Roads Less Traveled: Misty Mountain Sunset

This spring has been a slow one for me from a photography standpoint.

In a normal year, I have already seen at least a dozen or more sunsets from several locations along the southern Appalachians, primarily along the spectacular Blue Ridge Parkway. This year, with work, weather, and sickness, I have only made it out to a small handful. That said, I was able to journey all the way to milepost 309 outside of Boone, NC where my favorite sunset spot in the country lies: Flat Rock.

This time of year is when spring is just reaching the higher elevations of the Appalachians. Over the next couple of weeks, the highest peaks above 6,000 feet will finally bloom with rhododendrons and azaleas, and my favorite spot, the Roan Highlands, will be peaking (hopefully with me there to witness). Right now, the sweet spot lies around 4,000-5,000 feet, where mountain laurels, rhododendrons, and flame azaleas are thriving. This particular night, I will be focused on mountain laurel.

Sunset on some Mountain Laurel (Photo by Tyler Penland)

I have been to Flat Rock enough to know roughly where every plant is. It is a weird thing to know, but an important one for photography since you don’t always have a lot of time to explore.

This particular night, I arrived just after a thunderstorm, and, as luck would have it, the skies were quickly clearing to the east. The sun broke through the clouds and lit up the lingering mist in the valley below. I have seen a few sunsets like this over the years, and they have always been some of my favorites. Seeing the clouds below is truly an unforgettable experience, especially when the sun hits them and lights them up golden orange.

One important part of photography is not letting a good sunset go to waste. I spent the next half hour after arriving, getting every possible angle: close-ups, far-away, and different angles.

Sunset on some Mountain Laurel (Photo by Tyler Penland)

Of course, sometimes you have to flip the camera sideways to get something new. There was a time when 95% of the photographs I took were turned portrait. These days, with wide-angle lenses, I tend to run more 50/50.

Last moments of sunshine on some Mountain Laurel (Photo by Tyler Penland)

The best sunsets don’t stop when the sun sets, however. Any sunset chaser worth their salt knows that the best part of a sunset often comes after the sun has gone down. This wasn’t necessarily the case this evening, but the after-sunset show was still spectacular. The higher clouds to the south were lit a beautiful pink, matching the white and pink blooms of the mountain laurel.

I like this spot in particular because you get not only a mountain laurel but also a Galax flower that blooms right next to it. The Southern Appalachians are covered up with Galax and their white blooms are quite pretty.

Just after sunset (Photo by Tyler Penland)

As the sun continued to sink, the lingering clouds just overhead were lit a beautiful pink.

After sunset skies fade into pink (Photo by Tyler Penland)

After this, the sky would fade into black, and the stars would return as I journeyed home.

A misty mountain sunset was in the books; this one was no fantasy.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email