A Very Merry Christmas….

May the beauty of the season remain with you all year long. We have endured much this year, but I believe we will emerge from this pandemic stronger and healthier. Have you noticed that since March, the incidents of cold and flu have plummeted. Masks and social distancing have had unexpected positive effects.

Get out and enjoy the natural beauty around you. There’s never been a better time….

Otter Pond Sunrise
Ice Ribbons
Northwest Rutherford Mountains
Rumbling Bald Mountain
I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas
So is Buddy…

My Second most Popular Post

Just after I began blogging years ago, I was so captivated by the landscape paintings from 19th century America that I wrote a post about what I had found. Over the years, it has become one of my most read posts. With the pandemic and with so many of us staying home, I wanted to remind those of you who might have missed it of the beauty that early artists chose to glorify. These images have affected my photography in a profound way. With the holidays upon us, you might enjoy a respite from the chaos and turmoil that we have all experienced lately. Vann Helms


The First Snow of the Season

Three years ago this week, an early snow storm hit this area with more than half a foot of white stuff. The heaviest snowfall I’ve seen since moving here in 2009 was on December 9th and 10th, two years ago, 17″. Must be something about December….

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

A surprisingly early December snowfall dumped over half a foot in the valley, and was almost continuous for over a day. That’s the longest period of snow I’ve seen since coming here eight years ago. The temperature barely reached the freezing mark, but frigid temperatures since Saturday have preserved the snow in the shadows, and on rooftops facing away from the sun. Here are a few photos I made of the event.

fibber magee snow at Otter Creekcarolina peaks parkway at Otter Creek North Carolinachristmas fence at Otter Creek snow north carolinaotter pond fence in snow north carolinajunipers in snow at north carolina otter creekhemlock house at otter creek north carolina in snowhemlock house deck snow north carolina

View original post

The Happiest of Holidays…

It’s been a difficult year for all of us, but for many reasons, 2021 should be better. Stay healthy, wear your mask, and avoid crowded places. We can get through this together.

Enjoy your holidays, and celebrate responsibly. Thank you for your support.

From my home to yours, Vann Helms

White Christmas 2011

Discovering Upper Cove Creek

It’s funny how you can live in one place for eleven years and not know that a major creek flows just three miles from your doorstep. I have explored the lower part of Cove Creek where it joins The Broad River as it flows to Columbia, but until this week, the Upper part of Cove Creek had remained a mystery to me, mostly because of a lack of access from any paved roads.

With the onset of Winter and the disappearance of the leaves that hide everything from view, that all changed. It also helped to have a passenger with a keen eye who spied reflections of the late afternoon Sun off water fifty feet below Painters Gap Road. After a trek through thorn vines and thick undergrowth, to my surprise, there it was, a wide, fast flowing, rock filled creek, with a series of small falls from bank to bank. Even more surprising was the steep dirt road that allowed vehicle access from high above.

Yours truly…

Here’s a short video of Cove Creek in action… Please pardon the focus problem toward the end….

The Misunderstood Bradford Pear

In the 1960’s, urban landscapers were searching for the perfect tree to plant in parks, along highways, and along residential streets that would be fast growing, with showy flowers in the Spring, and vibrant color in the Autumn. They found their tree in China, Japan, and Vietnam. What would eventually be named the Bradford Pear became that tree of choice. Since then, everything changed. The flowers were foul smelling, and the lifespan was short, at about twenty-five years. On top of that, the small brown fruit was a favorite of birds, who were very efficient spreaders of those seeds, and suddenly the tree joined the “invasives” club. Today the trees are no longer being planted, and many municipalities have banned them outright. The survivors, however, continue to be visually stunning, being the first to flower in the Spring, and the last to burst into dramatic displays of red, yellow, orange glossy leaves in the Fall, long after all other trees have packed it in for the season.

In the area near my home, from the latter part of November, into December, the Bradford Pear can delight even the most dedicated leaf peeper. Here are examples that I found this weekend, and they made me completely forget everything I had read about the damage uncontrolled spreading might do to these beautiful mountains.

Moonrise Over Cove Creek Valley

Cove Creek Valley stretches for six miles northeast of Lake Lure. Arriving at an overlook five hundred feet above the valley floor, the Sun was just disappearing behind the mountains to the southwest, and the valley and surrounding peaks were bathed in that soft glow that precedes twilight.

Hickory Nut Mountain
View to the North
View to the Northeast

The nearly full orb emerged from the dimming light just before the Sun disappeared

Just fifteen minutes later, as the light faded, the true colors of moonrise emerged, and the details of the Moon’s surface became very clear.

Spectacular Color from November 7th

Here are the best colors from the entire season. There is a mountain just north of the house that has the best Sugar Maples every year.

My Last Images of Autumn

This was a strange year for Fall colors here along the Blue Ridge Escarpment. Heavy rains, very high winds, and a hard freeze that was delayed two weeks from normal caused the leaves to disappear overnight. Mother Nature, lucky for us, refused to call it quits, and suddenly over a three day period around November 9th, the colors burst fourth. It was remarkable.

Last Thursday, the 19th, while driving home from my gym in Marion right at sunset, I took a detour just to see what was happening in the valley below 3,100 foot Hickory Nut Mountain along the McDowell-Rutherford County boundary, and found that autumn had one last gasp of color before packing it in for the coming Winter.

Along Greasy Creek Road
Hickory Nut Mountain
Historic Ledbetter Farm

Yesterday morning just as the Sun peeked over the mountains to the east, it bathed 3,000 foot Wolf Pen Mountain in an Alpen glow. Autumn had gone, but I was reminded what had been.

The Splendor of Autumn at Biltmore

Mother Nature must have been in quarantine for the past few weeks, or she wouldn’t have waited until the middle of November to unveil her best colors at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville. What I found there yesterday was such an unexpected surprise so late in this Fall season. Frederick Law Olmstead never lived to see his landscaping masterpiece in full regalia, but I’m certain he is smiling down from on high today.

The Gate House is already decked out for the holidays…
The Approach Road is a glory to behold on the drive toward the chateau…
This stand of Bald Cypress was ablaze in orange…
All the evergreens and the giant Norway Spruce have just been installed, awaiting the lights…
The entrance gate to the Gardens…
The Public Gift Shop…
All Souls Episcopal Church in adjoining Biltmore Village

A drive up Sunset Mountain above The Grove Park Inn found more breathtaking scenery…

Notice the copper “Drain Chain” coming from the roof…

This short video will show you just how narrow the single lane roads on Sunset Mountain really are…