Saturday, December 25, 2010

White Christmas, 2010

They changed the forecast a dozen times this week.  We would either get an inch or so of snow, some snow/rain mix, or a "significant accumulation" of snow.  It appears that the latter was the correct prediction.  Here are a few shots from around Ash Grove's office, taken about 3:30pm on Dec 25.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Early Snow

Here in the southern part of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western NC, we don't usually receive our first snowfall until after the new year, but this is the 2nd year in a row that we had snow before Christmas.  Here is one of our cabins and a couple of campsites in the snowfall of 12 Dec, 2010.

Note that the teepee has a stovepipe coming out of it (but their fire went out during the night).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Hiking in the Mountains

The leaves and fall colors are mostly gone, but it is still a beautiful time here in the mountains.  Late fall and winter is the perfect time for hiking in the mountains--the vistas are at their best. 
We have been experiencing warmer than normal temperatures, which is just icing on the cake.  I went on a hike on 10 Nov. to the summit of Sam Knob.  The trail head is off the Blue Ridge Parkway, between highways 215 and 276, near Brevard, NC.  The trail crosses a grassy alpine meadow before beginning the ascent to the summit (elevation 6050').  The trail to the summit is a series of switchbacks, so it it an easy hike, even though there is an elevation gain of 570'.  The breathtaking vista from the boulders at the summit is 360 degrees and includes the Blue Ridge Parkway, Pidgeon River Valley and Great Smokey Mountains in the distance.  The hike is a little over 2 miles, so it make an easy morning or afternoon hike, plus there are other trails that connect to it if you are in the mood for a longer hike, looping back to the parking area.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Our (Busman's) Holiday

We have had an extremely busy Summer, and with leaf season almost upon us, we decided that we needed a little break.  We took a couple of days off this week and went camping.  Our love of camping is one thing that led us to purchasing Ash Grove, but this is the first time that we have been camping since we bought a campground almost 8 years ago!  It was also the first time that we have been tent camping in longer than that--we had a pop-up camper for several years.
We trekked to the Mt. Pisgah campground, on the Blue Ridge Parkway, about 45 minutes from us.  It was the 2 of us and our 3 dogs.  Ernie, a mini-doxie, is 11 and had been camping with us many times.  This was the virgin camping trip for Max, the 2.5 year old Basset-Cocker mix and Mr. Henry, the 12 year old mini-doxie, a rescue (and a couch potato) that we have had for a couple of months.
The weather was perfect at 5000'+ elevation--low 70s in the day, upper 40s at night and not a cloud in the sky.  Our tent was a castoff from some of our guests.  They left it at Ash Grove because they found it to be a pain in the neck.  It was too big for us, really, and was made to attach onto the back of a Jeep Liberty, but it was avaliable (and free).  We practiced setting it up before we left (as every camper should do with a new tent!), so it went up pretty easily at the campground.
Our afternoon activity (after setting up camp), was a trip to Skinny Dip Falls (but no skinny dipping) on the Parkway.  The hike was relatively easy and about 1/2 mile each way, plus a short detour on another trail.  The dogs enjoyed all the smells and meeting other hikers and dogs (an older wire-haired mini-doxie and a perky long-haired doxie, among others).  It was our first trip to the falls, a small waterfall but with a beautiful, deep, crystal-clear pool at the bottom.  Mr Henry was starting to lag behind a little on the way back to the car.

Dinner was grilled pork loin, baked potatoes and campfire beans.  One note here:  when we used to camp frequently, we had lists of everything we needed to take with us and always had everything we needed.  Those lists have long ago disappeared, so a few things like a can opener (Steven did have the one on his Swiss Army Knife, but it needed some sharpening!),  a potholder and other necessities were missing, but we made do.
At bedtime, the dogs had their beds and we had an air mattress.  Another note here:  since it has been several years since we went camping and several years before that since we slept on an air mattress, we can tell you that the knack of sleeping on the ground does NOT come back to you after a long absence, like riding a bicycle does!  These old bones did not like it one bit, and each of us got less than 2 hours of restless sleep.  We did enjoy the sounds crickets, katydids and tree frogs.  The coyotes howling in the not-too-distant distance, just before dawn, got the boys stirred up, so that really put an end to sleep.
After a leisurely breakfast, a walk around the campground and some time with a book, it was time to pack up and come back home.  Unpacking and naps (for all 5 of us) was the order of the afternoon.   The tent, which was a pain in the neck, is awaiting a trip to the Goodwill store.  The dogs appeared to have a good time, but they really don't seem to be good camping dogs (they constantly paced around the campsite and tied each other up with their chains, rather than lying by the fire like a camping dog should).  Between the bed/sleep situation and the dogs, we have decided that we probably won't go tent camping again--it's back to a pop-up or camper for us.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Camping for a Cause II

Ash Grove is having our 2nd Camping for a Cause event this Friday, 17 September, 2010.  The money from campsite rentals will be donated to one of our favorite charities, Friends for Life's Forever Farm, a sanctuary for senior and special needs dogs and cats.  "Our residents enjoy a home like environment consisting of both private and group living rooms, porches and large fenced grassy play areas. The majority of our residents will be adopted into loving homes, but some who may be very old or ill will remain at the Forever Farm for the rest of their lives.
Please help us with our mission to help these animals live the best life possible by supporting the Forever Farm. Volunteer your time, donate funds, appreciated stock and supplies; tell your friends and family, and come meet our residents when you are ready to adopt a pet."
Our first event, in May 2010, raised several hundred dollars for The Haven of Transylvania County, a temporary shelter for the homeless, that is in its design phase, and still raising money.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


We know that flip flops are where it's at in footwear fashion, but there is a time and a place for everything, and the mountains are not the place for flip flops.  Recently, one of our (adult) guests had been to town and was still wearing her "dressy flip flops" while at one of the RV sites.  Her 18 month old granddaughter decided to run away from her and grandma had to chase her.  On a downhill slope of one of the blacktopped driveways, she ran out of her flip flop and fell, sliding on the sloping blacktop.  She had to go to the emergency room, have asphalt cleaned from her wounds and get stitches in her cheek and knee. OUCH!  She said that she knew better that to be wearing the flip flops in the mountains, and had meant to change into her tennis shoes, but just didn't get around to it.
Flip flops are great for the beach or town, but for being in the mountains, athletic shoes, sandals with a heel strap or shoes made for hiking and climbing (like Vibram Five Fingers, pictured here) are where it's at!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Protected Lands

More than 8000 acres, located on East Fork Rd. just a few miles from Ash Grove are going to be permanently protected, thanks to owner Charles Taylor, who sold the land to The Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and The Conservation Fund.  The groups hope to sell the land to North Carolina for recreation use.
When we first moved here, there were no "No Trespassing" signs on the property, so we frequently played in one of the waterfalls.  Unfortunately, the property has been off limits the past couple of years.  Here are some photos of East Fork Falls.
We are looking forward to being able to go there again!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ash Grove Cabins & Camping Announces “Camping for a Cause”

 Press Release

Brevard, NC  April 20, 2010—Ash Grove Mountain Cabins & Camping  has announced their “Camping for a Cause” program, in which they will donate all site-rental monies  from their campsites on Saturday, May 8th, to the local non-profit The Haven of Transylvania County, which is building a new homeless shelter.

Steven Dugard,  co-owner of Ash Grove, said, “One of the first things I do at the beginning of every month is make a donation to a charity, so this is just a natural extension of that policy”.  He added, “ It saddens me that we have need for a homeless shelter in Transylvania County, but I am grateful to the folks at The Haven for their hard work in filling that need.”  Mark Henry, Ash Grove's other owner, stated, “Our campsites are usually full on weekends this time of year, so we are hoping to provide a good donation to The Haven.”

Ash Grove is promoting the “Camping for a Cause” program on it's website, blog and Facebook page, as well as sending email announcements to their large customer base.  “We are asking our regular guests to make a donation to The Haven, even if they can't come camping that night”, Mr. Henry said.

Plans are for 2 events per year, one in spring, the other in autumn.  Ash Grove will choose a different charity or non-profit for each event.  “On the worldwide front, we regularly contribute to Kiva, which makes micro-loans to entrepreneurs in impoverished areas, and Heifer International, which provides livestock and other animals to individuals and villages, helping them become self-sufficient, so we will probably make this an event to support local organizations”, Mr. Dugard stated.
The Haven is raising funds and finalizing the process required to build the shelter on land that they have leased from The Bread of Life on S. Caldwell St. in Brevard.  More information, contact and donation information for The Haven can be found  at  To make reservations for Ash Grove Mountain Cabins & Camping's “Camping for a Cause” event in May, contact Ash Grove at or 828-885-7216.  The fall camping date will be announced later.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Signs of Spring

Warm weather has brought spring flowers to the mountains.  Here is a wild Mountain Iris (only a couple of inches across); blueberry flower buds; and our dog, Max, having a springtime nap.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Brevard--America's Coolest Small Town

Budget Travel is conducting a search for the "America's Coolest Small Town".  Brevard is in a race for the top spot for a lot of reasons:  our 250 waterfalls; our vibrant arts scene (what other small town would have Arlo Guthrie and Yo-Yo Ma at it's summer music festival, and Steve Martin playing banjo at the Mountain Song Festival?); our white squirrels (and the White Squirrel Festival); the "Flight of the Vampires" 5K race (we ARE in Transylvania County, you know); over 1000 miles of hiking & biking trails; great restaurants; world-class trout fishing;....and lots more, but you get the idea.  Click the link to VOTE FOR BREVARD, then come see us! 

Our New Website

Our website has just had a makeover.  New graphics, new navigation, more pages and info, a new categorized photo gallery, and more.  Check it out!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Picture-Postcard Views

I took this photo on the way to town today.  In the extreme foreground is a snow covered field.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Our In-town Activities

This Winter/Spring, Mark and Steven are both getting back to their artistic roots.  Mark is directing a play for the Brevard Little Theatre.  It is Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie". In his earlier life, Mark lived in Manhattan and worked--mostly designing sets and costumes, but some directing, too--for off-Broadway theatre.  He actually got to work with Mr. Williams on one of his last plays, "Something Cloudy, Something Clear", so Mark will definitely bring something special to his direction of "Menagerie".  Weekend performances are scheduled 2-11 April at the Brevard Little Theatre.
Steven, a former architect and graphic designer (among MANY other things) is taking a 6-week sculpture class at the Carlwile-Dodson Studio for Pottery Instruction.  The class's first project is a bas-relief piece.  In addition to the 6 week classes, they offer 3-week classes, Try-Pottery-for-One-Night, Pottery Camp (in Summer) and more.  They are a part of Mud Dabbers Pottery, a great place for pottery lovers to shop.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Dogs' Great Adventure

This happened in the Spring a few years ago.  We didn't have the blog then, but it is such a good story, I am sharing it now.  We owned Ash Grove, but weren't living on the property yet; we were house-sitting for Mark's sister and bro-in-law, closer to town...

I arrived at the house around 8pm, opened the garage door, and went into the house.  Ozzie (60lb Basset hound) and Ernie (12lb Dachshund) were out front marking their territories.  Ozzie came in, but Ernie stayed out.  I was just getting ready to go get him, when he started barking like crazy.  Ozzie followed suit, and tore out of the house.  I went outside, just in time to see them disappear around the corner of the house in the direction of the woodpile.  They were both barking furiously.  Just as I started to go after them, Ozzie came flying back around the corner of the house, still barking furiously.  Right on his tail was Ernie, still barking, and right on Ernie's tail was a bear!  I yelled and waved my arms and the bear stopped in its tracks.  The boys got behind me, each one peeking out from behind my legs, still barking furiously. The bear turned around and disappeared back around the corner.  I got both dogs in the house, then phoned Mark to tell him the story (he was still at Ash Grove).  I decided to see if the bear was still around, so I went out on the back patio and crept around to the gate to the side yard.  There, by the woodpile, was the bear--and 3 cubs.  Thinking they would leave, I yelled at them and the 3 cubs teleported up 3 trees, while Mom glared at me very menacingly.  I went back in the house rather quickly.  I went to a window overlooking the side yard just in time to see the cubs shinnying down the trees.  I couldn't resist, so I yelled again, and back up the trees went the cubs.  A few minutes later they came back down, and all 4 of them sauntered off thru the woods.
That was my only bear sighting since we have been here (we have never seen one--or sign of one--at Ash Grove).  I would have enjoyed the sighting much more if Mama Bear hadn't been so close on my boys' tails.  I definitely needed a cocktail (or 2) afterwards.
The Ferocious Bear-Chasing Dogs, Relaxing

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Time for a Change

This winter has been unusual, to say the least.  Since Dec 1st, our high temperature has been well below average for 55 of the 76 days--bummer!  We have had more snow this winter than in our previous 7 winters here, combined.  Some of the natives say that it is the worst one in over 40 years.  I know that we are not alone here--most of the rest of the country is the same way.  The snow that we had on Valentine's Day was one of those very pretty, stuck-to-everything kind of snows, but fortunately, it melted off the roads and other surfaces yesterday.  Maybe if we all meditate on this spring photo from years past, we can hurry spring along.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Ice Storm!

We had the first ice storm in a couple of years this weekend.  Three inches of new snow (on top of the couple of inches that were left from last weekend's snow storm), topped with a good 1/2 inch of ice, made for a harrowing afternoon and night on Friday.  Every 20-30 seconds, what sounded like a rifle shot would echo through the mountains when a tree branch would snap and fall to the ground (or worse, get hung up in the tree, so that we will have to get the treeman here).  Less frequently, would be the cannon-shot BOOM! of an entire tree giving up its struggle against the weight of the ice, crashing to earth.  In surveying the damage, we found ourselves lucky.  No trees or massive branches fell on any of the cabins, bathhouse, office or our vehicles, just lots of small stuff.  The good news is that our campers will have mass quantities of free kindling this camping season, and there will be less leaves for us to blow and rake this October.

P.S. Our winter cabin special is on--mention this post and receive $20/night off the regular rate of any cabin (2-night stay or longer) until 4 March 2010!