Archive for October, 2010|Monthly archive page
TWO INDEPENDENT LEFT CLICKS WILL FULLY ENLARGE EACH IMAGE
One of the most spectacular scenic drives in the Southern Appalachian mountains is North Carolina state highway 80 as it runs generally north-south linking U.S. 19 (at Micaville) to the Blue Ridge Parkway (near mile marker 344) at Buck Creek Gap. For most of the distance of that segment it parallels the meandering South Toe River. But, to my mind, the most breathtaking features of the drive are the beautiful peaks of the Black Mountain range which is to the west of 80. I’ve walked the length of the crest of that relatively short range and agree with the trail rating, strenuous. When including the Bowlens Creek segment it is a 12 mile long “kick your behind” hike that many feel is the most difficult in the eastern U.S. If that sounds like an exaggeration, I invite you to Google search the Black Mountain Crest Trail. Mind you, this is coming from a man who has hiked the Grand Canyon down to the river and up the other side, as well as myriad other difficult trails including Mt. Whitney.
I’ve traveled highway 80 often during all four seasons partly because I’m blessed with the good fortune of having a small cabin (20 miles from the nearest stoplight – in Burnsville) on a heavily wooded slope facing (and east of) Mt. Mitchell on the opposite side of the South Toe Valley. The South Toe parallels the eastern slope of the Blacks. Though people gravitate to the area in the Autumn because of the changing colors, I find the area to be uniquely beautiful every season of the year.
For those who are driving to see views of the mountains it can be difficult at times for a variety of reasons. There are limited places to safely pull off where you get an unrestricted view of the range and for those driving slowly who are unfamiliar with the territory or not “practiced” on mountain roads, the 55 mile per hour speed limit utilized by locals seems maddeningly unsafe. Some residents of the area are kind and patient; others tend to try to get right on up inside your tailpipe – fantasizing, no doubt, that they are in a NASCAR Cup Race. To be honest – I understand that. I recommend pulling over at the first safe opportunity when being drafted/pushed in such a manner.
The Quiet Reflections Retreat near Celo is a great place I would like to recommend for a wonderful view which zeros in on Celo Knob on the north end of the range but also provides (weather permitting) a view of the famous Mt. Mitchell near the south end of the range. If you are either a religious or a spiritual person (or both) you will enjoy it even more, I think. My wife and I visited it for the first time just a few days ago. I was spellbound by it all and remind you that my pictures just don’t do it justice.
Here is a link to a website which provides a map. If you want inspiration, peace, and serenity, and/or you want to have a talk with The Great Guy In the Sky and you are not in a hurry – this is a great place to go as far as I’m concerned. I am deliberately avoiding showing you a full view of the inside of the structure because I hope you can have the experience of seeing it for the first time when you yourself open the doors to enter. By the way – the website’s description of the steep climb on gravel is accurate but it’s a piece of cake if you drive sanely. Our front wheel drive Honda Odyssey did fine. I would not go up on thin tires if it were me because in a few spots the gravel is coarse and I would avoid it in the snow unless I had a four-wheel or all-wheel drive.
Also, here is a link for more information about the Black Mountains and Mt. Mitchell:
Color changes have progressed more rapidly around Mt. Mitchell this year than any previous one I can recall. The best viewing weekend was probably the 9th and 10th of this month. Before this weekend arrived (the 16th and 17th) strong winds had removed many of the colorful leaves early.
This is not to say that it’s not still beautiful. It most certainly is. All I’m saying is that the time of greatest brilliance, starkness, and contrast has ended. If you’re planning a trip and you are reading this at the time of posting, remember, I’m addressing one particular segment of the Blue Ridge Parkway and for that matter, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and there are some places that are just now about to enter the peak color of the season.
From my point of view the Blue Ridge mountains are beautiful any time of the year. So I promote the views no matter what month it is. When the deciduous leaves are off in the Winter one who is interested in the topography and geology can see much more. It’s also a paradise for one who likes to take black and white photographs. I’ve often heard complaints that it’s “all so gray and depressing” in the Winter but that’s not the way I see it. There are so many conifers which, of course, stay green throughout the year. It’s those very conifers and other evergreens (like the laurel and rhododendron) which, in my opinion, provide the contrasts that make the Autumn colors so magnificent. I suppose it’s all in the eye of the beholder but as far as I’m concerned it’s hard to surpass the beauty of these mountains when they are enhanced by snow. Each season is unique and the changes here are so very obvious to anyone who loves to observe his/her natural environment.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE BLACK MOUNTAINS AND MT. MITCHELL, GO TO THE FOLLOWING LINK:
Hopefully you are able to see the counterclockwise rotation of Paula in the radar loop above. Computer models are in general agreement that this storm is not likely to survive much longer. Most models have the storm continuing to turn to eventually head toward the southeast – but in a very weakened state. A combination of shear aloft and movement over Cuba is likely to spell the end of her. However, it is never safe to assume such predictions as Gospel truth. Interests in the area (including South Florida) should remain alert.
98L intensified to a tropical storm late yesterday. This morning’s graphic below is from the National Hurricane Center for 7 am CDT. Note that the weighted mean forecast path looks a bit like a backwards comma. Following that is Jonathan Vigh’s compilation of computer model tracks in what is referred to often as a spaghetti chart. This one is very busy but a quick glance will give you the general idea.
CLP-5 is a persistence model which, in my opinion, is not likely to represent the true path the storm takes. The BAMS model considers where the storm is likely to travel IF it is moved mainly by shallow (lower level) forces. In my opinion this is unlikely.
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The graphic below shows this morning’s computer model forecast tracks for the low (98L) that is currently developing and under investigation in the Western Caribbean.