Down the Continental Divide

Driving back from Asheville near sunset, I took the road less traveled to descend the Blue Ridge from the Eastern Continental Divide at Ridgecrest. This gravel road is maintained by the Norfolk and Western Railway so their crews can have access to the twelve miles of track, and seven tunnels, that allow trains to navigate this historic section known as the “Old Fort Loops”  It got that name because a series of loops were necessary to make it possible to climb and descend the three mile (As the crow flies…) trip to cross the Blue Ridge.  The road is seldom used, except for hunters and folks like me who want to experience the thrill of seeing untouched forests and ravines. A B&B, The Mill Creek Inn, is the only civilization along the way.

trainA Freight emerges from the 1,800 foot long Swannanoa Tunnel near the crest of the Divide, heading down into the “Loops”

divide 3

divide 2

divide 5The remnants of Old Highway 70, which was abandoned decades ago in favor of a different route, is visible below. Nowadays, it is a favorite hiking and biking trail.

divide 1

divide 4

overpassOne of three underpasses that were built over 100 years ago is at the end of a short paved section that passes the Bed and Breakfast. The trains move very slowly up and down these tracks because of sharp curves and steep descents.

At the bottom of the “Loops”, the setting sun made for quite a contrast from the valley and the mountains.old fort

Sometimes, as Robert Frost wrote, taking the “road less traveled”, can make “all the difference”.

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