Sunday, June 1, 2014

Blue Ridge Parkway lodge is closed

Three years ago, my wife and I planned an anniversary trip. We would start at Skyland in Shenandoah National Park, near the northern end of Skyline Drive, and drive the length of Skyline Drive and most of the Blue Ridge Parkway (which is a continuation of Skyline Drive). We would spend nights at the National Park Service lodges along the way, all the way to the Pisgah Inn southwest of Asheville, and would hike trails all along the drive.

Our plans fell apart when we realized that some of the NPS facilities would not be open in April. They would not open until, in some cases, Memorial Day. So we decided to postpone our trip until we could do it later in the year.

This year, it appeared, would be that year. We scheduled a vacation in late September and began looking into reservations at all of the NPS lodges along our route. It was then that we discovered that the lodge at Doughton Park, not far from where the North Carolina portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway passes into Virginia, is no longer open. The notice my wife found on the Internet said a combination of the federal sequestration and other factors led to the closing of the lodge.

This amounted to a broken femur in our trip plans. The lodges we had planned to stay in were spaced a reasonable day's drive apart — Skyland, then Peaks of Otter, then Doughton Park, then Pisgah Inn. Without Doughton Park, the southern leg of our trip fell apart. We looked at commercial lodging in the Doughton Park area, and there are a few choices not far off the Parkway, but it had been our intention to experience each of the NPS lodges along the Parkway, not to venture off into commercial areas.

The problems with the sequestration, and with the entire federal budgeting process, are more serious than my disappointment with the closing of a publicly run, rustic lodge on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Parkway lodges are classics of early motoring history, designed with respect for the environment and with minimal luxuries for the motoring public. They have a certain charm and should be profitable for the private vendors who do the actual running of the facilities.

We may go ahead with our plans for a portion of our long-anticipated drive down the Parkway, but the elimination of a key, midway stopover along the way will leave us disappointed. 

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