SUMMER BIDS FAREWELL

With the first frost predicted for next week, this may be the last chance to enjoy the colors and textures from the waning days of summer around my meadow. Wildflowers, mosses, mushrooms, and even a critter or two, are trying to attract those last pollinators before the freeze arrives.

Acer Maple


An addled Bumblebee awaits the warming Sun among the Japanese Honeysuckle blossoms
Purple Oldfield Asters

An opportunistic Spider awaits breakfast on a Narrow Leaf Sunflower Blossom
White Oldfield Asters
Clover
Maryland Golden Asters
Unidentified Help???
Praying Mantis
Maryland Golden Asters ???
A very mellow Mushroom
The last Narrow Leaf Sunflowers
Unidentified Help???

Autumn Arrives Late along the Black Mountains

THIS WAS SIX YEARS AGO. ALWAYS ONE OF MY FAVORITE PLACES ALONG THE PARKWAY.

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

In past years, October 11th would have been the peak of color along the high ridges facing the iconic Black Mountain range, home to Mt. Mitchell, the tallest peak of all. Not this year. Although the colors have begun to roll down from the higher slopes, they are still five to seven days away from their maximum.

Black Mountains in autumn
With a ridge line above 6,000 feet, the Black Mountains are still the most impressive east of the Rockies.

Blue Ridge Parkway Rocky Cliffs
Above the Blue Ridge Parkway, a few trees are at their peak, but below 4,500 feet, everything is late this year.

Black Mountain Yellows
The woods are showing much yellow, but the dramatic reds and vermillions are only occasionally seen.

Blue Ridge Parkway in Green and Yellow
Green is still a dominate color on the steep slopes.

Blue Ridge Parkway cloud
Puffy clouds of fair weather float just above the treetops, casting dark shadows over the forests below.

Wait a few more days before you visit this portion…

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Fall Creeps into the Rutherford Mountains

Dividing Rutherford from McDowell County are a series of 2,600 foot peaks that stretch for four miles from east to west. Names like Pinnacle Peak, Long Mountain, Rich Mountain, New Forest Mountain, and Mike’s Mountain, are known to locals, but not to the outside world. The views from these summits look out across the western Piedmont toward Charlotte. Other than scattered vacation homes, and valley farms, development has not been part of the equation.

As the colors of the season move down into lower elevations, these steep ridges slowly come alive. These images were captured just after sunrise on October 11th. The peak of color in these parts happens after November 1st, long after the leaves have fallen along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Long Mountain
Pinnacle Mountain and Pinnacle Peak
View to southwest toward Lake Lure
4,100 foot Mount Shumont in Clouds

First Day of Fall 2021 at Biltmore

When Frederick Law Olmstead designed the forests and gardens of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville in 1890, even he couldn’t have imagined how beautiful they would be 130 years in the future. Today, his creation is as close to heaven on Earth as any place in all of America. His genius is evident in every vista that visitors find when motoring along the winding roads built for horse drawn carriages so long ago.

Visiting this magical sanctuary on the first day of Autumn gives one a tantalizing glimpse into what will unfold over the next two months. No two years are ever the same, and on this cool and misty morning, the heart races at every turn, just as Olmstead might have imagined.

Enjoy this short video…

Queen’s Gap Frozen in Time

In 2008, the Queen’s Gap development in the northern Rutherford County mountains was on target to be the largest gated community ever built in the North Carolina mountains. Jack Nicklaus had designed the championship golf course, and the rolling fairways had been cleared. A network of roadways was well on its way to be completed, and a first class equestrian center was taking shape. Most convincing of all, a multi-million dollar American Craftsman “Discovery Center” had opened, as well as an impressive gatehouse where security guards would screen vehicles for entry. Large lots were selling like hotcakes, and the future couldn’t have looked brighter.

But in late 2008, the real estate bubble burst, and everything stopped at Queen’s Gap. For the next four years, a protracted legal battle raged to determine the fate of the project. Ultimately, there was a damaging bankruptcy, and people went to prison. The “Discovery Center” and Gatehouse fell into disrepair, and vandals removed Arts and Crafts copper fixtures. The building’s windows and doors were boarded up, and for years remained that way.

In 2018, the building was finally allowed to go onto the market, and repairs were completed, including a new A/C system. Since then it has been maintained, but has never found a buyer. It is frozen in time, just waiting for the right occupant.

On Saturday, I made my annual pilgrimage to this architectural treasure just five miles east of my house to see how it was faring, and was please to find that it is alive and well, and still for sale.

Remains of the Jack Nicklaus golf course behind the Discovery Center
View of the main lobby through the front window.
Covered entertainment space at rear of the building. Notice the intricate tile and stone work.
Actual “Queen’s Gap”, named in the 18th century.
Advertisment from 2008

Biltmore Estate Welcomes September

The most colorful time to visit Biltmore might just be the beginning of September. The Gardens are the most electric you’ll see all year, and the fields of mature Sunflowers are as yellow and green as they will ever be…

Sunrise Over Cove Creek Valley

Climbing a high ridge overlooking the expansive valley drained by Cove Creek, I knew the sunrise was going to be memorable, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. This area is ten miles northeast of Lake Lure, and contains no public lands. The Sun first appeared at 7:05 over the South Mountains thirty miles to the east, and all these images were made over the next twenty-five minutes.

3,100 foot Hickory Nut Mountain to the northwest…

Late Summer on a Deserted Parkway

If you want to have the Blue Ridge Parkway to yourself, go on a Monday morning in late August. I only met four cars from the Linville Falls entrance driving south to the Little Switzerland exit. From the first overlook looking west, the sky was that Carolina Blue that frames everything so perfectly.

Working my way through the four “Circle Curves”, I arrived at my favorite Overlook north of Mt. Mitchell, at 3,400 feet. The sheer granite face opposite the view is always colorful, no matter the season.

But the real reward is the limitless stretch of valley looking southeast toward Marion. with the Black Mountains and Mt. Mitchell barely visible along the southern horizon.

The first color of autumn is already happening just down from the granite wall.

At 3,700 feet, Dobson’s Knob south of Linville Gorge dominates the eastern view. Located just north of Marion, this impressive mountain is separate from Linville Gorge mountains, and its steep, rocky, western face rises above a large, mostly flat plain, allowing breathtaking long range views of its base, reminiscent of the Alps in Germany and Austria. This mountain has no human development above its base because it is so rugged. The “Mountain to Sea Trail” passes over the summit, after a difficult six mile climb, suggested only for the most hardy of hikers.

Dobson’s Knob in a winter view… That isn’t snow, just a bright Sun on the rocky face.

I couldn’t resist a stroll along the wall while I had the Overlook to myself…

Further south, another Overlook featured a garden of Milk Weed that attracted Butterflys and Bees to its sweet nectar…

The west rim of Linville Gorge was in a blue haze.

Cruising almost alone along the most traveled highway in the entire National Park system is a treat that you must experience.

Heavy Rains bring Rewarding Sunsets

Almost a foot of rain has fallen in six days here in the valley. This was a combination of regular afternoon storms and Tropical Depression, Fred. Otter Creek rose over seven feet, and washed out the road further up the valley. No homes were affected.

The power of rushing water.

After a heavy rain on Thursday, not part of Fred, the mountains were blanketed with clouds and fog. This made for a memorable sunset.

Young’s Mountain north of Lake Lure
Mount Shumont northwest of Lake Lure
Mount Shumont one hour later…
Rumbling Bald Mountain

A Morning Tour of the Neighborhood

Morning usually finds me walking through the woods and along Otter Creek, but this week I found myself driving around the roads along the Rutherford-McDowell County line, checking out familiar views in the summer morning light. It was in the low 60’s, and the humidity was quite low, making visibility almost unlimited, rare this time of year. This is what I found.

4,000 foot Mount Shumont north of Lake Lure

2,800 foot Young’s Mountain on the left, Shumont in the center, and 1,500 foot Dick’s Mountain in the foreground
3,100 foot Hickory Nut Mountain on the horizon.
2,500 foot Pinnacle Peak above this farm
Long Mountain from Tight Run Loop Road along the county line
1,700 foot Brushy Top on the left, and 2,200 foot Bear Gap Mountain from Greasy Creek Road in McDowell County
Hickory Nut Mountain from Tight Run Road