Enjoy the Colorful Photographic Impressions created by Vann Helms
With the temperature right at freezing, and the humidity somewhere around 10%, the light and shadows cast by the setting Sun seemed especially distinct yesterday along the easternmost of the Blue Ridge Mountains. They are referred to as the “Escarpment” because they are the first peaks west of the Piedmont Plateau. All the images were made a few minutes before sunset within ten minutes of my house along the Rutherford-McDowell County line. By sunrise, the temperature dropped to 14 degrees, with no frost.
Young’s Mountain northeast of Lake Lure
Stone Mountain northwest of Lake Lure
Long Mountain from Montford Cove
Pinnacle Peak on the McDowell-Rutherford County line.
Hickory Nut Mountain in McDowell County from Tight Run Road.
Hickory Nut Mountain above Cove Creek Valley.
Brushy Top and Oak Mountains above Otter Pond right at sunset.
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 ice.
This morning, small icicles could be seen in the trees around the house, but it wasn’t until a thick cloud bank lifted around 11 a.m. did I get my first glimpse of the mountains to my northwest, covered with ice. Three hundred feet of elevation saved the Valley, but above 1,500 feet, it was a different story.
Bear Gap Mountain from my deck was coated in white…
I knew that the mountains of eastern Buncombe County would also have born the brunt of this storm, so I drove the fifteen minutes southwest of my house up Cedar Creek Road until I found the ice above 1,500 feet. The temperature was 34 degrees, and the road was wet but not icy. What I saw took my breath away. Everything was covered with that destructive inch of ice. Trees were bent and broken. These images show what I found as I drove up to Old Fort-Bat Cave Road above 2,000 feet.
Check out the smoke rising from the chimney…
Arriving at the top of unpaved Cedar Creek Road…
Old Fort-Bat Cave Road toward the Gap between Stone and Round Mountains…
Looking northeast in the direction of Grandfather Mountain, lost in the clouds.
This log cabin near the summit was not occupied…
Driving back down the mountain, I reflected on what could have been had that one degree change in temperature not have happened…
After a three year absence, a large flock of Canada Geese returned to Otter Pond Tuesday evening. Must have been the cold weather. I approached them very slowly and cautiously this morning, and captured some good images. It was 23 degrees, and a mist was rising from the water at sunrise.
They obviously were attracted to the relatively warmer pond…
Buddy was curious, but the geese couldn’t really be bothered…
Looming high over Marion and the North Fork Catawba River Valley, Bald Knob and Dobson Knob form a whale-like ridge that stands separate from the mountains of Linville Gorge. Even though these peaks lie within Pisgah National Forest, this area is largely unknown to the casual hiker. The only maintained trail running through this area is North Carolina’s Mountains-to-Sea Trail as leaves Linville Gorge heading west, crossing Dobson Knob, and Bald Knob before descending to North Fork Catawba River.
Rarely do you find a Mountain along the Blue Ridge that is this rugged, this steep, and this inaccessible. At 3,900 feet at its peak, Dobson is uniquely situated on the eastern side of the large, flat, Catawba River Valley. This provides many spectacular views that are normally restricted by dense forest and other mountains.
What appears to be snow on the mountain is actually exposed granite, and leafless trees, catching the late afternoon Sun. A large fire two years ago burned many of the hardwood trees that were hardy enough to grow along these rocky cliffs. That, combined with a complete lack of evergreens, gives Dobson its unique character, especially in winter, when all the hardwoods have shed their leaves. The mountain is totally undeveloped, with no logging roads to allow easy access. Going in on foot is the only way to experience the natural beauty this behemoth offers. (Hint: Save these photos to your device so that you can enlarge them to full size to get all the detail of this mountain.)
Access points for the “Mountains-to-Sea Trail” can be reached from the small community of Woodlawn, located on U.S. Highway 221 north of Marion, North Carolina. It’s an exhausting six mile climb to reach the peak, and then six miles back to your car. Do not attempt this hike alone, and carry in plenty of water and energy food. Camping opportunities are few along the trail on this western face. You must go there. It will take your breath away, as it did mine.
Below is a 3-D view of the hike to Bald Knob. The hike to Dobson Knob is on the other side of the mountain because of the dangerous terrain on the west face. The bottom to top trail will gain almost 3,500 feet.
Alson Skinner Clark Catfish Row
Anthony Thieme Sunlight and Shadows
Anthony Thieme Negro Cabins
Anthony Thieme Southern Doorways
Charles Whitfield Richards
Alfred Heber Hutty St. Phillip’s Church
Alfred Heber Hutty
Alfred Heber Hutty Low Country Marsh
Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Pink House on Chalmers Street
Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Avenue at The Oaks
William Gilbert Gaul Looking Out to Sea
William Gilbert Gaul Glorious Fighting
William Gilbert Gaul Farm in Van Buren, Tennessee
William Gilbert Gaul Cottage in the Woods
George Street in Rain Anthony Thieme
Harold S. Maddocks Spuds
Richard E. Miller St. Augustine Afternoon Tea
Roberta Jennings Bridge of Lions, St. Augustine
Edgar Degas The Cotton Office
Edgar Degas Cotton Merchants
Edgar Degas Estelle Flower Arrangement, New Orleans
William Woodward Napoleon House in New Orleans 1904
When it was completed in 1925, the “Million Dollar Dam” that created scenic Lake Lure was the largest dam in the North Carolina Mountains. The price tag at the time was right at one million dollars, thus the label.
The dam generated enough electricity to power the entire Lake Lure, Chimney Rock area. It’s main purpose was to create a lake where home sites could be sold along its shoreline. Unfortunately for the developers, the Great Depression soon followed, and the dam and development, which also included a hotel, went into bankruptcy.
Over the years, the dam proved to be a very good investment. Large homes were built around the lake, and the dam continued to produce valuable power.
Lake Lure on December 23, 2018. The mirror-like surface gives little hint of what is happening under the surface.
Lake Lure is a “Constant Level” lake, controlled by the dam. Nowadays, the dam only produces power two days a week, unless events and weather intervene. Over the past two weeks, after a record snowfall of 18″, combined with six inches of rain, the lake has risen much too fast, and one of the main spillways in the dam has been opened for over a week now. This is rare for the 93 year old dam.
The Broad River, that feeds the lake, has become a raging torrent as it passes through Hickory Nut Gap, on its way toward Columbia, South Carolina.
The temperature when these photos were made was in the mid-twenties, otherwise the river would be ideal for rafting and kayaking. These are Class V rapids, the roughest they come.
Marion, North Carolina, may be small, but during the holidays it isn’t shy about letting everyone know what season it is, and after last week’s snow, that was more evident than ever.
New decorations adorn Main Street’s “gaslights”, with special “flame” bulbs installed to add that traditional Christmas feeling.
Banks of snow all over town seem perfectly appropriate for this time of year.
Like in many small Southern towns, hand painted Coca-Cola billboards on brick walls have been revealed after an adjacent structure was raised. Appreciating the historical significance of these early works of advertising, towns are preserving them for new generations to enjoy.
The railroad came to Marion in the 1870 when the Richmond and Danville Company extended the tracks from Morganton. In 1896, Southern Railway was formed, and absorbed the Marion link. The railroad passed directly through the center of town, and in the 1920’s, a new road bed was dug, and an overpass was constructed for Main Street.
When the Depot was opened in 1871, it was the first brick Depot in Western North Carolina.
Marion is proud of its railroad history, and isn’t afraid to show it off.
Less than a mile from Main Street, this park would usually have a panoramic view of the Black Mountain range and Mt. Mitchell, but on this day, it is more suited to cross-country skiing or Snow Frisbee.
Walls made from locally gathered mountain rock, like this one beneath the First Presbyterian Church, are common all over town, and many homes used them in their construction.
Within ten miles of Main Street, you’ll find some of the most beautiful mountain settings in all of North Carolina.
This video shows Yours Truly taking a stroll in the park after a session at one of Marion’s fitness centers.
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