Enjoy the Colorful Photographic Impressions created by Vann Helms
When most people hear the words, Cherry Blossoms, they think of that city with all the monuments, but if you want to see amazing blossoms two weeks earlier, you might consider visiting Lake Lure, North Carolina, especially the Rumbling Bald Resort at the north end of the lake. Seventy-five years ago, developers had the foresight to plant the Yoshino Japanese Cherry trees that had been planted in Washington decades before. The display is no less breathtaking.
Their are over 250 varieties of Cherry trees worldwide, and most of them bloom at the same time, depending on temperature and length of daylight. The blooming, from first blossom to last, is about two weeks, not very long.
Turkey Tail Mushrooms extract nutrition from these aging trees, but that doesn’t stop new shoots from breaking through.
A few miles further north is an orchard of Sakura Cherry trees.
Autumn is not the only season to enjoy the colors of the Blue Ridge. Springtime, especially when the Dogwood and Azaleas are blooming, can be just as dramatic.
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.
A young Milkweed is coated with ice crystals…
A giant boulder shows off its winter moss in a bend of Otter Creek…
Blood Root shows her first blossom…
These Trout Lilies will open fully in two days, and will look like this…
Mud Dabbers will some reoccupy this old nest…
These tiny blossoms look almost like roses, but I’ve been unable to identify them…
Phlox are always the first flowers to appear along the ground…
Buddy was watching a crow along the creek…
Away from direct sunlight, the mosses flourish before other plants break ground.
A new family of Beavers have taken up residence in a Branch of Otter Creek…
Just one more hopeful Trout Lily. It got its name from the waxy leaves that resembled a swimming mountain Trout.
Two years ago I awoke to a surprise snowfall in mid-March. Looks like this March will not offer the same outcome.
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.
My neighbor’s blooming Peach must have been caught by surprise by the late flakes…
The house took everything in stride…
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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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.
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.
The 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.
With 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.
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.
The round turret continues on the first floor as a Parlour, and the large porch follows the shape of the turret.
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.
In 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.
This morning after sunrise. It was below freezing.
Almost a foot of rain this month contributed to these early bloomings. That’s 3,000 foot Wolf Pen Mountain in the distance.
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.
The ice was collecting below the steep metal roof, as you can see on either side.
Looking back to the east toward Rutherford County.
With 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.
Just below the freezing line, you would never suspect that ice was just a quarter mile up the road.
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.
Any other time, cars, buses, and lines of people waiting to enter the mansion would obscure the front door, but no this morning.
The 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.
Frederick Law Olmstead designed Bass Lake for fishing and contemplation. A total lack of wind made for a perfect reflection.
The 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.
One of many stone bridges originally built for horse drawn carriages can now accommodate motor vehicles if they drive slowly and very carefully.
One 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.
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