We ended up with about 8" of hard-packed snow. If it hadn't packed down so much, it would probably have been about 14". Here are a couple of pix. The cabin pic is Hickory Hideaway, our 2BR cabin, and was taken today, 21 December.
The other is on one of our trails, taken on the 19th.
P.S. Happy Winter Solstice!
This photo was taken a couple of years ago at Ash Grove's little waterfall, but it it beginning to look like this now--we have about 2" so far, and the forecast is for snow the rest of the day today and much of tomorrow, too. Put your snow chains on and come on up to the postcard-beautiful Blue Ridge in the snow.
Our small town is big on holiday activities. The Christmas Parade is the first Saturday in December. There are usually 75+entries, making for a fun and festive afternoon. That is followed by Twilight Tour--downtown is festooned with over 1000 luminaria, entertainment in the courthouse gazebo, the shops provide refreshments, and more. The Festival of Trees is usually that weekend as well. And of course, Brevard's world-famous Aluminum Tree Museum provides kitchy fun for the whole family. The Holiday Tour of Homes, the Rosman (another town in Transylvania County) parade, concerts of all sorts at the Porter Center and more, make for a festive holiday season.
After the leaves are gone from the hardwoods, late Fall/early Winter take on their own colors in the mountains. The evergreens, needle trees such as the pine and broad leaf trees like the mountain laurel, add their deep greens to the mountainsides. Lichen, and dozens of moss species enrich the palate with gray-green to chartreuse hues. Then there are galax, which turn red after the first freeze, dried flower pods still on the stalks, crimson berries of the mountain ash, ... and you get the picture (pun intended).
The colors have been fantastic this year! October has been a bit rainy, which has knocked some of the leaves off the trees, but even so, Nature is still putting on a great show. And, heck, even the Brevard Wal-Mart looks good with the painted mountainside as a backdrop.
Late summer arrives and so do the mushrooms. The last 3 years have been so dry that there haven't been many, but this year...WOW... I have identified 63 different varieties here on our property, some are deadly poison and some are choice edibles. Some are as small as the head of a pin with thread for a stalk, and others are larger than my head!
One of the strangest looking is the BLACK TRUMPET, it looks nothing like any other mushroom, there is no "cap" on it, it is shaped like the bell of a trumpet, an open vase from top to bottom. Three years ago I went out and picked a basket full and fixed them with a cream sauce and peas. MMMM so good! I didn't see any for the last two years and I had decided that I had over picked them and hadn't left enough for them to regrow the next year, boy was I wrong. It had to have been the drought and not my over picking because this year they are all over the place, I have tempura fried them, made homemade BLACK TRUMPET soup, and still have many many more to be able to try another recipe with them without over picking!
Zack and Judson, the kids of one of our "regular campers" did a mushroom walk with me earlier this year and we discovered a new one I hadn't seen before, I showed the boys how to check the spore print and color to determine what kind of mushroom it was and we discovered that it was an unappetizing looking edible mushroom. The SHAGGY STALKED BOLETE. I told the boys to go and pick three of them and we would saute them that evening and see what they tasted like. I took the skillet with some butter in it down to their campsite after our last camper checked in that night, I sliced the three mushrooms and stems and sauted them in the skillet over the campfire. The boys couldn't wait to see what they tasted like and as soon as they were cooked Zack tried the first piece, it was a slice of the cap, an he immediately exclamed that they tasted like cheese! He was right! Swiss Cheese! Judson then got a piece of the stem and said he thought it tasted like lemons! He was right too. None of us expected to have two totally different flavors come from the same 'shroom but we all agreed that they did really taste like cheese and lemons. We had a TWO COLOR BOLETE come up and grow and grow and grow, I took a picture of it with my hand fully open and not able to cover the cap, three days later Steven took a picture of my face beside it....well you can see how big it got. It is one of the choice edibles but there are a couple of other 'shrooms that look similar to it that are not edible and Steven didn't want me to try this one in case it was not what I think it is. He just doesn't have the sense of adventure with wild food!
One of our regular guests, Steve, emailed us this picture of the great dinner that he cooked at his campsite (one of our Stellar tent sites) on Saturday night. If we had known his cooking was this good, we would have managed to drop in on him around dinnertime!
This has been our busiest year yet (working on our 7th year in business!) With over 45% of our guests coming back again and again, it has been great getting to visit with old friends and making new ones. For the most part, the weather has been perfect for the past couple of weeks--daytime temps in the upper 70s with a nice breeze, and nighttime lows around 60--aaahhhh! life in the mountains. I went on a great little afternoon getaway a week or so ago. I took a short hike on a little-used trail in Pisgah Forest to a waterfall that is off the trail. I sat by the waterfall with a book--it was so refreshing. I had a little picnic on a huge boulder at the edge of the river. The only thing missing was a nap (and maybe a bottle of wine!). The sun was reflecting off the water and rocks, so I wasn't able to get a good photo the falls--maybe next time. Our last check-in of the day just arrived.......
Usually we ease into our busy season starting in late spring and peaking in July. We slammed into the busy season in April and haven't let up since, hence the lack of blog posts the past few weeks. I hardly had time to enjoy spring and summer is here already. My weekly hikes have become monthly hikes. My June hike was last week and I did some trails in Pisgah Forest in the Turkey Pen Gap area. One trail, Riverside, had 8? 10? 12? river crossings of knee height or so. That kept me cool on a warm, muggy day. A nice picnic by the stream....if only I'd had time for a nap.
The NC Arboretum, located just over 1/2 hour from Ash Grove, has a new program this spring, "A Glide Through Nature," Segway tours of the Arboretum's 65 acre cultivated gardens and 10 miles of trails on the 434 acre property. The 3 hour guided tour includes woodland trails, seasonal flora highlights and a history of the Bent Creek Watershed in Pisgah Forest. Instruction on the operation of the environmentally friendly--and fun--Segway precedes the tour. The Segways have all-terrain tires to navigate the non-paved trails. Photo of the native Flame Azalea
The Spring weather has been typical Spring weather--a few lovely, warm sunny days that you hope will last forever, followed by a few cold, windy, gloomy, rainy days that you are afraid will last forever. Today is one of the good ones, yesterday we had 2" of rain (which we still really need, so I'm not complaining--but our campers probably wouldn't agree!). Here at 3000' the sarvis trees are in bloom; the leaves are out on the blackberry bushes; the buds on the trees are just beginning to open; and the foliage for irises & day lilies is shooting up. In Brevard (2200'), it is very green and filled with flowers.
We have a special on our cabins for this week only: Stay a minimum of 2 consecutive nights between 22 Mar and 29 Mar and take $20/night off any cabin! See our website www.ash-grove.com for details and more information about Ash Grove.
It's hard to believe that I took this picture today, just 1 week after the snow pic in the previous post! The snow is long gone and today is the 3rd day of temps in the 70s. I know that it is just a tease--we willhave more cold weather, possibly even another little snow--but everyone is enjoying it while it lasts. I have the office windows open and am being serenaded by some songbirds, a gentle breeze and an occasional caw from a crow. But, its back to work for me....
Yesterday/last night, we had our first real snowstorm in 4 years or so. It is absolutely gorgeous! There is about 6" on the ground and on the branches and evergreens near the ground, but all of it blew out of the tops of the trees (40mph winds!). It is a nice fluffy, powdery snow, not the hard icy kind that we sometimes get. Several vehicles have gone by this morning, so the roads are at least somewhat passable, but we haven't been out to see for our selves (and probably won't--there is no reason to go out on the road). My snow saucer is calling my name, so I'm cutting this post short. See more pix at our Flickr album.
In time for the (original) deadline for the digital TV changeover, we added satellite TV to our cabins. There is now a great variety of good quality television and XM radio available in the cabins. For our campsites, we are enlarging the tent pads on several of the sites to be able to accommodate the bigger tents that many of our guests want to bring. Also, new for this year is our "Rent-a-Tent" program. We will rent you a tent and have it set-up when you arrive, then take it down for you when you leave. We also have some other camping items available for rent (campstove, etc). You will have to bring your own bedding (sleeping bags, air mattress, cots, or whatever you want to sleep on). This service will start in mid-April. A new restaurant, Marco Trattoria, just opened in downtown Brevard. We went there last night for Mark's birthday. It was excellent! I had an individual wood-fired pizza (the Bianco--ricotta cheese, fresh basil, garlic and red grapes). Mark had the special of polenta encrusted scallops over parmesan potatoes & leeks with Chianti sauce.
In spite of the cold temperatures, (upper 20s at night, mid 40s daytime), we have several campers here this weekend--both tent and RV camping. Some regular campers, Mark and Michael, came a couple of weekends ago when the temp got down to 14 degrees on Friday night. When they made the reservation, they said that they new it was going to be cold. But, knowing the cold and tolerating it are 2 different things. On Saturday morning they stopped by the office and asked if we had a cabin available (we did), so they spent their 2nd night toasty by the gas log fireplace in the cabin. This weekend, one of our tent campers, Tonya, is here for her 3rd visit since October. The Oct. trip was the first time that she had ever camped, and she loved it. She made the reservations for the 2nd visit while still here on their first. This is her birthday weekend--she said that there is nowhere that she would rather spend her birthday than at Ash Grove. We have had many cabin and camping guests that have returned to Ash Grove again and again for the special occasions of their lives. It makes us feel good that we are a part of their celebrations.
As is happening with much of the US, the coldest weather in years is upon us. Last night it got down to 7 degrees and today's high was only 28. It is supposed to get down to 4 tonight. Thank goodness for fleece and handwarmers! We haven't really had any snow this season--just a few flurries, enough to lightly cover the ground, but not the roads. We average 3 snowfalls per year here in Brevard, each with 4-6". The state of NC is really good about clearing the mountain roads after a snowfall. When snow is predicted, they park plows and sand trucks at the tops of the mountains and start clearing the roads before the snow has even finished. Most of the roads are cleared within 4 or 5 hours after a snow. The one exception was 4 (I think) years ago, when we had 6" of snow and Charlotte, North Carolina's largest city had 17". Every snowplow in the state headed there first, so it was about a day and a half before we had clear roads. Much of the time, it snows after we have had some warm temps, so it doesn't even stick to the roads, just on the mountainsides and valleys--absolutely gorgeous, but no problems getting around, then gone in a few days--my kind of snow!
(This is Hickory Hideaway, our 2 bedroom cabin during Martin Luther King weekend of 2008, in about 6" of snow)
Thanks to Brenda and Sylvia who read our post about having difficulty finding the Anorexic Santas--they sent us 4 of the duplicates from their collection! And I found a couple at Brevard's new Goodwill Store before xmas, so the collection does continue to grow.