Update here: Pounding Mill Overlook – Blue Ridge Parkway – Part 2
Pounding Mill Overlook was suggested as one of two places to visit for great sunrise pictures near Waynesville and Brevard, North Carolina. (Thanks to Kevin Adams for the suggestion). There is one downside to its location, but it’s only a seasonal one, which is its location along the Blue Ridge Parkway. This location is normally a great thing as it’s easily accessible by car and the parking area probably holds at least 40 cars. The downside is that in the winter the park service closes parts of the parkway as driving becomes unsafe due to ice. These closures are perfectly reasonable because the parkway doesn’t have guardrails in most places. High elevations, curves, icy roads, large drop-offs, and a lack of guardrails don’t mix. For up-to-date closure information visit http://maps.nps.gov/blri/road-closures/ or call (828) 298-0398.
During my visit, the parkway south of Asheville was already closed due to ice. The overlook (Milepost 413.0) is located one mile from the intersection of the Blue Ridge Parkway and NC-276 so I decided to hike it and see what the sunrise would hold.
Planning accordingly to wake up early, drive 25 minutes, and then allowing 20 minutes for the one mile hike (camera gear, and layered clothing slow you down) provided enough time to arrive around nautical twilight. Be warned that when the road is closed for ice, the road actually does have ice on it. That ice is especially hard to see before the sun rises. So take either a headlamp or flashlight to light your path. There was a 600 yard section that was completely covered in ice and I was forced to take to the narrow shoulder, which was still icy and slick.
Hiking the closed road does provide some photo opportunities that would not be had if it was open to traffic. Here is an example:
During the drive in the sky was overcast and the stars were not visible which worried me. Thankfully there was a break in the clouds just where the sun was to come up and color started creeping into the sky during my hike. So I was certain there was going to be quite a show. And boy was there ever.
Due to the road closure I had the entire overlook to myself. Which was wonderful as I could setup, take a picture, setup somewhere else, etc etc etc, without bothering anyone else. The beauty of photography is that even though I was there by myself, more people get to experience what was probably the most beautiful sunrise I’ve ever witnessed.
Maps: Blue Ridge Parkway Maps
Virtual Look: Pounding Mill Overlook
Some images combined using: LR/Enfuse
Sunrise/Twilight times figured out using: The Photographer Ephemeris
h/t to Victor Ellison and David Brown