Monday, December 22, 2008

Mute Swans (Cygnus olor)



A native of northern and central Eurasia, the Mute Swan was introduced into North America to grace the ponds of parks and estates. Escaped individuals have established breeding populations in several areas, where their aggressive behavior threatens native waterfowl.

These swans are very large, all white with an orange bill and black face. Their wingspan can cover up to 94 inches. Sexes look alike, with males slightly larger and with larger knob on bill.

They are not mute like their name suggests but their calls are quiet and do not carry. They make a snorting "heorrr" and ca hiss aggressively. Wings make singing noise in flight.

As an introduced species it is of concern because of its effects on native wildlife. Its aggressive nature can disrupt the nesting of native waterfowl. It is protected in some states, but not others. Some states are attempting to control Mute Swan numbers.

Some cool facts about Mute Swans:

Downy young Mute Swans (called cygnets) come in two color morphs: a gray form and a white form. The gray (or "Royal") chicks start off with gray down and grow in gray-brown and white feathers, giving them a mottled look. White (or "Polish") chicks have all white down and juvenile feathers. Adults of the white morph may have pink or gray legs and feet instead of black, but otherwise the adults look alike.

The Mute Swan is reported to mate for life. However, changing of mates does occur infrequently, and swans will remate if their partner dies. If a male loses his mate and pairs with a young female, she joins him on his territory. If he mates with an older female, they go to hers. If a female loses her mate, she remates quickly and usually chooses a younger male.

The black knob at the base of the male Mute Swan's bill swells during the breeding season and becomes noticeably larger than the females. The rest of the year the difference between the sexes is not obvious.

The information above if from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Tiny Montreat




You know when you have arrived in Montreat when you pass through the stone arches at the town line on Route 9 outside Black Mountain. Located about 15 miles east of Asheville the tiny town of Montreat, shortened from mountain treat, sits in a beautiful spot of wilderness. With a population of about 700, the town covers only 2.8 square miles. Of the 4,000 acres of this, 2500 is dedicated as a wilderness preserve, a National Heritage Area. It backs to the Pisgah National Forest, Mount Mitchell and more.

The town is home to Montreat College, a Presbyterian Liberal Arts college and the Montreat Conference Center.

For over 100 years, Montreat Conference Center has been “a place set apart” for spiritual rest, renewal, and recreation. Here are some historical highlights:

1897 – The Rev. John C. Collins, a Congregational minister from Connecticut, with a group of other clergy and lay leaders, purchased 4,500 acres in the mountains of western North Carolina. Their vision was to build a Christian settlement, a mountain retreat – shortened to the name “Montreat” – where people could come for physical and spiritual renewal. Montreat held its first “Christian Assembly” in July, 1897, with nearly 400 participants housed mostly in tents.
1900 – The Montreat Hotel was erected; ready for occupancy in 1901.
1905 – The Presbyterian Church (US) purchased Montreat under the guidance of Dr. J.R. Howerton, a minister from Charlotte, NC. The transfer of property was endorsed by the PCUS General Assembly in 1907.
1906 – The Montreat Presbyterian Church organized with a membership of 25.
1907 – The first Presbyterian conference was held in Montreat.

One of my favorite things to do in Montreat, besides enjoying the lovely surroundings and the unique architecture of the old stone buildings, is shop. The college has a great gift shop featuring music, crafts, cards, gifts and of course books. This is located next to Lake Susan below the walkway.

Another store not affiliated with the school is housed above the bookstore. Ten Thousand Villages features handmade items from over 130 artisan groups in more than 38 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to bring you fair trade jewelry, home decor, gifts and more. Fair trade enables artisans to earn a fair wage and provides the opportunity for a better quality of life. What could be better than shopping to support the school at Montreat or to help third world countries?

The Conference Center also boasts 18 hiking trails, 7 tennis courts, Robert Lake Park for children and Lake Susan for paddle boating canoeing and fishing. it is a great place to come for a few hours, to walk, enjoy the scenery and shop.

For more information check out www.montreat.org.

Swans of Montreat


Two new swans took to Montreat Conference Center’s Lake Susan like …well, like ducks to water. After their release last Thursday afternoon, the pair calmly swam off to investigate their new home, clearly unruffled by their ride to the conference center.

“The swans are a gift from CeCe and Thad Ellett,” explained Polly Cameron, director of the Montreat Conference Center Annual Fund. “One of our previous swans had died shortly before the Elletts came to visit the conference center a little over a year ago,” she continued. “Saddened to see the remaining bird, nicknamed “Elvis,” swimming alone, CeCe decided to donate a new pair in celebration of the Ellett’s second wedding anniversary.”

A pair of swans serenely patrolling Lake Susan has long been a tradition at Montreat Conference Center. Left alone, as Elvis was after the death of his partner, a solitary swan can become increasingly aggressive and territorial, making it impossible to introduce a single new swan to the lake. “We coaxed Elvis to shore Wednesday evening,” Cameron said, adding that, true to his name, Elvis was attracted to the women calling to him from the shore and paddled in willingly. He was safely placed in a crate and taken back to enjoy a long and happy “swan retirement” at Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Center, an 8-acre avian breeding preserve in Scotland Neck, NC, that is home to over 180 species of birds – more than half of the world’s known species of ducks, geese, and swans – along with cranes, pheasants, parrots, and other exotic birds.

The two new swans are also from Sylvan Heights.

(from recent Press Release from Montreat Conference Center)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Book Review: Asheville Mountain Majesty by Lou Harshaw

It is a cool rainy day in the mountains - a good day to sit near a warm fire and read a good book. I bought this book for my husband last Christmas and started it a few months ago.

It reads more like a history book - full of facts and photos of the origins of this eclectic mountain city. Harshaw literally begins with the earliest geological data of this western most region of North Carolina, the first settlers and then continues through each period of history.

As a newcomer to this area, I find the book most interesting. The photos give me a better idea of what this place was like as it was founded, progressing up to this date. The prominent residents are featured as the history unfolds during each decade.

It may be a little dry reading for some but it does depict the local history of a town very well.

A Man and an Eagle


This story has been circulating on the Internet a while now but in the spirit of the season and in honor of animals I wanted to add this to my blog. To see photos and the actual wildlife rehab center where Jeff works go to www.sarveywildlife.org. Enjoy!

For a list of wildlife rehabbers in NC go to ncwildliferehab.org.

Freedom and Jeff
Freedom and I have been together 10 years this summer. She came in as a baby in 1998 with two broken wings. Her left wing doesn't open all the way even after surgery, it was broken in 4 places . She's my baby.

When Freedom came in she could not stand and both wings were broken. She was emaciated and covered in lice. We made the decision to give her a chance at life, so I took her to the vets office. From then on, I was always around her. We had her in a huge dog carrier with the top off, and it was loaded up with shredded newspaper for her to lay in. I used to sit and talk to her, urging her to live, to fight; and she would lay there looking at me with those big brown eyes. We also had to tube feed her for weeks.

This went on for 4-6 weeks, and by then she still couldn't stand. It got to the point where the decision was made to euthanize her if she couldn't stand in a week. You know you don't want to cross that line between torture and rehab, and it looked like death was winning. She was going to be put down that Friday, and I was supposed to come in on that Thursday afternoon. I didn't want to go to the center that Thursday, because I couldn't bear the thought of her being euthanized; but I went anyway, and when I walked in everyone was grinning from ear to ear. I went immediately back to her cage; and there she was, standing on her own, a big beautiful eagle. She was ready to live. I was just about in tears by then. That was a very good day.

We knew she could never fly, so the director asked me to glove train her. I got her used to the glove, and then to jesses, and we started doing education programs for schools in western Washington . We wound up in the newspapers, radio (believe it or not) and some TV . Miracle Pets even did a show about us.

In the spring of 2000, I was diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma. I had stage 3, which is not good (one major organ plus everywhere), so I wound up doing 8 months of chemo. Lost the hair - the whole bit. I missed a lot of work. When I felt good enough, I would go to Sarvey and take Freedom out for walks. Freedom would also come to me in my dreams and help me fight the cancer. This happened time and time again.

Fast forward to November 2000, the day after Thanksgiving, I went in for my last checkup. I was told that if the cancer was not all gone after 8 rounds of chemo, then my last option was a stem cell transplant. Anyway, they did the tests; and I had to come back Monday for the results. I went in Monday, and I was told that all the cancer was gone.


So the first thing I did was get up to Sarvey and take the big girl out for a walk. It was misty and cold. I went to her flight and jessed her up, and we went out front to the top of the hill. I hadn't said a word to Freedom, but somehow she knew. She looked at me and wrapped both her wings around me to where I could feel them pressing in on my back (I was engulfed in eagle wings), and she touched my nose with her beak and stared into my eyes, and we just stood there like that for I don't know how long. That was a magic moment. We have been soul mates ever since she came in. This is a very special bird.

On a side note: I have had people who were sick come up to us when we are out, and Freedom has some kind of hold on them. I once had a guy who was terminal come up to us and I let him hold her. His knees just about buckled and he swore he could feel her power coarse through his body. I have so many stories like that.

I never forget the honor I have of being so close to such a magnificent spirit as Freedoms.

Hope you enjoy this.

Jeff

Bald Eagle


I was driving through the mountains heading north to Boone and noticed an eagle flying overhead. I looked like a bald eagle but I had not seen one in this area before. When I lived in on the coast Florida I would see them daily. Doing some research, it seems there is a pair living on the shore of Lake James in Marion and I probably saw one of that pair. Keep an eye out when you are driving on Hwy 221!

The bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), our national bird, is the only eagle unique to North America. The bald eagle's scientific name signifies a sea (halo) eagle (aeetos) with a white (leukos) head. At one time, the word "bald" meant "white," not hairless. Bald eagles are found over most of North America, from Alaska and Canada to northern Mexico. About half of the world's 70,000 bald eagles live in Alaska. Combined with British Columbia's population of about 20,000, the northwest coast of North America is by far their greatest stronghold for bald eagles. They flourish here in part because of the salmon. Dead or dying fish are an important food source for all bald eagles.

Bald eagles were officially declared an endangered species in 1967 in all areas of the United States south of the 40th parallel, under a law that preceded the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

Until 1995, the bald eagle had been listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 43 of the 48 lower states, and listed as threatened in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Washington and Oregon. In July of 1995, the US Fish and Wildlife Service upgraded the status of bald eagles in the lower 48 states to "threatened."

On June 28, 2007 the Interior Department took the American bald eagle off the Endangered Species List. The bald eagle will still be protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. The Bald Eagle Protection Act prohibits the take, transport, sale, barter, trade, import and export, and possession of eagles, making it illegal for anyone to collect eagles and eagle parts, nests, or eggs without a permit. Native Americans are able to possess these emblems which are traditional in their culture.

Christmas at the Biltmore, Asheville

I have lived in Newport RI where the other smaller Vanderbilt mansion is along with many wealthy summer homes from the turn of the century. They are all open for tours at a much reduced fee. Needless to say I was not biting at the bit to tour yet another mansion from the gilded era.

Some friends visited from out of state and offered to take us on the Christmas Candlelight Tour of the Biltmore. How could I refuse something for free? So off I went.

It was the weekend after Thanksgiving and a cold rainy night. Thankfully another friend had warned that lines waiting outside can be long and cold. We dressed for the night but still the rain was a damper along with the crowds. I would suggest not going on this weekend but earlier in the month or later.

We finally got inside and it was a bit warmer. It is self guided with a pamphlet describing the rooms you are visiting. I was disappointed in not having more staff on hand to talk about the rooms and answer questions. I guess it would take much longer to get everyone through that way. The only live tree in the house was in the Banquet Hall on the main floor. It was immense and decorated with huge ornaments.

No photos are allowed to be taken except for ones taken by staff of visitors in front of the holiday decor in one of the smaller rooms on the main floor. You can pick the photos up on your way out.

Ballerinas performed excerpts from the Nutcracker Suite in the Winter Garden room but the din of voices was so loud we could not hear the music. Carolers were situated on the front steps to entertain you while you wait to go inside and others were alternating with the ballet troupe in the garden room.

The house was lit with electric candles and fires in the fireplaces. The bedrooms on the second floor were decorated with smaller trees and sprigs of greenery. The ornaments and decorations were not of the time period but rather looked like from Wal-Mart.

The servants quarters are open to tour which is different from many mansions of this time period. I found that most interesting along with the basement which houses the pool, kitchen and other servants quarters. The holiday decor in these rooms was more like what it would have been in the early 1900's with popcorn garland and simple tree ornaments.

We took the last Candlelight Tour so the gift shops and cafes were closed when we finished. I would suggest taking an earlier one to take advantage of these places.

You can visit during the day for the Christmas Tour minus the candle - it may well be worth the entrance fee at that time of day to be able to visit the Winery and River Bend Farm. The estate covers 8,000 acres with hiking trails, horseback riding trails and lots to see and do.

The holiday tours run through January 4, 2009. For more info call 1-877-BILTMORE or check their web site www.biltmore.com.

Lake Julian Festival of Lights, Asheville



We tried once before but could not find the right entrance to Lake Julian Park to see the lights. We found it in daylight and went back last night.

This is a great treat for the kids. The driveway through the park, passes the boat dock and concession stand, following the lake shore and is lit on both sides of the road with festive holiday displays. From moving reindeer to a jumping fish, it is a colorful sight and a fun evening for the kids.

The park is located off Hwy 25 south of Asheville, just beyond Earthfare. Go right on Long Shoals Road and take the second left entrance once pass Pomodoro's. The drive loops through the park and comes out at the lower entrance.

The lights are on from 6pm until 9pm from 12/5 through 12/19. A portion of the proceeds go towards Buncombe County's Special Olympics. Cost is very affordable - $5/car, $10/van and $20/bus. For more info call 684-0376.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas at the Grove Park Inn, Asheville



Old friends from out of town visited us over the Thanksgiving holiday. Since they are in the tourism business, they stayed at the Grove Park Inn and invited us to come by on the Friday after Thanksgiving for the tree lighting ceremony.

It was a zoo to get there for the get together. We did find a parking space and squeezed into the grand but very crowded main lobby. It was beautifully decorated with a roaring fire in the huge stone fireplace. Normally I find the lobby very cold temperature wise but that night it was toasty with the fire and all the people crowded inside.

Saint Nick made his entrance and settled in to read aloud Twas the Night Before Christmas to the many children waiting for the tree to be lit. It was hard to hear over the din but his costume was splendid. A nice change from the usual red Santa outfit. Once the story was told, the tree was lit with much fanfare and children lined up to get their photos taken with St. Nick.

We ordered drinks and occupied one of the Mission style tables to listen to the band sing holiday favorites sprinkled with mellow music from days gone by. The kids were up dancing with a great many others. It was a wonderful way to begin the holiday season.

The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa opened its stately doors in 1913. As an award winner of AAA's Four Diamond award Grove Park Inn is known for its legendary service, authentic Arts & Crafts d├ęcor, and its grandeur. The resort overlooks the Asheville skyline and provides majestic views of the legendary Blue Ridge Mountains. Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa offers 512 guest rooms, including a club floor, themed suites, exquisite dining options, a world-class Spa and a famed 18-hole Donald Ross golf course. For more info call 828 252-2711 or go to www.groveparkinn.com

Grove Park Inn's 16th Annual National Gingerbread House Competition and Display



This was the second year we have gone to the Grove Park Inn in Asheville for the Gingerbread House Display. It was overwhelming at the amount of entries and the fierce competition amongst them.

This is an annual event at the Grove Park for the 16th year. All of the entries are on display either at the Inn or downtown at the Grove Arcade. The technique and imagination of this year's entries is amazing. It is often hard to believe that these creations are edible. I particularly like the teen and children's division - they seem to create the type of gingerbread houses that I remember from my childhood. Less on technique and more candy involved - the way it should be I think.

The competion features entries from four age levels - adult, teen (13-17), youth (9-12) and child (age 8 and under). Close to 400 entries were submitted this year.

The Grand Prize Winner was Billie Mochow from Burns, TN. Her entry will be sent to NYC to be featured on Good Morning America on December 18.

For more info go to www.groveparkinn.com. The houses are on display Monday - Thursday for non hotel guests until January 11. The Grove Arcade houses are on display daily.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Goat Herding



Across the street from us in our narrow valley is a goat farm of Nubian dairy goats. I love seeing them graze in the pasture below our home and have gotten quite attached to them.

One morning last week, I looked out and the herd was looking to the west in the pasture instead of grazing. I followed their gaze and one old billy goat had gotten out and was sauntering down the road out to the main drag. Horrified he might get hurt I jumped into the car and drove over to try to corral him. He was confused and very docile - probably wondering why he was outside the fence. By clapping, yelling and nudging him from behind, I got him headed back into the pasture. It seems like the wind the night before had caused a tree branch to break off and fall on the fencing wire, dropping it to the ground level. Mr. Goat had simply stepped over the fence and out he went!

I was unsure what to do since more would get out if I walked the mile or so to the house of the owner. Another neighbor was driving by on his way to work and stopped to see what the commotion was. He was sweet enough to offer to call the owner for me. Sure enough he came down in his truck and fixed the fence although he seemed surprised that I had come over and herded the goat back inside. I guess I am an animal rescuer - no matter what kind.

I thou hgt you might want to know a little bit about the goats!

The Anglo-Nubian, or simply Nubian in the United States, is a breed of domestic goat.
The breed was developed in Great Britain of native milking stock and goats from the Middle East and North Africa. Its distinguishing characteristics include large, pendulous ears and a "Roman" nose. Due to their Middle-Eastern heritage, Anglo-Nubians can live in very hot climates and have a longer breeding season than other dairy goats. Considered a dairy or dual-purpose breed, Anglo-Nubians are known for the high butterfat content of their milk, although on average, the breed produces less volume of milk than other dairy breeds.

Anglo-Nubians are large, with does weighing at least 135 lb. (61 kg.) and 175 lb. (79 kg) for bucks. The minimum height of the breed, measured at the withers, is 30 inches (76 cm) for does and 35 inches (88 cm) for bucks.

The typical Nubian is large in size and carries more flesh than other dairy breeds. The Nubian breed standard specifies large size, markings can be any color, the ears are long, pendulous, and the nose is Roman. The Nubian temperament is sociable, outgoing, and vocal. Because of its elongated ears and sleek body, the Nubian is occasionally nicknamed the "Lop-Eared Goat" or "Greyhound Goat".

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Christmas Tree Farms


It is that time again - flocks of people from the flat lands drive into the High Country to buy their holiday trees from the abundant farms scattered throughout western North Carolina mountains.

This region is known for its Fraser Fir trees that grow only at elevations higher than 3000 feet. They are a dense evergreen with soft short flat needles, fragrant aroma and long lasting needles. It is true - I have had one up until past Valentines Day. I hated to take it down since it looked as good as new. I decorated it with heart garlands and Valentine cards and candy. My husband insisted that February was the latest it could stay up even though I had ideas of what to do for St. Pat's day!

Choose and cut signs dot the two lane roads, some offering hot cocoa or cider while you choose. Others have hayrides, sleigh rides and all sorts of festivities for the kids. I grew up in New England with tree farms around me there too. It was an ordeal but a fun one - picking a tree, cutting it down with a small hand saw and dragging it to the car, tying it on the roof and off you went. Here in North Carolina they do all of it for you. It begins the same way -you hike around the farm and choose a tree from the many perfect specimens. But once you do that your job is done. They escort you back to get your hot cocoa and then they head to your tree with a chain saw, cutting the trunk close to the ground. The workers pass it through their bundling machine wrapping it in a mesh plastic for easier transporting and then they haul it to and put it on your car for you. It think the new way takes the fun out of it!

This year is also the third time in four years that a North Carolina Christmas tree has graced the White House in DC. The chosen tree was a 23 year old Fraser Fir that stands 21.5 feet tall and is 12 feet wide. Some 30 other smaller trees will grace the Capitol buildings and this year all of them come from North Carolina.

So head on up to one the the Christmas tree farms this year and start a tradition that the kids will enjoy for years to come! For info about the closest tree farm to you check out www.ncchristmastrees.com. In Avery County go to www.averycountytrees.org.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Morning Glory Cafe, Black Mountain


One of my favorite places for homemade comfort food is Morning Glory Cafe. Located at 6E Market Street, just off Rte 9 past the new super Ingles, it is a haven for locals on cold mornings.

They serve breakfast and lunch, featuring healthy fresh homemade food made by Chef Cookie Hadley. Some friends treated me to lunch there this past weekend and it was wonderful as usual.

I had the Salmon Cakes - wild Alaskan salmon, green onion, red bell peppers, lemon and capers topped with a spicy remoulade. The cakes were stuffed with salmon and not all breading like most. It was served with a fruit or side salad. Priced at $8.85.

Deb had the Build Your Own Omelet with three ingredients, served with fruit and grits or home fries. Priced at $7.95.

Larry chose lunch of Fish Po Boy - fried tilapia on grilled french bread with spicy remoulade and fresh lettuce, onion and tomato.

On warm days they offer dining outside on the patio. Expect to wait a bit as they are most always crowded but it is worth the wait.

Hours are Mon - Fri from 7am - 2pm and Sat & Sun from 8am - 2pm. Their menu is posted on their web site at www.themorningglorycafe.com. 828.669.6212

Raccoon - Procyon lotor


Outside the front of our home, we have suet, thistle and another bird feeders hanging from a huge larch tree. My kitties and I enjoy watching the antics of all the birds outside feeding year round. Although I have not seen him, it seems like a raccoon is visiting and walking off with my suet feeder. I try to take it inside at night but when I forget, I usually have to hunt for it, finding it up the trail quite a ways from the house on the ground and empty. I know it is not a bear since the other feeders are carefully lifted off the hooks holding them on the tree branch. Bears will pull and break the hooks and feeders. Another sign it is a raccoon is the bird bath water is very muddy from the raccoon rinsing off his hands and food in the water.

The raccoon is one of the best known and most easily recognized mammals in our region. They are very adaptable and intelligent animals, capable of living in close proximity to humans. In North Carolina, raccoons are most common in the eastern coastal plain section because of the abundant wetland habitat.

Raccoons are medium sized mammals, with adults ranging in weight from about 8 to 20 pounds and a length of 28 to 33 inches. Male raccoons are generally larger than the females. The fur is relatively long with an overall coloration of grizzled gray to brownish black. The most distinctive features of the raccoon are the black-ringed tail and the blackish coloration on the front of the face which resembles a bandit's mask.

Raccoons are most common in and around wetland areas, where they search for small aquatic animals like crayfish and freshwater mussels in the shallow water. They find much of their food by feeling with their sensitive front paws, often while gazing off in another direction. They also have the habit of dunking their food items in water when available, leading some people to believe that raccoons "wash" their food before eating it. It is more likely though that this "washing" of food items by a raccoon is simply its way of feeling and inspecting the food with its tactile senses before swallowing. Besides aquatic life and other animal matter, raccoons also eat a variety of fruits, berries, and seeds. In suburban areas, raccoons often raid our garbage cans for food as well as backyard bird feeders and gardens. Raccoons are generally active throughout the year, becoming dormant in winter only in very cold regions of the country. They usually begin breeding in their first or second year during late winter. After a gestation period of about 63 to 65 days, raccoons give birth to a litter of 2 to 5 young. The den is usually located in a hollow tree cavity, burrow, or other secluded site. Baby raccoons are weaned at 16 weeks of age but usually remain with the mother until they are about 9 months old. The average lifespan in the wild of a raccoon is from 2 to 3 years but they have lived as long as 17 years in captivity:

Raccoons have long been hunted and trapped in much of North America. Early settlers hunted them for their meat and raccoon pelts were commonly used to make articles of clothing. 'Coonskin hats were often worn by the pioneers and even in this century, during the 1920's, raccoon skin coats were a major fad. Today, raccoons are much less likely to be pursued for their meat and hides, although they continue to be a popular game animal. Raccoon hunting is done at night when raccoons are most active. Specially trained dogs are often used to find and trail raccoons until they are "treed". Many modern day 'coon hunters simply like the thrill of the chase and the sounds of the baying hounds. Once treed, many of these raccoons are left to be pursued again another day. Regulated hunting of raccoons has much less impact on raccoon populations than other factors such as food shortages, parasites, and diseases. Many raccoons are also killed each year on our highways. Raccoons in our area often suffer from fatal outbreaks of canine distemper, especially in late winter, and are also one of the most likely wild animals to contract the deadly rabies virus. Any raccoon that appears to be disoriented and unafraid of people should be avoided.

Bobcat - Felis rufus


Once when I was pet sitting for a sweet dog of friends, I heard a deep growl from the dark as I left the house. Needless to say I ran for the car and locked myself inside! I am sure it was a bobcat. I had seen a few at night while driving through my neighborhood.

Bobcats occur frequently in the southern half of North America but are rarely found in the Midwestern states. They are common in the mountains of the Carolinas and the coastal plain as far north as the Great Dismal Swamp. Larger populations occur in the mountains and coastal plain than in the Piedmont region.

Bobcats are somewhat larger than domestic cats, ranging from 24 to almost 40 inches in length, including the tail. They weigh between 16 and 24 pounds, depending on their sex, with males typically being -heavier than females. Their mottled coloration varies from grayish to reddish brown with small darker spots and blotches. The tail is short and tipped with black on the upper surface. Long hairs on their faces resemble 'sideburns' and their ears are usually dark with a white patch near the tip.

Bobcats are solitary hunters that prey mostly on small mammals such as rabbits and rodents, although they will also eat birds and even large animals like the white-tail deer. Bobcats have binocular vision which enables them to focus on swiftly running prey. Their pupils expand to take in all available light, making them extremely effective night hunters. Sharp claws that assist in climbing are retractable, allowing the bobcat to approach their prey more quietly. They can stalk to within a few feet of their intended prey and then make a short dash or pounce. Bobcats have compact skulls (fewer teeth and shortened jaws) coupled with long canine teeth. This provides them with tremendous biting pressure that can kill their prey in one bite. Bobcats begin breeding at 1 year of age, usually in late winter or early spring. Two to four kittens are born after a gestation period of about 62 days. The young are furred but blind at birth. In about ten days their eyes will open and at four weeks they begin to explore the area around the den. They are weaned in about 7 to 8 weeks. Bobcats occupy a variety of habitats where there are dense thickets, including coastal swamps and upland forests. Although they are often undetected, bobcats can live close to humans as long as there is suitable habitat. They make their dens in hollow trees, small caves, and underneath rock ledges and outcroppings.

Bobcats were once found throughout the United States but today's range is more limited. A major mortality factor appears to be the available food supply, although parasites and diseases can also affect the population. It is legal to hunt and trap bobcats in North Carolina during set seasons. The price for bobcat pelts has recently risen and some wildlife biologists feel that increased trapping pressure could possibly threaten bobcat populations in some areas.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Ben Long Fresco Trail


If you are an art lover and like exploring the mountains of WNC, then you will enjoy the Fresco Trail.

Fresco is the medium Michaelangelo chose to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The technique involves mixing sand and lime, placing the mix on the wall and painting while it is still wet. It is a tenuous art - the paint dries quickly so great skill and planning goes into applying the paint to achieve the beautiful result.

Artist Ben Long grew up in Statesville and studied at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Art Student's Leagues in new York. Ben began his apprenticeship under Maestro Pletro Annigoni to study fresco paiting in Italy. He has since achieved international frame for his frescoes and oil painting.

Some of the frescoes in the mountains are listed below.

At St. Mary's Episcopal Church in West Jefferson (336.982.3076) you can view three of Long's frescoes - Mary Great with Child, done in 1974, John the Baptist, 1976 and The Mystery of Faith finished in 1977.

The Last Supper painted in 1980 beautifies the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Glendale Springs (336.982.3076).

Montreat College in Montreat (828.669.8012. ext. 3820)hosts the Return of the Prodigal Son finished in 1998.

Suffer the Little Children shown above is viewed at The Crossnore School in Crossnore 828.733.4305)

There are several others off the mountains. For a list of all the frescoes nad directions to them check out the web site www.benlongfrescotrail.com. Happy viewing!

Updates on Chimney Rock Park




Since my husband is a chef and normally works on holidays, we have created a tradition of taking hikes in the mornings of the days he has to work. If friends are visiting, they come too.

This year on Black Friday, we headed out to Chimney Rock with friends from Connecticut. It was a wonderful warm day so we took a few new trails. Check out my older Chimney Rock post for the details. We did a couple of new trails this year - the Four Seasons Trail and Hickory Nut Falls Trail.

John Mason plays the hammered dulcimer at various locations in the park on nice days. He was playing outside the Sky Lounge Deli, serenading the hikers. It was a busy day and we had to leave our car in the Meadows and take a shuttle up to the entrance.

The Park is now a State owned park and is open year round except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's day. Check it out at chimneyrockpark.com!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!


Happy Thanksgiving to all! Don't forget to remember the less fortunate today. Donate time or food to help others. And also our feathered and four legged brothers and sisters - I always give my kitties some tuna or salmon today to let them have a special feast. And suet and sunflower seeds for the birds outside.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Linville Falls, Town of Linville Falls




I have been lucky enough to live a short drive from this lovely park with hiking trails, picnic areas and of course the breathtaking Linville Falls itself. It is one of my favorite waterfalls in the western mountains.

Located off the Blue Ridge Parkway between Linville and Spruce Pine, near Milepost 316.4, the 440 acre park belongs to the National Park Service even though is sits inside the Pisgah National Forest. Turn onto the Linville Falls Recreation Area Access Road and follow it until it ends at the visitor center. There are four trails here - some offer fantastic views of the falls and others are just great hikes.

Linville Falls Trail
This trail actually begins from another parking area just off NC 183 in the town of Linville Falls. Roughly two miles round trip it is easy to moderate. The trail descends on a well worn road taking you through heavy forest. This trail intersects with the other trails at various points - just follow the signs and head for the ones that appeal to you. For a view of the falls, the Upper Falls Overlook Trail descends off the main trail to a rock wall at the top of Linville Falls. This is a favorite of many! Chimney View Overlook makes an easy descent alongside a wooden guardrail and offers yet another outstanding vantage point of the falls. Along the way the trail breaks off again to the left to Erwin's View. From this trail you can view Humpback Mountain, Doe Hill Mountain and Buck Hill.

Plunge Basin Overlook Trail
This is an easy to moderate 0.5 mile one way trail. The Plunge Basin and Linville Gorge Trail begins to the right of the visitor center. At 0.3 mile the Linville Gorge Trail forks off to the left and the Plunge basin goes straight. You will pass through a high dense tunnel of mountain laurel. The trail ends overlooking the lake size basin and waterfall at the northern end of the gorge.

Linville Gorge Trail
Again the trail begins to the right of the visitor center with the Plunge Basin Trail. This trail is 0.7 mile one way and strenuous. After it forks from the main trail, the Linville Gorge Trail narrows and becomes rocky and difficult to navigate as it descends down to the pool at the base of the falls.

Duggers Creek Loop
This is a short meditative easy loop of 0.4 mile round trip. You will cross a small bridge over Duggers Creek, pass a small waterfall and loop back to the trail head.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Anvil Arts Studio, Linville Falls

It may surprise visitors driving along Hwy. 221 in Linville Falls to see sculptures along the roadside. For others traveling this road, it is a regular routine to watch for new pieces of sculpture Bill Brown has put in his beautiful landscaped yard, or to see what he is working on in front of his studio.



Since opening in 1981, Sculptor Bill Brown has created metal sculptures which have found their way to homes throughout the United States. He delivers or ships work such as his large garden pieces, and small interior sculptures, to his delicate blown glass and steel lighting, to locations nearby, or to Georgia, Louisiana and California to name a few. After over twenty three years his reputation has grown, and his work had reached a level of recognition which brings people from all over to see his latest creations.

Sculptures on every scale, from small pedestal work to large garden pieces, are included in his endless list of private collections. Also his amazing blown glass and steel lighting pieces have quickly found their way into many collections, and range from table lamps to twenty five foot long glass and steel chandeliers. He has participated in a wide array of exhibitions, museum shows, and has taught, and lectured as his scheduled allows.



Visiting Bill’s studio, it is busy with the activity of creation, and the gallery building and gardens offer a chance to walk along and quietly take in the beauty and wonder of his finished works. A couple of times during the year Bill hosts an open house to view his new creations. He turns up the eclectic mix of music he is known to work by, his wife Liz, fills the work tables with refreshments, and they invite everyone to come and enjoy his latest creations. “This is a wonderful weekend, filled with old friends, collectors, and new visitors, all coming to see what I have been working on”. “It is great to get peoples reactions to my new works, and of course to sell art which then becomes part of others lives”, shares Brown.

Some people see the making of art as a surprising, or even crazy thing to do; working each day to create three dimensional objects which begin as a thought or emotion and then become something which is expressive, beautiful, and thought provoking. For Bill Brown this is natural and normal, and something he says he must do. Growing up within the community of Penland School, which his father directed for twenty one years, he followed his early inclination into the arts world. Of course, he had to explore other areas along the way, doing construction, working at a cattle ranch, working as a horse shoer, but he could not deny his life direction, and his passion for the arts.



He grew up working in a variety of studios, and experienced everything from blowing glass, and making pottery, to traditional dyeing of yarn. These experiences can be felt in his relationship to his materials today, which is primarily steel, but he also incorporates other metals, blown glass, and uses acrylics to bring surprising color to some of the work. It is evident that he understands his materials, and has technical abilities that cause so many to ask how do you do that, but his true talent, or gift is that he transforms not just his materials but viewers with his finished work. The expression, the feeling of joy and flowing movement in some of his work, or the sense of tension or the unknown in others, all come through in his sculptures.

Open Monday -Friday from 9-5, his studio is located on Hwy. 221 in Linville Falls. Call for additional information and directions 828-765-6226.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Linville River Mercantile and Bakery, Crossnore



A new place opened on Hwy 221 out of Crossnore called Linville River Mercantile and Bakery. It is located just as you head out of town on the left of the highway. The building has been there forever and has housed many a business.

Now it is sweet in more ways than one. For a quick stop on a cold day, check out their fresh coffee and baked goods. Cakes, pies, breads and cupcakes fill the display case while the aroma of coffee warms the room.

The shop itself is an array of small gift items with a food, cooking or kitchen themes. There is a lot of inventory tucked into a small place. It doesn't allow for many to be inside at once. A few tables line the outside porch for those who want to eat in.

It is a quaint little shop with delicious baked goods - a nice stop on an afternoon drive. Right now they are open seven days a week but hope to close on Mondays. The hours are 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. For more information call 828.719.9510.

Six Pence Pub, Blowing Rock

For a taste of old England in the mountains, try this place. Located on Main Street in Blowing Rock amidst the shops, it is warm and cozy on these fall days with the full bar to the right of the entrance and table seating on the left. Decorated with mementos of UK, it is a fun place to hang out and eat.

They serve American fare, homemade soup, and British specialties like Bangers & Mash, Shepard's Pie and Beef Guinness and Mushroom Pie. I usually have the Fish and Chips - very well done, as you would expect - nice flaky batter on the fish. My Mom always liked the Shepard's Pie which reminded her of her Canadian background. The food is well prepared and hearty, just right for colder days during fall and winter. Prices are in the moderate range.

The bar is open until 2 a.m. and they serve 10 beers on draught. The pub is open for lunch and dinner year round. For more information call 828.295.3155.

Friday, November 7, 2008

12 Bones, Asheville


If you like BBQ and fresh homemade food, this is the place to go. Located on Riverside Drive in the River Arts District of downtown Asheville, 12 Bones is a fixture for the working class crowd. This fall they opened a second store on Sweeten Creek Road in Arden. They are only open for lunch from 11-4 so expect a crowd and long lines but it is well worth it!

They smoke their own ribs, pork, turkey, beef brisket and chicken. You can order plates with two sides and cornbread or sandwiches. Everything is made on the premises by the friendly eclectic staff. Prices range from $5.00 to $18.00 for the full baby back rib plate.

It is a very local Southern menu of offerings. The sides include mac n cheese, grits, baked beans, collard greens, cole slaw and corn pudding. You can also get a side of chicken, brisket or turkey.

For vegetarians they offer a wedge salad, green salad with feta and nuts and a MLT - portabella mushroom, lettuce and tomato sandwich.

The best thing is that they recycle pretty much everything...they even compost the vegetable scraps. They use metal plates, buy recycled take out containers and really try to help out the environment. They also buy local produce, and meats too.

12 Bones was written up in the May 2008 issue of Southern Livingg and was visited in September by President Obama on his election trail.

Their menu is posted online at www.12bones.com and offer take out as well. For your special event they can do large take out orders but be sure to give them plenty of notice. Don't miss this unique Asheville eating place!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Quilt Trails of WNC



Driving along the winding two lane roads of the High Country, I began to notice colorful displays resembling quilts appearing on barns, sheds and some businesses. It didn't take much research to find out what this was all about!

The Quilt Trails as the project is called, originally began in Ohio when a woman put up a block on her property to honor her mother. In WNC the project kicked off in 2005 with grants from Blue Ridge Heritage Area and Hand Made in America. Now North Carolina has more blocks than other states except for Kentucky.

Volunteers create each quilt square. They draft the block to size, transferring the design to a board that has been primed. Each section is painted while the remaining sections are taped off. Doing this for each section takes time. Some more intricate designs take days to complete. Then the final block is installed to a local building.

Each square has its own story, symbolic of a family name, a quilt pattern made by a family member or a traditional pattern of the area. Some examples include LeMoyne Cheesebox on the old Cheese House in Banner Elk. This one is a marriage of two traditional patterns designed and painted by Barbara Timberman. In the uppermost photo above is C. Wiseman's Windwheel on Stamey Branch Road in Avery County painted by Heidi Fisher. In Newland look for the Mountain Laurel block on the Morrison Public Library painted by Avery High School art students.

Take a drive one afternoon and experience the tradition of the mountains. Seeing these quilt blocks will evoke fond memories of comfortng quilts, older family members and days gone by. The web site www.quilttrailswnc.org suggests itineraries for seeing the quilts in this area.

October Woolly Worm Festival, Banner Elk


Every year about the third weekend in October thousands of people descend on the tiny village of Banner elk to race woolly worms - the fuzzy orange and black striped woolly bear caterpillar.

Mountain tradition states that you can predict the upcoming winter weather week by week using the 13 dark stripes of the woolly bear caterpillar. The darker the segment, the more severe the weather - lighter segments mean milder weather.

This unusual festival began 31 years ago to celebrate this weather predicting worm. The two days are full of activities - craft and food vendors - a road race and Woolly Worm Ball initiate the festival the weekend before.

The actual race is set for 10 a.m. that Saturday. Each round consists of 20-25 worms racing up a string and the winner determines the winter forecast along with garnering a cash prize.

To avoid the tremendous traffic I would suggest taking Hwy 19 out of Newland and turning on Hwy 194 heading towards Banner Elk, This brings you right into town. Hwy 105 will be bumper to bumper from Tynecastle down to Banner Elk. For more info go to www.woollyworm.com

Old Hampton Store, Linville



Go back in time to the 1920's when you visit the Old Hampton Store and Grist Mill in Linville, just off Hwy 221 on Ruffin Street in the old part of town.

The store was built by the Hampton family after their hardware store in Tennessee was flooded to create Watauga Lake. In it's heyday it was the general store for the locals to purchase anything needed - food, hardware and home supplies. As time went on and the area developed, the store became more of a tourist attraction.

Today the Hampton Store features 100% stone ground cornmeal, grits and buckwheat pancake mix along with homemade jams, jellies, preserves, pickled food products, cheeses and country ham.

Inside the store you will find Uncle Lee's BBQ offering sandwiches, soups and freshly made sourdough buns. Dine inside or in good weather on the porch. On weekends they offer blue grass music during lunch hours.

Part of this historic complex includes the gallery 87 Ruffin Street in the old boarding house. The gallery showcases local folk art, pottery, carvings, weaving, and jewelry.

Open from 10 - 5 mid April through December, the Hampton Store is a taste of old Appalachia. Their food products can be purchased online too. For more info call 828.733.5213 or go to www.oldhamptonstore.com.

Flying Cloud Farm, Fairview



Just a few miles from our house is a great organic farm called Flying Cloud. Owned and operated by Annie Louise and Isaiah Perkinson, it is located 12 miles from Asheville on Rte 74A.

The Perkinsons have farmed this land for 8 years without synthetic pesticides, fertilizers or herbicides. They grow wonderful vegetables, fruits and flowers for the local farmers markets and their produce stand. The stand is run on the honor system, not something you see often in this day and age. A sampling of the days harvest is showcased - flowers on the top shelf and the more perishable items on ice int he Plexiglas bins. Prices are listed under the produce and the money is deposited in the green tube next to the stand.

The farm offers an active CSA - community supported agriculture in which customers purchase a share of the season's harvest in advance. From mid-May to mid-October, a box of fresh produce is available each week for the CSA members.

We enjoy stopping off at the produce stand to check out what is offered that day. Nice to have such a great selection of organic food in town! For more info check out www.flyingcloudfarm.net.

Bon Hiver - First Snow!




We had our first snow last week - a bit early for this area but wonderful. It was a mild day with light wet snow falling - just perfect to walk and take photos.

The titmouse was at the feeder and the nuthatches too. Our raccoon may have been there as the birdbath was full of dirty water and the ground feeder tipped over. It was not snowing when I woke up but the ground was covered with a light dusting. I went out to feed the cats in the shelter and it began to snow again. I got them all settled in and went back to the house for my camera.

We live on 8 acres of woods going up to the ridge line facing south. It is a narrow valley with the creek flowing next to the road and the land goes up steeply on either side. Our house sits at the lower level of the land, about 100 feet above the road and the property rises to the ridge behind us. A good Feng Shui setting!

I usually walk up to the big oak with the burl around its middle and sit. This give me a great view of the woods, the birds and creatures. Today the birds were fluttering big time - juncos, more titmouse and a few squirrels too.

As I walked up the trial the wind picked up and the snow fell off the branches above me showering me in wet flakes. It was so peaceful and beautiful. A true gift for that day. I sat under my tree for quite a while before the sun broke through the clouds. I knew the snow would be ending soon - it was just a brief but lovely snow event.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Chimney Rock Park, Chimney Rock



I have been to Chimney Rock a few times. The first time my husband and I came with two friends from SC. It was shortly after the movie The Last of The Mohican's came out in theaters and much of it was filmed at Chimney Rock. My friend Emily knew all the scenes and where what was filmed so we had a first hand tour of the spots used in the movie! Years later we all now live in Asheville a short ride to Chinmney Rock. Amazing!

It is still a place to bring visitors and we took our UK friends there not long ago. Located 25 miles SE of Asheville it is easy to find right off Main Street in town. The state of NC just purchased the attraction and it is a National Heritage Site in the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area.

The main feature is the top of Chimney Rock itself, overlooking Lake Lure and the town of Chimney Rock. An a 26 story elevator ride takes you up to the top where you have incredible 75 mile views of Hickory Nut Gorge. As the story goes, a Dr. Lucius Morse came to the mountains seeking a more favorable climate. He was intrigued by the giant monolith and purchased the 64 acre parcel around it, creating a nature preserve and scenic attraction.

For hikers, the Park has five trials ranging from easy to strenuous. For families with small children the Great Woodland Adventure Trail is a easy short trail taking about 45 minutes round trip. It begins in the Meadows and winds through the woods.

The Outcroppings Tails is an alternative to using the elevator. It consists of a network of stiras and boardwalks to and from the Chimney Rock level;. If you have your pet with you, this is a good one to use. it takes 15-20 minutes.

Four Seasons Trail is nice way to head down to the Meadows from the base of the falls. We parked here so it gave us a way to hike back down and not wait for the shuttle. It warns of a steep decent but we found it fine - going up the trail would be strenuous for some. It takes about 20 minutes one way. The Cliff Trail is the most exciting - but it is not open any longer. Too bad cuz it took you along the cliff side through narrow passageways to view the top of Hickory Nut Falls. The Hickory Nut Falls Trail offers a more moderate hike and leads to the bottom of the falls. Staff are always available for assistance or to offer guidance as to what trail would be best for you and your family.

The Skyline Trail is under construction and promises to be a moderate to strenuous hike taking you to some of the Park's most popular geological formations. Look for this one to open.

Chimney Rock offers many activities all year round - rock climbing clinics, Grady the Groundhog Kids Club, Grady's Discovery Den, pet outings and much more. For hours and more information check out chimneyrockpark.com or call 828.625.9611. It is located on Hwy 64/74A which you can take from Asheville. Have fun!

Crossnore Weavers: A Working Museum


This attraction continues a tradition for The Crossnore School begun by founder Mary Martin Sloop in 1820. "Our aim, " Sloop wrote in an early catalog, "--to keep alive an almost forgotten art: to cherish in the young people of the mountains a reverence for this art; to provide a means of livelihood and pleasure for the women and girls; to furnish homes with beautiful and lasting material." Her efforts provides unprecedented job opportunities for women of the isolated, impoverished mountain communities as well as a tangible means of supporting and sustaining the growing school and children's, home.

Today weavers taught by early Weaving Program staff still practice their art on antique looms as they welcome visitors to The Crossnore School. This on-site museum details the history of weaving at the school and pays tribute to the weavers who helped craft it. All proceeds from the sale of handwoven goods benefit the children of The Crossnore School, a private non-profit corporation whose mission is to provide hope and healing for children from families in crises. Each year approximately 250 of North Carolina's abused, abandoned and neglected children cal the school their home.

The gift shop offers a variety of items handwoven at the school - scarves, shawls,place mats, napkins, throw pillows,baby items including breathtaking christening gowns as well as books, tapes, Cd's and pottery and other gift items.

Directions to the Crossnore School: From Hwy 221 look for sign that reads Town of Crossnore _ Home of Crossnore School Inc., turn onto E. Crossnore Drive, travel 0.3 miles. turn right on D.A.R. Drive. The Weaving Museum is behind the Blair Fraley Sales Store. For more information call828.733.4660 or check out www.crossnoreschool.org

Loaves and Fishes, Crossnore

Nothing fancy about Loaves and fishes restaurant on Maple Street in Crossnore but the food is very well prepared and all of it homemade. Locally owned and operated they have been doing a booming business for several years.

Located just off Hwy 221, the metal building offers seating inside or in warmer months on the enclosed porch with windows open. This area is heated in the colder months and is quite comfortable. The lunch menu is available Wednesday through Friday from 11am until 8pm. The sandwiches range from burgers, chicken breast, turkey, ham, roast beef, chicken salad and the quiche of the day is always good. I usually get the fried flounder sandwich. The soups change daily. Several salads complete the menu. Prices range from $4.95 to 7.95.

Dinner is served Wed. through Sat. from 4 - 8pm. Some favorites include chicken pot pie, steak, grilled shrimp skewers, fried flounder, fried oysters, salmon cakes and a baked spaghetti. Prices range from $8.50 to 14.95 for the seafood platter.

Always save room for dessert! Their selection changes daily and they offer cakes, pies, and other pastry items. All made from scratch!

For those of you that prefer they offer take home casseroles that feed 3-4 people. Meatloaf casserole is a specialty item. Chicken and ham or jambalaya also tempt the palate. Whole desserts are available for take home by special order.

For hours and more info call 828 733-5812.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Crossnore Labyrinth


Recently the Crossnore School for children in need added a wonderful labyrinth to their grounds. For those of you who have no experience with this mode of meditation I will explain.

A labyrinth is an ancient symbol that relates to wholeness. It combines the imagery of the circle and the spiral into a meandering but purposeful path. The Labyrinth represents a journey to our own center and back again out into the world. Labyrinths have long been used as meditation and prayer tools.

The term labyrinth is often used interchangeably with maze, but modern scholars of the subject use a stricter definition. For them, a maze is a tour puzzle in the form of a complex branching passage with choices of path and direction; while a single-path labyrinth has only a single path to the center. A labyrinth has an unambiguous through-route to the center and back and is not designed to be difficult to navigate.

A labyrinth has only one path. It is unicursal. The way in is the way out. There are no blind alleys. The path leads you on a circuitous path to the center and out again.

A labyrinth is a right brain task. It involves intuition, creativity, and imagery. With a maze many choices must be made and an active mind is needed to solve the problem of finding the center. With a labyrinth there is only one choice to be made. The choice is to enter or not. A more passive, receptive mindset is needed. The choice is whether or not to walk a spiritual path.

At its most basic level the labyrinth is a metaphor for the journey to the center of your deepest self and back out into the world with a broadened understanding of who you are.

Walking the Labyrinth
There is no right way to walk a labyrinth. You only have to enter and follow the path. Your walk can be one of a specific attitude - joyous, somber, thoughtful or prayerful. Try it out different ways - play music, sing, pray out loud, walk it alone or with lots of people. Most importantly, pay attention to your experience.

Some guidelines for walking a labyrinth:
1. Focus: Pause and wait at the entrance. Become quiet and centered. Give acknowledgement through a bow, nod or other gesture and then enter.

2. Experience: Walk purposefully. Observe the process. When you reach the center, stay there and focus several moments. Leave when it seems apporpiate. Be attentive on the way out.

3. Exit: Turn and face the entrance. Give acknowledgement of the ending, such as "Amen".

4.Reflect: After walking, reflect back on your experience. Use journaling or drawing to capture your experience.

5. Walk often.

Directions to the Crossnore Labyrinth: From Hwy 221. look for sign that reads Town of Crossnore _ Home of Crossnore School Inc., turn onto E. Crossnore Drive, travel 0.3 miles. turn right on D.A.R. Drive. The labyrinth is behind the Blair Fraley Sales Store and next to the Weaving Museum.

The Louisiana Purchase, Banner Elk

Owned locally by Pat and Lori Bagbey the "Purchase" as locals call it, has been a fixture in the mountains for over 20 years.
Serving Creole and Cajun food, this upscale night spot focuses on high quality meals and their outstanding wine list.
They have a full bar located upstairs in the loft area with windows overlooking the creek and park out back. Their wine selection has been built up over 20 years and boasts to be the second largest wine list in North Carolina. They use the cuvinant bar system which replaces the wine in the bottles with nitrogen after opening.
The restaurant, rated three diamonds by AAA, makes everything from scratch from appetizers to desserts. One favorite is the BBQ Shrimp over grit cake topped with sweet potato nest garnish. I think they have the best Cesar Salad in the mountains. and don't miss out on the Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Torte.
The wait staff is excellent, personable and with gracious timing.
They serve dinner only from 5:50 on from Tuesday through Saturday year round. Dress is what I call dressy casual. During season watch for special wine dinners, entertainment on weekend evenings and Sunday Brunch. For reservations call 828.898.5656 or 866.734.4124. A very special place.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Hiking Waterfalls Park in Newland


This is a hidden gem of a walk that outsiders know little about. I like to head here for a quiet walk to get away from it all and on most days you will not see anyone on the trail.
It is located on Rte 19 heading towards Tennessee across the road from Ingles Shopping center. I liked to take my elderly mother there to picnic at the tables just off the road at the base of the waterfalls with a great view of the triple falls up above.
It can be quite dramatic in rainy season but most days there is a good amount of water flowing down the falls. I believe it is maintained by the Newland Fire Department. The trail heads up the steps to the top of the falls. Most people stay in this area but the best is further up.
Once at the top, follow the trail which criss crosses back and forth over the creek into a wonderful secluded cove. Rhododendrons line the path and hardwood trees climb the ridge line. The further in you go the more the world slips away and all you hear is the wind, the babbling stream and birds. It is very sheltered in here and even on winter days, the cove is protected from winds, making it quite comfortable to hike.
The path crosses back and heads down to the top of the falls again. At this point there are some huge trees, one with a notch in the trunk big enough to fit me in a stooped position. I love to look for wildflowers especially in spring.
Be careful of your step when the ground is soft from rain or melting snow. It can get mucky and slippery then.
Enjoy this quiet hideaway!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Hiking Beacon Heights in Linville



Some days I just want to take a hike but not spend all day doing it. A great short hike just off the Parkway is Beacon Heights Trail.
Follow Rte 221 up from Linville and once you reach the Blue Ridge Parkway the trail head will be to your right on the other side of the road. Park here and follow the path up the hillside.
This trail is steeper and not for beginners or those not dressed for hiking. It is an easy trail but you will be ascending about 1000 feet from the parking area to the top.
Once at the top there are a couple of spots to catch the view. To your right on the trail is a big flat rock outcropping looking out to the east and Grandmother Mountain. From the trail, going left will take you to a larger area with views to the east and west of Grandfather Mountain behind you.
Again this is a great spot to bring a lunch and just sit a spell taking in the view and peaceful environment. The trail heads back down the same way you came up.

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