Images of Mid-February

As winter begins to wind down and days get longer, these Mountains sense the coming change, and reflect light in a different way. This month has seen nearly a foot of rain in many areas, and temperatures have reached 76 degrees this past week. Patches of Phlox have appeared, and farmers are already plowing their fields in anticipation of warmer weather.

These images are random, but convey this reawakening as it happens.

biltmore house 2Last week, Biltmore House was surrounded by mists and its winter woods, but yesterday, unseasonable warmth and deep blue skies brought overflow crowds and a very different look…biltmore house bright

French Broad River floods Heavy rains brought French Broad River flooding at Biltmore, and at Hendersonville further south…

biltmore gardens greenhouseBiltmore Gardens are still dormant, but palms and orchids fill the Conservatory…

wolf pen mountainA tall White Oak and a healthy Hemlock frame a misty Wolfpen Mountain in northwest Rutherford County.

American beech in winterThe American Beech is one of few trees that retains its fall foliage throughout winter.

Log cabin Blue Ridge valleyThe 1800 resurrected log cabin in Otter Creek Valley…

19th century blue ridge barnThe log cabin’s 19th century barn welcomes the rising sun.



Grandfather and Sugar Mountains in February

With a deep blue sky, and knowing that snow fell on Sunday in the High Country, I escaped the snowless South and headed for Grandfather Mountain, and Sugar Ski Mountain after that, In the valleys, the temperature hovered just above 40 degrees, but when I arrived below the peaks of Grandfather an hour later, it had dropped below freezing. 

I was amazed what five inches of fresh snow could do to that iconic place.grandfather mountain in snow 4

grandfather mountain snow 5

grandfather mountain snow 7

Along the road to Sugar Mountain, ice encrusted trees along the higher ridges contrasted beautifully with the rugged cliffs and slopes.Sugar Mountain icy cliffs

Sugar Mountain Snow and rocksLooking to the west, the backside of Beech Mountain, the “other” major ski mountain in North Carolina, was white above 4,000 feet.Beech Mountain snow slopes



Turning toward the South, there was Sugar, in all its splendor…sugartop at Sugar Ski MountainSugartop Condo dominates the mountain, with the snow covered ski runs dropping from the mile high summit. Snowmaking was not part of the plan today, after a fresh 6″ had fallen on Sunday. That’s the new “Gunther’s Run” on the far right, offering advanced skiers and snowboarders a wide open experience on their way down.

Once inside the resort area, homes near the slopes catch the afternoon sun.Sugar Mountain winter homes

Yours truly in my favorite element…Sugar Mountain winter selfie

Snow surrounds this cascading creek between the houses…Sugar Mountain Snow Creek

Sugar Mountain snow lane

Arriving at the base lodge, the scene was colorful…Sugar Mountain base lodge skis 1

Looking toward the top of the mountain had skiers, chair lifts, and lots of natural snow, without the annoying jet engine roar from snowmaking nozzles…Sugar Mountain skiing 1

This two minute video will give you an “Up Close and Personal” view of Sugar Mountain…


When you have a few minutes, check out this video from the heavy snow at Sugar on December 9th. Not mine, but really worth the time…


On the way back home, I stopped at this frozen lake near Linville.  The High Country never disappoints.Linville Land Harbor  lake



A Winter Return to Black Mountain’s Cheshire Village

Last summer I posted about the incredible Craftsman style community in Black Mountain called Cheshire Village, Returning there yesterday in the dead of winter found a very different place. Snow was on the way, and the surrounding mountains seemed much more pronounced. 

cheshire  village black mountain 1

cheshire village black mountain 2

cheshire village black mountain 3The Treehouses section.

cheshire village black mountain 4Southerly mountains…

cheshire village black mountain 5


The Restoration of the S & W Building in Asheville

When architect Douglas Ellington designed the iconic Art Deco S & W Building in Asheville in 1929, he would have been so pleased to know that his Great Nephew, Andrew Ellington, resurrected the treasure in 2017, and, along with an ambitious group of visionary developers, returned the three story building to its 1929 splendor.  Originally the home of the S & W Cafeteria, the building was closed in 1974 when S & W moved its operation to the Asheville Mall. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, but sat empty until briefly reopened in 2007 as a steakhouse and coffee shop. It closed again in 2011, and sat empty for six more years. Ellington was well known around Asheville, helping to design the Asheville High School, the City Hall, and the First Baptist Church.

The facade of the brick building is covered in grey ashlar, a fine masonry similar to Inca walls in Machu Picchu. It features polychrome tile ornamentation and exotic stylistic motifs.

S & W Cafeteria Asheville Facade

S & W Cafeteria Asheville Detail

S & W Cafeteria Doorway Asheville

The Art Deco interior now features an eatery and market called The S & W Artisanal, with an upscale restaurant on the mezzanine…. S & W Artisanal Asheville

S & W Asheville Artisanal dining room

…that features a full cocktail bar… S & W asheville cocktail bar

S & W Artisanal Cocktail Bar window

… and a casual eatery on the first floor below. S & W Artisonal asheville first floor

Behind S&W Artisanal is restaurant designer Theodore Kondylis, restaurateur Sakis Elefantis and local businessmen Douglas and Kenneth Ellington, the great-nephews of the architect Douglas Ellington.  The new restaurant includes a bakery, two cocktail bars, a coffee bar, private dining and a retail market offering local food items and specialty imported products from Greece.  

In the basement under the restaurant is a performance club called Ellington Underground… S & W asheville Ellington Underground

The art deco venue is already proving itself on Asheville’s music scene.  It is the brainchild of Andrew Ellington, a touring musician himself.  Only in his mid-20s, Andrew has assembled an impressive setup, transforming a concrete box once used for parking into a cutting-edge listening room. Preserving the original art deco style, Ellington Underground balances old and new with lattice wallpaper, black-and-white tile floors, Edison bulbs and exposed beams. There are also old elevator shafts in the building that, during the tail end of Prohibition, allowed liquor to be transported directly from Commerce Street.  Guests can sip their drink in the lounge area — outfitted with modish sectional sofas — or hit the floor. 

In the the front of the building, just to the left of the main entrance, is a posh liquor bar called The Times Bar. An artist was just putting the finishing touches on the new lettering in the window… The Times Bar at S & W Asheville

Here’s “your truly” reflected in a mirror in the main entrance, where exotic woods echo the Art Deco motif of the entire building. The attention to detail in this restoration is incredible.  S & W Building Asheville wood detail

S & W Building Asheville wood

“This beautiful building for years was underutilized and dark most of the time,” said Doug Ellington. 

“We want to turn the lights on and see people enjoying it,” added Kenneth Ellington. “That’s what it was built for. This building used to be a gathering place for many in the community,” he said. “The stories longtime residents tell of downtown is that it was vibrant in the ’20s and ’30s. Now it’s vibrant again, and we hope to add to that vibrancy — and be a part of it — once again.”






Mill Creek Road and Andrews Geyser in Snow

Years ago I discovered an alternate way down the Blue Ridge Escarpment from the Eastern Continental Divide where I-40 passes Ridgecrest at 2,700 feet. When the Southern Railway first crossed the Blue Ridge at Ridgecrest in the 1880’s on its way to Asheville, the railway needed to build a maintenance road to service the twelve miles of track and seven tunnels. That historic byway, although unmarked on most maps today, was built with mules, dynamite, and manual labor, and is still maintained by the Norfolk and Southern Railway as a vital link to their most famous stretch of rails. In the map below, Mill Creek Road can be seen just west of the railroad (black line). The video attached follows the upper hairpins and switchbacks of the road in the area just west of McElroy Tunnel before the road follows Log Creek.


The road has never been paved, and few guardrails were ever built, even though steep drop-offs are along every curve. With this week’s heavy snow along the escarpment, the road is covered, and driving is treacherous.  If you’ve ever skied or snowboarded, you’re familiar with “Catwalks”, the trails built along mountain ridges connecting the larger open areas. Driving down this road felt very much like skiing  along one of these Catwalks.  At the bottom on the road, you find Mill Creek, and the famous Andrews Geyser. It was built in the 1890’s to commemorate the completion of the Southern Railway over the Blue Ridge and the Eastern Continental Divide. It is totally gravity fed from a mill pond much higher up Mill Creek. After two weeks of extreme low temperatures, the geyser has built an ice mound around itself, and a layer of ice covers the ground within a forty foot perimeter around the geyser.

Below are images made on January 19th. The “rainbow” is formed from the falling spray when the Sun is in the right place.

geyser 5

geyser 7

andrews geyser in ice

The Beauty after the Storm

With almost half a foot of snow still on the ground and in the trees, the bright morning Sun only intensified the colors and the beauty. 

sunrise 2

Yesterday evening, the Sun appeared just as it was setting over the southwestern Mountains…sun 9a

sun 2

sun 9

ron 5


sun 6

Almost 4 inches and Counting

Snow has been falling here since 3 a.m.  Snowing heavily right now. Very unexpected and very beautiful.

snow 6

snow 1

hemphill 3Yesterday’s view of the mountains around Lake Lure from the northeast.