Thanksgiving Week in Florida

Last year, I retreated to Florida for three weeks around Thanksgiving to escape the smoke and fire threat around Lake Lure, but this year, the visit was totally for pleasure after so much rain had fallen this Autumn.  Having grown up in Miami, I spent quality time with many friends and my family. 

Coral Gables was my first stop, and the natural beauty in this man made paradise always amazes me.

coral gables waterwayCanals and waterways abound in this tropical setting.

coral gables garden 1My friends, Bibi and Jay, live in a home surrounded by a tropical garden, featuring a wide variety of palms and trees.

coral gables palms garden 2The Traveler Palm always grows east to west, giving directions to lost explorers.

camel in Coral Gables

My friend Jay has a large collection of rare vintage radios.FADA bakelight radio

Back north into Broward County, I visited my brother’s corporate offices where he features prints of my most popular Miami paintings on hallway walls.The Atlantis by ArquitectonicaMy interpretation of The Atlantis high rise along Biscayne Bay

St. Sophia's Greek Orthodox Cathedral MiamiSt. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Miami, and a South Miami Beach fantasy.

A visit to South Florida is never complete without spending time in South Miami Beach. A stroll along historic Lincoln Road Mall always brings a smile to anyone’s face.Lincoln Road Mall FountainFamed 1950’s architect Morris Lapidus designed this pedestrian mall where bustling Lincoln Road once stood in 1959. Today it is a popular destination for dining and high end shopping.

colony theatre reflectionsA modern NIKE store window reflects the historic Colony Theatre across the Mall.

lincoln road mall sunsetAfter sunset, the Mall really comes to life as tourists and locals alike look for that perfect sidewalk cafe for dinner.

Across the Bay from Miami Beach is an area of Miami just north of downtown known as the Miami Design District. Originally a collection of decorator shops catering to the trade, the area now features European designer boutiques and restaurants to match. As the holidays approach, the streets and stores are dressed in their best clothes.bulgari miami design districtBulgari and Louis Vuitton with Midtown skyline in the distance.

Miami Design District holiday tinsel

Miami Design District boutique

Miami Design District MuralA giant mural adorns the wall of a store next to a public park. Miami sunlight is always bright, and accentuates the colors. 

Miami courtyard Design DistrictDelightful courtyards are hidden between the buildings, with cafes and fountains.

In Ft. Lauderdale, the New River runs along scenic neighborhoods and towering buildings. Water taxis run constantly in this “Venice of the Americas”.

Ft. Lauderdale new river

huizenza new river homeThis is the New River home of Wayne Huizenza, former owner of Blockbuster, Autonation, and the Miami Dolphins.

new river fort lauderdale skyline

A visit to Lauderdale is not complete until you’ve cruised the river and the Intracoastal Waterway in a large boat. My brother lives along the New River, and this is Eddie’s view of the Lauderdale skyline from his boat. He graciously took me on a short ride.

stateroom of cruising yacht

Ft. Lauderdale Yacht ClubWe tied up at the Fort Lauderdale Yacht Club, where our neighbor was a beautiful fishing boat.

A five hour drive north put me in Gainesville, home to the University of Florida. I stayed with lifelong friends in their nature retreat among Spanish Moss draped trees.

Gainesville home and pool

Two hours to the northwest is Tallahassee, the State Capital, and home to Florida State University. I graduated in 1970, but a stroll around campus 47 years later is always a treat.Landis Green fountainThe fountain on Landis Green has been a popular place to rest and study at FSU for decades. Stozier Library sits at the far northern side of Landis Green.

FSU symphony rehearsalI was fortunate to sit in during a rehearsal of the FSU Symphony. The School of Music is one of the more respected music institutions in the entire country. 

fsu trees campusAutumn arrives very late to this Deep South campus.

Tallahassee apartment livingA very close friend from Miami now lives among the Live Oaks, and her window seat is a gallery for her family’s creations. The oil landscape is by her son, Douglas Foltz, a well respected and highly sought after southern artist. http://www.dougfoltz.com 

My trip home to the mountains took me through eastern Georgia, where I happened upon this old dowager Antebellum mansion, hoping for a revival. Sherman must have missed this one on his march to the sea after burning Atlanta. Oh, the stories this place could tell.East Georgia Plantation house

Arriving home in Otter Creek, I was greeted with a almost full Moon over Otter Pond.  I missed my mountains, and now I will await the season’s first snowfall, and remember the life I left 800 miles to the south.Otter Pond full moon

Elliot Mountain offers Last Colors of Autumn

By the middle of November, most bright fall colors along the Blue Ridge have faded to brown, and any hope of still finding Maples and Hickories with their signature orange, red, and yellow displays are all but gone.  That is, unless experience over the years tells you where to look, even when most “leaf peepers” have given up, and gone home. One of those rare places can be found in the southern McDowell County mountains, along the southern slopes of 2,100 foot Elliot Mountain in particular. For whatever reason, the Maples and Hickories change late on this obscure  set of ridges along the eastern slopes of 3,200 foot Hickory Nut Mountain. Even though this year was not the best for color anywhere in this district twenty-five miles east of Asheville, Elliot Mountain was the exception. The elevation of this color is between 1,600 and 1,700 feet. 

Here are images that show what I mean.

Elliot Mountain southern viewDistant Tryon Mountain along the South Carolina border.

Elliot Mountain East viewEast view toward Rich and Pinnacle Mountains.

Elliot Mountain Hickories

Elliot Mountain Maples

Elliot Mountain Maple and Pines

Elliot Mountain Laurel Valley log cabinSeven beautiful cabins have been built along a road called Laurel Valley Drive.

Elliot Mountain Burning Bush and MapleBurning Bush and Maple with ornamental Cypress.

Elliot Mountain Maple colorThese Maples change from their summer green, to yellow, to orange, and finally to a bright red.

Elliot Mountain Maple and Cadillac

Here is a video I made five years ago on November 10th, 2012. That year, the colors were the most spectacular I’ve seen yet.  Year to year, you just never know…

 

Rare Pink Foliage along the Blue Ridge

This is one of my favorite posts. Never seen anything like it. I was there again yesterday, and although the peak color had passed already, the scene, below,  was still one of beauty…

pink foliage at Gerton and Hickory Creek

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

Finding any truly pick autumn leaves is a rarity, but to find an entire forest of them is the Holy Grail of Leaf Peeping. On Sunday, while driving to Bearwallow Mountain along U.S. 74-A between Chimney Rock and Asheville, suddenly there they were. For over a quarter mile, the forest undergrowth was nothing but bushes covered with delicate pink and white leaves. I had never seen anything like it. Because I had company in the car, and because the hour was getting late, I didn’t stop, but this morning, I headed back up toward the crest of the Blue Ridge about a mile east of Gerton to document what I had found.  As I reached the 2,300 foot elevation, there it was, the pink forest.

Best Pink Leaves
I’ve researched the entire list of North Carolina shrubs and trees, but I have not been able to identify the plant that produces these remarkable…

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Dramatic Color in South McDowell County

Located along the McDowell, Rutherford, county live is a rural area known mostly for raising prized Black Angus cattle, and high protein hay. The small communities of Montford Cove and Sugar Hill are sparsely populated, and possess no state or national land or parks. What they do have are large tracks of hardwood forests and dramatic mountains that surround 3,000 foot Hickory Nut Mountain and its smaller surrounding peaks. The second week of November seems to always be the best time for color, and even with a late fall this year along the Blue Ridge escarpment, the area remains true to form.

For five days now, steady light rain and a persistent fog have enshrouded these valleys and ridges with a welcome wetness that was missing last year, leading to numerous wildfires. Although the brightest hues come with sunlight and blue skies, saturated color is more intense when everything is wet, and personally, I think autumn is more dramatic when this occurs.

Along Sugar Hill-Old Fort Road, this effect couldn’t have been more intense than what I found yesterday.

Sugar Hill Black Angus pasture

sugar hill old fort road color

sugar Hill old fort road bambooThe bright green of Carolina Bamboo really sets off the vibrant display heading west.

sugar hill old fort road Cadillac

Midway between Sugar Hill and the town of Old Fort is a once popular trout pond known at Midway Lakes. The orange of the Bald Cypress contrasts beautifully with the Maples and Hickories along the pond’s banks.sugar hill old fort road midway lakes

bald cypress at midway lakes

Heading back to the east, you’ll find Mud Cut Road that connects Sugar Hill Road with U.S. Highway 221. It’s an old, winding road that passes churches and graveyards, and more Black Angus pastures. The Sugar Maples occupy one specific area, and always offer an eye popping display of reds, yellows, and oranges.mud cut road Maples

mud cut road maples in fall

This lone Sumac was the brightest of all…mud cut road sumac

This Japanese Holly was ready for the holiday season…Japanese holly

Along Montford Cove Road on the way back into Rutherford County is a Carp fishing pond known as Woody’s Lakes. Surrounded by large Bradford Pears, these trees turn a series of yellow, orange, and red, as the cold weather of mid-November sets in.Bradford Pear at Woody's Lakes

bradford pear and Woody's Lakes

Arriving back home with a steady drizzle still falling, I found this Poison Ivy vine growing under my window, and marveled at the variety of color coming from such a maligned plant.poison ivy window 2

 

 

 

Halloween at the Grove Park Inn

What better place in these Blue Ridge Mountains to welcome All Hallows Eve than the historic Grove Park Inn. Fires were burning in the giant double lobby fireplaces, and the colors of fall were spreading across the golf course below. Sunset from the Veranda is always and event, and this one, though subtle, didn’t disappoint.

Grove park inn sunset

People always gather together to enjoy the nightly spectacle…grove park inn veranda people

The only thing missing was the wine….Grove Park Inn wine glass

Inside the spacious lobby, you could feel the heat of the fires from far away…grove park inn fireplace

Music from a live combo made for a relaxing atmosphere…grove park inn lobby lights

Locally quarried rock walls surround you…grove park inn windows

A visit to Asheville without a stop at the Grove Park is out of the question…grove park inn lobby lanterns

 

 

 

U.S. Highway 221 below Linn Cove Viaduct

Cruising along the lesser traveled U.S. 221 below the Blue Ridge Parkway and the iconic Linn Cove Viaduct at Grandfather Mountain is a very different experience this time of year from the congestion of the Parkway. Boulders, waterfalls, and overhanging tree limbs offer a more natural drive, with tighter curves and rougher pavement. The colors for late October were more vibrant than I remember from past seasons. When most of the Mountains are having less color coming later than normal, this area is surprisingly beautiful. The reds and oranges are especially bright.  This video will give you just a hint at the beauty….

Make sure you click on the blue headline to go straight to the site to see the video…

Blue Ridge Parkway East View

Blue Ridge Parkway MaplesBlue Ridge Parkway

US 221 BoulderU.S. 221

Autumn Caddy Blue Ridge Parkway

US 221 Grandfather Mountain AutumnGrandfather Mountain

Linn Cove Viaduct Viaduct U.S. 221Linn Cove Viaduct

 

 

Cruising Down Asheville’s Sunset Mountain

This time of year is always the perfect time to visit Asheville’s most unusual neighborhood, Sunset Mountain. Here are a few views that I thought you might appreciate. The homes on the mountain are perched precariously along the steep slopes, and are connected by quaint single lane roads that wind their way down toward the Grove Park Inn far below.

Asheville sunset mountain 2

asheville sunset mountain maple

ahseville sunset mountain mansion 5

asheville sunset mountain spider 6

asheville sunset mountain autumn 1

asheville sunset mountain halloween 8

asheville sunset mountain forest 3

asheville sunset mountain craftsman 7

asheville sunset mountain mansion 9