Historic Steam Locomotive Lives Again…

After languishing in a Roanoke train museum for twenty-one years, one of the last steam engines ever made was resurrected this week after a full year of a total rebuild. The “Spirit of Roanoke”, the last of fourteen monumental locomotives built in Roanoke by Norfolk and Western Railway in the late forties and early fifties was rededicated at the Spencer, North Carolina, railroad shops to an adoring crowd of train fanatics and just regular Americans who appreciate the history represented by this behemoth machine. Machinists and mechanics had spent an entire year bringing the relic back to life.

J Class #611 Approaches...

J Class #611 Approaches…

Powerful and Beautiful...

Powerful and Beautiful…

J Class 611 Profile
The glossy black paint highlighted by a dramatic red stripe make this locomotive totally distinctive

Norfolk and Western 611 Tender

J Class 611 Front View

I made this short video to give you some idea of the excitement surrounding this dedication on Saturday, May 23rd. Keep an eye on Holly, the dog. The steam whistle was way too loud for her…

Two days before, the J-611 was rolled out for the first time to make a roundtrip run from Salisbury to Greensboro, pulling eleven vintage rail cars. Speeds exceeded 65 mph during the flawless inaugural run. Here is a video that was made by Ben Earp, a model railroad videographer. You MUST watch this amazing short documentary of history being brought back to life. It was made during the Salisbury to Greensboro trip on Thursday, May 21st.

Late Season Cold Front in Otter Creek Valley

The temperature dropped 40 degrees overnight here in the valley, and for Memorial Day weekend, that’s very significant. These low temps also mean a very low humidity, and that means deep blue skies. Hiking at sunrise was invigorating, and I could see my breath.

Otter Pond in Blue
Otter Pond had a heavy mist rising…

Rutherford Mountains

Otter Creek Forest Vista
A tall Hickory Tree reaches for the sky with new leaves…

Mountain Laurel Bouquet

Mountain Laurel Bouquet

Happy Daisies

Happy Daisies

Misty Otter Pond

The Greening of Otter Creek Valley

After another day of rain, the valley is finally looking like summer is just around the corner. At sunrise yesterday, the sky was a mixture of every color. The dogs and I moved briskly through the trails.

Otter Creek Sunrise Vista

Otter Pond Sunrise Vista

Dicks Mountain Sunrise

Buddy and Hunter get a Drink

Buddy and Hunter get a Drink

Dick's Mountain Road

Golfing at Apple Valley Club at Lake Lure

With a storm approaching, golf at Apple Valley Golf Club was especially challenging. This is one of the most beautiful settings I’ve found in these mountain whether you’re swinging a club, or just riding around in an electric cart.

Apple Valley Hole Eleven
The 11th fairway faces 4,000 foot Mt. Shumont.

Youngs Mountain at Lake Lure
Young’s Mountain dominates the northern side of the course.

Apple Valley Fairway
Rumbling Bald Mountain over an Apple Valley fairway…

Young's Mountain over Apple Valley
The 12th hole is the most dramatic of all the par fours. The championship tee is elevated high above the fairway.
This short video will give you some idea of the beauty seen by me, the duffer on the tee.

Sunrise Mountain Laurel in Otter Creek Valley

After Monday’s rains, the Mountain Laurel have suddenly opened in the valley. At sunrise this morning, the colors were intense with a heavy dew on the delicate petals.

Mountain Laurel Sunrise

Two varieties of Laurel grow side by side on the slopes. One is almost solid white, and the other has a much more pinkish tinge to its buds and blossoms.
Mountain Laurel Blackberry

Mountain Laurel Detail
Wolfpen Mountain is at the far western rim of Otter Creek Valley.

Mountain Laurel Bough

Mountain Laurel Bough

Mountain Laurel Wildflower
Small’s Ragwort is often found alongside Mountain Laurel in mid-May.

Wildflowers and Wild Birds at Otter Creek in Spring

Carolina Vann:

This post is from two years ago this week. The Wood Peewees have built a new nest, and these wildflowers have yet to bloom. It rained for a few minutes this afternoon for the first time in three weeks, and the lack of water is affecting everything.

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

Wild Azaleas
With Spring finally taking control of the forest, the wildflowers are as vibrant as ever. These Wild Azaleas were along a small creek near the house.

Azalea Gathering
Although this is my fourth Spring in the mountains, this is the first time I recall seeing these bushes blooming.

Vine Wildflowers
These simple white flowers, above, are part of a vine system that covers much of the ground around my meadow.

With lavendar being my favorite color, I especially love the small wildflowers covered in morning dew, and the impressive Empress Tree with its trumpet like blossoms that carry the scent of sweetness and purity when they are blooming. Just click on any of the above images and move through the slide show at your own pace.

Buddy at Otter Pond
Buddy, my trusty hiking companion, is facinated by the ducks in Otter Pond.

Eastern Wood Peewees
A pair of Eastern Wood Peewees has nested under my deck every spring since I moved…

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Mountain Laurel Time

Carolina Vann:

As the Mountain Laurel blooms again, I thought it might be a good time to re-post this piece from three years ago. The Laurel seems to be a week late this year. The gate at Queen’s Gap is still boarded up, and the elements are taking their toll on the wooden structure. Such a shame.

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


As mid-May approaches, the Mountain Laurel begins to bloom. I found these new blossoms near the entrance gatehouse to Queen’s Gap, an abandoned golf developement about five miles east of my house.


Until you see these small flowers up close, you can’t appreciate their complexity.


The gatehouse has an almost Oriental design, and could make a rather stylish cottage for some enterprising buyer.


Petunias grow wild around the property, leftovers from long neglected landscaping.


The Mountain Laurel blankets the surrounding woods.

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