Heavy Snow along the Blue Ridge

On Friday, January 8, snow blanketed the Eastern Escarpment of these mountains, turning them into a Winter Wonderland. A good four inches coated the bare trees, and the lack of wind left everything in place like a Currier and Ives print.

These images are from far eastern Buncombe County, along Cedar Creek Road as it ascends above 1,700 feet to meet up with Old Fort-Bat Cave Road at 2,000 feet. The temperature was right at freezing, and the snow was dry and fluffy. Lake Lure was about seven miles to the south in Rutherford County.

Historic Scandinavian barn…
My car straddles the Rutherford-Buncombe County line…
2,000 foot elevation where Cedar Creek Road joins Old Fort-Bat Cave Road
2,800 foot Youngs Mountain in Rutherford County…

Here is the short video of my drive to Old Fort-Bat Cave Road…

The Historic Railway Depot in Marion, N.C.

In 1871, the Great Southern Railway completed a monumental accomplishment when they connected the Piedmont Plateau with the mountain towns to the west across the Eastern Continental Divide. Considering the engineering and construction challenges that these men faced at that time, this feat was truly remarkable. Every town served by this new railroad needed a station and a depot where trains could load and unload passengers and freight. The first brick depot was built in the small textile and furniture village of Marion, North Carolina, in sight of the beautiful mountains that surrounded that town. The year was 1871, and today, 150 years later, that Depot still stands, and serves as the centerpiece of a historic district that recaptures the excitement of its 19th century founding.

1871 Freight Depot
Preserved Buildings in the Depot District
The building on the left is still one of the tallest buildings in McDowell; County. The fading Coca Cola sign was revealed when a newer structure was razed The two story building across the street now houses a Martial Arts studio, and is negotiating with developers to open a themed restaurant

The lower floor of the larger building is now home to a restaurant and game arcade called “The Feisty Goldfish” .

Marion is a town frozen in time, and with recent openings of micro breweries and even a Mead tasting room, it’s becoming a real tourist destination for travelers heading for the mountains.

Goodbye 2020… Glad to see you Go

As this past year fades into our memory, here are a few parting images from this past week. May 2021 bring you peace and joy. Protect yourselves and get your shots.

A frosty walk with Buddy
Sunrise over Otter Pond
Found the Beaver’s new hutch
35 degrees along Old Fort-Bat Cave Road
Blackberry Ridge at 2,500 feet in Buncombe County
Holly in my Woods
My Rain Gauge shows 6 inches for December, frozen solid…

A White Christmas in Spring Creek

Although no flakes flew for Christmas here in Otter Creek, it was an entirely different story for folks along the North Carolina-Tennessee border north of Asheville. A good friend lives in a small farming community called Spring Creek in Madison County just twenty-eight miles from Asheville, and these are images he sent from Christmas Day. Thank you Kenny Benjamin.

A Very Merry Christmas….

May the beauty of the season remain with you all year long. We have endured much this year, but I believe we will emerge from this pandemic stronger and healthier. Have you noticed that since March, the incidents of cold and flu have plummeted. Masks and social distancing have had unexpected positive effects.

Get out and enjoy the natural beauty around you. There’s never been a better time….

Otter Pond Sunrise
Ice Ribbons
Northwest Rutherford Mountains
Rumbling Bald Mountain
I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas
So is Buddy…

My Second most Popular Post

Just after I began blogging years ago, I was so captivated by the landscape paintings from 19th century America that I wrote a post about what I had found. Over the years, it has become one of my most read posts. With the pandemic and with so many of us staying home, I wanted to remind those of you who might have missed it of the beauty that early artists chose to glorify. These images have affected my photography in a profound way. With the holidays upon us, you might enjoy a respite from the chaos and turmoil that we have all experienced lately. Vann Helms


The First Snow of the Season

Three years ago this week, an early snow storm hit this area with more than half a foot of white stuff. The heaviest snowfall I’ve seen since moving here in 2009 was on December 9th and 10th, two years ago, 17″. Must be something about December….

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

A surprisingly early December snowfall dumped over half a foot in the valley, and was almost continuous for over a day. That’s the longest period of snow I’ve seen since coming here eight years ago. The temperature barely reached the freezing mark, but frigid temperatures since Saturday have preserved the snow in the shadows, and on rooftops facing away from the sun. Here are a few photos I made of the event.

fibber magee snow at Otter Creekcarolina peaks parkway at Otter Creek North Carolinachristmas fence at Otter Creek snow north carolinaotter pond fence in snow north carolinajunipers in snow at north carolina otter creekhemlock house at otter creek north carolina in snowhemlock house deck snow north carolina

View original post

The Happiest of Holidays…

It’s been a difficult year for all of us, but for many reasons, 2021 should be better. Stay healthy, wear your mask, and avoid crowded places. We can get through this together.

Enjoy your holidays, and celebrate responsibly. Thank you for your support.

From my home to yours, Vann Helms

White Christmas 2011

Discovering Upper Cove Creek

It’s funny how you can live in one place for eleven years and not know that a major creek flows just three miles from your doorstep. I have explored the lower part of Cove Creek where it joins The Broad River as it flows to Columbia, but until this week, the Upper part of Cove Creek had remained a mystery to me, mostly because of a lack of access from any paved roads.

With the onset of Winter and the disappearance of the leaves that hide everything from view, that all changed. It also helped to have a passenger with a keen eye who spied reflections of the late afternoon Sun off water fifty feet below Painters Gap Road. After a trek through thorn vines and thick undergrowth, to my surprise, there it was, a wide, fast flowing, rock filled creek, with a series of small falls from bank to bank. Even more surprising was the steep dirt road that allowed vehicle access from high above.

Yours truly…

Here’s a short video of Cove Creek in action… Please pardon the focus problem toward the end….

The Misunderstood Bradford Pear

In the 1960’s, urban landscapers were searching for the perfect tree to plant in parks, along highways, and along residential streets that would be fast growing, with showy flowers in the Spring, and vibrant color in the Autumn. They found their tree in China, Japan, and Vietnam. What would eventually be named the Bradford Pear became that tree of choice. Since then, everything changed. The flowers were foul smelling, and the lifespan was short, at about twenty-five years. On top of that, the small brown fruit was a favorite of birds, who were very efficient spreaders of those seeds, and suddenly the tree joined the “invasives” club. Today the trees are no longer being planted, and many municipalities have banned them outright. The survivors, however, continue to be visually stunning, being the first to flower in the Spring, and the last to burst into dramatic displays of red, yellow, orange glossy leaves in the Fall, long after all other trees have packed it in for the season.

In the area near my home, from the latter part of November, into December, the Bradford Pear can delight even the most dedicated leaf peeper. Here are examples that I found this weekend, and they made me completely forget everything I had read about the damage uncontrolled spreading might do to these beautiful mountains.