Enjoy the Colorful Photographic Impressions created by Vann Helms
Finding a spot with an unobstructed eastern view a mile north of the house had me waiting for moonrise. Long Mountain dominates the horizon, and just after sunset, this was the view of Pinnacle Peak on the northern end of the mountain.
The last light turned Long Mountain into a blue cloud…
…and within twenty minutes, it appeared…………
…then the clouds moved in, and the sky looked more like sunrise than moonrise.
…but the Harvest Moon had one last appearance to make.
Constructed in the 1890’s to honor the man who took the Southern Railway across the Blue Ridge, this gravity fed frivolity shoots a powerful stream of water over 80 feet in the air. A 12″ cast iron pipe brings water from Mill Creek from a Mill Pond 600 feet higher up the mountain, with a 2″ nozzle that concentrates that flow at the bottom. It’s located in the center of the first “loop” of the famous “Old Fort Loops” where trains make many loops in their effort to climb over the Eastern Continental Divide.
The view I captured in Fall from a train on the adjacent track is really breathtaking.
Vintage Postcards are always a treat to the eye…
North Carolina is the fourth largest apple growing state, and the vast majority of that fruit comes from the valley just east of Hendersonville in a micro climate district known as the Isothermal Belt, because warmer days add weeks to the growing season. From the end of August to the end of September, growers feverishly gather sixteen different varieties of the nutritious fruit.
A trip from my house to Apple Valley, as it’s called, takes less than hour, and I had to go around 4,300 foot Little Pisgah Mountain, the tallest peak between the Piedmont and Asheville, south of Interstate 40.
After Little Pisgah, I drove over Bearwallow Mountain, the second tallest peak, emerging at Grand Highlands, an upscale development that overlooks Apple Valley, 2,000 feet below.
Driving down narrow roads into the valley, suddenly the world changes, revealing an idyllic setting more like Europe than the Southern Appalachians.
Ancient apple orchards cover the lower slopes with gnarled, drooping trees, laden heavy with fruit ready to be picked.
The mountains to the north ensure steady rainfall throughout the growing season.
You can smell the sweet scent of fallen fruit, fermenting underneath the rows of trees.
All through the orchards, large crates were filled with fruit awaiting pick up by large trucks that would transport them to the many Apple Houses located mostly along U.S. Highway 64.
It’s always a treat to stop at the different Apple Houses to shop and to enjoy their decorations. This one featured giant pumpkins and bounties of the harvest.
The most popular Apple House is called Grandad’s, and finding a parking spot is always difficult. It’s a family place where the kids can play on a number of attractions, and Mom and Dad can shop for apples, cider, pies, jellies, honey, and just about anything else relating to apples.
Once you’ve finished shopping, you can relax in a comfortable rocking chair, enjoying the beauty of the distant mountains and the large fields of corn surrounding the barn.
It’s a great way to spend an afternoon doing what people have been doing in this valley for over 200 years. A short drive takes you back over the Eastern Continental Divide, through Chimney Rock Village, and to picturesque Lake Lure, where 4,000 foot Mt. Shumont dwarfs the boats resting in the distant marina.
The tallest wildflower in these mountains can reach twelve feet in height, and in August it blooms with tiny pink flowers, attracting every Butterfly within a quarter mile. My meadow is full of them because I keep it natural, and they make a dramatic statement as summer wanes. The unusual name is believed to be from a Native American named Joe Pye, who first used the plant as a medicine in New England. It is threatened in the wild, but you wouldn’t know that when you look around my meadow.
This Anise Tiger Swallowtail butterfly can’t seem to get enough.
Instead of taking the fast way over the Eastern Continental Divide from Asheville, I chose to use the original gravel Mill Creek Road that was built in the 1880’s when the Southern Railway first climbed the 3,000 foot ridge on it’s way west. The Southern Baptist Conference Center, known as Ridgecrest, sits astride the Divide just east of the town of Black Mountain. As I exited I-40, I found this field of Sunflowers along the Interstate.
From the top of the Divide, the Southern Railway, now run by Norfolk-Southern, enters the 1,800 foot Swannanoa Tunnel, that takes the trains under I-40 as they make their way toward Asheville. Kudzu covers the tall trees, and the Blue Ridge Mountains dominate the northeast horizon.
The route of the railway from Ridgecrest to Old Fort.
Halfway down the mountain, across from the Bed and Breakfast known as the Inn on Mill Creek, an ancient Apple orchard attracts Black Bears on these late August afternoons.
Farther down the mountain, this one lane railway bridge survives from the days that mules pulled wagons over the Divide.
Near the bottom of the road, the railway crosses over Mill Creek as it enters the famous Old Fort Loops, a series of curves, loops, and bridges that allow trains to climb and descend the mountain where it is most steep.
Note the large pipe in the lower right. It brings water from the mill pond 600 feet up the mountain that powers the famous Andrews Geyser in the center of the “Loops“. It was built in the 1890’s to commemorate the completion of the railroad over the Continental Divide.
It’s remarkable what one inch of rain in a short time can do to a normally tranquil creek in the Mountains. Last evening, in the course of an hour, the largest storm in six weeks did just that. Cedar Creek flows northwest to southeast out of the mountains along the Buncombe and Rutherford County line, a few miles north of iconic Lake Lure. I drove the fifteen minutes from my house to see what the heavy rains had wrought, and I wasn’t disappointed.
The first set of falls makes up the local swimming hole for residents. The tourists aren’t aware they are even there. Two miles further up Cedar Creek Road is the top of Cedar Creek Gorge, and a series of cascades that drop the creek over 300 feet in less than half a mile.
The entrance to the gorge has the creek sliding over ancient granite worn smooth by ions of flow.
The first falls carry the torrent over a twenty foot precipice into a large grotto surrounded by giant hardwood trees.
The churning flood covers large rocks that are usually visible at normal creek levels.
The following video shows first the lower falls at the ole swimming hole, and then the falls and cascades in the gorge. Make sure you go to the full blog site to see the video.
Driving back down to the bottom of the gorge, this old farmhouse shows no ill effects from the waters that are rushing past just 50 yards away, and the Sun had reappeared. One hundred years ago this week, because of simultaneous tropical systems that moved across the mountains, 28 inches of rain fell in two days, and the resulting disaster killed hundreds, and destroyed much of Asheville, and many towns along the French Broad and Rocky Broad Rivers. It still remains as the worst disaster to hit the mountains in recorded history.
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