Archive for the ‘Beauty of Nature’ Tag


You do not have to walk on a rocky slope to get there. This photo faces east and the entrance is on the opposite side.


A sneak peek at a famous peak, Celo Knob.

A full view of the east face of the Blacks looking toward the WSW on October 23, 2010.

Approximate perspective on distances.

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:

Spring Is About to “Spring!”

In the Northern Hemisphere this year’s Spring begins on March 20, 2009 at 11:44 Universal Time or 7:44 AM Eastern Standard Time.  Therefore, the first FULL DAY of Spring is March 21, 2009.  On those two days the length of daylight and darkness will be almost exactly the same at 12 ‘n 12.  Of course, if there is a mountain up close to you, either east or west (or both) your daylight hours are more likely to be shorter than your darkness hours even though the time will be close to the Vernal Equinox.

Those of you who drive toward the east early in the morning to get to work and then toward the west to return home in the evening might have been noticing lately that you have been having the sun’s light directly in your eyes on both occasions.  Expect that for a while longer and be careful.

I live 18 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico at 29 degrees North latitude.  We’ve been here since early August, 2005.  I tell people that I escaped South Florida to return to the United States of America but remained in the low latitudes (barely).  The plants here are blooming like crazy!  My notion is that because they were stressed a great deal from repeated freezing episodes, Mother Nature has been telling them to procreate profusely for survival’s sake.

I took a few snapshots recently and thought I’d share them with you.  Most folks who photograph their flowering plants tend to stand back to get the whole structure but I prefer to get in close enough to see features of some of the individual blossoms.  Like people, they are each beautiful in their own way.  Most of the images in this posting are of azaleas but I did throw in a couple of loropetalum or “fringe flower.”  At the end I was unable to resist showing one of a complete bush behind two oaks.  Today the plants are even denser with blossoms than when I took the photos just a few days ago.

In time, once they’re out, I hope to show you dogwood, crepe myrtle, agapanthus, lilacs, and roses – all on our heavily wooded property.  And, if I’m lucky, the wisteria, which has been struggling in the shade, will bloom this year.

To enlarge the images fully, left click once, pause, and then left click again.


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