Who has the best lights in town? Vote now for your favorite in our holiday lights contest.
The trek has shown Tim Pegram the effects of the parkway’s shrinking budget.
RALPH BARRIER | The Roanoke Times
Tim Pegram is walking the entire 469-mile route to help raise money for Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Friday, May 3, 2013
In the past three weeks, Tim Pegram has encountered bears, been drenched in downpours and was shocked by lightning. There’s only one way to describe a trip fraught with such perils.
“This is the most enjoyable experience of my life,” he said.
No, the lightning strike didn’t scramble his brain cells. Pegram, 61, is walking the Blue Ridge Parkway and loving every step of the 469-mile journey from the Cherokee Indian Reservation to Rockfish Gap. He is walking the parkway for a couple of reasons — to repeat a similar trip he took 10 years ago and to help raise money for Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Pegram, a former parkway ranger who lives in Oak Ridge, N.C., walked the parkway from north to south in 2003, not long after he retired. He wrote a book about that journey, called “The Blue Ridge Parkway by Foot: A Park Ranger’s Memoir,” which came out in 2007.
Now, for the 10th anniversary of that walk, he decided to reverse the trip and head north.
He learned that this year marks the 25th anniversary of Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway, a Roanoke-based nonprofit group that organizes volunteers, raises money and brings awareness to parkway issues. Pegram and Friends executive director Susan Mills decided to use the walk as a fundraiser. People are invited to go to the Friends website (www.blueridgefriends.org), where they can click on the link that leads to updates from Pegram’s walk and make a donation.
A burly guy who said he hoped to drop a few pounds during the walk, Pegram has been averaging 15 to 20 miles per day on the road. He takes time to linger and talk to people he meets and to take photographs. He stopped for a lunch break Friday afternoon at the Roanoke Valley overlook near milepost 130, where he met several employees from the Friends office.
He talked about some changes that have occurred along the road the past 10 years. The parkway’s budget has not grown much, but the brush and trees at overlooks have, blocking scenic views. The parkway has a $400 million backlog of maintenance projects.
“The parkway is becoming more and more a tunnel of trees,” Pegram said. “Where you used to see expanses, now are grown up.”
Federal budget cuts caused by the sequestration have forced several parkway sites to remain closed. Spots such as the Smart View Picnic Area, where numerous families gather for reunions each summer and fall, will not open.
“It’s obvious that the parkway is getting less funding,” Pegram said.
Some of the changes along the road are more personal. A few of the friends he knew and wrote about a decade ago, such as Gene Parker, longtime ranger at the Peaks of Otter, have died.
The walk is also a little more strenuous this time around, Pegram said.
“Apparently, there’s been a lot of seismic activity, because the hills are getting steeper,” he joked.
Pegram, who said he wakes up at the chirp of the first towhee, sleeps in a one-person tent that he sets up in either national forestland or on private property. Funding cuts have closed campgrounds, making it more difficult to find spots to spend the night.
He said that walking the parkway is not too dangerous, despite the traffic. His closest brush with physical harm actually came while in his sleeping bag, when a lightning bolt struck a tree, then ran underground along the root system right under his tent. The strike flipped him from his back onto his side, he said. And it happened at the almost-too-appropriately named Graveyard Fields section in North Carolina.
Otherwise, he is enjoying a nice little stroll, which should end at Shenandoah National Park in about a week.
“It’s been another sentimental journey,” he said.
Weather JournalStorm track isn't very snowy for us