Springtime at The Masters

Masters week is always a memorable time to be in Augusta, but when the Dogwood and Azaleas are at their flowering peak, there’s no other place in America where Spring is more dramatic, and more beautiful.  Forest Hills is a neighborhood of brick streets and stately early 20th century mansions that was here long before Bobby Jones ever decided to transform a tree nursery into the most revered 18 holes in golf.

Not only are the homes amazing in their own right, but their gardens were designed to dazzle the eye for a few short weeks in late March and early April. A walking tour is the best way to experience this remarkable creation.  If you’ve never been, put this one on your “list”. 

white tower

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brick gate

red azalea

pom poms

Brick DogwoodOne of my favorites…

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dogwood

Here’s my favorite from a few years ago…Park AvenuePark Avenue 

 

 

 

Spring Arrives in the Rutherford Mountains

redbudAfter fits and starts, Springtime is here. Yesterday was the first day higher than 60 since February.  All of these images were made within two miles of my house. The Redbuds have suddenly appeared, pink, of course, and the Sugar Maples are showing their new red leaflets in the woods.

white pondMore Sugar Maples over a pond at Whitehouse, a four corners crossroads just to my north.

whitehouseThis is the largest of three late 19th century “white houses” that surround the crossroads. It’s being renovated. Love the twin chimneys.

clearcutJust down Cove Road from Whitehouse is the parsonage for Montford Cove Missionary Baptist Church, at the base of Oak Mountain, which was clear-cut last Fall, and left in an awful state. Luckily, my view of Oak Mountain is from the other, untouched, side. This used to be such a lovely thick hardwood forest.

cove road blossomsA little further south down Cove Road is this idyllic view of the Eastern Escarpment of the Blue Ridge.

cattleAbove this pasture are the mountains just north of Lake Lure. Hard to believe that snow fell in these mountains just five days ago, and freezing rain coated the trees. 

pondJust down the hill from the house, the Redbuds have bloomed at Otter Pond. That’s Oak Mountain on the horizon

 

 

Ice and Springtime Collide along the Blue Ridge

creekNormally an abundance of rain means an early Spring, but a colder than normal March halted the trees in their tracks, and brought late season snow, and even a coating of ice along Cedar Creek.

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farmWith freezing temperatures, you wouldn’t expect the Forsythia to be so bright, but with February being warmer than March, Mother Nature is scratching her head. This farm at the base of Roan Horsetop Mountain in far northwest Rutherford County wonders what season it should be celebrating.

 

roan 2Roan Horsetop above Cedar Creek Road.roan 1

chimneyAn empty summer log cabin awaits the changing season. A split-rail fence recalls bygone days of pioneers and simple solutions.fence

 

Finding Snow at Sugar Mountain

After weeks of warm and rainy weather, the Blue Ridge Mountains have seen a March snowfall that reawakened the adventure of gliding down a slope with the beauty of Nature all around. To stand atop a peak in the High Country and have the entire world below you covered in white brings an exhilaration unmatched in all my years of experiencing life in Western North Carolina. The fact that $28 can put you in a chair that moves slowly up and  through a pristine winter landscape is the best bargain going for anyone who loves the thrill of these remote mountains.

Sugar Mountain Snow GunThe Noreaster that was moving over New England generated over half a foot of snow as it moved north through the “High Country”, and very cold temperatures that followed gave the man-made snow guns something to celebrate.

sugar nountain ski fence 2

 

sugar mountain slopeside 1To me, the thrilling trip back down to the bottom is just the fastest way of getting back on a floating chair, and the new vistas that await.

sugar mountain speed liftA new high speed lift opened two years ago, but I prefer the old, much slower chairs that take their time moving silently through the woods and above streams.

Vann skis at Sugar MountainAfter two years, I was up for the challenge.

Here are a few screen captures from videos I made while skiing…

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sugar 2

sugar 8

sugar 3

sugar 5

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sugar 9

This video will let you experience the mountain right along with me…..

 

 

 

 

 

  

Davidson’s Fort is Reborn

The Eastern Continental Divide runs along a ridge of very high mountains fifteen miles east of present day Asheville.  For centuries, it was a formitable barrier to any colonization to the west. Native tribes had long established their villages on both sides of the Divide, and carved footpaths over the mountains to trade with other villages. The first Spanish explorers probably arrived in the area in the 1500’s, followed in the early 1700’s by Scots-Irish pioneers who established a fort for protection from the “Indians”.  By the mid 1700’s, the settlement around the stockade had become the westernmost outpost of Colonial civilization. Samuel Davidson purchased one square mile of land around the “old fort”, for a large plantation.

By 1776, the Revolutionary War was already underway, and the Colonists were convinced that the natives were on the side of the British because of constant raids and related massacres against the pioneer farms. Under the command of General Griffith Rutherford, 2,500 men were dispatched to the area with orders to drive the Cherokee from their villages on both sides of the Divide, and in 1776, they constructed a new fort near the site of the original structure. 

Davidsons Fort drawing

For the next two months, these troops roamed all through the mountains, burning villages and salting fields so the natives could not return.  As the base of operations, Davidson’s Fort, as it was then called, became the center of what would eventually be the town of Old Fort, located where the railroad would begin its climb over the Blue Ridge, to Asheville. That was 100 years after the original “Rutherford’s Fort” was built.

Passengers aboard the daily trains that stopped at “Old Fort” would always ask the location of the “fort”, but were disappointed to learn that the original stockade had been dismantled to make way for the growing town.  In 2008, all of that changed.  Even though the original fort’s location was unknown, it didn’t deter local volunteers from channeling some of that early American frontier spirit. Through their efforts and labor, and with grants and donations from the community, they constructed a replica fort in Old Fort. Open to the public since 2010, Davidson’s Fort Historic Park serves as a living history exhibit, showcasing how forts of that era might have looked, and representing what life was like for the Colonists who made this frontier land their home.

fort 1

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The two images below are from the non-profit group that maintains the fort… davidson-s-fort-historic (1) 

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Make sure you take the time to visit this amazing re-creation when you are driving to Asheville on Interstate 40, exiting at Old Fort. It will be well worth the effort.  portfolio-small-3

 

Springtime in February? Ridiculous

After two weeks of unseasonably warm weather with nothing below freezing, Mother Nature has been lulled into a false sense of security, and that’s not a good thing. With the next hard freeze just around the corner, these premature blossoms will be history, and the concern of the apple and peach growers must be weighing heavily on them tonight.

My drive north to the gym in Marion revealed a colorful display of pink, yellow, white, and purple flowers born far too soon.

This Cherry tree is a full month ahead of schedule…cherry tree february pink

pink 4

The Forsythia must think it’s mid-March…forsythiaThe hardwoods in the forests are already budding out…

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white 2

Japanese Magnolias just couldn’t wait…magnolia 2

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Daffodils are opening all along the roadways…yellow 1

And these Phlox must think it’s Easter already…phlox

Who knows? Perhaps these mountains are just paying tribute to Billy Graham. For decades he has lived just over the Eastern Continental Divide from here near Black Mountain.

 

Images of Mid-February

As winter begins to wind down and days get longer, these Mountains sense the coming change, and reflect light in a different way. This month has seen nearly a foot of rain in many areas, and temperatures have reached 76 degrees this past week. Patches of Phlox have appeared, and farmers are already plowing their fields in anticipation of warmer weather.

These images are random, but convey this reawakening as it happens.

biltmore house 2Last week, Biltmore House was surrounded by mists and its winter woods, but yesterday, unseasonable warmth and deep blue skies brought overflow crowds and a very different look…biltmore house bright

French Broad River floods Heavy rains brought French Broad River flooding at Biltmore, and at Hendersonville further south…

biltmore gardens greenhouseBiltmore Gardens are still dormant, but palms and orchids fill the Conservatory…

wolf pen mountainA tall White Oak and a healthy Hemlock frame a misty Wolfpen Mountain in northwest Rutherford County.

American beech in winterThe American Beech is one of few trees that retains its fall foliage throughout winter.

Log cabin Blue Ridge valleyThe 1800 resurrected log cabin in Otter Creek Valley…

19th century blue ridge barnThe log cabin’s 19th century barn welcomes the rising sun.