Lake Lure Bids Farewell to Autumn

You might think that with December just a few days away, the colors of Autumn in the mountains would have disappeared weeks ago, but the slopes around Lake Lure always would prove you wrong. At an elevation less than 1,000 feet, the lake and the Northwest Rutherford mountains surrounding it, are always late bloomers when it comes to color. This year, with the first freeze delayed until November 14th, so were the leaves.

Every two years, the Lake level is lowered by about seven feet, so that residents can repair docks and boathouses, and construct new structures that would eventually be in the water. Large expanses of the lake bottom are exposed all winter until the lake is refilled in March. These are views at the far north end from Legends Bar and Grill.

All boats are moved into storage, and the floating docks sit in the mud.
The southern view from inside Legends

A short drive into the Rumbling Bald residences up the mountain reveals the late colors as the Sun was dropping behind 3, 400 foot Rumbling Bald Mountain.

Scene from “Dirty Dancing” were filmed around the golf course that snakes its way around the homes…
The slope below the exposed granite wall of Rumbling Bald Mountain.
A ridge catches the last of the Sun’s rays below 4,000 foot Mount Shumont
The South Face of Stone Mountain to the north at sundown…
Buffalo Creek is one of many creeks that feeds into manmade Lake Lure…

The Isothermal Belt and Late Autumn Color

The Isothermal Belt is a well documented micro-climate area east of Hendersonville, N.C., north of the S.C. border, and extends north to the Rutherford/McDowell County line. Because average temperatures in the zone are five degrees warmer than the surrounding area, the last frost of winter happens in early April, making this area ideal for growing apples. The early blossoms survive, making for a longer growing season. The area is the fourth largest in America for apple production. In the fall, these slightly warmer temps delay the period of peak color by up to two weeks after most of the southern mountains to the north and west. This year, above normal temperatures all over the mountains delayed the first frost by up to three weeks, and the color changes were much later than usual. Only now, in mid November, are the colors reaching their peaks, and it seems to have happened all at once, since the first frost happened just last week. These images were made yesterday, November 12th. And WOW……

Around Lake Lure
Youngs Mountain

Just north of Lake Lure is an overlook above the Cove Creek Valley, along the Eastern Blue Ridge Escarpment. These views are toward the north and east…

My Private Blue Ridge Parkway in Fall

Most visitors cruise the Blue Ridge Parkway in October to see the best color, but for me, I just need to drive a half mile up my road to experience color rarely seen along the Parkway. In 2008, a paved, one mile extension was built just past my house to service a gated community that went bankrupt in 2009. Since then only two homes have been built up there, and every autumn I just hop into my car, and slowly move through the most dramatic display of foliage I’ve found anywhere throughout the Carolina mountains. A steep wall of mountains on the north side of the valley looms over stands of Loblolly Pine, making the perfect contrast to the multicolors of Maple, Oak, Hickory, and Sourwood. The second week of November is usually the peak, but everything is late this year because of no freeze, and this coming week will be incredible.

Actually, since there is no traffic, a leisurely stroll is the best way to experience the quiet solitude of this place, with only the occasional bird song, Turkey call, or a breeze through the trees.

Check out this short video…

Autumn at Rumbling Bald Mountain

An earthquake in 1874 set off a series of loud rumblings in an around Bald Mountain as giant granite boulders broke away from the northeast face and plummeted to the slopes below. After that, the inhabitants changed the name to Rumbling Bald Mountain, and today that exposed granite face is one of the largest in all of North Carolina. In the fall, near sundown, the contrast of light and shadow makes the area especially breathtaking.

Rumbling Bald is on the left, at 3,010 feet… View from Apple Valley Golf Course.
The mountain rises from the northwest shore of Lake Lure. View from inside Legends-on-the-Lake Restaurant
Rock climbers love this mountain…
View of 2,600 foot Young’s Mountain from Bald Mountain Farm
The last rays from Bald Mountain Farm

Full Color along Cedar Creek Road

Cedar Creek begins at the 2,300′ level of the Blue Ridge in eastern Buncombe County, and grows as it cuts through the gorge into northern Rutherford County, merging with Cove Creek, then the Broad River east of Lake Lure. Following the creek down the mountain is a two lane, mostly paved road. In Autumn, it never disappoints when it comes to color, and this year is no exception. After two days of light showers, the hues seemed to shimmer in the misty light.

Cedar Creek Rapids

Autumn at Peak Color on N.C. 80

Beginning in Marion, N.C,, and ending between Burnsville and Spruce Pine, Highway 80 snakes its way to the Blue Ridge Parkway at the 3,600 foot Eastern Continental Divide, then heads down into the Toe River Valley along the eastern side of towering Mt. Mitchell, before heading north to Micaville, and U.S. Highway 19. Near Marion, it weaves around Lake Tahoma before climbing 2,000 feet to the Parkway. On this November 1st, the colors were incredible.

Lake Tahoma
Lake Tahoma Reflections

At the 2,500 foot level, the colors were vibrant in every direction…

Every curve offered nature’s best work…

Reaching the summit at the Parkway, NC 80 passes under one of the iconic stone bridges from the 1930’s…

The twenty minute drive down into the valley is filled with breathtaking views of the surrounding ridges…

My ultimate destination on this mild blue sky morning was the Mount Mitchell Golf Course, part of a vacation community of townhomes and mountain residences, with views of the Black Mountains, and 6,700 foot Mt. Mitchell…

No matter the season, NC-80 always offers a memorable journey, but when the colors of Fall are surrounding you, there’s no better place to be. Don’t miss it.

A Very Late Autumn along the Blue Ridge

Today is October 25, and the mountains below 3,000 feet are still waiting for their first frost. This is historically late, and the trees know it. Aside from the Sumac and Sourwood along the roadways, the ridges remain green, with only the occasional Maple showing its flash of red and orange.

the maple in my back meadow

Ten days ago, I drove along The Parkway to the Linn Cove Viaduct, and although the color on the slopes of mile high Grandfather Mountain was dramatic, the colors along the Parkway were just not happening.

Blue Ridge Parkway at U.S. 221 below Grandfather Mountain
Linn Cove Viaduct
Grandfather Mountain Summit

On Saturday, October 23rd, I entered The Parkway from U.S. 70 east of Asheville, and drove north to a 3,000 foot Overlook. This was the only tree I found with color, and the slopes above 3,000 feet were still almost as green as Summer.

Hopefully, that first freeze will come soon, but the peak of color along The Parkway is still a week or more away. My fingers and toes are crossed.

SUMMER BIDS FAREWELL

With the first frost predicted for next week, this may be the last chance to enjoy the colors and textures from the waning days of summer around my meadow. Wildflowers, mosses, mushrooms, and even a critter or two, are trying to attract those last pollinators before the freeze arrives.

Acer Maple


An addled Bumblebee awaits the warming Sun among the Japanese Honeysuckle blossoms
Purple Oldfield Asters

An opportunistic Spider awaits breakfast on a Narrow Leaf Sunflower Blossom
White Oldfield Asters
Clover
Maryland Golden Asters
Unidentified Help???
Praying Mantis
Maryland Golden Asters ???
A very mellow Mushroom
The last Narrow Leaf Sunflowers
Unidentified Help???

Autumn Arrives Late along the Black Mountains

THIS WAS SIX YEARS AGO. ALWAYS ONE OF MY FAVORITE PLACES ALONG THE PARKWAY.

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

In past years, October 11th would have been the peak of color along the high ridges facing the iconic Black Mountain range, home to Mt. Mitchell, the tallest peak of all. Not this year. Although the colors have begun to roll down from the higher slopes, they are still five to seven days away from their maximum.

Black Mountains in autumn
With a ridge line above 6,000 feet, the Black Mountains are still the most impressive east of the Rockies.

Blue Ridge Parkway Rocky Cliffs
Above the Blue Ridge Parkway, a few trees are at their peak, but below 4,500 feet, everything is late this year.

Black Mountain Yellows
The woods are showing much yellow, but the dramatic reds and vermillions are only occasionally seen.

Blue Ridge Parkway in Green and Yellow
Green is still a dominate color on the steep slopes.

Blue Ridge Parkway cloud
Puffy clouds of fair weather float just above the treetops, casting dark shadows over the forests below.

Wait a few more days before you visit this portion…

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Fall Creeps into the Rutherford Mountains

Dividing Rutherford from McDowell County are a series of 2,600 foot peaks that stretch for four miles from east to west. Names like Pinnacle Peak, Long Mountain, Rich Mountain, New Forest Mountain, and Mike’s Mountain, are known to locals, but not to the outside world. The views from these summits look out across the western Piedmont toward Charlotte. Other than scattered vacation homes, and valley farms, development has not been part of the equation.

As the colors of the season move down into lower elevations, these steep ridges slowly come alive. These images were captured just after sunrise on October 11th. The peak of color in these parts happens after November 1st, long after the leaves have fallen along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Long Mountain
Pinnacle Mountain and Pinnacle Peak
View to southwest toward Lake Lure
4,100 foot Mount Shumont in Clouds