The Smoky Mountains in Late Summer

Pigeon River Smoky Mountains
The Pigeon River flows to the west along the northern boundary of the Smoky Mountains.

Great Smokies from Tennessee
The Great Smokies are majestic from the Tennessee side. The boundary between North Carolina and Tennessee runs along the top of the distant ridge.

Smoky Mountains River
Another idyllic stream flows out of the National Park.

Smokies Valley in Tennessee
This expansive valley could just as easily be in Europe or Colorado.

Sunflowers in my Meadow

Narrow Leaf Sunflower Mountains

Every September, the Narrow Leaf Sunflowers that I planted three years ago in my front meadow seem to double in number, and this year, they have spread to other parts of the yard. I couldn’t be more pleased! These showy blooms follow the Sun across the sky from sunrise to sunset, thus their name. I’ve done a post for each of the past two Septembers, and you can take a look at those from the links underneath this post, but I couldn’t let this year’s display slip by without a few new images that capture the incredible profusion of flowers that peak right on the first day of autumn.

Narrow Leaf Sunflower House

Narrow leaf sunflower picture window

Remember, once you go directly to my blog, you can see the full screen version of any image in any of my posts just by clicking on it, then you can click anywhere on that image to enlarge it. Pretty cool….

Narrow Leaf Sunflower Short Leaf Pine
This Short Leaf Pine catches the first rays of the morning. It’s the only one like it in the meadow, and grew from a seed. I like the softness of the needles.

Otter Creek Hemlock House and Meadow

Mid-September Color at Otter Creek

With cooler nights and misty mornings, mid-September always saves some of the best summer color for last. Where corn stalks used to stand, the wildflowers and Morning Glories have taken over, and the result is electric.

September Morning Glories

Yellow Wildflowers

Wildflower Variety

Blue Morning Glories

Corn Stalk and Wildflowers

Pink and Purple Morning Glories

Pink and Blue Morning Glories

Otter Pond Morning Mist
Walking back home, the area around Otter Pond was still green, but a 60 degree mist had shades of autumn on its mind.

Otter Creek Falls in Late Summer

Every state with mountains has an “Otter Creek”. Some states have more than one. The Otter Creek in my valley got its name back in colonial times when Native Americans lived here. I’ve seen otters in the pond down the road, and I’m told that otters still live in the creek, but I’ve never seen any there. It’s not a big creek as creeks go. It had a family of beavers build a dam a few years ago, but a flash flood washed it away. There are ruins of a mill where the creek narrows and exits the valley down by the main road. Gold was panned from the creek for a long time, and there’s still some gold there if you have the patience to look. After a good rain, the creek becomes a torrent, filling up with all the runoff from the entire valley, but most of the time, it’s just a slow moving stream that gurgles along as it makes its way to join Cove Creek a mile or so to the east. I’m sure there must be some fish in the creek, or the otters wouldn’t be there, but I’ve never seen anyone fishing.

This morning the dogs and I walked west, past an old 19th century farmhouse, to the only falls that I know to exist along the water’s course. I had never been up there in the summer, and I realize now what I have been missing. The creek drops about ten feet as it cascades down a huge slab of rock. The sound is hypnotic, and the tranquility of the place is the best I’ve found anywhere in the entire valley.

Otter Creek Rhododendron
About two-thirds of the way to the falls, Otter Creek passes one of only three houses built close to the creek. Carolina rhododendron cover the steep bank.

Otter Creek Currents
Heavy rains can swell the creek well over its banks.

Otter Creek Chimney
The farmhouse dates from the time of the Civil War. The falls are about a quarter miles past this historic relic.

This morning I made a video of my trek up the creek to the falls. It’s only two minutes, but I think you’ll feel the same peacefulness that I felt during the hike.

Cold Front Arrival on Brushy Top Mountain

After a night of rain, it was interesting to see the clouds moving across Brushy Top Mountain early this morning. It was these very same kinds of clouds that caused early settlers to attach the word, “Smoky”, to the range of mountains along the Tennessee border. Today, the temperature never got out of the 60’s. This 20 second video is much better than just a photo.

Brushy Top Log Home Clouds
This new home had a dark stain applied to its White Pine logs this past week, allowing it to blend with the surrounding trees just a little better.

One Mile from Late 18th Century Treasures

If you were one of the large black Ravens who calls this valley home, you could fly one mile due north of my house, over Brushy Top Mountain, and land in a tree facing a late 18th century log farmhouse that looks as fresh as the day it was built. In fact, there are at least three of these historic houses within a half mile of each other, and a walk along unpaved Haynes Road will take you close to all three.

Otter Creek flows out of my valley, but just over the mountain, Ham Creek collects the water from the north side of Oak, Brushy Top and Bear Gap Mountains.

Brushy Top Cornfield
Brushy Top and Bear Gap above Ham Creek send nutrient rich water to these bottomlands where corn is the major crop. This scene is from September 1st as the corn is almost ready to harvest. Just in the distant woods is an 1835 wood frame farmhouse that was moved from a spot a mile away, and lovingly restored into the two story guest cottage that it is today.

Ham Creek Farmhouse
Spring House Farms
This house is part of “The Cottages at Spring House Farm” http://www.springhousefarm.com , a secluded collection of cabins deep in the woods that can be rented by the night. The main house is the restored 1826 Albertus Ledbetter post and beam farmhouse that is on the National Registry. One of my five neighbors in this valley descends from the McCurry family who purchased the Ledbetter House in 1921. Check out this recent feature from North Carolina Public Television.

Ham Creek Tulip Poplar
This Tulip Poplar along Ham Creek Road is already showing the signs of the coming autumn.

Wolf Pen Pasture
Paved Ham Creek Road leads to unpaved Haynes Road, that takes you deeper into the valley. Hickory Nut Mountain looks over a pasture frequented by herds of Black Angus cattle.


The shoulders of Haynes Road are lined with wildflowers this time of year. The sign is indicative of the old families who settled this valley.

Tall White Pines
Standing over 100 feet tall, this group of Eastern White Pine would have been planted at the turn of the last century.

Ham Creek Log Cabin
Almost at the end of the road is this late 18th century log house. Although I don’t know when the house was built, it mirrors the two chimney style of the 1790 log house where my family reunion was held last month in South Carolina. Situated on a hill below Bear Gap Mountain, the house has been restored, and has a wood frame “guest” cabin, below, in the woods nearby.

Old Ham Creek Cabin

Ham Creek log Wildflowers
Wildflowers frame the log cabin, as they have for over 200 years.

Ham Creek Log Cabin Summer
I’m constantly learning about the remarkable history of this isolated area of the mountains. Many more stories are just waiting to be discovered.

The Wolf Creek Bridge over the French Broad River

Since 1928, the Wolf Creek Bridge that spans the French Broad River near the Tennessee, North Carolina border, has been a main route on US 70 as it enters the Blue Ridge Mountains. In April of 2012, the bridge was declared structurally deficient, and closed. To the credit of the Tennessee Highway Authority and the Federal government, it was decided that the historic span would be completely dismantled, down to its raw concrete arches, and rebuilt in the same style.

Using the newest laser scanning technology, the old bridge was recreated in the digital world, and from that model, all design work was done without having to go on site for measurements and structural component relationships. The video below shows that PDF animation.

After two years of construction, the new “old” bridge reopened ahead of schedule on February 2, 2014. With the new construction, the bridge was widened from 24 feet to 30 feet. After the opening, painters continued to cover the new span in bright white paint, only recently completing the difficult task. The entire project was completed for under $9 million.

How fortunate we are to be able to enjoy such a beautiful work of engineering art, instead of the too often substituted generic variety that we have come to know and hate. Thank you Tennessee and America for having the guts to do the right thing. The bridge will now be added to the National Registry of Historic Places, to be maintained and protected for generations to come. Click on the photograph below to see the full screen image.

Wolf Creek Bridge over the French Broad River

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