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 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!

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 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 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

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

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

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.


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