Here in the mountains of western North Carolina (we pseudo-locals call it WNC), the fall foliage season peaks in October. Tourists from far and wide are aware of this and book their travel plans months in advance. We live in the heart of WNC and somehow missed it. Well, I had my excuses: I’ve been mostly housebound for the past two months, recuperating from a broken back (more about that some other time) and working to finish a big project.
Yesterday, having finally emerged from a fog of pain and toil, I was ready to get out and admire the fall color. We planned a trip up the Blue Ridge Parkway to Blowing Rock with stops at Grandfather Mountain and Linville Falls on the way back. I was vaguely aware that the weather had taken a chilly turn, so I wore a hoodie over my turtleneck and tossed a windbreaker in the back seat. (This from a woman who once lived in Alaska and ought to know better how to dress for weather contingencies).
Our house is at Elevation 2500 and we still have some gold and crimson leaves on our leaves. But as we climbed upward, the leaves disappeared. Also, the temperature dropped a degree every hundred feet up. That’s fine, we cheered ourselves. With the leaves down, the views will be even more spectacular. On we went. We had the Parkway to ourselves and thought how pleasant it was and how very clever we were to have missed the tourist stampede.
But before we were halfway on our journey, we were unexpectedly and rather rudely forced off the Parkway by a barricade with a sign reading “Closed for Snow and Ice.” Ha! A few flurries and the Park Service starts to clutch its bureaucratic pearls.
So down we went to the highway, and wait—what ho!–what approaches? Cars with rooftop caps of snow perched jauntily over their windshields. And what’s that on the shoulders of the road? A dusting of snow like talcum powder in the creases of a woman’s arms. Did you know about this? the Sidekick asked, his tone a bit accusing. No, I cried. The weather channel said Sunny. I didn’t mention that there was an alert crawling across the scream that some people were reporting snowfall in the area, because those were obviously false reports. How could there be snow if the forecast was Sunny?
Soon the snow was no longer content to collect on the roadside but was making its presence known on the roadway as well. By now the dashboard thermometer showed that we’d dropped into the teens, and there were no views, leafless or otherwise, because the sky has gone to an opaque swirl. We were in a white-out.
This expedition had already lost all its appeal, but I don’t like to admit defeat. We were bound for Blowing Rock, and by God, that’s where we would go. And we did. We emerged from the ice fog and parked downtown. I grabbed my windbreaker, but the wind just laughed at my feeble efforts and blew right through me as we tried to negotiate Main Street. We made our way over icy sidewalks to the Village Café, only to learn that it closed for the season four days before. Wait—there’s a season?
This story doesn’t get any more dramatic than that, I’m afraid. We ate in a different restaurant and drove home with our electric seat warmers on and had drinks in front of the fire. But perhaps I’ve learned a lesson about tardiness. And also that Sunny does not mean without snowfall.