The View from Asheville’s Sunset Mountain in September

To the northeast of uptown Asheville is the most unusual residential area I’ve ever seen.  Yesterday I drove to the top of Sunset Mountain, where mansions are perched precariously along the steep slopes, and are connected to each other by single lane drives that wind along the ridges, separated by dense old growth forests and deep ravines. The views from up there are dramatic, and mostly hidden by trees and large homes. Autumn has already painted many of the trees, especially the Dogwoods, bright orange and yellow.

asheville from Sunset RoadThe view from upper Sunset Road.

grove park inn from aboveThe historic Grove Park Inn from a new perspective…  It sits on the lower slopes of Sunset Mountain.

Old Toll Road on sunset mountainAlong the Old Toll Road near the summit of the mountain…

sunset mountain Old Toll Road west view ashevilleThe view of the northwest Mountains from Old Toll Road.

As autumn arrives, you should consider exploring this remarkable neighborhood as the colors change.

 

 

A Magical View of Sugarloaf Mountain

On Saturday, I was driving to a local watering hole to enjoy some college football with friends,  and as I approached the Lake Lure area, the Sun suddenly found some openings in the distant clouds, and rays were streaming down over the ridges around Chimney Rock, especially 4,000 foot Sugarloaf Mountain to the southeast of the iconic megalith. I quickly drove to an open area to get the best view, and this was the result.

Sun Rays over Sugarloaf Mountain

These magical moments are so fleeting, and the majesty of these ancient vistas never ceases to amaze me. 

The Summer View from Roan Mountain

As summer closes, and cooler temperatures abound, a drive to Roan Mountain seemed the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Overcast skies added to the mood.  

Roan Mountain VistaThe Blue Ridge from near the summit. Skeleton trees are a stark reminder of the damage done by acid rain and the insects that take advantage of the weaker trees. Most evergreens here are Red Spruce and Fraser Firs, with some Balsam Spruce mixed in.

Appalachian Trail hikers at Roan MountainThe most visited part of the Appalachian Trail can be found at Carver’s Gap along the North Carolina and Tennessee border.

roan mountain Appalachian TrailThe Trail runs southwesterly toward the summit of heavy forested Roan Mountain. This is a landscape you would find in Canada. Visible here is part of the “Balds” that make Roan so iconic.

Grandfather Mountain from Roan BaldsFrom the “Balds”, Grandfather Mountain dominates the eastern horizon. These ridges are referred to as “The High Country” by travelers in the know.

Roan Mountain RhododendronIn early June, this similar view is dominated by Catawba Rhododendron thickets in full bloom.

All seasons are worth a visit to Roan Mountain, and the drive down the Tennessee side will offer breathtaking vistas of the far ridges from this high altitude. Don’t miss it.

 

 

A Journey to Mt. Mitchell’s Summit

North Carolina’s Mt. Mitchell is the highest point east of the Mississippi, and except for a couple of inaccessible rocky peaks in South Dakota, it is the highest mountain east of the Rockies.  It is named for the geologist who measured its height, and who was killed in a fall on his way back down. It is part of the Black Mountain range, where many peaks approach the height of Mt. Mitchell.

Lake Tahoma CasinoAs you begin the accent up NC 80, you will pass Lake Tahoma and it’s island Casino, and the Black Mountains will loom impressively on the horizon.

Blue Ridge Parkway PineNC 80 crosses The Blue Ridge Parkway at 4,500 feet, and the view from the Parkway is always breathtaking.

Blue Ridge Parkway VistaLooking eastward from one of the famous Overlooks, the Blue Ridge Mountains unfold like giant frozen waves on an endless sea.

Blue Ridge Parkway sceneryHints of autumn can be found above 5,000 feet as you near Mt. Mitchell State Park.

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Mt. Mitchell summit hutA twenty minute drive through towering peaks will lead you to a parking area below the summit. A short walk will take you up to an observation platform at the top. Hikers use many trails to arrive at the same place.Mt. Mitchell hikers 1

Two Mt. Mitchell  HikersSoon you will arrive at the 6,684 foot summit where a stone platform will put you at the very top.Mt. mitchell observation platform

Mt. mitchell platform MapA large map of the state will show you all the compass directions…………….

Mt. mitchell platform viewClear photographs placed around the platform will identify the peaks and distant landmarks in the 360 degree panorama.

clingman's peak at mt. mitchellMost impressive in the view toward the south is Clingman’s Peak with its array of radio and television transmission towers. From the platform, you’ll find that every frequency on your FM radio will have a clear station available. Only here will that happen because of the unobstructed access. You might notice the restaurant in the left center.

Mt. Mitchell Platform cloudsIt isn’t unusual for clouds to roll in at any time. Snow has fallen on this platform during every month of the year.

Mt. mitchell platform Northeast viewOne can find solitude here on top of the world. You’ll never forget your visit to Mt. Mitchell, and if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself returning again and again in all the seasons, weather permitting.

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Exploring Pinnacle Mountain

Along the first mountain ridges you’ll encounter when driving west from Charlotte is a series of 2,500 foot peaks, formerly used by the large furniture manufacturers who have since left the state for Far East alternatives. The slopes are heavily wooded with Oak, Poplar, Hickory, Maple, and Beech.  After the companies left, the land was sold to developers, who built roads from the valley to the elevations above 2,000 feet, and sold lots for vacation cabins. One of those “gated” enclaves is called Pinnacle Mountain, and is located ten miles northeast of Lake Lure. 

Pinnacle Mountain eastern viewThe view to the east from an upper road is of the expansive Piedmont Plateau toward Charlotte….

Pinnacle Mountain Sugarloaf mtnFrom another high overlook, one see 4,000 foot Sugarloaf Mountain south of Lake Lure.

Pinnacle Mountain northwest viewFrom an empty cabin, the northwest view is of the High Country and Roan Mountain along the Tennessee border.

Pinnacle Mountain south viewNear sunset is a wonderful time to see the many ridges that accentuate the beauty of the Blue Ridge.

Pinnacle Mountain Caddy south 1The high gravel road is steep and rutted at times, but the end result is well worth the effort.

Pinnacle Mountain caddy mirrorThis driveway mirror seemed the perfect place for a selfie when driving back down the mountain.

Pinnacle  Mountain after March snowfallPinnacle Peak after a March snow this year.

Pinnacle SUnriseThe view of Pinnacle Mountain at sunrise from my place can be breathtaking….

Pinnacle Peak in autumnPinnacle Peak from another angle at my favorite time of year.

Harvest Time in Apple Valley

Just east of Hendersonville, North Carolina, is a fertile valley that is the fourth largest apple growing district in the United States. Over thirty varieties are grow here, and for a month at the end of summer, growers are busy gathering the bounty from their orchards. Because of a certified micro-climate area known as the Isothermal Belt, winters are shorter, and late season hard freezes are rare here. 

Apple Valley North Carolinaorchard

Apple Valley North Carolina red barn

Apple Valley North Carolina farm

Everywhere, large apple crates are filled to overflowing with every color apple you can imagine.Apple Valley North Carolina harvest time

Trees are still heavy with juicy fruit waiting for their chance to head for market…Apple Valley North Carolina red apples

Apple Valley North Carolina ripe applesThese apples have a little more ripening to do before their time comes..

Apple Valley North Carolina goldenrodGoldenrod and Red Bush tell you that autumn is not far away.

Apple Valley North Carolina Grandad's OrchardBehind Grandad’s Apple House, weekend visitors marvel at the view across orchards and corn fields. Hendersonville hosts its annual Apple Festival every Labor Day weekend, and thousands turn out to sample the sweet fruit.2017 Hendersonville Apple Festival

Hendersonville Apple Festival street fair

Of course, I had to bring some of these delectable fruits home to enjoy, along with a large jug of homemade Apple Cider.Otter Creek Valley apple table

Apple at Hemlock House North CarolinaThe sweet smell alone was worth the visit.

Total Solar Eclipse of 2017

We chose to drive to a remote area of northern South Carolina between Spartanburg and Columbia, where the Saluda River passes a crossroads at Chappells. We went to a boat landing under a large bridge so that we could experience the sounds of instant dusk along the river. Other adventurous people had also chosen this rural place, far from light sensitive streetlights and passing car beams. It was a wise choice.

jay river 2

three friends

The event began before 2 p.m., when the first sliver of the Moon’s intrusion ate into the Sun.Total eclipse south carolina saluda river

We took our place along the river at 2:15. Even though the Sun seemed bright, you could no longer feel any heat whatsoever. At this point, 85% of the Sun was already covered. Frogs and birds and bugs were already singing as the darkness approached from the northwest. At this point, the deep blue sky was totally cloudless. We were ready.eclipse saluda river south carolina

Near 2:30, the totality arrived. One moment, their was light, the next moment it got dark. We were using the special glasses, but when totality arrived, nothing was visible through the glasses, The four of us dropped the glasses, and what we saw was the most beautiful and powerful display of nature that we have ever witnessed.  The totally black Moon was surrounded by a glow that was so surreal, words can’t describe it. At this point I had accidentally hit the “movie” button on my camera, and for the next three minutes I captured the sounds of the critters along the river, and fleeting glimpses of the bridge above, the river, my friends, and for a brief instant, this image of the totality above the bridge.

total eclipse south carolina corona

The sky was a deep pale blue, much like a half hour after sunset. There were no stars visible. High clouds on the distant horizon still reflected the full sun, but with a rose hue. My friends were completely in the dark, and I couldn’t see their faces or any other details. The light was similar to the light of a half Moon on a clear night. 

eclipse totality south carolina saluda riverI was able to retrieve a few screen captures from the video, and the over sensitive lens added light to the scene, but in reality, it was very dark. The river was no longer visible at all.  The light from a cell phone screen illuminates my cousin’s face. 

Below is a five minute video of this event, with those screen captures inserted to supplement the audio.  Had I known the camera was running, my reactions and comments would never have been so spontaneous. How fortunate the accidents of life.