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Archive for July, 2012

How to Beat the Heat – A Scenic Picnic on Mount Mitchell

July 28th, 2012 by abedofroses

Riding along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway

The highest mountain peak this side of the Mississippi is a quick drive from Asheville. On a fun day-trip the other day the temperature dropped from an unusually steamy 88° in Asheville to a pleasant 66° on the mountaintop. The scenic “slow” route up the Blue Ridge Parkway takes about an hour with spectacular views, woods and scenic overlooks along the way.

Craggy Gardensare definitely worth a stop with scenic trails, picnic areas and a Visitor’s Center. In June and July the rhododendrons are blooming and form a blazing tunnel of flowers along the Craggy Pinnacle trail. The gnarly trees are sweet birch I think- striking in the wintertime.

View from Craggy Gardens Visitor Center

The view from Craggy Gardens Visitor Center

Mount Mitchellis not that far beyond Craggy Gardens. A left on NC Highway 128 from the Parkway takes you right to the summit. Well not exactly. From the parking lot there is a steep little hike along a paved trail to the observation deck, so you can truly say you “climbed Mount Mitchell”! The views from the observation deck are well worth the little climb. At 6,684 feet above sea level you’re likely to see clouds below you and weather forming miles away. The climate at the peak is more like Canada than North Carolina and the vegetation and even the birds are different than just 35 miles away in Asheville.

Climbing to the summit of Mount Mitchell

Climbing the path to the summit of Mount Mitchell

A shaded picnic area at the lower summit parking area was a lovely place to have lunch. There were shelters there as well as picnic tables and grills.

Originally it was thought that Grandfather Mountainwas the highest peak in the area, but in 1835 Dr. Elisha Mitchell, a professor at University of North Carolina calculated the elevation using barometric pressure readings and mathematical formulas to prove that the Black Mountains, the range that Mount Mitchell is a part of, were higher.

Coud moving in over the mountain

A cloud creeps in over the mountain

Of course there was controversy and on a subsequent visit to verify his measurements in 1857 Dr. Mitchell fell from a cliff above a 40 ft waterfall and drowned in the water below. The peak was named in honor of his work in 1858 and he was reburied on top of Mount Mitchell a year after his death.

Until this time the Black Mountain Range was referred to as a single mountain since it’s ridgeline has such an even elevation. Although the elevation of the range is higher, its length is just 15 miles, much smaller than the Blue Ridge Mountains or the Great Smokies. As early as 1787 botanists prized the area for it’s diverse specimens of trees, shrubs and plants. They would bring samples back to Europe to cultivate on royal plantations.

View from Mount Mitchell

View from the summit of Mount Mitchell

The Fraser Fir is named after one such explorer, Englishman John Fraser. The Fraser fir is the most abundant tree along the mountain crest and unfortunately, it has been hit hard by the Wooly Adelgids. An unwelcome visitor that made the trip to the US from Europe around 1900, this tiny insect has destroyed forests throughout the east as well as the northwest. Mount Mitchell was the first place in the southern Appalachians to be invaded by the pest beginning back in 1957, probably because of the high elevation.

Luckily for us the views are still pristine in spite of the Adelgids and the woods are filled with a great variety of trees and shrubs as well as wildflowers. We returned to Asheville refreshed, full from our picnic and a whole lot cooler.

See our Photo Gallery for more pictures!

Where to See the Best in Mountain Arts and Crafts – Asheville’s Premier Crafts Show

July 19th, 2012 by abedofroses

Jen Swearington Fiber Art

A Detail from Jen Swearington’s “The Sea Dream”

The Crafts Fair of the Southern Highlands Craft Guild is a wonderful showcase for the best artists in the Appalachians. This weekend will draw over 200 artists and craftspeople to the US Celluar Center right here in Asheville to display their art, give demonstrations and listen to and play live music from Western North Carolina. Twice a year the Southern Highlands Craft Guild sponsors this show and it’s a must see event for anyone who loves traditional and contemporary crafts. Long before we moved to the Asheville area I would schedule my trips here to visit family around these fantastic shows. The Southern Highland Craft Guild has a long and distinguished history and the fairs have been a local tradition since 1948. Acceptance into the Guild is based on a rigorous jury process, so these artists are definitely the cream of the crop.

Wendy Searward Mask

Wendy Seaward’s “Delirium”

You will see an incredible mix of traditional works with contemporary interpretations of life and nature in the southern mountains. Crafts like hand hammered ironwork and intricate baskets are displayed side by side with whimsical brightly colored polymer clay creations or quilted and stitched mixed media illustrations that tell stories of the imagination. The guild was chartered in 1930, springing from the dream of Frances Goodrich, a Yale graduate and missionary who moved to Buncombe County in 1890. She joined with other leaders of the Southern Arts and Crafts movement in the 1920s and the birth of the guild can be traced to a meeting of these leaders at the Penland School in 1928. It is now one of the strongest craft organizations in the country, operating the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway, just a few miles from Asheville, and conducting educational outreach as well as hosting two major shows a year. They still have close ties to the Penland School of Crafts and the John C Campbell Folk School. If you can’t go to the show, be sure to visit their gallery and shop at the Folk Art Center on your next visit to Asheville!

First Time at a B&B Series: Giving up Control

July 11th, 2012 by abedofroses

Woman in Doubt

Worried about your B&B visit?

Let’s face it. Innkeepers aren’t supposed to say this but there are some guests that are just “difficult”. You can usually tell from the first phone call. They may demand answers to what seem like a million questions or call into question the innkeeper’s basic policies or ways of operating. But it’s not their fault. They aren’t trying to be difficult just to ruin our day. Coming to a B&B requires a leap of faith. You do need to give up control over many things that are basic to your day-to-day life, and that’s not always easy. The first thing to remember is that your innkeeper wants you to have a wonderful time at their B&B and they will go out of their way to ensure that, to a point. An inn’s policies may seem arbitrary from the outside looking in, but there are usually good reasons for them. Things like when you drink your first cup of coffee or what you eat for breakfast may have to be determined by the innkeeper. Your habit of an egg over easy every morning at 6AM may have to be broken if your B&B’s kitchen isn’t set up for short order cooking. On the plus side, you’re likely to trade that familiar breakfast for a two or three course gourmet treat served at 9AM! You may not be able to check into your room as soon as you arrive from out of town. Unlike a hotel, there may not be a “desk staff” that is there 24 hours. When you do check in, however, you’re likely to meet the owners in person and get advice on what to see and do in their town, as well as being personally welcomed into their home. You give to get.

Here are some things that you can do that will avoid head-butting with your hosts and make your stay an enjoyable and stress-free one.

Find out what an inn’s policies are. They are usually posted on the website and most B&Bs will include those policies in their reservation confirmation email.

Decide for yourself what you’re willing to give up control of and what you’re not, then shop around for an inn that can accommodate you. Some inns have multiple seatings for breakfast and others can’t do that. Some can take pets and others can’t. Don’t choose an inn that can’t possibly accommodate you and try to force them to make an exception for you. It’s akin to trying to change a spouse after the wedding. Better to pick one you like to begin with!

That being said, if you’re not sure how flexible a policy is, contact the B&B’s owners. Communication is the key! Some may offer an early continental breakfast for those who can’t stay for the larger meal and a phone call or email to the innkeeper can clarify that. This is also true for special diets. Most will do their best to accommodate dietary restrictions, but always check with them in advance. It may require the innkeeper to adapt the menu for the rest of their guests or to make a special trip to the store. If the website says check-in is between 4 and 6PM and you just can’t get out of work early enough to make that, give them a call. They may or may not be able to check you in later depending on the inn.

Check on-line reviews. If you’re afraid of being given an unfamiliar breakfast and all the reviews rave about the food it may make giving up control of that part a little easier. You can have faith that there will be something on the table you will like. Reviews can also give you a sense of how accommodating the innkeepers are and what to expect from the rooms.

Remember that the innkeeper is on your side! They really do want you to enjoy your visit.

innkeepers bill and emily

A Bed of Roses innkeepers, Emily and Bill

 

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