Archive for the ‘Spruce Pine North Carolina’ Tag


My press pot with hot water & coffee ready to plunge.

My family and friends have often heard me proclaim that coffee is my “drug of choice.”  It ‘s true.  I feel so very lucky in that regard.  To my knowledge, no one has ever been pulled over and charged for driving under the influence of coffee!

Last Autumn I had a delightful experience in a terrific restaurant in Spruce Pine, North Carolina. My wife and I were “double-dating” with friends who had  recommended the place.  Though the food was wonderful and I highly recommend the spot, it was the coffee that I’ll definitely not forget. This is because I had never had coffee prepared in a French press. Not only that, I had never heard of the device. I guess it’s fair to say that in-so-far as varied dining is concerned – this 70 (and a half)-year-old man hasn’t really gotten out and about much.

So, it was coffee from a French press along with the company of our friends that were my memorable experiences at the Knife and Fork on the “lower street” in downtown Spruce Pine. The waitress instructed me skillfully on how to use it and offered her advice for a “first-timer.” The French press is known by many names, including: press pot, coffee press, coffee plunger and сafetière à piston. They come in many sizes. An on-line search using the term, “French press,” will score many “hits.”  A You Tube search will show you probably more examples than you’d care to endure on how to use a French press.  I do not go to great pains like thermometers and grinders as shown in some of those You Tube demonstrations.  I use the K.I.S.S. guideline (keep it simple, stupid).  I don’t find that gourmet coffee is necessary and I don’t make a big performance out of the process.  I often use store-bought ground decaf coffee.

Therefore, it should be clear that I am not a coffee connoisseur. In fact, I am about as far-removed from that category as one can be. But I am a daily coffee drinker. Though I don’t prefer it – I even enjoy instant coffee. I regularly go so far as to drink “left-over” coffee brewed the previous day. I’ll store it in the refrigerator overnight and heat it in the microwave in the morning. I suspect this is simply because I deplore waste. I realize that this admission ruins any credibility I might have when it comes to making recommendations about coffee.  I do enjoy Cuban coffee – that’s a whole different dimension.  I like “cowboy coffee” too and recommend that you try it also, if for no other reason – just for fun. But the bottom line is this:  The best coffee I’ve ever had, at home and away from home, has been brewed in a French press. I won’t bother to try to offer advice on how to prepare French press coffee because there are too many variables – e.g.  your personality, the size of your press, your preferences regarding strength.

Mine (pictured at the beginning of this entry in front of the old coffee grinder) makes about a cup and a half of coffee and it’s just right for me. It was a gift from my youngest daughter, Lauren; she had heard me rave about the coffee I experienced at the Knife and Fork. It was a wonderful gift and I suggest that you consider one for yourself if you drink coffee.  Even if you don’t – it’s a wonderful way to serve coffee to guests.  Multi-cup French presses are available and easy to use.  To be sure it is a unique gift idea for any coffee drinker and bound to be most appreciated.  While you’re at it – if you happen to be anywhere near Spruce Pine – give the Knife and Fork a try.  I think you’ll be delighted.

The Black Mountains and Mt. Mitchell in North Carolina


The photo above is not enhanced in any way.  Looking toward a direction slightly north of west, it shows a typically hazy Summer view of the south half of the longer east limb of the Black Mountain Range.

The Black Mountain Range of North Carolina is a part of

the Blue Ridge Province of the Appalachians.

As indicated below the photograph, the image above shows you only part of the range.  ALSO, AS INDICATED BELOW THE PHOTO, TWO LEFT CLICKS WILL GIVE YOU MAXIMUM ENLARGMENT. At the end of this posting I have included a distant view of the entire east limb (the shorter west limb gets much less attention).  Many people have been in the Blacks without knowing it. This is because at one time or another they have visited Mt. Mitchell State Park (named for the highest peak in the United States east of the Mississippi River) without realizing the name of the range to which it belongs. Mt. Mitchell’s summit is but one of a string of mountain peaks on the Black Mt. Crest Trail – which is a difficult hiking trail. It can be reached easily (in favorable weather) on North Carolina State Road 128 which dead-ends near the crest of Mt. Mitchell 6 miles north of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The towns of Burnsville, Marion, and Spruce Pine and the village of Little Switzerland are nearby.

Through the years I’ve hiked in many beautiful places

characterized by rugged topography –

including the Sierra Nevada of California, the Tetons and the Wind River Mts. of Wyoming, the Ruby Mts. of Nevada, and Grand Canyon. I’ve been above the tree line many times in mountains carved by glaciers and have been to the top of formidable peaks like Mt. Whitney. But, in spite of their “lowness” and densely forested slopes (compared to most of the mountains I’ve hiked) I find the Blacks to be so very special and unique. Furthermore, no trail has tested me as much as the Black Mountain Crest Trail when including the limb that runs down the western slope of the range near Bowlens Creek. The Blacks are extremely old compared to any of the mountains of western North America.  The convergence of the North American lithospheric plate with the African plate caused the compression that squeezed and rammed the mountains into being.  Weathering and erosion have carved the mountains to a mere remnant of what they used to be – more like the Himalayas at one time before those, currently the world’s tallest mountains, were lifted.  The agents of weathering and erosion (mostly water) have rounded the Appalachians and minimized the rocky outcrops that are so much more abundant in the younger mountains. But the soil derived from the weathered rock has become a medium providing an excellent foothold for the myriad trees along the slopes and on the tops of most of the mountains – both conifers and deciduous trees thrive making for a wide range of colors in the Autumn.

The Blue Ridge Province and

the Ridge and Valley Province

of the Appalachians trend “northeast to southwest”

as can be seen in a map of the U.S.A. showing topography. You can also see that trend running diagonally across the bottom-right quadrant of the Bing map that I’ve entered above.  However, some people who visit the Black Mountains, particularly people like me who like to be oriented direction-wise at all times, notice that the trend of the Blacks is closer to true “north to south.” In other words, they formed somewhat “against the grain” of most of the neighboring mountains. Though they are not the only mountains of the Blue Ridge Province trending that way they are, by far, the most conspicuous – probably because of how they tower above the South Toe River and the Kane River valleys.

Only one left click will adequately enlarge these last four images.  Two left clicks will probably make them too large for you to view each entire photo on your screen.

One of the most surprising characteristics of the Blacks,

even to some people who have visited the area multiple times and even some who live in the area, is that the range is not shaped like the letter “I.” Instead, it is shaped like the letter “J” – open on the northwest side. In other words, it would appear on a map just as a “J” appears on this printed page so long as the top of the map is the traditional north edge.  Perhaps you can detect that “J” shape in the Bing map. The image above, copied from Google Earth, shows the range looking from the west toward the east. Do you see the “J?”

If you don’t see the “J” configuration, look at the next image where I’ve traced it.  I’ve also labeled some of the peaks for you including two on the shorter west limb of the “J” as well as the town of Burnsville and the beautiful community of Mountain Air.  The vertical exaggeration of these two images is 2x.

Finally, here are two inserts of the same photograph, one unlabeled and one labeled of the entire longer east limb of the Black Mountain Range.  Details on distances and directions are given in the second image.

I urge you to visit the Black Mountains.

The ever-changing views are breathtaking and the movement of clouds in the vicinity can be almost hypnotic.  It is a place of extremes in weather and there are no guarantees regarding the views.  Of course safety must be ones primary consideration.  Awareness of the weather and its potential for rapid changes is essential.

The new observation deck atop Mt. Mitchell is an easy walk from the parking lot and those assisted in wheelchairs have access too.  With sensible precautions a short hike to a point a bit more than a mile north of Mt. Mitchell will have you upon the Crest of the second highest mountain in the eastern half of the United States, Mt. Craig.  Enjoy!

Note:  When I produced this last image I felt that Mt. Mitchell and Deep Gap were conspicuous enough that white line locaters were not needed.   For another view from even further away go to the following site and scroll down to image 21 taken from the trail leading to the top of Table Rock Mountain:

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