Spring Awakens along Otter Creek

Just over a week of winter remains, but the first wildflowers are breaking through the leaf cover left over from last autumn. The moist ground along Otter Creek encourages these hardy plants to flower early. It was below freezing this morning and a light frost held on until after sunrise.

milkweedA young Milkweed is coated with ice crystals…

green rockA giant boulder shows off its winter moss in a bend of Otter Creek…

blood root 1Blood Root shows her first blossom…

green 3These Trout Lilies will open fully in two days, and will look like this…40570486035_4cf285ff7a_b

mud dabberMud Dabbers will some reoccupy this old nest…

white blueThese tiny blossoms look almost like roses, but I’ve been unable to identify them…

phloxPhlox are always the first flowers to appear along the ground…

buddy daffsBuddy was watching a crow along the creek…

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green mossAway from direct sunlight, the mosses flourish before other plants break ground.

beaversA new family of Beavers have taken up residence in a Branch of Otter Creek…

green 4Just one more hopeful Trout Lily.  It got its name from the waxy leaves that resembled a swimming mountain Trout.

 

Late Winter Snow is Short but Sweet

Two years ago I awoke to a surprise snowfall in mid-March. Looks like this March will not offer the same outcome.

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

Sunday morning’s snow lasted but six hours, but getting almost three inches anytime in mid March is always a treat. The temperature never made it down to freezing in my area, but the 33 degree air was enough to create magic. A stroll at sunrise found a blanket of white, and a steady stream of flakes with no wind. My cowboy hat was much more appropriate than the usual wool ski cap.

cowboy hatMy neighbor’s blooming Peach must have been caught by surprise by the late flakes…peach tree

The house took everything in stride…Hemlock House 2

KODAK Digital Still Camera Jeanne and Ron’s log cabin next door…

With no ice and snow on the salted roads, I drove out to explore the Northwest Rutherford Mountains, something I had not been able to do in heavier snows for the past eight years. What I found were clear roads with no cars, and a natural beauty that I had been…

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Spring Arrives in Marion, North Carolina

Here along the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge, the Bradford Pears are the first to show their blossoms. This is especially true in Marion, where these ornamental and showy trees are planted in profusion. Below is the view toward the Black Mountains and Mt. Mitchell.bradford 2

Even though Marion has a population of just over 8,000, the estates and historic homes from the turn of the last century are, alone, worth the visit. A stroll around the business corridor can reveal hidden gems.

verandaThe second floor balcony and the wraparound Veranda make this Mountain Vernacular dowager a site to behold. The wall shows the stone craftsmanship that can be found all over town. After all, today, Marion is the ornamental stone capital of the East, and ships truckloads of finely shaped building rock all over the country. 

montevista 1With a nod to the palatial Plantations of the Old South, this hilltop masterpiece on Montevista Drive is just a short stroll from Main Street uptown.

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The 1880’s architectural frivolity below is on a corner just one block from Main Street. Like many of the historic homes in Marion, it has just gone through a renovation. It’s unique for the large Queen Anne inspired turret above the porch and the triple fanlight dormer in the center. Again, notice the intricate rock wall.marion 1

marion 2The round turret continues on the first floor as a Parlour, and the large porch follows the shape of the turret.

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An intricate wooden fan is above the beveled glass front door. I would find a way to conceal the downspouts that were obviously a later addition.

 

Hints of Spring

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.

cherry

three pondsThis morning after sunrise. It was below freezing.

sunrise purple

dicks 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.

 

Freezing Rain along Cedar Creek Road

Straddling the boundary between Buncombe and Rutherford Counties, Cedar Creek Road is a lightly traveled trail that goes from paved to gravel, as do many forest roads along the Blue Ridge. Elevation goes from 1300 feet at Bill’s Creek Road, north of Lake Lure, to 1,800 feet where it meets Old Fort-Bat Cave Road just below Round Mountain. Just as you enter eastern Buncombe County, the elevation rises to 1,600 feet, and that’s where I found the first signs of freezing rain this morning. Sleet was falling, as you can see in the image of this 19th century barn.

barnThe ice was collecting below the steep metal roof, as you can see on either side.

cedar creek 6Looking back to the east toward Rutherford County.

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bat cave 2With the temperature hovering right at freezing, I didn’t trust getting onto Old Fort-Bat Cave Road, so I turned around and headed back into Rutherford County.

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cedar creek 1Just below the freezing line, you would never suspect that ice was just a quarter mile up the road.

Valentine’s Day on The Biltmore Estate

Arriving early before the crowds was the right move on this cold Valentine’s Day. The air was a crisp 30 degrees, and I only saw one car as I cruised the winding road up to the house, and no cars as I passed the sleeping gardens and Bass Lake on my way down to the French Broad River. I’ve never experienced this solitude before at North Carolina’s most popular attraction. The Sun was still low in the eastern sky, and the glow coming from America’s largest home was surreal. 

Reflection

DoorAny other time, cars, buses, and lines of people waiting to enter the mansion would obscure the front door, but no this morning.

ConservatoryThe usually colorful formal gardens lie dormant as they await the spring thaw… Inside the Conservatory, however, orchids, palms, and other tropical and sub-tropical plants are flourishing.

Bass LakeFrederick Law Olmstead designed Bass Lake for fishing and contemplation. A total lack of wind made for a perfect reflection.

fallsThe rock dam that created Bass Lake features a spillway and waterfall, with a viewing walkway at the top.  The rocky creek below flows into the large French Broad River, below. a mile to the west.french broad

stone bridgeOne of many stone bridges originally built for horse drawn carriages can now  accommodate motor vehicles if they drive slowly and very carefully.

geeseOne of the most picturesque places over the stone bridges is the Fly Fishing Reflection Pond next to the river. Canada Geese have adopted it as their own.

An early morning visit to the rolling hills, lakes, and forests of this magnificent Asheville treasure is the perfect way to start your Valentine’s Day, or most any other day in the dead of winter. 

 

Queen’s Gap Arts and Crafts Beauty- 2019

Before the Great Recession of 2008, a very ambitious golf course development was under construction in the wilderness of the far north Rutherford County mountains.  This magnificent Community and Wellness Center, along with the matching Arts and Crafts Gatehouse, were the only elements completed before a very nasty bankruptcy.  The Jack Nicklaus championship golf course was surveyed and a number of fairways were cleared before the fall.  Over the years I have documented the plight of these architectural treasures as the case moved through the courts. Ultimately, the structures were put up for sale, and that is the situation today as I post this piece.

I’m amazed that over the past ten years, the buildings have weathered the mountain winters, and attacks by vandals, to still be in the same pristine condition that they were when first built. My hope continues to be that some large corporation or educational institution will rescue them so their wonderful craftsmanship can be appreciated for generations to come. It would be such a travesty if they were allowed to slowly decay, or worse yet, be lost to fire or storms. Needless to say, with the asking price being a fraction of what they cost to build, someone will steal these jewels at pennies on the dollar, not to mention the 69 wooded acres that will go with them.

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Golf CourseThe view of the golf course and mountains from the Community Center’s rear porch.

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