Queen’s Gap Arts and Crafts Beauty- 2019

Before the Great Recession of 2008, a very ambitious golf course development was under construction in the wilderness of the far north Rutherford County mountains.  This magnificent Community and Wellness Center, along with the matching Arts and Crafts Gatehouse, were the only elements completed before a very nasty bankruptcy.  The Jack Nicklaus championship golf course was surveyed and a number of fairways were cleared before the fall.  Over the years I have documented the plight of these architectural treasures as the case moved through the courts. Ultimately, the structures were put up for sale, and that is the situation today as I post this piece.

I’m amazed that over the past ten years, the buildings have weathered the mountain winters, and attacks by vandals, to still be in the same pristine condition that they were when first built. My hope continues to be that some large corporation or educational institution will rescue them so their wonderful craftsmanship can be appreciated for generations to come. It would be such a travesty if they were allowed to slowly decay, or worse yet, be lost to fire or storms. Needless to say, with the asking price being a fraction of what they cost to build, someone will steal these jewels at pennies on the dollar, not to mention the 69 wooded acres that will go with them.

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Golf CourseThe view of the golf course and mountains from the Community Center’s rear porch.

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Winter Sunset from Asheville’s Sunset Mountain

Asheville named the mountain just northeast of Downtown, Sunset Mountain, for a reason. Driving along Town Mountain Road that runs along the ridge of the mountain takes you to a series of narrow lanes with designer homes that face the Great Smokies to the southwest and west.  The iconic Grove Park Inn is far below, perched just above the valley.  On this particular winter’s evening, the Sun was just disappearing over the distant blue ridges. Sunset Mountain lived up to its name, big time.

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Groundhog’s Day Sunset

Old Otter Creek Olivia saw her shadow, and you know what that means…

Road IceSunrise along an icy Otter Creek Road

I captured these images near sunset around this area…Hickory Nut 13,100 foot Hickory Nut Mountain eastern slopes…

Shumont 24,000 foot Mount Shumont from Piedmont Foothills…

Golf CourseDefunct Jack Nicklaus golf fairway at Queen’s Gap …

Freezing Sunset along The Escarpment

With the temperature right at freezing, and the humidity somewhere around 10%,  the light and shadows cast by the setting Sun seemed especially distinct yesterday along the easternmost of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  They are referred to as the “Escarpment” because they are the first peaks west of the Piedmont Plateau. All the images were made a few minutes before sunset within ten minutes of my house along the Rutherford-McDowell County line. By sunrise, the temperature dropped to 14 degrees, with no frost.

youngs mountainYoung’s Mountain northeast of Lake Lure

stone mountainStone Mountain northwest of Lake Lure

long mountainLong Mountain from Montford Cove

hemphill 1Pinnacle Peak on the McDowell-Rutherford County line.

tight run road 1Hickory Nut Mountain in McDowell County from Tight Run Road.

hickory nut mountainHickory Nut Mountain above Cove Creek Valley.

oak mountainBrushy Top and Oak Mountains above Otter Pond right at sunset.

 

Ice Storm above 1,500 feet

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 ice. 

This morning, small icicles could be seen in the trees around the house, but it wasn’t until a thick cloud bank lifted around 11 a.m. did I get my first glimpse of the mountains to my northwest, covered with ice. Three hundred feet of elevation saved the Valley, but above 1,500 feet, it was a different story.

bear gap 2Bear Gap Mountain from my deck was coated in white…

I knew that the mountains of eastern Buncombe County would also have born the brunt of this storm, so I drove the fifteen minutes southwest of my house up Cedar Creek Road until I found the ice above 1,500 feet. The temperature was 34 degrees, and the road was wet but not icy.  What I saw took my breath away. Everything was covered with that destructive inch of ice. Trees were bent and broken. These images show what I found as I drove up to Old Fort-Bat Cave Road above 2,000 feet.

iceCheck out the smoke rising from the chimney…

ice 6Arriving at the top of unpaved Cedar Creek Road…

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road Old Fort-Bat Cave Road toward the Gap between Stone and Round Mountains…

gorgeLooking northeast in the direction of Grandfather Mountain, lost in the clouds.

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cabinThis log cabin near the summit was not occupied…

ice 5Driving back down the mountain, I reflected on what could have been had that one degree change in temperature not have happened…

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Canada Geese return to Otter Pond

After a three year absence, a large flock of Canada Geese returned to Otter Pond Tuesday evening.  Must have been the cold weather.  I approached them very slowly and cautiously this morning, and captured some good images. It was 23 degrees, and a mist was rising from the water at sunrise.

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They obviously were attracted to the relatively warmer pond…

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Buddy was curious, but the geese couldn’t really be bothered…buddy geese 2

Check out the sounds they made in this short video…

Dobson Knob is a Special Mountain

Looming high over Marion and the North Fork Catawba River Valley, Bald Knob and Dobson Knob form a whale-like ridge that stands separate from the mountains of Linville Gorge. Even though these peaks lie within Pisgah National Forest, this area is largely unknown to the casual hiker. The only maintained trail running through this area is North Carolina’s Mountains-to-Sea Trail as leaves Linville Gorge heading west, crossing Dobson Knob, and Bald Knob before descending to North Fork Catawba River.

Rarely do you find a Mountain along the Blue Ridge that is this rugged, this steep, and this inaccessible.  At 3,900 feet at its peak, Dobson is uniquely situated on the eastern side of the large, flat, Catawba River Valley.  This provides many spectacular views that are normally restricted by dense forest and other mountains.

Dobson wideWhat appears to be snow on the mountain is actually exposed granite, and leafless trees, catching the late afternoon Sun. A large fire two years ago burned many of the hardwood trees that were hardy enough to grow along these rocky cliffs. That, combined with a complete lack of evergreens, gives Dobson its unique character, especially in winter, when all the hardwoods have shed their leaves. The mountain is totally undeveloped, with no logging roads to allow easy access. Going in on foot is the only way to experience the natural beauty this behemoth offers. (Hint: Save these photos to your device so that you can enlarge them to full size to get all the detail of this mountain.)

 

Detail

Access points for the “Mountains-to-Sea Trail” can be reached from the small community of Woodlawn, located on U.S. Highway 221 north of Marion, North Carolina. It’s an exhausting six mile climb to reach the peak, and then six miles back to your car. Do not attempt this hike alone, and carry in plenty of water and energy food.  Camping opportunities are few along the trail on this western face. You must go there. It will take your breath away, as it did mine.

Below is a 3-D view of the hike to Bald Knob. The hike to Dobson Knob is on the other side of the mountain because of the dangerous terrain on the west face. The bottom to top trail will gain almost 3,500 feet.

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