17″ of Rain in Five Days

A stalled low pressure system over the mountains produced an unprecedented amount of rain this week. Normally quiet streams became torrents, and damage here in the Rutherford Mountains was widespread. Farm fields near the creeks were submerged, and century old culverts were overwhelmed, and seriously eroded. For an area that expects 66″ of precipitation a year, 17″ is a quarter of that, and in just a few days.

2,800′ Wolf Pen Mountain above Cedar Creek farm…wolf prn mtn

One minute video in Cedar Creek Gorge…

 

Damage along Otter Creek Road…road 2

road 1

road 4

On higher ground, Mother Nature still had a job to do…pink

white

Pink Lady’s Slipper OrchidKODAK Digital Still Camera

honey

 

roses red

Pink Blackberry blossomspink berries 1

Primrose

primroses

daisies

iris

Living deep in the mountains, you just have to learn to accept the good with the bad, and move on. On the bright side, fire danger is the lowest it’s been in a long time. And the valley couldn’t be greener…rocking chair

The Grove Park Inn awaits Re-opening

Under a dark rainy sky, Asheville’s historic hotel remains closed and empty.

grove park

The golf course…golf house 2

Exploring a Ridgetop Meadow

After eleven years of hiking through Otter Creek Valley where I live, I was surprised to discover something new when looking at a recent satellite image from Google Earth.map otter creekMy house is located just to the right of the two red roofs in the center. What I saw was a cleared area in the upper left center, a feature that wasn’t there two years ago.  Obviously that was the result of clear cutting timber from that part of the forest. Today, in the company of my canine companion, Buddy, I headed west to find out what had happened there.

Just after sunrise, we hiked up Otter Creek Road to the historic farm of the Connor family. The 150 year old log cabin is visible below Dick’s Mountain. Otter Creek flows past the homestead at the base of the mountain.cabin 1

Climbing to the top of an old corn field, I found a logging road, heavily rutted by heavy rain over the past year. After a few hundred yards, I came across many blooming Mountain Laurel shrubs,Laurel

Another quarter mile, I suddenly came upon a large meadow at the crest of the ridge. meadow 6

The loggers had cleaned up there debris, but had not replanted any trees. A panorama of mountains surrounded the meadow for a 360 degree vista.meadow 1

2,800 foot Wolf Pen Mountain dominated the northwest horizon.meadow 3

To the north, Brushy Top Mountain with its exposed granite south face,  caught the morning Sun…meadow 5

To the south, was the old logging road entrance…meadow 4

Looking westward, Roan Horsetop Mountain rose above the woods…meadow 7

Heading back down the old road, I emerged at the top of the field to see the log cabin illuminated by the bright mid-May Sun.cabin 2

The view of the entire farm took me back to a time well before electric power, indoor plumbing, and virus pandemics. How fortunate I am to spend my isolation in such a beautiful place.cabin 3That’s Otter Creek Road in the center.  Look closely and you’ll find the cabin.

 

 

 

Biltmore Reopens the Grounds

Just in time for the Catawba Rhododendrons,  the Cecil family has opened the gates to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville for a limited number of Annual Passholders.  

rhodo 3

The best part is that all roads on the grounds are once again allowing private vehicles to drive freely through the spectacular  creation of Frederick Law Olmstead, the first time that has been permitted since last September, when vehicles were  restricted to the entrance road, and the western portion of the Estate along the French Broad River, and around the hotels and restaurants and the Vineyard.  Once again you can cruise past the House, and drive into the Gardens. The Garden gift shop, which had been closed last October, has also reopened.

mansion 1This is the  first time I have ever seen the Chateau’s front doors locked shut during the day, and the first time I have not seen a vehicle or a person in front of the largest private residence in America.mansion 2

Driving through the Estate, I never saw another car ahead of me or behind me. pink rhodoI could explore freely on foot, admiring all the varieties of Rhododendron, Azalea, and Mountain Laurel, all related to one another.

flame 2Flame Azalea and deep fuchsia Catawba Rhododendron.

mountain laurelMountain Laurel under a massive Norway Spruce…

azaleas 1The Azalea Garden…

jap maplesJapanese Maples along the drive…

pink rhodo 2Pink Rhododendron…rhodo 1

rosesClimbing Roses in the Conservatory’s garden…

flockEwes and their new Lambs graze in a pasture below the Chateau…

estate 2They don’t call it The Reflecting Pond for nothing…

On the way back to Otter Creek, I stopped to look back to the west, and to admire Mount Pisgah and the Balsams. That’s the eastern slope of Sunset Mountain in the foreground, and Asheville is nestled in the valley between the two.pisgah

George Vanderbilt had a vision of the grandest house ever built in America, and even a pandemic cannot take away from his dream.

 

 

 

 

High Meadows below Bearwallow Mountain

At the west entrance to the Hickory Nut Gorge in Henderson County sits Bearwallow Mountain. At 4,237 feet, it’s the second tallest peak east of Asheville and south of Interstate 40.  On its southern slopes, 600 feet below the summit, is an expansive grassy plateau that has morphed into an exclusive community of horse pastures, jogging trails, and beautiful homes known as Grand Highlands.  Early May is the perfect time to explore these rolling hills as winter turns to spring.  On this particular afternoon, a light rain was falling, and clouds obscured the mountain summit. The valley far below is where the apple orchards dominate, with the town of Hendersonville to the west.

valley

tudor valley

fencesBearwallow Mountain in the clouds…

bearwallow

under constructionUnder construction…

meadow

long limb

Driving over Bearwallow Gap on a gravel road leading to U.S. 74 in the Hickory Nut Gorge, Wild Azaleas were in full bloom.azalea mountain

wild azaleas

 

 

Linville Gorge in Early Spring

Six years ago tomorrow, I posted this piece about Linville Gorge, and it’s worth revisiting now.

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

Linville Gorge Wiseman's Overlook

Visiting Linville Gorge in spring is especially rewarding because the summer crowds are still months away, and you can have the whole place to yourself. The first week in April is still very winter like, and morning lows can still be in the 20’s, but the first greens are already creeping up the walls of this “Grand Canyon on the East”. Wiseman’s View, above, is the most accessible place to really appreciate the awesome grandeur of this ancient place, especially the distant roar of the Linville River 1,500 feet below. No climbing or long hikes are required to get there, and the reward is breathtaking.

Linville Gorge Wiseman's Wall

The southern boundary of the gorge, above, is marked by Shortoff Mountain, a flat topped mesa that has many rock climbing possibilities. The tender green leaves of the hardwoods were just beginning to burst forth after a particularly cold winter.

Linville Gorge Panorama

To the…

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Springtime in the Age of Covid-19

Living in the middle of nowhere offers many opportunities to escape from weeks of indoor confinement. Driving excursions are the safest ways to experience the majesty of Spring as it creeps its greenness down the mountain slopes. Here are my impressions of that process. Enjoy…

Sugarloaf Mountain over Lake Lurethompson cabin

Rumbling Bald and Mount  Shumont from eastern side of Lake Lurerumbling bald

Mt. Piscah from Haw Creek Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway with a hanging Moonpisgah moon

Seven Sisters peaks north of Black Mountainseven sisters

From the Parkway near Craggy Gardensparkway

Bill’s Mountain in northwest Rutherford Countybills mountain

buzzard

Corn fields in McDowell Countyplowed

Northwest Rutherford Mountainsoak mtn

Back at home in Otter Creek Valleydogwood 2

greening 2

 

Sunrise over Cove Creek Valley

Ten miles long and four miles wide, the valley that drains into Cove Creek is surrounded by high mountains on its northwest side, long ridges and mountains to the northeast, and the rolling foothills of the Piedmont  to the southeast. Prominent feeder creeks are Cedar, Otter, Bill’s, Greasy, Ham, Elliott, Mill, Morgan, Harris, Stone, and Chalk. Cove Creek feeds into the Broad River east of Lake Lure, which flows into South Carolina, through Columbia,  on through Congaree National Park, and eventually to the Atlantic Ocean. cove creek mapcove creekCove Creek

Climbing a high ridge on the south side of the valley just after sunrise on April 8th gave me a full panoramic view of the entire valley. These are the images that I captured from that ridge.

south mountains 1View toward the South Mountains, 30 miles to the east…

sunrise ridge

piney knob

glaxhorn mtn

broomsage

green valleyBill’s Creek Road, following the original Cherokee trading trail…

two treesNorthwest view toward 2,800 foot Wolf Pen Mountain…

pitch pine

hickory nut mtn3,100 foot Hickory Nut Mountain to the north.

Stay safe.

 

 

 

Springtime along the Blue Ridge Escarpment

The Piedmont Plateau in North Carolina stretches from the Sandhills around Pinehurst in the central part of the state, to the eastern face of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Where those peaks first butt up against the Foothills is known as the Eastern Blue Ridge Escarpment. Within a few miles, the elevation goes from 800 feet to over 4,000 feet.  Rolling pastures and woods suddenly disappear, making way for the waterfalls, gorges, and steep slopes that we all know and love.

pastureA dairy farm in northern Rutherford County…

escarpmentThe mountains around Lake Lure are just five miles to the west…

All along this area, Spring arrives earlier than in those mountains, and a drive through the Foothills reveals an explosion of color.

Wysteria

wysteria 2

wysteria 1

Azaleas

azalea 5

azalea 1

azalea 3

horses

azalea 2

azalea 4

Dogwood

dogwood 2

dogwood 3

pink dogwood

dogwood 4

dogwood 1

Driving west a few miles, you find yourself at the foot of the mountains, and the “greening” of the trees gives everything a soft glow, compared to the deep shades of Summer. This period is short lived, so go out now to appreciate its beauty.

greasy creek road

hickory nut mtn

oak mtn

dogwood farm

Sunset bathes the ridges in a soft glow…sunset

During this pandemic, your car is one of the safest places you can be. Get out and explore your neighborhood as Springtime evolves.  Wave at passing drivers and at people in their yards.  This is Social Distancing at its best.

 

Redbuds in Full Sun

When I see these magnificent trees in the bight morning Sun with a deep Carolina Blue sky overhead, the color of Flamingos comes to mind.  After a week of dull overcast days, the Sun finally appeared this morning, and not a minute too soon. The Redbuds are peaking all around Otter Creek Valley, and a two mile drive north was all I needed to immerse myself in their magenta and pink splendor.

red 2

The Kwansan Cherries are also in full bloom.

cherry

If you look very closely, you can  see a modern home atop Glaxhorn Mountain.Glaxhorn

On Oak Mountain…

red 3

red 4

red 5

red 6

A mile further north are the Northwest Rutherford Mountains, just beginning to green out along Hemphill Road.

hemphill 2

hemphill 1

Looking back toward the southwest from this spot, the 4,000 foot summit of Mt. Shumont towers above Lake Lure.

shumont

To the northwest, Hickory Nut Mountain at 3,100 feet dominates this valley between here and Mt. Mitchell.

tight run 1

Back toward the northeast, Pinnacle Mountain and Long Mountain form a wall along the Rutherford-McDowell County line.

tight run 2

tight run 3

Back at home, Otter Pond can claim her own electric pink Judas Tree, or Eastern Redbud.

otter pond

Staying home doesn’t mean staying inside. Social distancing is our standard way of living deep in these beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.