Tag Archives: Mountains

Spring Splendor At Biltmore

Last week, Kathy & I ventured to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville to take in the spring flowers in the gardens, check out the Renaissance Alive art presentation, and of course to eat and to buy wine. 😉

Biltmore is an easy 2 hour drive from Charlotte, suitable for a day trip but also a nice way for an easy overnight. We had reward points that allowed us to stay for free at a motel in nearby Biltmore Village, so we had the better part of two days. As Annual Passholders we didn’t have to pay extra for the visits, which can otherwise be a little pricey.

Even without visiting Biltmore House itself, the grounds and gardens are such a nice place to spend a day or part of the day. The gardens are extensive, and the Conservatory itself is larger than most homes. We concentrated mostly on the outside gardens, although as we were getting ready to leave, the sounds of a hammered dulcimer drew us inside for a listen.

More (Less?) Than We Bargained For: Peaks of Otter Lodge

Last light on Sharp Top peak at Peaks of Otter Lodge on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

We decided to break up our trip northward with a stop at Peaks of Otter Lodge, located on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Roanoke, VA. We’ve stayed there before, and have enjoyed the lodge, with its lakefront location, decent restaurant and overall quiet vibe. Our previous attempt to stay there was thwarted by the remnants of a hurricane, which forced us to change plans and cancel our reservation.

View of Peaks of Otter Lodge across Peaks of Otter Lake
Peaks of Otter Lake, at Peaks of Otter Lodge on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

We headed north on the Parkway, enjoying the sunshine, cooler weather and lovely clouds. As we approached the lodge, however, it became apparent that a storm had recently passed through the area. Leaves and twigs littered the road and everything was wet. Water falling off the trees made it seem like it was still raining.

Our room (with no power) at Peaks of Otter Lodge on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

We arrived at the lodge with high hopes, only to be told that the lodge was without power because of the storm. And due to the somewhat remote mountain location, there was no guaranty when or if the power would be restored. Not to worry, though, right?

Hiking trail at Peaks of Otter, on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Peaks of Otter Lake, at Peaks of Otter Lodge on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

Soon afterward we decided to make drinks. We always travel prepared, so all we needed was ice. But of course the ice machines are powered by electricity, so while there was probably plenty of ice in the hopper, it wouldn’t dispense. So I took my trusty ice bucket to the lodge to get it filled. Fortunately they still had plenty of ice, so all was not lost.

Sunset over Peaks of Otter Lake, at Peaks of Otter Lodge on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia
Sunset over Peaks of Otter Lake, at Peaks of Otter Lodge on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

But…between the time we checked in and when I returned to the lodge for ice, a decision had been made that the bar and restaurant would not be opening for dinner. So much for the nice dinner. Faced with the prospect of a cold chicken salad wrap from the lodge or driving into the nearest town for dinner, we opted for the cooked dinner in town.  But first…drinks! Yay for ice!

Sunset over Peaks of Otter Lake, at Peaks of Otter Lodge on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

The lodge is located at a high enough elevation that even though the rooms have air conditioning, it is seldom needed. So it was no problem for us to sleep there. And since sunset was late at this time of year and we had our tablets fully charged with books pre-loaded, it was easy for us to pass the time. Did I mention that there is no cell service at the lodge? And with no wifi, we were really “off the grid.”

“Polly Woods Ordinary” mountain cabin located at Peaks of Otter, on the Blue Ridge Parkway

So it was a little bit like camping, except that we were in a bed in a room with a roof and a door. And as it turned out, even though there was still no power in the morning, somehow there was hot water for a shower! Ultimately the biggest hardship was that we were unable to get coffee or tea. But we lived to tell about it and to head on to our next destination, Lewisburg, West Virginia. More to come!

Fall On The Blue Ridge Parkway

Fog and fall colors at the Wolf Mountain Overlook at MP 424.8 on the Blue Ridge Parkway

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I love to visit there, but hate dealing with the crowds that flock there, especially in fall when the colors are happening.  Such was the case this week, when Kathy & I decided to head to the high country for a few days to check out the fall colors.

Like all the National Parks, the Blue Ridge Parkway, as the most-visited National Park in the country, has been overrun by tourists seeking an outdoor experience.  I’ll be glad when many of them head back to the office, although there appears to be a large number of retired folks as well.  Drivers on the Parkway range from the Floridian driving white-knucked around the winding corners at 30 MPH to the motorcycle riders trying to make the Parkway their personal Lime Rock Park.  Add in those of us just trying to drive comfortably and enjoy the scenery and it can be a frustrating mix.

Steestachee Bald Overlook at MP 438.9 on the Blue Ridge Parkway

We left home on Wednesday morning with the goal of driving the Parkway from Blowing Rock to Mount Pisgah before heading to Waynesville for a couple of nights.  We have friends who own a motel there, and I have a cousin who lives nearby who we don’t get to see often enough.  Seeing both of them was long overdue.

Wednesday was a Chamber of Commerce Blue Sky Day on the Parkway.  The leaves in the Grandfather Mountain area were just about at their peak.  We stopped at an overlook and had lunch before continuing south toward our destination.

I didn’t take a single photograph all day.

Steestachee Bald Overlook at MP 438.9 on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Between having a case of “Get-There-Itis” * and all the people crowding into any overlook with a view, my heart just wasn’t in it.  It was nice to see, but I rationalized that the mid-day light wasn’t ideal for good photographs and decided that any photograph I made would be no better than a cell phone photo, just taken with a nice camera.

Fog at the Richland Balsam Overlook at MP 431.4. At 6053 feet, the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway

On Thursday, we headed back to the Parkway with the express intention of making photographs.  As we headed higher, it became clear that fog would be our companion for the day.  That suited me just fine, because fog means interesting photography and…fewer people!  The fog and the fall color varied greatly by elevation, and we drove in and out of the fog for several hours.  Some places were pretty clear, while others – like Richland Balsam, the highest point on the Parkway at 6053 feet, were totally in the soup.  But for the first time in a long time, I was able to get a photograph of the sign without someone’s car or motorcycle parked in front of it! 😉

Fog at the Richland Balsam Overlook at MP 431.4. At 6053 feet, the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway

On Friday, we headed toward home by a different route than we usually take.  I got a few photographs from the drive home that I’ll share in another post.  We may try to head back up to the Parkway early next week, weather permitting.  If so, hopefully I can contain my “affliction” and make a few nice photos!

Fall colors in the Black Balsam area of the Blue Ridge Parkway near MP 420

*Get-There-Itis (my definition): (a) in photography, a condition where one is so focused on the final destination that it prevents stopping to take pictures; (b) in aviation, often referred to as exercising poor judgement, resulting in a decision to fly despite adverse conditions, often with sub-optimal results.

Postcard From Mount Washington, New Hampshire

At the summit of Mount Washington, New Hampshire – 6,288 feet. 30 degrees, 40 mph wind and blowing freezing rain!

Blue skies and sunshine just wouldn’t have been the right way to experience Mount Washington, said to have the “worst weather in the country” according to some.  We saw no sunshine today, and in fact were amazed at the strength of the blowing snow, ice and wind at the summit.  We rode the cog railway – no way were they letting cars to the top in those conditions!

Lots of fall color around, although we were faced with a lot of fog, rain and tourists.  Photos to follow, however!

Freezing conditions at the top of Mount Washington, New Hampshire

Weekend In Asheville: A Preview

College Street in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina

Kathy & I spent last weekend in Asheville, NC celebrating our 40th anniversary.  While the weekend was mostly about celebration, we did manage to do more than just eat and drink – I took a few (hundred) photos.  About 770, actually! 🙂

Downtown Asheville, North Carolina
Downtown Asheville, North Carolina
Public art in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina

I did something a little bit different (for me) this time, taking only my X-T4 and 3 prime lenses – the 14mm f2.8, 23mm f1.4 and the 35mm f1.4.  Before heading out the door I would decide which lens to take, then “see” at that focal length during our outing.  I love doing that, as it is a good exercise in visualizing a scene then adjusting with my feet as needed.  I mostly stuck with the 23 and 35 except for our visit to Biltmore House, where I used the 14 and which I will detail in a future post or two.

Asheville City Hall in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina
Pack Square Park in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina
Flatiron Building in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina
Historic buildings in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina

I’m still trying to get through the rest of my photos from our Northwest road trip, so before I spend too much more time with these Asheville photos I’m going to try and get the Northwest photos done first.  So expect a little bouncing around the country as I get through the rest of my Northwest photos. 🙂

Downtown Asheville, North Carolina
Downtown Asheville, North Carolina
Downtown Asheville, North Carolina
Wall Street in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina

Happy 104th Birthday, National Park Service!

Sunset from Morton Overlook, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN

“We must take all resources under consideration; all resources, because they relate fatefully to our life on earth, reflect certain grandeurs , and deserve not only our attention, but our reverence. Hence, while it is as essential as ever to protect the National Parks and Wilderness Areas, it is also essential that we protect the forests, the crops, the minerals, and the oceans, and it is essential that we preserve the purity of the air we breathe and the water we drink.” – Ansel Adams

Good Quote

Sunset at Clingmans Dome, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

He said, “Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” Roald Dahl

I came across this quote several years ago in a shop in Bryson City, NC.  It might even be the same shop where I found the frog, I don’t remember.

Maybe The Camera Just Doesn’t Matter That Much

Locomotive used by the Great Smoky Mountains Railway in Bryson City, North Carolina

I was reading a recent post on Monte’s Blog in the context of a commercial print job I’m currently working on.  Monte was discussing how much he wanted a new Fuji lens (me too!) but indicated that his current cameras – 4 and 6 years old – still suited him fine, and he reminded us that all cameras still require a photographer to work.

I was recently contacted by a local restaurant owner about providing prints for their bar and dining rooms for an upcoming remodel.  I’m flattered that they asked me, and even more excited that it is one of our favorite restaurants.  And that they want 17 photos!  One of the things that interested me in the context of Monte’s post and the discussion about needing a “pro” camera for doing quality work is the breakdown of the cameras that were used for the photos we chose for this project:

  • Canon 5D  – 1
  • Canon 5D Mark III – 3
  • Canon Powershot G12 – 4
  • Fuji X-10 – 2
  • Fuji X-E2 – 1
  • Fuji X-T1 – 1
  • Medium Format Film Scan – 1

I wasn’t too surprised about the number of 5D shots, and I wasn’t at all surprised at the number of shots from the Fuji X-E2 and X-T1, my current cameras.  But I was quite surprised at 6 of the photos coming from two point & shoot cameras!  Maybe there is something to be said for ditching all of the interchangeable lens cameras and just buying a single, good, point & shoot camera!

I’ll share the photos later.  Or even better, photos of the photos once they are hung! 😉

Walkway leading to Everett Street in Bryson City, North Carolina



A Touch of Spring

Springtime at South Mountains State Park

Here in the Piedmont of NC spring has been springing for several weeks, and we are almost into early summer.  The dogwood have been out for a week and the hardwoods are unfurling their new leaves.

Springtime at South Mountains State Park

Several weeks ago Kathy & I visited South Mountains State Park for a little hiking and sightseeing.  The park is west of Charlotte, about halfway to the “real” mountains, and a slightly higher elevation, so spring was a couple of weeks behind us here.

Springtime at South Mountains State Park

One thing I love about spring is looking through the woods and seeing just the hint of green.  I think that “Spring Green” is a shade of color unique to new growth leaves, and to me it speaks as much about the seasons as the fall colors do about fall.  Coupled with redbud and the occasional other early bloomers, they make for a hopeful sight after the gray of winter.

Springtime at South Mountains State Park

These photos won’t do much to show off my nature photography skills, but they do a reasonable job of showing the spring that we saw as we explored the park.

Springtime at South Mountains State Park