First Color of Autumn

Because of September’s record setting heat, and almost no rain since July, the trees decided to wait about ten days to show their stuff.  With showers returning, and temperatures down to freezing, they seem to be making up for lost time here in Otter Creek Valley. 

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yellow

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dogwoodThis lone Dogwood stands between two tall Maples that are finally beginning to turn. The tall grass is Broomsage, and the Mountain people used it for, you guessed it, making their brooms.

orangeA misty Otter Pond greets the rising Sun…

otter pond

woods

Another week should be an entirely different story….

 

From Chimney Rock to Grandfather Mountain

On Wednesday, October 9th, I went to the top of Chimney Rock, then drove to the Blue Ridge Parkway below Grandfather Mountain, with a few stops in between. Fall colors will be about ten days late this year because of a very hot September, and no rain for five weeks. That just gives us a little more time to enjoy Summer.

chimney rock

pumpkin kidChimney Rock Gift Shop

hicko ry nut gorgeHickory Nut Gorge to the west…

east mountainsNorthwest Rutherford Mountains to the east…

Lake Lure HorizonsLake Lure at east end of the gorge…

lake lureLake Lure with Bill’s Mountain to the east…

vann 2Yours truly atop “The Rock”

ej 3Oldest tourist attraction in  the Mountains…

Lake Lure 1Lake Lure looking northwest…

Rumbling BaldRumbling Bald Mountain above Yacht Club Island. Exposed granite is part of the Sugarloaf earthquake fault.

pinnacle peakNorthwest Rutherford Mountains ten miles north of Lake Lure, looking to northeast…

viaduct 1North entrance to Linn Cove Viaduct on the Parkway below Grandfather Mountain…

brp 1Looking south toward Linville Gorge… A cloud bank covered the entire area with a temperature of 57 degrees.

brp 2The “Viaduct” was visible below the clouds at 4,800 feet…

toward linvilleFor an instant, the clouds parted to reveal the distant peaks of Table Rock and Hawksbill Mountain on the northern rim of Linville Gorge.

ej 7Along The Parkway…

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Granite retaining wall built in 1986 to keep cars from plunging 1,000 feet below.

 

Most Spectacular Rare Wildflowers…

Over the years I have encountered some very rare wildflowers here in Otter Creek Valley that have appeared only a few times over ten years.  I’ll leave the identification up to you. Just enjoy their beauty.

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bee-balm

blue flowers

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broomsticks

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purple-family

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Narrow Leaf Sunflowers of Autumn

This was six years ago, and these Mountain Sunflowers are still going strong. They peak on the first day of Autumn every year. Well worth the wait every year.

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

Sunflowers Window
Although autumn doesn’t officially arrive until tomorrow, you can set your clock to that event by watching for the peak display of the Narrow Leaf Sunflowers. a showy member of the Astor family.

Narrow Leaf Sunflower
Three years ago I planted seeds from flowers that I found in a pasture north of here. Since then, the number of plants has doubled every year. Each plant, below, stands about six feet tall and has over a hundred blossoms.

Narrow Leaf Sunflower Stalk

The blossoms seem to mutate into different color patterns, and always are searching for the sun. The plants become so top-heavy with flowers that they need to be tied together with twine to keep them upright.

Narrow leaf sunflower meadow

The thousands of bright yellow flowers are the most dramatic of any flowers that I have found along the Blue Ridge Escarpment.

Sunflowers at Hemlock House

Wolf Pen Mountain to the northwest towers above this area at over 3,000 feet.

Sunflower Mountain

Sunflower Meadow

Another variety that grows…

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Slummin’ at George’s Place in September

Not that Mr. Vanderbilt actually invited me, but I’m sure had he known me, he would have been more than happy to have me visit. As Summer winds to a close on this Friday the 13th with a full Moon, I had the place all to myself….

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No one was in his Gardens or his Conservatory…green house

Frederick Law Olmsted’s Brick Bridge at Bass Lake had no traffic…bridge

granite

No Rowboats were disturbing the surface of the reflecting Lagoon …mirror

…and I could even park on this narrow stone bridge and no one made me move…caddy

George passed a hundred years too soon, but I could feel his presence around every turn.

 

Clear-cut Logging has its Advantages

As much as I despise clear cutting, I must admit that it sometimes can have unexpected benefits, and that was never more evident than along a stretch of Bill’s Creek Road just northwest of Lake Lure. This byway connects Interstate 40 to the north with the Lake and Chimney Rock.  There are no National Forests or Preserves in this area, and no State Park lands, so logging, especially over the past five years, has produced needed income to families who have owned these ridges for generations. Unfortunately, large swaths of thick forests have just disappeared in a matter of weeks, leaving giant scars across the mountains that will take years to heal.  Replanting is not in the equation, and the erosion of topsoil with heavy rains makes the problem even worse.

Such is the case with hundreds of acres just west of Bill’s Creek Road, and three miles northeast of the Lake. I’ve lived here for over ten years, and I never knew what had been hidden by the thick forest until the trees were gone. Suddenly, there was a ridge and a series of gullies and hills that had never been visible before.  In spite of the scars, it was actually quite breathtaking.

clear cut 3Luckily, some of the trees were not cut down…

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A gravel road runs along the top of the ridge, above, so I drove there to see what I could find. I was amazed by the spectacular vistas that greeted me.

blue ridges 1View toward the northeast mountains…

east ridgesView toward the east of South Mountains State Park…

caddy

blue ridges 4The higher I climbed, the better the view…

blue ridges 6To the north was 3,100 foot Hickory Nut Mountain…

mapleMaples were already beginning to turn…

blue ridges 9This is Tom’s Mountain, now called New Forest Mountain….

blue ridges 7This view didn’t exist three months ago…

Just south of this ridge is an area called Laurel Lakes…laurel lake

laurel lake 1That’s 2,600 foot Young’s Mountain on the western horizon…

sugarloaf mtnTo the South is 4,000 foot Sugarloaf Mountain, with Lake Lure down in the valley…

shumont 1Most impressive are 3,200 foot Rumbling Bald Mountain to the left, and 4,100 foot Mount Shumont, with their rocky outcroppings so beloved by rock climbers. These rugged peaks remind me of the Swiss Alps, with the clear Lake 3,000 feet below.

One more impression of the vista opened up by clear-cut logging….blu e ridges 8Usually these views are reserved for the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Thank you loggers…

 

 

 

Heirloom “Jimmy Red” Corn Lives Again

In July, I posted about a field of tall corn growing in the bottom land along Otter Creek.

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At that time, I didn’t know what variety those tall stalks held, but after picking an ear, and peeling back the husks, here is what I found…cornStudying the red kernels, I noticed that they were “dented”, which told me that this corn was very different from the Sweet Corn that makes great Corn-on-the-Cob. Searching the web, I found this photo…pfe_7708_wide-4f8a00db852451917c69413fe6d28b8102560ee9-s1600-c85

Turns out that what is growing in this field was a rare heirloom corn known as “Jimmy Red”, named for corn once grown on James Island near Charleston, South Carolina. This is the corn that historically made the best Moonshine, or bourbon whiskey. It is also sought after by the best Southern chefs for making Red Flake Grits. At one time, only two ears had survived, and a farmer planted the kernels from one of those ears, and the rest is history. I found the following article that will tell you everything you need to know about this resurrected variety.

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2018/01/02/574367086/from-hooch-to-haute-cuisine-a-nearly-extinct-bootleggers-corn-gets-a-second-shot

corn 3