Blue Ridge Parkway Autumn at Grandfather Mountain

I’ve found that the earliest Fall color along the Blue Ridge Parkway occurs above 3,500 feet around Grandfather Mountain during the first week of October. This year, it actually began a little early, and my drive there on October 12th, found vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows, in abundance.  An early morning visit allowed for the glow of a rising Sun, but as happens often along that iconic roadway, clouds and fog rolled in just as the colors were brightening. The Linn Cove Viaduct offered little visibility of the eastern mountains that has made that view so breathtaking. Undeterred, I was still able to capture the splendor of this annual event, and a return trip scheduled for next week will find a very different, but equally memorable scene as Autumn continues to work its magic.

Blue Ridge Parkway  NorthwestNorthwest view toward Sugar Mountain…

Grandfather Mountain Autumn parkwayGrandfather Mountain in fog…

Blue Ridge parkway autumn

Blue Ridge parkway north view

blue ridge parkway Grandfather Mtn.

blue ridge parkway  Linn Cove ViaductThe entrance to the Linn Cove Viaduct…

parkway Linn Cove ViaductOn the Linn Cove Viaduct in the clouds…

Blue ridge parkway Wilson CreekWilson Creek from the Viaduct bridge…

I made this three minute video during the drive… You must click on the site to see the video….





Flower Gardens of Interstate 40

Along Interstate 40 in Western North Carolina between the towns of Morganton and Marion, as you approach the Mountains, are two interchanges that rewrite the term, Highway Beautification. On the approaches on both sides of the overpasses,  meticulously cultivated flower beds cover the meadows along the highway. 

Interstate flower gardens of north carolinaIn one area, Zinnias, Marigolds, Poppies, and a diverse mixture of annuals have been creatively mixed to  be balanced and colorful. On the south side of the interchange is a garden made  entirely of Marigolds.

Interstate highway flower gardens in North Carolina

zinnia  red

flower bed annuals

Flower bed annuals marigolds

zinnias and marigolds

north carolina interstate 40 poppies

marigolds along interstate 40

marigolds along interstate 40 in North Carolina

At the next interchange heading west, rows of Poppies are a tribute to the highway workers who created them…Interstate 40 striped flower beds

Lady Bird Johnson’s legacy is alive and well in the North Carolina Mountains.

Asheville’s Urban Cottage Movement

With buildable property for single family homes in the uptown district of Asheville becoming more and more scarce,  a new type of home construction seems to be the answer to that shortage. No longer do homes need to have large yards and expansive patios. The solution is to find a lot on a steep hillside that would not normally be practical for traditional construction, and build up, instead of out. 

Just across Charlotte Street from City Hall, a developer has taken one of those lots, and fitted four homes where normally one home might have stood. There’s even room for a fifth home. The designs are modern and green, and the urban experience is suddenly exciting and affordable.

Asheville urban cottagesDecks and screened porches, and rooftop decks replace traditional yards.

Asheville urban cottage livingEnvironmentally respectful aluminum roofs and siding make these multi-story wonders affordable and friendly. They are not pre-fabs, but are built entirely on site.

Asheville urban cottages spiral stairsThere is no wasted space.

Asheville urban cottages under constructionThe fourth cottage on this small, steep, piece of land nears completion. City Hall is just across the road…

Asheville urban cottage constructionThree stories facing Charlotte Street make for ample square footage with a minimal land footprint. The concrete wall is actually space for one more cottage on the small lot.

Asheville urban cottage facade

A local contractor named Compact Cottages advertises that it will work with buyers every step of the way, from finding a lot, to permitting, to individual design, to the completed structure, and below are examples of their work.

Compact Cottages Asheville home

Asheville compact Cottage Living room

Interiors are spacious with exposed beams and bamboo floors. Kitchens use IKEA cabinets and stainless steel appliances.

Asheville Compact Cottage- kitchen

The prices of these homes start at $107,000, much lower than traditional construction, and comparable to 400 sq. ft. “Tiny Houses”.  For the first time in years, people now have an affordable alternative to townhomes and condos, without the monthly maintenance fees, and Asheville is leading the way.

The View from Asheville’s Sunset Mountain in September

To the northeast of uptown Asheville is the most unusual residential area I’ve ever seen.  Yesterday I drove to the top of Sunset Mountain, where mansions are perched precariously along the steep slopes, and are connected to each other by single lane drives that wind along the ridges, separated by dense old growth forests and deep ravines. The views from up there are dramatic, and mostly hidden by trees and large homes. Autumn has already painted many of the trees, especially the Dogwoods, bright orange and yellow.

asheville from Sunset RoadThe view from upper Sunset Road.

grove park inn from aboveThe historic Grove Park Inn from a new perspective…  It sits on the lower slopes of Sunset Mountain.

Old Toll Road on sunset mountainAlong the Old Toll Road near the summit of the mountain…

sunset mountain Old Toll Road west view ashevilleThe view of the northwest Mountains from Old Toll Road.

As autumn arrives, you should consider exploring this remarkable neighborhood as the colors change.



A Magical View of Sugarloaf Mountain

On Saturday, I was driving to a local watering hole to enjoy some college football with friends,  and as I approached the Lake Lure area, the Sun suddenly found some openings in the distant clouds, and rays were streaming down over the ridges around Chimney Rock, especially 4,000 foot Sugarloaf Mountain to the southeast of the iconic megalith. I quickly drove to an open area to get the best view, and this was the result.

Sun Rays over Sugarloaf Mountain

These magical moments are so fleeting, and the majesty of these ancient vistas never ceases to amaze me. 

The Summer View from Roan Mountain

As summer closes, and cooler temperatures abound, a drive to Roan Mountain seemed the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Overcast skies added to the mood.  

Roan Mountain VistaThe Blue Ridge from near the summit. Skeleton trees are a stark reminder of the damage done by acid rain and the insects that take advantage of the weaker trees. Most evergreens here are Red Spruce and Fraser Firs, with some Balsam Spruce mixed in.

Appalachian Trail hikers at Roan MountainThe most visited part of the Appalachian Trail can be found at Carver’s Gap along the North Carolina and Tennessee border.

roan mountain Appalachian TrailThe Trail runs southwesterly toward the summit of heavy forested Roan Mountain. This is a landscape you would find in Canada. Visible here is part of the “Balds” that make Roan so iconic.

Grandfather Mountain from Roan BaldsFrom the “Balds”, Grandfather Mountain dominates the eastern horizon. These ridges are referred to as “The High Country” by travelers in the know.

Roan Mountain RhododendronIn early June, this similar view is dominated by Catawba Rhododendron thickets in full bloom.

All seasons are worth a visit to Roan Mountain, and the drive down the Tennessee side will offer breathtaking vistas of the far ridges from this high altitude. Don’t miss it.



A Journey to Mt. Mitchell’s Summit

North Carolina’s Mt. Mitchell is the highest point east of the Mississippi, and except for a couple of inaccessible rocky peaks in South Dakota, it is the highest mountain east of the Rockies.  It is named for the geologist who measured its height, and who was killed in a fall on his way back down. It is part of the Black Mountain range, where many peaks approach the height of Mt. Mitchell.

Lake Tahoma CasinoAs you begin the accent up NC 80, you will pass Lake Tahoma and it’s island Casino, and the Black Mountains will loom impressively on the horizon.

Blue Ridge Parkway PineNC 80 crosses The Blue Ridge Parkway at 4,500 feet, and the view from the Parkway is always breathtaking.

Blue Ridge Parkway VistaLooking eastward from one of the famous Overlooks, the Blue Ridge Mountains unfold like giant frozen waves on an endless sea.

Blue Ridge Parkway sceneryHints of autumn can be found above 5,000 feet as you near Mt. Mitchell State Park.


Mt. Mitchell summit hutA twenty minute drive through towering peaks will lead you to a parking area below the summit. A short walk will take you up to an observation platform at the top. Hikers use many trails to arrive at the same place.Mt. Mitchell hikers 1

Two Mt. Mitchell  HikersSoon you will arrive at the 6,684 foot summit where a stone platform will put you at the very top.Mt. mitchell observation platform

Mt. mitchell platform MapA large map of the state will show you all the compass directions…………….

Mt. mitchell platform viewClear photographs placed around the platform will identify the peaks and distant landmarks in the 360 degree panorama.

clingman's peak at mt. mitchellMost impressive in the view toward the south is Clingman’s Peak with its array of radio and television transmission towers. From the platform, you’ll find that every frequency on your FM radio will have a clear station available. Only here will that happen because of the unobstructed access. You might notice the restaurant in the left center.

Mt. Mitchell Platform cloudsIt isn’t unusual for clouds to roll in at any time. Snow has fallen on this platform during every month of the year.

Mt. mitchell platform Northeast viewOne can find solitude here on top of the world. You’ll never forget your visit to Mt. Mitchell, and if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself returning again and again in all the seasons, weather permitting.