Joe Pye Weed Reaches for the Sky

The tallest wildflower in these mountains can reach twelve feet in height, and in August it blooms with tiny pink flowers, attracting every Butterfly within a quarter mile. My meadow is full of them because I keep it natural, and they make a dramatic statement as summer wanes. The unusual name is believed to be from a Native American named Joe Pye, who first used the plant as a medicine in New England. It is threatened in the wild, but you wouldn’t know that when you look around my meadow.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Joe Pye Weed among the Hemlocks

eupatorium purpureaum


This Anise Tiger Swallowtail butterfly can’t seem to get enough.


Descending from Ridgecrest to Mill Creek

Instead of taking the fast way over the Eastern Continental Divide from Asheville, I chose to use the original gravel Mill Creek Road that was built in the 1880’s when the Southern Railway first climbed the 3,000 foot ridge on it’s way west. The Southern Baptist Conference Center, known as Ridgecrest, sits astride the Divide just east of the town of Black Mountain. As I exited I-40, I found this field of Sunflowers along the Interstate.

flowers 1

flowers 3

flowers 2

From the top of the Divide, the Southern Railway, now run by Norfolk-Southern, enters the 1,800 foot Swannanoa Tunnel, that takes the trains under I-40 as they make their way toward Asheville. Kudzu covers the tall trees, and the Blue Ridge Mountains dominate the northeast horizon.

kudzu 2

railroad 1

2605.TRN-Asheville-Spencer chase-01%5b1%5dThe route of the railway from Ridgecrest to Old Fort.

Halfway down the mountain, across from the Bed and Breakfast known as the Inn on Mill Creek, an ancient Apple orchard attracts Black Bears on these late August afternoons.

apples 2

apples 1

Farther down the mountain, this one lane railway bridge survives from the days that mules pulled wagons over the Divide.


Near the bottom of the road, the railway crosses over Mill Creek as it enters the famous Old Fort Loops, a series of curves, loops, and bridges that allow trains to climb and descend the mountain where it is most steep. 

creek 1Note the large pipe in the lower right. It brings water from the mill pond 600 feet up the mountain that powers the famous Andrews Geyser in the center of the “Loops“. It was built in the 1890’s to commemorate the completion of the railroad over the Continental Divide.geyser.jpg



Cedar Creek Flash Flood

It’s remarkable what one inch of rain in a short time can do to a normally tranquil creek in the Mountains. Last evening, in the course of an hour, the largest storm in six weeks did just that. Cedar Creek flows northwest to southeast out of the mountains along the Buncombe and Rutherford County line, a few miles north of iconic Lake Lure. I drove the fifteen minutes from my house to see what the heavy rains had wrought, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The first set of falls makes up the local swimming hole for residents. The tourists aren’t aware they are even there.  Two miles further up Cedar Creek Road is the top of Cedar Creek Gorge, and a series of cascades that drop the creek over 300 feet in less than half a mile.

Creek RocksThe entrance to the gorge has the creek sliding over ancient granite worn smooth by ions of flow.

Creek Rapids 1The first falls carry the torrent over a twenty foot precipice into a large grotto surrounded by giant hardwood trees.

Creek FallsThe churning flood covers large rocks that are usually visible at normal creek levels.

The following video shows first the lower falls at the ole swimming hole, and then the falls and cascades in the gorge. Make sure you go to the full blog site to see the video.


Driving back down to the bottom of the gorge, this old farmhouse shows no ill effects from the waters that are rushing past just 50 yards away, and the Sun had reappeared. One hundred years ago this week, because of simultaneous tropical systems that moved across the mountains, 28 inches of rain fell  in two days, and the resulting disaster killed hundreds, and destroyed much of Asheville, and many towns along the French Broad and Rocky Broad Rivers. It still remains as the worst disaster to hit the mountains in recorded history.Cedar Creek Farm 1


Pearson’s Falls after Heavy Rain

Located along the North/South Carolina state line just west of Tryon,  Pearson’s Falls is always a treat to visit, but after a good rainstorm, it is especially beautiful.

Pearsons Falls Best

July 4th along the Blue Ridge

This was two years ago, but the beauty remains the same.

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

It was 49 degrees this morning here in Otter Creek Valley, and along with the cooler temps comes the low humidity, and very clear air. The views along the escarpment yesterday were more like April than July. The woods in the foothills under Mount Shumont at Lake Lure seemed to sparkle in the afternoon sun.

Mount Shumont Clouds

A little further north, and the view of Stone Mountain was just as breathtaking…

Stone Mountain Vista

Yesterday at sunrise, Otter Creek Valley, just north of Lake Lure, was shimmering as the sun caught the lower slopes of Bear Gap Mountain. Fibber Magee Drive winds its way through the forest of Loblolly Pine as it descends into the lower western portion of the valley.

Otter Creek Valley Sunrise

The video below was made just after the sun rose from behind Oak and Brushy Top Mountains. If you’re viewing this as part of your e-mail, click on the main headline…

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First Summer Sunrise in Otter Creek Valley

Two years ago, this entry was posted after the summer solstice. I thought you might get a kick out of revisiting it now. Vann

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

Otter Pond at Summer

I guess the Druids are celebrating today with the summer solstice at Stonehenge, but in Otter Creek Valley, I’m happy just to greet the rising sun. Otter Pond, above and below, seemed perfectly content to enjoy the morning fog after almost two inches of rain yesterday.

Frozen Otter Pond in Snow

The same scene in the dead of winter…

Otter Pond at Sunrise

A half mile walk to a paved Bill’s Creek Road revealed a light mist covering the mountain to the east, and a blue flecked sky as the sun appeared through the clouds. All that’s missing is a castle atop the hill.

Bills Creek Road

Otter Creek Road

Walking back into the valley on Otter Creek Road, Buddy could hear the sound of water as the creek narrowed where a mill once stood.

Otter Creek Road in snow

From the same spot in winter.

Otter Creek Rock

The first Trumpet Flower of the season was ready for the hummingbirds.

Trumpet Flowers

The young corn field in the bottomland had…

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The Greening of Fibber Magee Drive

Posted this three years ago today. Worth repeating. Only a few inches of rain this year.

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

Otter Creek Roadway
Last August just after sunrise, I made this photo of Fibber Magee Drive looking downhill just short of my driveway. Because realtors were trying to sell land higher up the mountain, the road had been graded and the fence had been cleaned to impress potential buyers. Now, with all the lots sold, the road is returning to its pre-developer state. Returning yesterday after being away for two weeks, I was amazed how much the trees and weeds had grown in such a short time, below. I’m sure that the eight inches of rain that have fallen during that time had something to do with it.

Overgrown Road
This morning I cut limbs all along the right side of the road and cut weeds from against the fence at the bottow of the hill, below, in an attempt to regain the right of way from nature.

Trimmed Fibber Magee
At the bottom of the hill, below…

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