle colors draping each different tree. There were more hues than any sunset I have ever seen. It seemed for an instant the sky came down to earth and soaked into every leaf.