Freezing Sunset along The Escarpment

With the temperature right at freezing, and the humidity somewhere around 10%,  the light and shadows cast by the setting Sun seemed especially distinct yesterday along the easternmost of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  They are referred to as the “Escarpment” because they are the first peaks west of the Piedmont Plateau. All the images were made a few minutes before sunset within ten minutes of my house along the Rutherford-McDowell County line. By sunrise, the temperature dropped to 14 degrees, with no frost.

youngs mountainYoung’s Mountain northeast of Lake Lure

stone mountainStone Mountain northwest of Lake Lure

long mountainLong Mountain from Montford Cove

hemphill 1Pinnacle Peak on the McDowell-Rutherford County line.

tight run road 1Hickory Nut Mountain in McDowell County from Tight Run Road.

hickory nut mountainHickory Nut Mountain above Cove Creek Valley.

oak mountainBrushy Top and Oak Mountains above Otter Pond right at sunset.


Ice Storm above 1,500 feet

My elevation here in Otter Creek Valley is about 1,200 feet, only 500 feet higher than that of Uptown Charlotte one hundred miles to my southeast, but when it comes to weather, each 100 feet translates into one degree in temperature, on average.  Where an ice storm is concerned, each degree can be the difference between beauty and disaster. With a winter storm moving through the area Saturday night, my temperature dropped to 32 degrees around 9 p.m., and with a steady rain falling, ice began to form on my deck and trees. I feared the worst.  But for whatever reason, the thermometer ticked up one degree after 10 p.m., and the ice started to slowly melt. An inch and a half of rain fell during that time, and had it remained 32 degrees, my house and all the surrounding woods would have been covered with over an inch of ice. 

This morning, small icicles could be seen in the trees around the house, but it wasn’t until a thick cloud bank lifted around 11 a.m. did I get my first glimpse of the mountains to my northwest, covered with ice. Three hundred feet of elevation saved the Valley, but above 1,500 feet, it was a different story.

bear gap 2Bear Gap Mountain from my deck was coated in white…

I knew that the mountains of eastern Buncombe County would also have born the brunt of this storm, so I drove the fifteen minutes southwest of my house up Cedar Creek Road until I found the ice above 1,500 feet. The temperature was 34 degrees, and the road was wet but not icy.  What I saw took my breath away. Everything was covered with that destructive inch of ice. Trees were bent and broken. These images show what I found as I drove up to Old Fort-Bat Cave Road above 2,000 feet.

iceCheck out the smoke rising from the chimney…

ice 6Arriving at the top of unpaved Cedar Creek Road…

ice 9

road Old Fort-Bat Cave Road toward the Gap between Stone and Round Mountains…

gorgeLooking northeast in the direction of Grandfather Mountain, lost in the clouds.

ice 3

ice 8

cabinThis log cabin near the summit was not occupied…

ice 5Driving back down the mountain, I reflected on what could have been had that one degree change in temperature not have happened…

ice 1


Canada Geese return to Otter Pond

After a three year absence, a large flock of Canada Geese returned to Otter Pond Tuesday evening.  Must have been the cold weather.  I approached them very slowly and cautiously this morning, and captured some good images. It was 23 degrees, and a mist was rising from the water at sunrise.

geese 2

They obviously were attracted to the relatively warmer pond…

oak mountain

geese 1

Buddy was curious, but the geese couldn’t really be bothered…buddy geese 2

Check out the sounds they made in this short video…

Dobson Knob is a Special Mountain

Looming high over Marion and the North Fork Catawba River Valley, Bald Knob and Dobson Knob form a whale-like ridge that stands separate from the mountains of Linville Gorge. Even though these peaks lie within Pisgah National Forest, this area is largely unknown to the casual hiker. The only maintained trail running through this area is North Carolina’s Mountains-to-Sea Trail as leaves Linville Gorge heading west, crossing Dobson Knob, and Bald Knob before descending to North Fork Catawba River.

Rarely do you find a Mountain along the Blue Ridge that is this rugged, this steep, and this inaccessible.  At 3,900 feet at its peak, Dobson is uniquely situated on the eastern side of the large, flat, Catawba River Valley.  This provides many spectacular views that are normally restricted by dense forest and other mountains.

Dobson wideWhat appears to be snow on the mountain is actually exposed granite, and leafless trees, catching the late afternoon Sun. A large fire two years ago burned many of the hardwood trees that were hardy enough to grow along these rocky cliffs. That, combined with a complete lack of evergreens, gives Dobson its unique character, especially in winter, when all the hardwoods have shed their leaves. The mountain is totally undeveloped, with no logging roads to allow easy access. Going in on foot is the only way to experience the natural beauty this behemoth offers. (Hint: Save these photos to your device so that you can enlarge them to full size to get all the detail of this mountain.)



Access points for the “Mountains-to-Sea Trail” can be reached from the small community of Woodlawn, located on U.S. Highway 221 north of Marion, North Carolina. It’s an exhausting six mile climb to reach the peak, and then six miles back to your car. Do not attempt this hike alone, and carry in plenty of water and energy food.  Camping opportunities are few along the trail on this western face. You must go there. It will take your breath away, as it did mine.

Below is a 3-D view of the hike to Bald Knob. The hike to Dobson Knob is on the other side of the mountain because of the dangerous terrain on the west face. The bottom to top trail will gain almost 3,500 feet.


Impressionism in the American South

Impressionism, imported from France in the late 19th-century, was the first injection of abstraction into mainstream American art. It came ashore with artists who had been exposed to this revolutionary style while training in Paris and painting in the countryside.  The eastern United States fortified this first wave of Impressionism, which then traveled successfully across the continent. 

The South became a popular destination for American Impressionistic painters because of its unique combination  of light and historic architecture. It was common for an artist to take up residence in places like New Orleans, Charleston, and St. Augustine while producing works that rivaled those of their European comrades.  Here are just a few of the pieces that are representative of that late 19th century and early 20th century movement.



Alson Skinner Clark was from the Northeast, but after studying in Paris in the 1890’s, he settled in Charleston, where he captured the essence of the historic South Carolina city.


Alson Skinner Clark                 Catfish Row

Catfish Row, as the African-American waterfront district was called, was one of his favorite subjects.


Anthony Thieme    Sunlight and Shadows

Thieme was a noted impressionist of coastal New England scenes, but after his studio was destroyed by fire in 1946, he traveled south to Charleston, South Carolina and was greatly inspired by the dense tropical foliage and the warm coastal light. He spent two months in Charleston, painting prolifically, before continuing on to Florida, the Caribbean, and Central America. Until his mysterious death in 1954, Thieme spent his summers in Rockport and the winter months based in St. Augustine, Florida.

anthony thieme 2

Anthony Thieme               Negro Cabins


Anthony Thieme     Southern Doorways

Emma Lampert cooper 1

Emma Lampert Cooper                      Courtyard, Beaufort, South Carolina

                                     Female artists also found the Low Country to be irresistible.

charles whitfield richards 1Charles Whitfield Richards

alfred-hutty-saint-philip-s-church-216275Alfred Heber Hutty     St. Phillip’s Church

The most prolific of the Charleston Impressionists was Alfred Heber Hutty, who was considered to be a leading figure in the Charleston Renaissance. Alfred Hutty began his painting career in Woodstock, NY, where he developed a traditional impressionistic painting style while training with tonalist landscape painter Birge Harrison (1854-1929). Although he rejected emerging modernist trends, Hutty experimented with many media, including etching, lithography, drypoint, murals, and sculpture. While making his first of many extended trips to Charleston, South Carolina, in February 1920, Hutty discovered rich subject matter including plantations, gardens, old churches, and historic homes. Hutty’s delicate pencil drawings and etchings of the city streets became his most celebrated images. Considered an artist-tourist, Hutty’s images of Charleston reveal an important interaction and relationship with the place. Some of his work is considered contradictory, presenting a nostalgic but also critical view of southern culture and the dilapidated historic architecture he encountered.

hawthorne-hutty-charleston-street-sceneAlfred Heber Hutty


Alfred Heber Hutty       Low Country Marsh


Elizabeth O’Neill Verner                Pink House on Chalmers Street 

Elizabeth O’Neill Verner (1883-1979) was born and raised in Charleston and is perhaps the best known artist of the Charleston Renaissance, a movement of southern realist painters working in the first half of the twentieth century.


Elizabeth O’Neill Verner                                         Avenue at The Oaks 



William Gilbert Gaul                             Looking Out to Sea

A native of Jersey City, New Jersey, William Gilbert Gaul became largely identified with the South and portrayals of the Civil War.


William Gilbert Gaul                     Glorious Fighting

In 1881, he inherited a farm in Van Buren County, Tennessee, from his mother’s family. He lived on the farm for four years to fulfill the terms of the bequest. During this period, he painted pastoral landscapes, rural genre scenes, and remembrances of the recent American conflict. His war paintings are characterized by a dramatic appeal and strong academic technique while his genre scenes often hinge on a poignant or sentimental depiction of a single figure.


William Gilbert Gaul                 Farm in Van Buren, Tennessee


William Gilbert Gaul                                Cottage in the Woods

St. Augustine


George Street in Rain      Anthony Thieme


Harold S. Maddocks                             Spuds


Richard E. Miller                                         St. Augustine Afternoon Tea

Roberta Jennings

Roberta Jennings                       Bridge of Lions, St. Augustine

New Orleans

With such a strong French history, New Orleans was the subject of many impressionistic paintings, not the least of which was by the French master, Edgar Degas.  His mother and grandmother were both born in New Orleans.


Edgar Degas                     The Cotton Office

cotton merchants

Edgar Degas                                     Cotton Merchants


Edgar Degas                              Estelle Flower Arrangement, New Orleans

William Woodward

William Woodward                    Napoleon House in New Orleans   1904

In 1821, Nicolas Girod, former Mayor of New Orleans, supposedly hatched a plot, along with notorious French pirate, turned reputable citizen, Jean Lafitte, to rescue the disgraced Emperor Napoleon from his St. Helena exile, and bring him to New Orleans. Word of the emperor’s death on St. Helena reached New Orleans just as Girod was preparing to embark. Napoleon House was furnished to please a despotic Bonaparte in a democratic America.



Lake Lure’s “Million Dollar Dam”

When it was completed in 1925, the “Million Dollar Dam” that created scenic Lake Lure was the largest dam in the North Carolina Mountains. The price tag at the time was right at one million dollars, thus the label.getimageCA0S1BZS 

The dam generated enough electricity to power the entire Lake Lure, Chimney Rock area. It’s main purpose was to create a lake where home sites could be sold along its shoreline. Unfortunately for the developers, the Great Depression soon followed, and the dam and development, which also included a hotel,  went into bankruptcy.

Lake Lure Beauty 018

Over the years, the dam proved to be a very good investment. Large homes were built around the lake, and the dam continued to produce valuable power.


Lake Lure Mirror

Lake Lure on December 23, 2018. The mirror-like surface gives little hint of what is happening under the surface.

Lake Lure is a “Constant Level” lake, controlled by the dam. Nowadays, the dam only produces power two days a week, unless events and weather intervene. Over the past two weeks, after a record snowfall of 18″, combined with six inches of rain, the lake has risen much too fast, and one of the main spillways in the dam has been opened for over a week now. This is rare for the 93 year old dam.

The Broad River, that feeds the lake, has become a raging torrent as it passes through Hickory Nut Gap, on its way toward Columbia, South Carolina.Broad River 1

Broad River 2

The temperature when these photos were made was in the mid-twenties, otherwise the river would be ideal for rafting and kayaking. These are Class V rapids, the roughest they come.


“Where Main Street meets the Mountains”



Marion, North Carolina, may be small, but during the holidays it isn’t shy about letting everyone know what season it is, and after last week’s snow, that was more evident than ever.


Main 1

New decorations adorn Main Street’s “gaslights”, with special “flame” bulbs installed to add that traditional Christmas feeling.


City Caddy

Banks of snow all over town seem perfectly appropriate for this time of year.



Like in many small Southern towns, hand painted Coca-Cola billboards on brick walls have been revealed after an adjacent structure was raised. Appreciating the historical significance of these early works of advertising, towns are preserving them for new generations to enjoy.



The railroad came to Marion in the 1870 when the Richmond and Danville Company extended the tracks from Morganton. In 1896, Southern Railway was formed, and absorbed the Marion link. The railroad passed directly through the center of town, and in the 1920’s, a new road bed was dug, and an overpass was constructed for Main Street.



When the Depot was opened in 1871, it was the first brick Depot in Western North Carolina.



Marion is proud of its railroad history, and isn’t afraid to show it off.


Four Trees

Less than a mile from Main Street, this park would usually have a panoramic view of the Black Mountain range and Mt. Mitchell, but on this day, it is more suited to cross-country skiing or Snow Frisbee.


first presbyterian

Walls made from locally gathered mountain rock, like this one beneath the First Presbyterian Church, are common all over town, and many homes used them in their construction.


marion mountains

Within ten miles of Main Street, you’ll find some of the most beautiful mountain settings in all of North Carolina. 


This video shows Yours Truly taking a stroll in the park after a session at one of Marion’s fitness centers.