Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Best of 2011

Fern Glen, Holmes State Forest

As a way to say "Happy New Year!", we thought we would share some of our favorite photos from 2011.
Looking Glass Rock, Pisgah Forest

Rainbow Falls, Near Gorges State Park

Horsepasture River, Near Gorges State Park

Winter Sky and Trees, Ash Grove
Upper Falls at Graveyard Fields. Pisgah Forest

Looking Glass Falls, Pisgah National Forest

Wintergreen Falls, Dupont State Forest

Connestee Falls, Brevard, NC
View of Mountains in Snow near Ash Grove Cabins, Jan 2011

Looking Glass Falls in Snow, Jan 2011

Saturday, August 27, 2011

From a Recent Guest

One of our recent (and repeat) guests wrote this review of Ash Grove on Yelp:

"Cabins?  Yeah.  RV sites? Yeah, those too...  Tent sites?  NOW you're talkin'!  And while Ash Grove has a few tent sites with Wi-Fi, that's not the reason we go there... it's the walk-to sites below the bath house that we find most appealing.

Mark and Stephen bought this property and added these very campsites back in 2003.  To access them, you need to take a walk in the woods... The trails to the sites are very well maintained and mulched; wheelbarrows are provided to help you lug your gear to the sites, and otherwise nature is left intact.  Each campsite has a nicely leveled area for your tent, a fire pit and a picnic table.  A few of the sites have a clothesline already strung, but I suspect those were just left by previous campers and not taken down.  (I don't know how much good they'll do beneath the tree canopy, at least when trees are in leaf!)

The bathhouse at Ash Grove is meticulously well-taken care of.  Each side has a couple of sinks, three commodes and two shower stalls, as well as electrical outlets.  They even have a hair dryer on each side.  Water pressure is ample, and the water is certainly hot enough.  Just outside the bathhouse is a double sink for doing dishes, and there is a washer and dryer for your convenience.  That said, this is NOT a KOA!  You really get a sense of nature here, and depending on your campsite can actually get a workout walking up and down the trails.

The location of Ash Grove is also spectacular.  It's about 6 miles south of Brevard - a wonderful city in and of itself, and WELL worth exploring - which just happens to also be the gateway to the Pisgah National Forest - with all of the wonders that that entails!  Ash Grove is also about eight miles north of the best waterfalls that the DuPont State Forest has to offer.  Additionally, Ash Grove is topographically more than a thousand feet above Brevard, and so the average temperature is perhaps 8 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than Brevard.

With that in mind, Ash Grove also has a hot tub that is open roughly from October until early May(?), depending on the weather.

Another thing we found thoroughly delightful is that Ash Grove is a campground with *Rules*.  No, we're not talking about a sign that says NO! ...followed by everything you want to do.  The Rules at Ash Grove are Rules that you might make up to remind folks of the Golden Rule.  Keep the place clean.  Don't make excessive noise.  Don't be a  jerk.  Remember you are sharing the forest with other living beings.  You know, those sorts of things!

We're already looking forward to our next trip to Ash Grove.  Oh yeah, you'll want to make your reservations early... they have fewer than 20 of the tent sites, so you know they'll go quickly!"

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Graveyard Fields Hike

I was able to get away from Ash Grove for a little while yesterday (27 Jul 2011) and went to Graveyard Fields for a hike.  It has been hot here in the mountains, so I wanted to go to a high elevation where it is cooler, and the Fields, on the Blue Ridge Parkway, has an elevation of 5120'.  It was 76 degrees in the parking lot.
Why the name Graveyard Fields?  The sign at the beginning of the Graveyard Fields Trail reads: "A natural disaster occurred here 500 to 1000 years ago. A tremendous "wind-blow" uprooted the spruce forest. Through the years the old root stumps and trees rotted, leaving only dirt mounds. These odd mounds gave the appearance of a graveyard, and the area became known as Graveyard Fields.
The forest eventually recovered, only to be destroyed by a catastrophic fire in 1925. This fire consumed the entire spruce-fir forest and the ancient mounds. The forest again is slowly recovering. The 1925 fire burned deeply, destroying the soils nutrients. Blackberry briers and other small plants have taken hold, adding decaying vegetation to the earth each season, gradually enriching the soil. With time, this process will establish larger plants and trees. A spruce-fir forest might once again flourish in Graveyard Fields."
There were a LOT of cars in the parking lot, but I knew that most people would be headed for the 2nd Falls, which is a great swimming spot, so I headed for the Upper Falls, less spectacular, but beautiful none the less.  It is a hike of about 3.5 miles, round trip.  The blackberries and blueberries that cover the mountainside were a little past their prime (and well picked over), but I managed to find a few succulent berries.  You pass through a mixed grassland and small-treed river valley for much of the hike.  The open grassland provides habitat for many wildflowers.

The clouds of honeybees on these golden flowers were so intent on gathering the nectar that they didn't even notice my passing.   Further on were some Turks Cap Lilies, this one hosting a butterfly. 

When first arriving at the waterfall, you are at the tail of the falls (you can't see the main part from there) and I heard a couple of people say, "We hiked all this way for THIS?!?"  I wouldn't have been disappointed if the tail was the whole falls, but there is so much more.  The main cascade is 50' or so.  The other time that I hiked here was in our drought about 3 or 4 years ago, and there was hardly a trickle coming down, but I was rewarded this time.
This is a great moderately-easy hike that just about everyone could enjoy.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Summer's Day Hike in Holmes Forest

Trail through a fernery
Wide well-maintained trail

Instructional signs

Forest creature

First wild rhododendron bloom of the season

Wildflowers in the forest

Scenic vistas
Holmes Educational State Forest is about 15 minutes from Ash Grove, just on the other side of Dupont State Forest.  The 235 acre forest has rock outcroppings, streams, scenic vistas and is a mixture of hardwoods and softwoods.  Educational programs are its primary mission.  In addition to ranger-led programs, they have an old firefighting helicopter on display, a fire tower, talking trees, and signs on the trails telling about the forest.
I hiked the "Demonstration Trail", a 4-5 mile loop.  The trail starts at the Forestry Center, near the parking lot, which is in the Crab Creek valley.  There is a 400' elevation gain in 0.7 mile on the trail, so while it's not extremely steep, it does take some work to get to the top.  The trail is well-maintained and has steps on some of the steeper parts.  It is a great hike to take by yourself or can be a fun outing for the whole family.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Spring Flowers

Many of our spring wildflowers, flowering trees and our cultivated Iris are in bloom now or have just finished.  Here is a sample:

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Loving These Winter Hikes!

In between snowstorms and some brutally cold visits from the jetstream, we have also had some great hiking weather!  Super Bowl Sunday was crystal clear and in the lower 50s--perfect for a hike in Pisgah Forest to the top of John Rock.
Stream Alongside Cat Gap Loop Trail

I wanted a shorter hike (about 3 miles), so I made this a semi-loop hike, taking the Cat Gap Loop trail to John Rock trail, around to Cat Gap Loop trail again, then back to where I started.  The route I took starts at the parking area for the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education and the Fish Hatchery (both fun places to explore before or after a hike).  A longer hike of about 5 miles, utilizes the other half of Cat Gap Loop trail.
Looking Glass Rock from John Rock

Standing on John Rock

Tiny Rivulets of Water & Ice on John Rock

Monday, January 31, 2011

Spring Hike--In the Middle of Winter!

I had a fantastic hike yesterday in Pisgah Forest.  It was sunny and 65 degrees--a BIG change from last week's hike (read blog post here: Winter Hike in Dupont Forest ).  I hiked the Coontree Loop trail, a moderate 3.7 miles.  Although there is nothing spectacular about the trail, it is one of my favorite shorter trails.  The trail head begins across the road from the Coontree picnic area, about 5 miles after you enter the forest.  It starts out in a hemlock cove, winds up and around hardwood coves and along creeks, then follows a ridgeline before descending along another creek. I hike the trail clockwise.  The uphill portion is steeper, but a shorter distance.  Here are a few photos.
Small (4') Waterfall on Coontree Loop

Rocks in a Stream on the Trail

Patterns and Textures in the Water

View From the Ridgeline Portion of the Coontree Loop Trail

Stream at the Junction of the Loop
A Surprise of Color Along the Trail (Partridge Berry)