A fresh view

Barnwell shines new light on Blue Ridge Parkway
By Shelby Harrell Staff Writer | Jul 19, 2014
Courtesy of: Tim Barnwell Photography Pictured is the view of the Blue Ridge Parkway from  milepost 436 toward Waynesville. Each peak and ridge is labeled according to Barnwell's research.

Asheville-based photographer and author Tim Barnwell, 59, is feeding everyone’s natural curiosity about the Blue Ridge Parkway.

His newly released book, “Blue Ridge Parkway Vistas: A Comprehensive Identification Guide to What You See from the Many Overlooks” offers a unique perspective of what visitors will see from more than 40 of the most spectacular overlooks along the 469-mile route of the Blue Ridge Parkway through North Carolina and Virginia.

“Five or six years ago, I stopped and was looking at an overlook that should have been familiar to me, but there were a few peaks didn’t know,” Barnwell said. “I thought, ‘I ought to know what that is,’ so I went home, got out map started to figure it out. Everything just started from there.”

The 128-page book, which was released a few weeks ago, features views from other attractions in Western North Carolina including the Biltmore Estate, Jump Off Rock, Cashiers Valley, and Chimney Rock Park. Until now, no one has identified this many places using photographs, the easiest way for visitors to relate to what they see.

“I couldn’t believe someone hadn’t done this before,” Barnwell said, adding that other hikers and mapmakers couldn’t offer him much help. “I finally just figured out a method do it myself. It took five years.”

Barnwell said his research took such a long time because no maps or programs were available to help him identify all of the overlooks and peaks. To complete his book, Barnwell lhad to learn mapmaking, and used four or five different maps as well as special computer software to learn and identify every bump and ridge.

The book is designed as a driving guide where travelers pull into an overlook, open the book to the corresponding page, and see the exact view with mountains, towns, and points of interest identified along with compass heading, distance, and elevation. It is also useful for hikers or anyone who wants to know what they are seeing from locations throughout the mountains of Western North Carolina and Virginia.

“It was such a long slow process … I would not have not done it if I knew how much work it was going to be,” Barnwell said with a laugh. “But now I can really envision what is on the other side of a mountain. It just never occurred to me before what I would be looking toward."

In addition to photos, the book's text expands on the identifications, so that it is not just names of peaks, but includes a short history of the Parkway, travel tips, maps, and interesting information about the geography, history, geology, and area attractions including waterfalls, visitor centers, craft shops, and museums.

Barnwell’s book has been for sale for a couple of weeks and he’s already been receiving a positive response from the community. He currently sells book at the North Carolina Arboretum, where the staff has already been buying the books before they have even reached the shelves.

“Once people see (the book) they just want to have it,” he said. “Once they see it, they realize what a gap it fills and how much info is really in it. What all I’m looking at satisfies our natural curiosity.”

"It’s been much more of a learning experience," Barnwell said. "I grew up here and always traveled, but I just have a new understanding and appreciation of where I am and connection to the community.”

Barnwell's previous books include, “The Face of Appalachia: The Appalachian Farm in Photographs,” “On Earths Furrowed Brow: The Mountain Farm in Photographs,” and “Hands in Harmony: Traditional Crafts and Music in Appalachia,” all published by W.W. Norton/NY.

"Blue Ridge Parkway Vistas" is available at area bookstores or online from www.barnwellphoto.com and retails for $29.95.