Ice Storm above 1,500 feet

This ice storm struck just twenty minutes from my house a few years ago. The big difference was elevation.

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

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…

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Super Bowl Sunday Snow

The snow that fell the night before the Big Game just goes to prove that a little fluffy white stuff goes a long way. Less than three inches accumulated around midnight, and as the Sun appeared, a Winter Wonderland blanketed Otter Creek Valley.

Before Sunrise
Hemlock House
Otter Creek
Brushy Top Mountain

When the Sun broke through in mid-morning, the brightness of what remained was beautiful, but fleeting, as temperatures rose…

This five minute video captures my impressions of my walk in the valley…

Winter on the Biltmore Estate

When renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead designed Biltmore’s lands and gardens in the 1890’s, he had all four seasons in mind. In the dead of Winter, you might think that he would have taken a break, but for anyone who has experienced New York’s Central Park after a snow storm, you would know that he was anything but hibernating. On Groundhog Day, Asheville was treated to a lite snowfall, and Biltmore was once again ready to show off her winter finery, just as George Vanderbilt would have expected.

When one passes through the impressive entrance gate, they are transported to a place frozen in time from over a century ago. You have to imagine a horse drawn sleigh traversing the two mile approach road until suddenly you see the French Chateau directly ahead…

Farm Field
Mt. Pisgah to the southwest…
The French Broad River

Snow in the High Country

Yesterday, a 4 inch blanket of snow fell in the mountains above 3,500 feet, and more is expected tonight and tomorrow. These views are of the Black Mountain Range, the highest peaks east of the Mississippi, at nearly 7,000 feet. A hilltop in Marion, North Carolina, made the ideal spot to capture these images. This has been a very snowy year for the High Country, with some places seeing almost five feet since mid-December. The ski resorts have seen no rain, and their low temperatures have been in the single digits, so most of that white stuff is still on the ground. After losing almost a month last winter to the pandemic, I couldn’t be happier for my friends who work in the Slopeside Bar at the base of Sugar Mountain.

Hickory Nut Mountain on Vaccine Day

After having the first shot of Mr. Moderna injected into my arm in Rutherfordton, I decided to stop at an Overlook south of my house. The clarity of the air made for the perfect photo op, with 3,100 foot Hickory Nut Mountain dominating the northern horizon. This is one of those long ridges that prevented the Cherokee and early settlers from having easy movement east and west along the Eastern Blue Ridge Escarpment. Even today, few roads exist on and around the mountain, making the area a true wilderness, with many unexplored regions.

My house sits in a valley at 1,200 feet at the base of the mountain, just above the line of pines in this image. As far as I have learned, most of the area is owned by Weyerhaeuser and Georgia-Pacific, but so far, no large scale logging has been carried out. There are no public lands anywhere on or around Hickory Nut Mountain.

View toward the northwest from Freemantown Road in Rutherford County
Earlier Winter view of the western face of Hickory Nut Mountain

On a Clear Day…

…you can see Forever…

Ice Crystals after sunrise…

With humidity very low and temperatures below freezing, Sunday was the ideal time to see these mountains north of Lake Lure in all their splendor.

Rumbling Bald Mountain on the left, Mount Shumont on the right.
Eagle Rock on the north end of Mount Shumont
Mount Shumont on the left, Youngs Mountain in the foreground
Youngs Mountain

More Shelby, N.C. Mansions

Six years ago I discovered these remarkable houses in downtown Shelby. They are worth another look…

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

Two more remarkable houses were both constructed in Shelby, North Carolina, in the same year, 1875. Because Cleveland County, where Shelby is the county seat, was the cotton capital of the Carolinas, the barons that owned the largest mills built the most elaborate homes.

Banker's House 1875 Shelby, N.C.
This Second Empire style home was built by the owner of the largest bank in Shelby, and was successively owned by the city’s wealthiest bankers. It became know as The Banker’s House, and is still a private home to this day. Years ago, the property was given to Preservation North Carolina, who continues to manage the property today. Occasionally, the house is opened for tours. It is made from yellow stuccoed brick, and features hand painted roof tiles.

James Heyward Hull House 1874
This impressive frivolity was constructed in 1875 as a traditional Georgian house, but when new owners bought the house in 1907, they added the monumental portico in the…

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Sunrise Paints the Blue Ridge

This morning, a combination of freezing temperatures and very low humidity teamed up to create one of the most dramatic images I’ve ever seen from my deck. It was 26 degrees with no wind. These colors are as close to natural as I could get.

Heavy Snow along the Blue Ridge

On Friday, January 8, snow blanketed the Eastern Escarpment of these mountains, turning them into a Winter Wonderland. A good four inches coated the bare trees, and the lack of wind left everything in place like a Currier and Ives print.

These images are from far eastern Buncombe County, along Cedar Creek Road as it ascends above 1,700 feet to meet up with Old Fort-Bat Cave Road at 2,000 feet. The temperature was right at freezing, and the snow was dry and fluffy. Lake Lure was about seven miles to the south in Rutherford County.

Historic Scandinavian barn…
My car straddles the Rutherford-Buncombe County line…
2,000 foot elevation where Cedar Creek Road joins Old Fort-Bat Cave Road
2,800 foot Youngs Mountain in Rutherford County…

Here is the short video of my drive to Old Fort-Bat Cave Road…

The Historic Railway Depot in Marion, N.C.

In 1871, the Great Southern Railway completed a monumental accomplishment when they connected the Piedmont Plateau with the mountain towns to the west across the Eastern Continental Divide. Considering the engineering and construction challenges that these men faced at that time, this feat was truly remarkable. Every town served by this new railroad needed a station and a depot where trains could load and unload passengers and freight. The first brick depot was built in the small textile and furniture village of Marion, North Carolina, in sight of the beautiful mountains that surrounded that town. The year was 1871, and today, 150 years later, that Depot still stands, and serves as the centerpiece of a historic district that recaptures the excitement of its 19th century founding.

1871 Freight Depot
Preserved Buildings in the Depot District
The building on the left is still one of the tallest buildings in McDowell; County. The fading Coca Cola sign was revealed when a newer structure was razed The two story building across the street now houses a Martial Arts studio, and is negotiating with developers to open a themed restaurant

The lower floor of the larger building is now home to a restaurant and game arcade called “The Feisty Goldfish” .

Marion is a town frozen in time, and with recent openings of micro breweries and even a Mead tasting room, it’s becoming a real tourist destination for travelers heading for the mountains.