Enjoy the Colorful Photographic Impressions by Vann Helms
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.
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.
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…
Being above everything, the blue sky seems to be endless.
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.
Turning toward the northeast, above, Linville Gorge and Grandfather Mountain can be clearly seen.
Most of the trees at this rarefied elevation are Balsam Spruce, and they are dwarfed by the severe weather.
Back at on Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway just east of the summit, the 5,500 foot vista is still breathtaking.
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.
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.
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?
Above and below is the circa 1851 mansion known as Boxwood.
Above and below is the circa 1851 Greek revival house known simply as Honeymoon.
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.
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.
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.
Moving south on US 221, I found this electric Redbud at on old 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The distant ridge is Tryon Mountain along the South Carolina line. Next comes Bill’s Mountain just east of Lake Lure.
This decaying 19th century farmhouse stands guard over expansive hay fields.
A panoramic view of the valley shows the first greens of spring spreading up the slopes.
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.
The mansions of Myers Park offer the best combination of architecture and landscaping in this historic Colonial town.
Covenant Presbyterian Church makes the perfect place to step inside and rest, with walls of stained glass, and three pipe organs.
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.
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.
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