Exploring the Summit of Mt. Mitchell

Except for a rocky promontory in the Badlands of South Dakota near Mt. Rushmore, North Carolina’s Mt. Mitchell is the highest land east of the Rocky Mountains. As winter gave way to spring, it seemed the perfect time to make my first climb to the top of that iconic peak. With the Blue Ridge Parkway only recently opened because of melted snow, and with the Parkway still closed just south of the state park entrance because of the ongoing repairs to last summer’s threatened landslide, there were almost no people around. All facilities were still shuttered from the winter deep freeze. It was just above freezing, and snow was still visible in the shadows. The sky was totally clear with no wind. Perfect.

Mt. Mitchell Observation Platform

A short trail from the parking area brings you to the summit marker, and a well designed observation platform that gets you even higher up.

Mt. Mitchell ramp

The view to the south over the ramp for the platform lets you know right away that you are on top of the world. If you ever wondered why these are called The Blue Ridge Mountains, this panorama will leave no doubt.

Mt. Mitchell Summit North

Looking to the north, above, you can see the spine of the entire Black Mountain range laid out before you. Many of the peaks were once thought to be the highest.

Mt. Mitchell Southeast View

The next peak south of the summit has a gathering of communication towers that is visible even from I-40, twenty miles to the east. When you hit “seek” on your FM dial at this altitude, stations will come in loud and clear on every number on the radio. Now try to choose one you like…

Mt. Mitchell Summit Platform

Being above everything, the blue sky seems to be endless.

Mt. Mitchell State Outline

Just in case you aren’t sure about which direction you are facing, a bronze outline of the state of North Carolina in the center of the platform features clearly labeled direction indicators.

Mt. Mitchell Medalion

A bronze marker is placed at the exact summit on the platform.

Mt. Mitchell Northeast View

Turning toward the northeast, above, Linville Gorge and Grandfather Mountain can be clearly seen.

Mt. Mitchell Rocks

Even at this altitude, the rocks are clearly turned on their sides by millions of years of tectonic turmoil.

Mt. Mitchell Balsam Spruce

Most of the trees at this rarefied elevation are Balsam Spruce, and they are dwarfed by the severe weather.

Mt. Mitchell Moss

Clinging to the exposed roots of an ancient Balsam, these mosses have found the ideal spot where they can thrive.

Blue Ridge Parkway Overlook

Back at on Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway just east of the summit, the 5,500 foot vista is still breathtaking.

The Opulent Antebellum Mansions of Madison, Georgia

Madison Book Cover

Madison, Ga., Azalea Garden

After General Sherman burned Atlanta in 1864, he burned almost all of the stately plantations on his march to the sea, but one small town was totally saved. Madison, Georgia, just sixty miles east of Atlanta, was the home of Senator Joshua Hill, who had been a close friend to Sherman’s brother at West Point, and was also a friend of the Union, having been the sole Georgia vote against succession. If that had not been the case, over 100 of the 19th century buildings that stand today would have been destroyed.

Madison Georgia, Joshua Hill House
Above is the preserved home of Senator Joshua Hill. Circa 1835

In the town, “…too beautiful to burn.”, one of the largest collections of antebellum buildings in the South draws tourists from the world over. Madison is a national treasure of antebellum buildings, and its architecture stands as a testament to the time when cotton was king.

Madison GA, Wade-Porter-Fitzpatrick House
The Wade-Porter-Fitzpatrick-Kelly House Circa 1852

Today, travel magazines call Madison “The prettiest little town in America”. International travel magazines call her, “One of 17 picturesque villages in the world that you MUST visit.” With so many buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, Madison has become a destination for lovers of history and architecture alike. Who can blame them?

Madison, Ga., Boxwood front

Above and below is the circa 1851 mansion known as Boxwood.

Madison, Ga. Boxwood Mansion

Madison, Ga. Honeymoon house

Above and below is the circa 1851 Greek revival house known simply as Honeymoon.

Madison, Ga. Honeymoon house front

Madison, Ga. Stokes McHenry House
Stokes-McHenry House circa 1820

Broughton Hall   circa  1837
Broughton Hall circa 1837

Madison, Ga., Heritage Hall house
Heritage Hall is one of the oldest large homes in Madison, built in 1811.

Madison, Ga., Grand Victoria House
This impressive Grand Victorian was built in the 1870′s. The homes shown in the gallery below date from 1850 to 1890. Each one has been lovingly restored to its original grandeur. Click on the first one to open a slide show on the group.

Obviously the perfect time to visit Madison is in the Spring when the Dogwood and Azaleas are in bloom. My visit was on Easter Sunday, April 20th, and Spring was about a week past her prime. Make this amazing historical village one of your Bucket List items if you haven’t already. These photographs show but a representative few of the homes that you will see during your carriage or walking tour. All of them will take your breath away. They sure took mine. And, by the way, if you enjoy Madison, make sure you visit Covington, just to the west. It’s collection of stately mansions is just as exciting, in a different way.

Flowering Trees before the Deep Freeze

It was 25 degrees this morning and has been below freezing for over nine hours, with more to go. Tonight will be the same. After two inches of needed rain Monday night and Tuesday morning, cloudy skies gave way to clear blue in the afternoon, with stiff winds over 25 mph. Snow fell in northern Alabama. Right now, the rainwater has frozen and risen from the dirt, and large puddles have a sheet of ice as in dead winter.

With the white and pink Dogwood finally in full bloom, and the Kwansan Cherry heavy with giant pink flowers, I felt it best to capture their dramatic color while I still could. I can only imagine what might be happening to the apple blossoms around Hendersonville. These late deep freezes can ruin the season for these growers. Also, with most other trees pushing out new tender leaves, even their futures are affected. I also fear for those few Hummingbirds who chose to arrive two weeks early. In the meantime, here is the incredible beauty that I found just north of me in McDowell County.

Pink and White Dogwood

These dogwood were along Main Street in Marion, N.C., as were the trees below. Click on the thumbnail to see the full scene, then scroll through the images.

I then went to the interchange at Interstate 40 and U.S. 221 south of Marion. Years ago the state had the foresight to plant Dogwood all around the approaches.

Interstate 40 Interchange Dogwood

Dogwood Mountain

Moving south on US 221, I found this electric Redbud at on old brick farmhouse.

Redbud and Brick Farmhouse

Just north of my house along the McDowell and Rutherford County line, the green of the pastures was so magnificent. This area is virtually unchanged for decades, with the same families living on the land.

Mountain Log Cabin in Pasture

Green Pastures of McDowell County, NC

Black Angus Grazing

Hickory Nut Mountain, at 3,100 feet, dominates the western horizon in this valley. I hope that the hard freeze will not kill the new green buds covering the slopes.

Hickory Nut Mountain in Spring

Hickory Nut Mountain Road

Tight Run Road in Montford Cove

Hickory Nut Mountain Willows

Above is Tight Run Road in Montford Cove, with Willow trees adding inches by the day. Tomorrow I travel to Tallahasse, Florida, for a few days, but when I return on Sunday, I hope to find Spring still abounding throughout these mountains.

Take a Ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railway

On April 9, I boarded the Great Smoky Mountains Railway in Bryson City, North Carolina, for an excursion through the Nantahala River Gorge. I was the guest of my Florida friends, Terry and Ken, and we had a vintage dining car as our home base.

Smoky Mountains Railway Train

During the five hour roundtrip journey, we had full beverage services, and were served a full hot lunch, dessert and all. The staff was very friendly, and we even had live Bluegrass musicians along the way.

Smoky Mountains Railway lunch

Railroad Excursion Friends

The track ran along the famous Nantahala River with its rafters and kayakers, eventually entering the Nantahala Gorge. At one point, the train crossed the TVA’s Fontana Lake over a half mile long trussel.

Fontana Lake on Smoky Min Train

The following 7 1/2 minute video will take you along for a ride. The line has an open air car for easier viewing and these viseos were made from that car. Click on the headline above to go directly to the blog if you don’t see the link below, then move down to find the link.

Springtime Sunset in Montford Cove

If you’re driving to Lake Lure or Chimney Rock from I-40, you’ll pass through this tiny hamlet along your way. There’s no town, just a Baptist church, but the valley raises Black Angus cattle and high protein hay. There’s a 1,900 foot mountain with a wonderful southern view toward Charlotte and South Carolina. Sunset seems to be the best time of day for color and texture.

Montford Cove Pasture

That’s Long Mountain on the left, with a very distant King’s Mountain to the far right horizon. Charlotte is just near the center, and is visible at night.

Tryon Mountain Ridges

The distant ridge is Tryon Mountain along the South Carolina line. Next comes Bill’s Mountain just east of Lake Lure.

Montford Cove Derelict

This decaying 19th century farmhouse stands guard over expansive hay fields.

Long Mountain Sunset

Long Mountain hides in the shadows as the last rays stream across the fields.

Cove Creek Valley

A panoramic view of the valley shows the first greens of spring spreading up the slopes.

Historic Charlotte in Springtime

Charlotte, North Carolina, has been known as the “Queen City of the South” for decades, but the dowager metropolis is at her best during the explosion of color in the spring.

Charlotte Myers Park Mansion

The mansions of Myers Park offer the best combination of architecture and landscaping in this historic Colonial town.

Charlotte Myers Park dogwood

Charlotte Myers Park Maple

Charlotte Myers Park Brick

Charlotte Myers Park Moravian

Charlotte Myers Park tulips

Charlotte Myers Park Pink Dogwood

Charlotte Myers Park cottage

Charlotte Fourth Ward Victorian
The northwest quadrant of Uptown Charlotte is known as the Fourth Ward. Many preserved and restored 19th century Victorian and vernacular houses sit on the narrow, tree lined streets.

Charlotte Fourth Ward American House

Charlotte Fourth Ward Dogwood

Charlotte Fourth Ward Townhouses
Colorful town homes face many of the divided streets.

Covenant Presbyterian Charlotte

Covenant Presbyterian Church makes the perfect place to step inside and rest, with walls of stained glass, and three pipe organs.

Charlotte Tryon Street Garden

Nestled among the towering skyscrapers along Tryon Street are gardens and shopping areas. Known as “Uptown”, this is a walking city of many historic churches and newly added museums and galleries.

Carolina Foundation Gallery

Charlotte Fourth Ward APartment

Charlotte Myers Park White Dogwood

The Grove Park Inn Welcomes Spring…

One of the most historic places in all the mountains is the 100 year old Grove Park Inn, perched on the side of Sunset Mountain, overlooking the delightful small city of Asheville, North Carolina. Built of native granite boulders collected from the surrounding mountains, this Craftsman era treasure has been the destination of Presidents and celebrities since it opened.

Grove Park Inn in Spring

Grove Park Inn Gardens

Japanese Magnolia

Asheville Skyline from Grove Park

The Asheville skyline and Blue Ridge seen from the hotel…

Grove Park Inn Rear View

Grove Park Inn Roof

New Grove Park Inn lobby

 

Grove Park Inn South Fireplace

Two matching giant fireplaces flank the north and south walls of the large lobby.

Grove Park Inn Elevator
A dramatic elevator is hidden inside these massive stones.

Grove Park Inn Lobby in Spring

Grove Park Inn Stained Glass

Grove Park Inn Front
Like a sleeping relic of the past, this historic hotel enters its second century with dignity and awe.

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