Enjoy the Colorful Photographic Impressions created by Vann Helms
A slow moving winter storm dumped over a foot of snow in this valley, followed by winds gusting 50 mph. Rare in this part of the mountains, even low temperatures in the mid-teens made it feel below zero for many hours. Another storm is expected within days, even more rare when you consider that this area can go for years with no snow at all. All the same, the flakes were welcome, and the valley was transformed into scenes that would have made Currier and Ives jealous.
With predictions of a foot of snow or more in the coming three days, a drive around the Lake Lure Mountains seemed to be in order. Buffalo Shoals Road twists and turns high above the iconic lake, affording breathtaking views of the water and the rugged granite peaks surrounding it.
Still no snow here in Otter Creek Valley, but with a 20 degree low on January 8th, winter has certainly moved in. That means the bright Carolina Blue skies are deep and saturated. Very low humidity makes for unlimited visibility and clarity of the horizon. At noon, it was 35 degrees when I drove around my neighborhood. Ironically, the ski areas just 50 miles north of me have received 17″ of snow just this week.
With the latest variant spreading like the common cold, venturing too far from my wilderness is not the best idea. Quick trips for supplies afforded me the opportunities to capture a few images worth sharing.
A lack of rain combined with low humidity made for the perfect condition to photograph nearby mountains.
As Fall recedes, and Winter approaches, The Biltmore Estate in Asheville dresses for the holidays, and the last shades of Autumn anticipate the season’s first snowfall. Where bright yellows of the Hickory give way to burnt oranges of Beech and Oak, the gardens move toward hibernation, much like the Woodchucks and Black Bears. The Soybean and Field Corn fields have long since lost their green nutrients, and will sleep through Winter, awaiting an early Spring harvest.
The Chateau has been welcoming holiday visitors since Thanksgiving…
The forest and gardens will still dazzle the guests with a rainbow of color, just as Frederick Law Olmstead envisioned 140 years ago…
The forest Evergreens will stand tall as they have for over a century. A Carolina Cane stand will still welcome the hiker into its inner sanctum…
You might think that with December just a few days away, the colors of Autumn in the mountains would have disappeared weeks ago, but the slopes around Lake Lure always would prove you wrong. At an elevation less than 1,000 feet, the lake and the Northwest Rutherford mountains surrounding it, are always late bloomers when it comes to color. This year, with the first freeze delayed until November 14th, so were the leaves.
Every two years, the Lake level is lowered by about seven feet, so that residents can repair docks and boathouses, and construct new structures that would eventually be in the water. Large expanses of the lake bottom are exposed all winter until the lake is refilled in March. These are views at the far north end from Legends Bar and Grill.
A short drive into the Rumbling Bald residences up the mountain reveals the late colors as the Sun was dropping behind 3, 400 foot Rumbling Bald Mountain.
The Isothermal Belt is a well documented micro-climate area east of Hendersonville, N.C., north of the S.C. border, and extends north to the Rutherford/McDowell County line. Because average temperatures in the zone are five degrees warmer than the surrounding area, the last frost of winter happens in early April, making this area ideal for growing apples. The early blossoms survive, making for a longer growing season. The area is the fourth largest in America for apple production. In the fall, these slightly warmer temps delay the period of peak color by up to two weeks after most of the southern mountains to the north and west. This year, above normal temperatures all over the mountains delayed the first frost by up to three weeks, and the color changes were much later than usual. Only now, in mid November, are the colors reaching their peaks, and it seems to have happened all at once, since the first frost happened just last week. These images were made yesterday, November 12th. And WOW……
Just north of Lake Lure is an overlook above the Cove Creek Valley, along the Eastern Blue Ridge Escarpment. These views are toward the north and east…
Most visitors cruise the Blue Ridge Parkway in October to see the best color, but for me, I just need to drive a half mile up my road to experience color rarely seen along the Parkway. In 2008, a paved, one mile extension was built just past my house to service a gated community that went bankrupt in 2009. Since then only two homes have been built up there, and every autumn I just hop into my car, and slowly move through the most dramatic display of foliage I’ve found anywhere throughout the Carolina mountains. A steep wall of mountains on the north side of the valley looms over stands of Loblolly Pine, making the perfect contrast to the multicolors of Maple, Oak, Hickory, and Sourwood. The second week of November is usually the peak, but everything is late this year because of no freeze, and this coming week will be incredible.
Actually, since there is no traffic, a leisurely stroll is the best way to experience the quiet solitude of this place, with only the occasional bird song, Turkey call, or a breeze through the trees.
Check out this short video…
An earthquake in 1874 set off a series of loud rumblings in an around Bald Mountain as giant granite boulders broke away from the northeast face and plummeted to the slopes below. After that, the inhabitants changed the name to Rumbling Bald Mountain, and today that exposed granite face is one of the largest in all of North Carolina. In the fall, near sundown, the contrast of light and shadow makes the area especially breathtaking.
Cedar Creek begins at the 2,300′ level of the Blue Ridge in eastern Buncombe County, and grows as it cuts through the gorge into northern Rutherford County, merging with Cove Creek, then the Broad River east of Lake Lure. Following the creek down the mountain is a two lane, mostly paved road. In Autumn, it never disappoints when it comes to color, and this year is no exception. After two days of light showers, the hues seemed to shimmer in the misty light.
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