Greening of the Blue Ridge Foothills

When the new leaves first appear in late April along the Escarpment, the number of shades of green is a feast for the eyes. The dark pine trees make the perfect contrast for their forest neighbors. The peaks along the horizon extend from the Hickory Nut Gorge and Chimney Rock north to Hickory Nut Mountain in McDowell County.

4,000 foot Mount Shumount along the Rutherford-Buncombe County line
3,100 foot Hickory Nut Mountain
2,600 foot Roan-Horsetop Mountain
2,800 foot Wolfpen Mountain in the left foreground
My home in Otter Creek Valley below 1,600 foot Oak Mountain

Kwanzan Cherry Orchard near Lake Lure

Named after a mountain in Japan, the Kanzan (Kwanzan) cherry tree is native to China, Japan and Korea. The original name is ‘Sekiyama,’ but it is rarely used. Introduced to America in 1903, it was made famous by the glorious floral displays at the annual Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. Upon entering Apple Valley Golf Club just north of Lake Lure, you’ll find this large collection of trees beside the first fairway. Known as the showiest of the pink flowering trees, the large carnation like blossoms hang on stems of three to five flowers. This variety produces no fruit.

Rutherfordton in Bloom

There’s nothing more colorful than the Pink Dogwoods and Azaleas in the gardens of historic Rutherfordton, N.C. homes. This weekend, they will be at their peak.

Monday at The Masters in Augusta

At the top of many Bucket Lists is a visit to Augusta National during Masters Week every April. Over the years I have been fortunate to attend both the actual tournament, and many of the early Practice Rounds. Because hotels run for $500 a night and up, I have always found that my car offers excellent sleeping accommodations while parked in well lit hotel lots, allowing for a hardy breakfast while blending in with the morning crowds in the lobby. This year, even the Monday Practice Round was a little steep for these old pockets, but that never stopped me from enjoying Augusta when the Dogwood and Azaleas were in full bloom. A leisurely three hour drive on two lane back roads from my Lake Lure home always allows me to enjoy Springtime in South Carolina. Stately Plantation mansions along these sparsely traveled trails make the drive all the more wonderful…

Arriving in Augusta, my first destination is always a vintage golf course in an area called Forest Hills, just two miles from Augusta National. It was here that golfing Legend Bobby Jones won his first major championship. Jones began his famous 1930 Grand Slam of Golf in 1930 with a win in the Southeastern Open, which was played with two rounds on the Augusta Country Club and two at Forest Hills. The course was designed by Donald Ross, who is recognized as one of history’s most celebrated course architects. Jones would supervise the building of the Masters course five years later, and the rest is history.

The first tee at Forest Hills Golf Course
An original pavillion from the 1930 Southeastern Championship
The Putting Green
The Current Clubhouse
Yours Truly in The Bobby Jones Room in the Clubhouse
Multicolor Azaleas in front of the Clubhouse
Violets along the Entrance Drive

A leisuely stroll around the picturesque avenues of Forest Hills reveals mansions from the twenties and thirties. Brick pavements have survived for almost a century. The landscaping at everty home is a showstopper. Here are just a few…

Tiger Woods teed off at 2:30, and you would have thought it was the final round. Throngs of fans lined every fairway four and five deep, just to get a glimpse of the “Master”.

Tiger strolls off the 9th green after completing his Practice Round (Not my photo)

This one minute video shows the hundreds of acres of parked cars that brought the 50,000 patrons to watch their favorite players up close and personal. Parking is FREE at the Masters, but limited.

Historic Houses in Rutherfordton, North Carolina

As the oldest town in Western North Carolina, founded in 1787, Rutherfordton is the county seat of Rutherford County, located in the Carolina Piedmont, and Foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Its oldest surving house dates from the 1820’s, but the majority of historic residences were built after the Civil War, and before the 1920’s.

The economy of the county grew around a gold rush of the 1820’s, and later from the timber industry and cotton mills. The railroad played a major role in the growth of mills and lumber. These early homes followed the styles of the American Gothic, Victorian, and Mountain vernacular. All of these examples were built around the core of the village, near the county courthouse.

An Early Spring on Lake Lure

With snow and ice forecast a few miles northwest of here, it seems strange writing about Spring, but in the Blue Ridge Mountains, that’s what can happen in March. At the far north end of Lake Lure is the Rumbling Bald Resort and Legends-on-the-Lake Bar and Grill. On Thursday, the giant Japanese Magnolia just outside the facility was in full bloom.

This past week the lake was raised seven feet to its normal level after being lowered during the winter to allow for dock and boathouse repain, and new pier construction. This was just in time to welcome the rowing crews from the northeast colleges for their annual Spring Training visit. In the image below, the floating piers for the skulls stand ready for the first arrivals this week.

Ice is still on many lakes and rivers up north, and the sight of these human powered racing craft sliding silently along the three mile long course is something to behold. Teams of men and women spend a week here with four schools active per week throughout March. It’s worth a visit where you can sit on a shady deck having a delicious lunch as the parade of Olympic caliber athletes heads out to train.

Hints of Spring

Three years ago, I posted these photos as Spring began to bloom. It’s happening this week again, and was worth revisiting,,,

Living in The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina- A Blog

daffs 2In just the past three days, the Bradford Pear trees have visible buds, ready to open this week. Solitary Cherry trees in the fields have bloomed out a bright pink, and daffodils are open along the roads and in yards. Red leaf buds can be seen in the woods, and even the azaleas are showing early buds. After four days in the 70’s after Ground Hogs Day, it was only a matter of time until Spring showed its presence.  Yes, it’s early, but last year was even earlier. When the next snow falls, the white on the flowers will make for some beautiful pictures.

cherrythree pondsThis morning after sunrise. It was below freezing.

sunrise purpledicks mtnDick’s Mountain

skinny pinesAlmost a foot of rain this month contributed to these early bloomings. That’s 3,000 foot Wolf Pen Mountain in the distance.

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The Rare Orchids of Biltmore

When the air outside is below freezing, a visit to the Conservatory on Asheville’s Biltmore Estate is always a treat. My favorite part is the rare orchid room, where blooms from tropical jungles will always brighten my day. Of course, the other areas of the Green Houses are the icing on the botanical cake.

A cold rain hung over the lower elevations…

Tight Run Road in southern McDowell County with Pinnacle Peak in the clouds…

February Thaw on the Biltmore Estate

Even though Otter Creek Ollie emerged to see no shadow, the next day in the mountains brought over two inches of rain, and temps in the upper 50’s. This was after a month of lows in the teens and 20’s, a foot of snow, and high winds. Having an early appointment in Asheville Friday morning, I arrived at Biltmore’s front gate at 9 a.m. to a “balmy” 56 degrees.

I was welcomed by this happy family as I began the two mile drive to the Chateau.
Although the sky looked ominous, the rain stayed away, as did the tourists…
The main drive had been recently resurfaced, and I was the only vehicle driving through.
The Bass Lake had been half drained for repairs to the stone dam and waterfall.
The Canada Geese had left the pond along the swollen French Broad River for the grubs found in the standing rain puddles.

Here’s a short video of the Wild Turkeys checking me out. Listen for their clucks as they communicate with each other about this strange human getting a little too close. Through the woods you can see traffic on Interstate 40, which, after a drawn out process in the 1970’s, the State used the power of Imminent Domain to cut through the center of the estate..

Heavy Snowfall hangs Around

Five days after the heavy snow, nothing had melted. Venturing out for the first time, the area along the Rutherford-McDowell County line was in a state of suspended animation.

Hemphill Road toward 4,000 foot Sugarloaf Mountain south of Lake Lure
Montford Cove in southern McDowell County toward Pinnacle Peak
A Homestead in the Northwest Rutherford County Mountains
Otter Creek Road alongside Otter Creek as it enters the isolated valley
Otter Creek

A week later, even with a bright Sun overhead, the snow refused to go away…

Driving home…

Even after two weeks, snow is still everywhere in the shade and on the northwest sides of the mountain ridges. Ski resorts have been super busy, making loads of powder, with nightly temps in the single digits. Even at my lower elevation, it was 12 degrees yesterday morning.

Solid sheets of snow remain in the driveway and on the deck.