First Signs of Spring around Otter Creek

With the first storm of Spring, five inches of rain fell on the Valley this week. Much needed.

The Bradford Pears are about two weeks later than last year…

Daffodils just emerged this week…

The Trout Lily is the first wildflower to arrive…

Next comes the Blood Root, a Cherokee medicine staple…

The Corn field in the bottomland along Otter Creek has been plowed…

Otter Creek was swollen by the rains, but Buddy never noticed…

Spring Skiing at Sugar Mountain

In a banner year for snow in the high country, almost seven feet of snow fell after the middle of December, and when you add to that all the manmade white stuff, that leaves quite a lot of snow on the slopes at Sugar Mountain, even for mid March. Hoping to make my last run of the season, my friend and I went early on March 10th to be the first to come down on the newly groomed slopes. Unfortunately, the slopes had not been groomed from the day before, where warm temperatures made for slushy runs. Because the temperatures had dropped way below freezing the night before, the slopes were a sheet of treacherous ice, not conducive for an intermediate, once a season skier like me. I made a run anyway, and got to the bottom without falling, but that was it for me. My friend being a snowboarder, and having skied three times already this season, made six runs from the mile high summit. We would have waited until the afternoon thaw, but he had to get back to Marion to pick up his seven year old son from school. I didn’t mind a bit.

For what it’s worth, here is a short video from the morning...

Late Winter on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Cruising west toward the Blue Ridge Parkway on I-40, the Black Mountains loomed large on the horizon

At the 3,000 foot level, the sky was even more blue…

Opposite the view above, the rugged ridgetop was the perfect home to Pine trees…

At the 4,000 foot level, this ice wall was a dramatic reminder that this area is the main Watershed district for Asheville and much of western North Carolina…

At the 4,500 foot level, Craggy Gardens, usually crowded with tourist hiking to the Rhododendron Gardens in late May, had a few hardy visitors, some who chose to climb to the summit of Craggy Peak, in spite of near freezing temperatures.

Looking toward the east, the Asheville Reservoir was a deep blue, and the Piedmont Plateau was clearly visible over the Eastern Continental Divide and the mountains along the Blue Ridge Escarpment…

Toward the northwest, the suburbs of Asheville far below, contrast with the wall of mountains along the Tennessee border…

Climbing to the 5,500 foot level below Mt. Mitchell’s 6,700 peak, a wildfire above the reservoir added blue smoke to an already blue natural haze…

At this level, the bare winter forest is replaced by Balsam Spruce and Douglas Fir to mimic the Canadian mountains a thousand miles to the north…

Moving past Mt. Mitchell, the Canadian forest gave way to the bare woods below 3,500 feet. Looking toward the east, the colorless ridges of the Pisgah National Forest framed the mountains north of Lake Lure…

This Skeleton Tree was a fitting site to end a remarkable drive on America’s most scenic roadway.

Norfolk & Southern Tracks

After climbing over 1,000 feet up the Blue Ridge to cross the Eastern Continental Divide at Ridgecrest, these tracks disappear as they enter the long Swannanoa Tunnel, which was completed almost 170 years ago.

Ice Storm above 1,500 feet

This ice storm struck just twenty minutes from my house a few years ago. The big difference was elevation.

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

My elevation here in Otter Creek Valley is about 1,200 feet, only 500 feet higher than that of Uptown Charlotte one hundred miles to my southeast, but when it comes to weather, each 100 feet translates into one degree in temperature, on average.  Where an ice storm is concerned, each degree can be the difference between beauty and disaster. With a winter storm moving through the area Saturday night, my temperature dropped to 32 degrees around 9 p.m., and with a steady rain falling, ice began to form on my deck and trees. I feared the worst.  But for whatever reason, the thermometer ticked up one degree after 10 p.m., and the ice started to slowly melt. An inch and a half of rain fell during that time, and had it remained 32 degrees, my house and all the surrounding woods would have been covered with over an inch of…

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Super Bowl Sunday Snow

The snow that fell the night before the Big Game just goes to prove that a little fluffy white stuff goes a long way. Less than three inches accumulated around midnight, and as the Sun appeared, a Winter Wonderland blanketed Otter Creek Valley.

Before Sunrise
Hemlock House
Magnolia
Otter Creek
Brushy Top Mountain

When the Sun broke through in mid-morning, the brightness of what remained was beautiful, but fleeting, as temperatures rose…

This five minute video captures my impressions of my walk in the valley…

Winter on the Biltmore Estate

When renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead designed Biltmore’s lands and gardens in the 1890’s, he had all four seasons in mind. In the dead of Winter, you might think that he would have taken a break, but for anyone who has experienced New York’s Central Park after a snow storm, you would know that he was anything but hibernating. On Groundhog Day, Asheville was treated to a lite snowfall, and Biltmore was once again ready to show off her winter finery, just as George Vanderbilt would have expected.

When one passes through the impressive entrance gate, they are transported to a place frozen in time from over a century ago. You have to imagine a horse drawn sleigh traversing the two mile approach road until suddenly you see the French Chateau directly ahead…

Farm Field
Mt. Pisgah to the southwest…
Rhododendron
The French Broad River

Snow in the High Country

Yesterday, a 4 inch blanket of snow fell in the mountains above 3,500 feet, and more is expected tonight and tomorrow. These views are of the Black Mountain Range, the highest peaks east of the Mississippi, at nearly 7,000 feet. A hilltop in Marion, North Carolina, made the ideal spot to capture these images. This has been a very snowy year for the High Country, with some places seeing almost five feet since mid-December. The ski resorts have seen no rain, and their low temperatures have been in the single digits, so most of that white stuff is still on the ground. After losing almost a month last winter to the pandemic, I couldn’t be happier for my friends who work in the Slopeside Bar at the base of Sugar Mountain.

Hickory Nut Mountain on Vaccine Day

After having the first shot of Mr. Moderna injected into my arm in Rutherfordton, I decided to stop at an Overlook south of my house. The clarity of the air made for the perfect photo op, with 3,100 foot Hickory Nut Mountain dominating the northern horizon. This is one of those long ridges that prevented the Cherokee and early settlers from having easy movement east and west along the Eastern Blue Ridge Escarpment. Even today, few roads exist on and around the mountain, making the area a true wilderness, with many unexplored regions.

My house sits in a valley at 1,200 feet at the base of the mountain, just above the line of pines in this image. As far as I have learned, most of the area is owned by Weyerhaeuser and Georgia-Pacific, but so far, no large scale logging has been carried out. There are no public lands anywhere on or around Hickory Nut Mountain.

View toward the northwest from Freemantown Road in Rutherford County
Earlier Winter view of the western face of Hickory Nut Mountain

On a Clear Day…

…you can see Forever…

Ice Crystals after sunrise…

With humidity very low and temperatures below freezing, Sunday was the ideal time to see these mountains north of Lake Lure in all their splendor.

Rumbling Bald Mountain on the left, Mount Shumont on the right.
Eagle Rock on the north end of Mount Shumont
Mount Shumont on the left, Youngs Mountain in the foreground
Youngs Mountain