Roads Less Traveled: Purple

This past week I made a trip to somewhere I hadn’t visited in years. The trip came at the suggestion of a photographer friend who had recently visited this spot on the famed Blue Ridge Parkway. This trip would take me well north of Asheville, nearly to the Virginia line in Alleghany County near the small town of Sparta.

Doughton Park can be found at Milepost 241 on the Parkway. The park is home to a trading post, numerous trails, a campground and even an abandoned hotel. The hiking/camping is what draws most people, but I was there for a very specific reason: wildflowers.

For some strange reason, every year from late July to early August, a couple of the meadows fill up with a wildflower known as a Blazing Star. Whether these were originally here or, more likely, someone’s home garden spread a little too far on its own, the spot is absolutely gorgeous.

These flowers are found on long stalks about 4 to 5 feet tall for the most part, but some run as high as 6 feet, perfect for smacking you in the face as you try to maneuver through them without trampling any. Many other varieties of wildflowers in a multitude of colors can be found growing in between, including some milkweed that attracts Monarch butterflies to the region.

The flowers are primarily found in a meadow next to the old abandoned Bluff Lodge. A couple of trees grow out in the middle, offering some shade if you plan to spend much time out in the sun, but you’ll never be far from the car. These Blazing Stars and other assorted wildflowers attract a multitude of butterflies and bees. Everything from monarchs to swallowtails to fritillaries to honeybees can be found enjoying the plentiful nectar. If you are lucky, you may even spot a quick-moving Ruby-Throated Hummingbird coming through.

Nearby, be sure to also check out the stunning vistas that can be seen from nearby overlooks, including this one from Wildcat Rock just the other side of the lodge from the wildflower fields.

You can also trek the Bluff Mountain Trail through some adjacent cow fields to see more great views. As you can tell, by the time I visited this part of the park some rain was beginning to move in hindering my view just a tad. This summer has been very wet so I have a lot of photographs with the hazy theme this year.

All in all, this park has something for just about everyone.

Next time you find yourself in Alleghany County, NC, be sure to stop by. It is definitely worth the trip.

I’ll see you on the trail…..



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