Monday, September 29, 2008

Gray Fox

We own eight acres outside Asheville now and plan to build on the land one day. I love to hike in this wooded sanctuary and just sit quietly under an old oak tree with a huge burl on its side. The other day I was pleasantly surprised with a brief glimpse of a fox while sitting in my spot. I had looked up to see what was going on above me towards the ridge line and a dark form ran east to west - larger than a cat yet with a very bushy tail. I looked up foxes on the Western North Carolina Nature Center (www.wildwnc.org) site and found this info.

Gray foxes range throughout the US except the northwestern quarter as well as northern Mexico and Baja California. We have gray foxes in our Carolina mountains, but they are rarer on our coast. The gray fox is different from other species of fox found in Western NC. A quick way to tell the difference in the gray and red fox is, the gray fox has a black tip on its tail, and the red fox has a white tip on its tail.

The gray fox weighs between 7 and 13 pounds. It has a salt-and-pepper coat with buff underfur, usually a median black stripe down its back and long bushy tail, and a black tip on its tail. There can be other color phases - red, cross (red coat with a darkish strip down the back and across tile shoulders), and black.

The gray fox is omnivorous, it feeds on cottontail rabbits, mice, and other small mammals, birds, eggs, insects, plant material, and fruits. The gray fox is primarily nocturnal, but may occasionally be seen foraging during the daylight hours. They mate around February and March, and have 2-7 young, which are born in March or April. The male helps tend to the young, although he does not den with them. They den in hollow logs, beneath boulders, in ground burrows, or in hillsides. The young begin to hunt on their own around 4 months of age. Gray foxes prefer woody, brushy habitats, unlike the red fox which prefers more open Habitats. Gray foxes have been known to climb trees to find refuge from a threat, or to forage for eggs or fruit.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Village Cafe, Blowing Rock

One of my favorite places to eat especially during the summer is The Village Cafe. It is located below the main street - just follow the rock pathway down to the outdoor courtyard dining area shaded by huge trees. The two historic buildings flank the side and rear of the patio with seating inside the larger one and on the porch of the smaller building.

Everything is fresh and home made. Specials are listed on the blackboard along with the desserts of the day. They feature breakfast, served all day and lunch from 11am until closing at 2:30pm. Breakfast is scrumptious and what I usually order. They offer French toast, waffles, crepes, omlettes, Eggs Benedict and assorted specialty items plus a full bar is available all day. Montrachet Eggs Florentine is wonderful with scrambled eggs, goat cheese and fresh spinach served with homemade fugasa toast and preserves.

For lunch choose from freshly made soups, salads, the crepe du jour, chicken salmon and crab cake entrees and a variety of healthy delicious sandwiches.

The service is superb - very professional and prompt. Desserts are a must - from the Expresso Creme Brule to Bananas Foster - you must try something if not all.

The setting is quaint and cozy. The main building was built in 1907 in Foscoe of hand hewn chestnut. The freestanding fireplace is the largest in Blowing Rock. Famed artist and writer Elliott Daingerfield had his studio on the second floor. The building was moved to this location 1990 and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Meals range in price from $6 to $13. The cafe is open from late April until early November. They are very busy so make sure you call to make reservations - 828 295-3769. For more information check out www.thevillagecafe.com.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, Graham County


Even though it was a bit out of our way home to Linville from the Bedford Falls Alpaca Farm, my husband and I took the detour happily to see the massive trees in Kilmer Forest.

Many of us have read these lines

"I think that I shall never see
A poem as lovely as a tree..."

Joyce Kilmer wrote this poem Trees back at the turn of the century. The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is a tribute to the poet who was killed in action in France during WWI in 1918. The Forest Service inaugurated the Little Santeelah, a 3800 acres remnant of virgin wilderness as The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, dedicating it on July 30, 1935. Additional acres were also purchased later to create the 14,000 acre wildlife area that emcompasses the park.

The parking area is clearly marked and the park service mans an information booth from May through October. There are 60 miles of hiking trails in the park but the one that goes through the virgin forest is an easy one, perfect for families. It is a two mile figure eight loop. Most of the virgin growth is at the intersection of the two loops.

On the path in there are plenty of other plants to notice - mosses, smaller trees, shrubs and plenty of rhododendrons. When we began to see the larger trees, I kept having my husband stand next to one to take his photo. Then a bit further along another tree would be even bigger. Another photo opp. Then another! I suggest you wait until you are well inside the forest - then you will really see the monster trees to photograph them.

In this amazing primeval forest virgin trees stand over 100 feet tall and 20 feet around at the base. Many are ancients, hundreds of years old. This is the largest stand of old growth trees on the eastern seaboard of the US. Huge poplars, giant red oaks and magnificent hemlocks loom above you. It is dizzying to look up at their tops! The park is strictly maintained in its primitive and natural state. The feeling of peace and tranquility in the forest is palpable and welcoming.

The forest is located 15 miles from Robbinsville in Graham County. For specific directions and more information call the Park Service at 828 479-6431.

Bedford Falls Alpaca Farm, Warne


When my friend Nancy invited us to visit her alpaca farm in south western NC in the mountains near GA, we were thrilled to go. Her husband Doug had built a beautiful cabin on the property next to the creek and the alpaca pasture which was available for visitors. We drove leisurely from the Boone area and arrived in about 3 hours.

The open and spacious cabin was wonderful - a master bedroom below and another loft bedroom above. We stayed in the loft enjoying the view from up there. The kitchen was fully equipped, A huge stone fireplace graced the living area and offered cozy warmth on the cool fall nights. We also had satellite TV and a DVD player but never used them, preferring to talk to Nancy and Doug, reading and just relaxing on the porch.

Nancy met us with her usual enthusiasm and took us on a tour of the farm. Alpacas are smaller than llamas and do not have hoofs, rather pads instead. The are skittish of your arms and hands so the best way to approach them is to put your hands behind your back and lean towards them with your head. They will come right up close then. They hum constantly and their fur is so soft. Not all like to be petted but some do and I encourage it with Nancy's approval of course.

The John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC for crafts is close by and Nancy took us there to meet everyone. She had taken spinning classes to learn to make scarves and hats with the wool from the alpacas. The gift shop has the most lovely hand made items for sale - all from student of the school. The gift shop and history center is open Mon - Sat from 8-5 and Sundays from 1-5. For more information check out www.folkschool.org.

It was the most relaxing three days I have ever spent. I don't know if it was the sound of the burbling creek next to the cabin or the presence of the quiet alpacas in the pasture but I was so calm and felt my stress melting away. I hated to leave.

The cabin is available nightly for $100 or weekly for $600. For more information visit their website at www.bfaf.com or call 828 389-1345.

Hiking Moses Cone


Easy to Moderate. The Moses Cone Park includes 25 miles of gently sloping carriage trails of varying lengths, available to hikers, joggers, horseback riders and cross-country skiers. Most trails begin near the Moses Cone Manor.
My favorite trail is the Duncan Road and Deer Park Road. You can hike it all which is a 5.7 mile loop trial or just walk for a ways and turn back, depending on your activity level. The trial leads from the manor house and carriage barn west down a paved road to where the carriage road turns sharply left into the forest. As you curve into the gentle forest, the trail is wide enough for four people to walk at once. The trail is also used by horseback riders and you must pull over to the side to let them pass.You will pass the apple orchard and come to Bass Lake which you can see from the manor house above you. Once you reach Bass lake the trail follows around the body of water and turns back up through the forest to the manor house again. The incline is not steep but the duration can be tiring.
Milepost 294.0 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Southern Highlands Craft Guild at Moses Cone Park, Blowing Rock


Whenever I need a gift for birthdays,weddings or Christmas I always check out the hand made crafts at Moses Cone Manor. Located on the Blue Ridge Parkway just outside Blowing rock this beautiful mansion houses the Parkway Craft center, one of five shops of the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild. The center has been open to visitors for 56 years.

All the crafts are designed and made by artists of the Southern Appalachians. Over 300 regional artists are members of the prestigious guild. A wide variety of crafts are on display and for sale - jewelry, pottery, glass figurines, framed and unframed art work, hand woven bags and even kitchen utensils and holiday ornaments.

The National Park Service has a small gift store just inside the front door of Cone Manor with books, maps, and Cd's of the trails and wildlife found in the mountains.

During the summer, local artists set up on the front porch educating and entertaining guests about their craftsmanship. Visitors can learn about the artist and art and even try their own hand at it as well. The rocking chairs on the front porch beckon visitors to take in the glorious vista of the lakes and mountains in view.

The mansion, built in 1901, as the summer home for Bertha and Moses Cone has 20 rooms, and 13,000 square feet of Colonial Revival construction. Cone made his fortune in the textile industry and was named the "Denim King" The property encompasses 3,516 acres of land and was donated to the National Park Service in 1950 for public use. The Cone family used to spend lazy Sunday afternoons taking carriage rides along the 25 miles of trails on the estate. Now the trails are maintained by the National Park Service and are available for both horses and hikers.

The craft center is open to visitors from March though November from 9-5 daily. For more information call 828 295-7938 or email parkwaycraft@bellsouth.net.

Welcome to WNC Mountains


My husband and I moved to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina 10 years ago from Florida. We wanted to have four seasons but in moderation, and I know I wanted to recapture the ambiance and hospitality of my New England childhood. I found it here and then some. The people are kind, friendly and warm. Yet they let you be you.

It is an area of great beauty in the landscapes, history in the places and plenty to do for both nature lovers and city slickers. My husband is a chef and we love to dine out, hike, travel to new places and find out of the way attractions most people don't bother to see. This is what we will bring you here - a broad scope of all there is to do and see in western NC! Enjoy!

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