Heavy February Snow in Otter Creek Valley

Snow Pond at Otter Creek

On Wednesday and Thursday, February 25th and 26th, five inches of wonderful snow fell in Otter Creek Valley.

Hemlock House in SNow

Hemlock House Snow Trees

Otter Creek Snow Reflections
Otter Creek…

Hemlock House Deck View
From the deck at Hemlock House…

Toward Toms Mountain
Toward Tom’s Mountain before sunrise…

Brushy Top Mountain in Snow at dawn
Brushy Top Mountain at Dawn…

Otter Creek Valley Sunrise Snow

Perfect Skiing at Sugar Mountain in February

Skiing in the deep South has always taken a back seat to other, less snow challenged locales, but occasionally, the snow gods send a gift to those barren slopes, allowing them to run with the big boys every once in a while. Friday, February 27th, was one of those days at North Carolina’s premier ski mountain, known as just “Sugar” to those of us who return there again and again, hoping against hope that the next trip will be the magical one. Normally, we encounter deafening jet engine matching snowmaking machines, spewing precious inches of white gold from their nozzles, gold that turns too often to ice, making movement even more difficult.

Friday was different. Almost a foot of new snow had fallen during a particularly snowy week, and it was all the grooming machines could do to keep up with the onslaught. The snow jets had ceased their relentless attack weeks ago, and what I found on this particular day was perfection.

Sugar Mountain Slopes

The temperature that had recently seen below zero numbers had climbed into the mid 30’s, and the wind that can swirl down these narrow mountain valleys was nowhere to be found. A bright Sun moved overhead, being always at our backs in the afternoon. Visibility was ideal.

Sugar Mountain Liftline
Being a weekday, the throngs who normally descend upon this place from Charlotte, Greensboro, and Atlanta, were still a day away. The lines at the lifts were manageable.

Sugar Mountain Highway of Snow
Wide expanses of carefully groomed slopes were almost empty.

Sugar Mountain Chairlifts
The summit of Sugar Mountain, ahead, towering over a mile high, is the highest ski mountain east of the Rockies. With two double chairs carrying skiers to the very top, the experience that awaited was almost to cool to think about.

Sugar Mountain Ski Houses
Unlimited cruising on vast snow fields was the order of the day.

Sugar Mountain Snow and Ice
Late afternoon, as the Sun dropped away, so did the temperatures, falling into the upper teens. Staying warm became an issue, but skiing into the night under bright lights was the reward for hanging around. Perfect is the best word to describe this rare day.

Tiffany Stained Glass in Shelby, North Carolina

First Baptist Church of Shelby Bell Tower

In 1911, when The First Baptist Church of Shelby dedicated its new Gothic Revival edifice, the exterior sanctuary walls were filled with magnificent stained glass windows manufactured by the Lewis Comfort Tiffany Company of New York. Hundreds of square feet of luminous opalescent glass were filled with images of a benevolent Jesus Christ, and symbols lifted straight from the Holy Bible.

First Baptist Church of Shelby South Wall

No less than eight leaded creations were built into the yellow brick walls of this historic building. Above is one of three giant works gracing the north and south exposures. When you enter the large space, the image below is what you will see from the other side.

SOuth Tiffany window in Shelby BaptistMain 2
If this angle seems a little strange, it’s because a large balcony was added to the sanctuary thirty years ago, obscuring this, and the large north window from a direct interior view.

Shelby Baptist Sanctuary Window
This is what you see when sitting in the pews. The colors are dramatic, but the full effect has been lost.

Shelby Baptist Tiffany Rear Window
This scene of Christ as a shepard with his flock is viewable only when you are within ten feet of the north wall, but that doesn’t mean the beauty is lost. From this distance, the detail of Tiffany’s leaded treasure is all the more evident.

Shelby Baptist Hidden Tiffany Window
This magnificent scene on the south wall once was illuminated by sunlight, but years ago, an addition to the building blocked the exterior light. Today, it is backlit by artificial fixtures. It is no less breathtaking.
I was told that another large window was totally covered when the altar was re-positioned years ago. Today, the Tiffany masterpiece is hidden behind the relocated pipe organ.

Shelby Baptist Grape Tiffany Window
To the right of the altar is this spectacular depiction of “Bounty” that uses grapes as its theme. The angle shown below reveals the vibrant colors of the glass pieces unseen in the above image.
Shelby Baptist Tiffany detail

In 1911, Shelby Baptist paid the George Hardy Payne Company of Patterson, New Jersey, $ 1,300 for all of the Tiffany stained glass windows. Today, these irreplaceable works of art are priceless, and it’s well worth your time to make the pilgrimage to see them in person.

Frozen Ponds of Otter Creek Valley

Otter Pond Under Ice
After record breaking cold of minus 1 degree, the ponds in Otter Creek Valley have all frozen over. Above is Otter Pond. A light snow fell overnight, dusting the ice with corn snow.

Otter Pond in Ice with dogs
Hunter and Buddy are not phased by the bitter cold. Otter Pond is in the background.

High Lodges Pond in Ice
High Lodges Pond further up the valley has ice almost a inch thick. The light snow was even more pronounced here.

High Lodges Pond Ice Glove
The shadow around my glove gives a hint of what lies under the ice…

High Lodges Pond Frozen Over
Because there are no natural lakes or ponds in the North Carolina Mountains, all of these bodies of water are manmade.

High Lodges Stream in Ice
This frozen stream feeding High Lodges Pond creates a small pool where it enters a culvert leading under the area’s only paved road.

The Shelby Mansions that Cotton Built

An hour east of Lake Lure and Chimney Rock, and half way to the city of Charlotte, is Shelby, North Carolina. This historic Piedmont Plateau city had its heyday in the 1920’s, when Cleveland County, of which Shelby is the county seat, was the largest producer of cotton in North Carolina. The large cotton mills that were built in the county created great wealth for owners, and they used that wealth to build grand mansions near the center of town.

After a winter storm left ice and sleet on Shelby this week, it seemed a good time to capture the beauty of some of these preserved treasures. All of these homes can be found along West Marion Street, and are part of a neighborhood that has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Greek Revival mansion Shelby, N.C.

Shelby N.C. Victorian

Shelby N.C. Southern Mansion

Shelby N.C. Stucco Mansion

Shelby N.C. Greco-Roman Mansion

Located in the center of Shelby is the historic Cleveland County Courthouse, built in 1907 in the Neo-Classical Revival style. Today, it houses the Cleveland County Historical Museum, and the Earl Scruggs Center, dedicated to the revered Bluegrass banjo master who was born and raised in Shelby, and passed away just last year. Along with guitar virtuoso, Lester Flatt, the duo was the main contingent of the famous “Foggy Mountain Boys”, and was best known for their performance of the theme from the popular television series, The Beverly Hillbillies.
“Swimming pools, movie stars!”
Cleveland County 1907 Courthouse

Linville River Area before the Big Storm

As a major winter storm approached, and with a deep blue sky above, I drove north to Linville to see snow and ice, and to gather spruce boughs for the house.

Linville River Shadows
Mill Timber Creek along Highway 221 was partially frozen in the 16 degree temperatures. Recent snows were still in the shadows and along the bank.

Linville River Snow

Linville River in Winter

Linville River Snow and Ice

Linville River Ice Sheet

Balsam Spruce Bough
If you were wondering about the evergreens I brought back, here is great specimen of Balsam Spruce, already in water on my kitchen table. It will last for three months.

Valentine’s Along the Blue Ridge

Lake Lure Mountains in Winter
The mountains along the Blue Ridge Escarpment surrounding Lake Lure are always more beautiful in the dead of winter when the humidity is near zero, and the temperature is near freezing. That’s Chimney Rock Mountain on the far left, then Rumbling Bald and Mt. Shumont, and finally Young’s Mountain along the eastern shore. The view is from Arrowood Road in the foothills of Rutherford County.

Wolf Pen Mountain at Sunrise
Wolf Pen Mountain on the western wall of Otter Creek Valley catches the sunrise light on a frigid morning.

Otter Creek Sandbar
Otter Creek wends its way through a gorge revealing a large sandbar formed during a recent rain. The cliffside is a mixture of Rhododendron, Mountain Laurel, and various other winter evergreens.

Otter Creek Chandelier Ice
Air filled “Chandelier Ice” forms along Otter Creek from the foam created by water rushing over rocks.

Pond Ice along Otter Creek
With temps in the upper teens, ice was forming in the small ponds along a branch of Otter Creek.

Rustic Log Cabin on Otter Creek
A rustic log cabin enjoys a panoramic view of Otter Creek from its perch on a high bluff.

Golden Lab Hunter at Otter Creek
Hunter, a 17 year old Golden Lab, finds a precarious causeway near a man made waterfall flowing into Otter Creek.

Blue Ridge Escarpment
Just one more look at the Blue Ridge along Lake Lure. Snow is coming in two days. This is the calm before the storm.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 141 other followers