Enjoy the Colorful Photographic Impressions by Vann Helms
Looking up over a thousand feet, world famous Chimney Rock clings to the sheer granite face of the south wall of the gorge. As the oldest and most popular of the tourist destinations along the Blue Ridge, this natural wonder never ceases to inspire awe in the hearts of the millions who have climbed onto its dizzying cap.
In a rare pre-Thanksgiving event, snow fell east of the Blue Ridge escarpment on November 27th. For almost two hours, the flakes flew, although a wet ground after three inches of rain kept it from sticking. A light rain at sunrise gave way to a strong northwest wind, which brought the snow.
The following short video was made during the snow storm.
As the storm passed, the sun broke through, and the last of the snow clouds drifted along the slopes of Wolfpen Mountain to the northwest.
After all other trees have lost their leaves, and temperatures into the teens are common, one tree always saves the best for last. The Bradford Pear, which produces only pea sized fruit, goes from deep green, to bright red, to vibrant orange, to electric yellow, even as ice and snow begin to fall.
The ironic part is that they are among the first trees to flower in early spring. The photo below was made in the same place on the first day of Spring, even though sub-freezing temperatures were still the norm in the morning.
Notice that the woods on the mountain are still dormant.
Below, you can see the many colors that are on the tree at the same time.
These are cultivated trees, used by landscape architects specifically for their early blossoms and late color. They do not profligate on their own, but must be planted from seedlings. The leaves are thick and very waxy, and resistant to freezing, which explains the late coloring. It isn’t unusual for the color to hang-on into December.
When the humidity drops below 30%, the views of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the North Carolina Piedmont Foothills can take your breath away. Above, the view to the northwest from the town of Rutherfordton shows the Black Mountain range with Mt. Mitchell in the center. The closest ridge has an elevation of 2,000 feet. The ridge in the middle is Hickory Nut Mountain at 3,200 feet. The distant ridge is over 6,500 feet.
Rarely can one see detail on the slopes of the Black Mountains from more than thirty miles away, but today was the exception. An approaching cold front created unusual high level clouds as the setting sun gave a salmon tint to the scene, above.
Mike’s Mountain, at 2,300 feet, sits astride the Rutherford/McDowell County line to the north. The failed community of Queen’s Gap sits at the base of the mountain, hoping to be resurrected in the future. In the distance just right of Mike’s Mountain is the peak at Little Switzerland and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Imagine driving through the rolling hills of the Piedmont Plateau of North Carolina, and suddenly coming upon what appears to be a giant lake, reflecting the bright morning sun. Instantly you realize that it is no lake, but a sea of glass as far as the eye can see.
What you have happened upon is the largest single site greenhouse in the world, and the word, large, doesn’t do it justice. The greenhouse is the size of 120 football fields at over 6.1 million square feet of climate controlled space. It is the creation of the VanWingerdam family from The Netherlands who began in 1972 with one small greenhouse near Huntersville, North Carolina. Today, Metrolina Greenhouses, a family company, sells 70 million plants a year to over 1000 retail outlets in the eastern U.S.
The mammoth complex uses no public water source, but depends upon a remarkable rain collection system that adds 3 million gallons of water to 25 acres of retention ponds from each inch of rain that falls. The greenhouse uses up to one milliom gallons of water a day to support the production of all those plants. Every week, seven tractor trailer loads of sustainably harvested Canadian Sphagnum moss arrives at the facility, and during the peak season from March to June, 150 tractor trailers a day leave the greenhouse loaded with plants destined for your home or office. Up to 650 people work full time to make all this happen.
Check out this six minute video to get an up close look at this mind-boggling operation along the Mecklenburg-Cabbarus County line in rural Huntersville, North Carolina. And to think that it all began with $5,000 and a dream.
Just twenty miles north of the modern metropolis of Charlotte is the historic campus of Davidson College. Established in 1837 by the Presbyterian Church, the prestigious “Southern Ivy League” institution is dedicated to the creativity of the individual, and fosters a lifetime commitment to integrity.
Even though the slopes of Rumbling Bald Mountain have already turned brown, the trees along the shore of picturesque Lake Lure are still ablaze in fall color. This is explained by the fact that the lake sits at an elevation of only 900 feet, and the warmer waters delay the changing just enough to provide this late season treat. It was 16 degrees here in Otter Creek Valley five miles north of the lake on Wednesday, which was colder than any day all last winter. Go figure.
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