Hickory Nut Gorge from Buzzard’s Lane Overlook

Above the eastern shore of picturesque Lake Lure is an unpaved road called Buzzard’s Lane. It’s the highest vantage point accessible by car anywhere around the lake, and overlooks ancient Hickory Nut Gorge to the west. Recently, I went there near sunset on a hot summer afternoon and found a hazy view that was different than any I had seen before.
Hickry Nut Gorge Panorama

Hickory Nut Gorge
Iconic Chimney Rock, not visible here, is pearched high on the south wall at the eastern entrance to the gorge.
Lake Lure Mountains
Lake Lure is shaped like a spindly Starfish with fingers and coves radiating out from its center.

Sugarloaf Mountain
At nearly 4,000 feet, Sugarloaf Mountain sits 3,100 feet above the lake level to the south.Lake Lure Porch View
Finding a rocking chair on a cabin porch even higher up was the perfect place to watch the sunset.

Cataloochee Valley in July

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park in July is a peaceful place. At its northeast edge is a valley famous for the wild Elk herd that was reintroduced into the park fifteen years ago. Cataloochee Valley was the most populated part of the mountains that would become the National Park in the 1930’s. All of the families were relocated, leaving behind farm houses, historic barns, churches, and school houses, which are open today for tours. The only way into the valley is by an unpaved road that hugs the high ridges and cuts through ancient forest for miles, finally arriving at Lookout Point, a park overlook that affords a wide view of the surrounding mountains from west to north. The panorama below captures the view of the entire valley.
Cataloochee Panorama

Looking toward the west, Balsam Mountain dominates the horizon…
Cataloochee Ridges

Cataloochee West View

Looking toward the northwest, below, the high ridge that divides North Carolina and Tennessee runs from the northeast to the southwest.
Cataloochee Mountain Fence
Below is an image made from almost the same spot by another photographer after sunset. Amazing how different the same view can be at different times of the day and year.
Cataloochee Sunset

Cataloochee  Lookout Point
Most of the trees are hardwoods with few pines. In the fall, these ridges are aflame with bright color.

Cataloochee Valley Walk Bridge
A well worn walk bridge over Rough Fork Creek is a fitting reminder of the people who used to call this valley home. Just downstream, Rough Fork joins with another creek to become Cataloochee Creek. In the background is one of the large meadows where Elk graze in the early morning and late evening. With a hot noontime sun overhead, they were nowhere to be found. That will be another visit. A family of Wild Turkeys, with fifteen chicks, was casually foraging along the road in their place.

Just up the creek from the walk bridge...

Just up the creek from the walk bridge…

Finding needed Salts and Minerals

Finding needed Salts and Minerals

Scarlet Bee Balm Loves the Creek Bank

Scarlet Bee Balm Loves the Creek Bank

Driving back out of the valley, the mountain to the north was impressive in its size. All of these ridges tower over 5,000 feet, compared to the mountains around my own Otter Creek Valley, which barely reach 3,000 feet.
Cataloochee north rim

July Arrives at Lake Lure

Carolina Vann:

Three years ago I posted this entry, and with July in full swing, I thought you might enjoy a return visit.

Originally posted on Living in The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina- A Blog:


With the arrival of July, the sun has begun its march back to the south. Rumbling Bald Mountain looms large over Lake Lure. The recent heat wave spared this area, and wildflowers are blooming on schedule.


Last Saturday’s sunset as seen from the woods behind the house, was very bright because of the low humidity. The frogs in the pond were quite vocal.


A Goldfinch and a Cardinal share prime spots on the bird feeder.


Sunrise on Sunday morning bathed the house in warm summer colors.

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The View from Young’s Mountain

The eastern Blue Ridge Escarpment in North Carolina runs from South Carolina northeast into Virginia, and the mountains along this upslope average about 2,800 feet in elevation. The Piedmont Plateau, or “Foothills”, as they are called by the natives, averages about 900 feet in elevation. Just northeast of the tourist mecca called Lake Lure, sits 2,800 foot Young’s Mountain. Although the summit is not accessible by car, a road has been built to the 2,500 foot level so homes can be built to take advantage of the dramatic views to the west. The ridge of peaks along that impenetrable wall are over 1,000 feet higher than Young’s, and offer a breathtaking panorama of Nature’s awesome creation. Below is a full panorama of this impressive wall. Click on the image to see the larger version.
Lake Lure Mountain Panorama

Mt. Shumont is the tallest peak at 4,000 feet, and a difficult hiking trail will take you to the summit.

Rumbling Bald Mountain Face
This view toward the south and Lake Lure shows 3,900 foot Sugarloaf Mountain in the distance, with 2,800 foot Rumbling Bald Mountain, with its exposed granite face, to the right.

Rumbling Bald Granite Face
A closer inspection shows the 500 foot tall granite slab, along with smaller outctoppings. This area is popular among rock climbers, and at it’s base, the giant boulders that have tumbled down the slope offer challenging obstacles for devotees of another sport called Bouldering.

Black Mountains from Young's Mountain
To the northwest are the tallest mountains east of the Mississippi, the Black Mountains, where the tallest peak, Mt. Mitchell, is shown here in the center.

This short video shows me exploring the area, with Mt. Shumont in the distance.

Buffalo Cliffs at Lake Lure
Driving back down the mountain, the view to the south in summer is a green one.

Summer has Arrived in Otter Creek Valley

With these long days and short nights, the valley is as green as ever, and with recent rains, the prospects for a lush summer are good. The Wild Turkeys have fledged a large brood, and the deer have been especially active.

Sunrise Horsetop Mountain
Horsetop Mountain catches the first morning rays on the western rim of the valley.

Bear Gap Mountain view
Hunter and Buddy explore the road beneath Bear Gap Mountain.

Otter Pond Fence
Otter Pond is surrounded by Blackberry vines and thick vegetation.

Lavender Bee Balm mixes with ripening Blackberries

Lavender Bee Balm mixes with ripening Blackberries


Butterfly Milkweed

Butterfly Milkweed

Brushy Top Mountain at Sunrise
Carolina Parkway heads due north toward Brushy Top Mountain at sunrise.

Buddy at Otter Pond

Buddy at Otter Pond


With recent 55 degree mornings, a heavy mist has covered Otter Pond.

A  wildfire in the vicinity makes for a strange sunrise over the mist covered pond.

A wildfire in the vicinity makes for a strange sunrise over the mist covered pond.

Showy Carolina Rhododendron blooms along the roads and Otter Creek

Showy Carolina Rhododendron blooms along the roads and Otter Creek

Wolf Pen Mountain Mist
Wolf Pen Mountain is barely visible through a thick morning mist.

Dick's Mountain at sunrise
Dick’s Mountain marks the southern rim of the valley. Old roads are barely passable with the heavy summer growth.

Horsetop Mountain Sunset
We end where we began, with a vibrant sunset behind Horsetop Mountain.

Tiger Lilies Along Montford Cove Road

Carolina Vann:

Two years ago I did this post, and as the Tiger Lilies are disappearing for another year, I wanted to make sure that everyone had the chance to see them in their full glory.

Originally posted on Living in The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina- A Blog:

Every June, roadsides and gardens throughout North America are ablaze with the bright orange blossoms of the Tiger Lily. Originally from China and Japan, early colonists wanted this hardy plant in their gardens. Just north of the house along Montford Cove Road is an especially dense profusion of these striking flowers. Both sides of the road are lined with the bright green leaves and showy stripped petals of this Asian import. They are in the family of day lilies, and follow the brightest light of the day.

Tiger Lily Profusion

Close up. you can appreciate the intricate construction of the flowers. Surprisingly the entire plant is edible, with the underground tubulars being the best of all. When sauteed with lemon and butter, they taste like sweet potatoes. The stems are like scallions without the kick, and the flowers keep their crispness even in hot butter, and can be visually usefull in salads and…

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Lost Cove Creek and Hunt Fish Falls in Avery County

East of Grandfather Mountain and the Blue Ridge Parkway is a small creek named Lost Cove Creek. After driving a few miles from the Parkway, you’ll find a trailhead, and hiking that steep trail for forty-five minutes will bring you to Hunt Fish Falls. Because of it’s remoteness, it’s never very crowded. It’s a very tranquil place, with many small creeks feeding into the main stream. A large pool at the base of the falls makes the perfect swimming hole.

Hunt Fish Falls

The video below will take you around the creek and falls in a most relaxing way.

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