Thursday, July 31, 2014

Fall 2014...it's coming...

Don't know about you, but summer is flying by here in the mountains of western North Carolina! Our guests are enjoying this year's ridiculously pleasant weather (high of 75 degrees on July 31, ahhhhhhh), and the fresh mountain and forest air.

But... we're just seven short weeks away from the fall season, and not long after September 20 begins the fabulous slow-motion color show provided to us by Mother Nature over a six-week period. Start thinking ahead to your fall getaway and check our room availability as October reservations are steadily coming in!

The road to the Inn on Mill Creek B&B, October 24, 2012
Peak color at our elevation (2,300 feet) is typically Oct. 21-31
In the past, we've provided a little bit of info about when the leaves change in the North Carolina mountains, and take note: our 2014 weekly fall foliage reports for our area near Asheville, Black Mountain and Old Fort, NC, will start on September 30.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

North Carolina Mountain Birds: Eastern Towhee

Eastern Towhee, time for your close-up! [photo: Wikipedia]
Last month, we featured one of our sparrows as part of our 12 Months of Birding at the Inn series on the blog in 2014. This month, our sparrow love continues, with our July pick: the Eastern Towhee.

The Eastern Towhee is a year-round resident here in Pisgah National Forest east of Black Mountain, NC. They're more often heard than seen, although you may catch a flash of reddish orange and black scurrying on the ground around the Pool Garden and the birdfeeders as that's where the Eastern Towhees like to scoot out from under the burning bush hedge to graze. Eastern Towhees prefer to forage on the ground, often in leaves, and also through dense shrubs. They're omnivores with a varied diet of seeds, insects, snails, fruit (blueberry thieves), grasses and also spring flower buds.

The Eastern Towhee is pretty easy to identify. It's a medium-sized, chunky bird with reddish orange sides and a white belly. Males are jet black on their heads going down their chests, as well as on their  backs. Trade the black for brown with the same orange and white pattern on the sides and belly and you have the female Eastern Towhee.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

2014 Biltmore Village Art & Craft Fair is Aug. 2-3


About 20 minutes east of the Inn on Mill Creek B&B is Historic Biltmore Village, a cluster of shops, art galleries and restaurants in what was a planned community of English-style homes built in the 1890s. Biltmore Village is just across the street from the entrance to Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, where George Washington Vanderbilt and his family lived. Mr. Vanderbilt played an integral role in the construction of Biltmore Village, which includes a church - the Cathedral of All Souls - that he had built and where his daughter, Cornelia, was married.

Biltmore Village in 1903 [photo from Pack Library]
Biltmore Village a little over 100 years later [photo by Tom Powell, Flickr]
Now that Biltmore Village is a cool little "neighborhood" of shops and galleries, as well as dining spots, there are different events in the historic village throughout the year. One of those events is the annual Art & Craft Fair, now in its 42nd year. The Biltmore Village Art & Craft Fair is being presented by two Biltmore Village galleries, New Morning Gallery and Bellagio, and features more than 100 artisans and craftspeople. It is a high-quality art and craft fair, which fits the atmosphere of Biltmore Village perfectly.

The hours for the Biltmore Village Art & Craft Fair are 10am-7pm on Saturday, August 2, and 12pm-5pm on Sunday, August 3, and the Fair is being held outdoors on the grounds of All Souls Cathedral. While you're visiting the Fair, be sure to check out some of the nearby local restaurants, including Corner Kitchen, Rezaz, Fig Bistro and Cantina, among others.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Chestoa View Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Looking for some incredible views when you visit the mountains of Western North Carolina? Combine a day of scenic driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway north of Asheville with an easy hike, such as the Chestoa View Trail (0.6 miles long).

Black Mountains Overlook
One of many overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina
Chestoa View Trailhead
Chestoa View Trail off the Blue Ridge Parkway in NC (0.6 miles)
Located just four miles south of Linville Falls on the Blue Ridge Parkway is Chestoa View at Milepost 320.7. You'll see a small parking area and picnic tables, with the Chestoa View trailhead leading off from the parking area. Before you begin, though, walk to the left of the trailhead and head down a set of stone stairs to the Chestoa View overlook, which looks out on the Linville Gorge area.

The Chestoa View overlook is different from a lot of Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks where you typically pull off to the side of the Parkway to take in the expansive mountain views -- this one is more secluded and you can't see it from the road. Views are still spectacular, though!

Chestoa View overlook in the summertime
OK, so let's talk about the trail: The Chestoa View Trail is a little over a half mile long. It's an easy, flat hiking trail that leads you through hardwood forest and rhododendron thickets. Tons of native ferns and wildflowers. Dappled sunlight. Moss covered tree trunks. So picturesque!

Chestoa View Trail
Chestoa View Trail
About halfway along the trail, the pathway splits, forming a loop back around to the part of the trail that you were on at the split. Think of this trail like a (not so straight) sewing needle and the split begins the eye/loop of the needle So at this point, you can go left or right to start the loop. The left-hand path opens up to a stellar view of Table Rock in the distance.

View of Table Rock from Chestoa View Trail
View of Table Rock from the Chestoa View Trail
Once you complete the loop, you're on your way back to the parking area.

Oh, and the Chestoa View hiking trail is pet friendly and with all the sniff-worthy foliage and a well maintained pathway, the innpugs give this trail two paws up. (Keep in mind that your dog should be leashed at all times on any of the Blue Ridge Parkway hiking trails.)

Pet Friendly Chestoa View Hiking Trail
The Chestoa View Trail is innpug-approved
The Chestoa View overlook and trail is about 60 minutes from the Inn on Mill Creek Bed & Breakfast, and is a great place to stop if you're planning to be out on the Parkway near Linville Falls and Grandfather Mountain for the day. Here are a few options on how to get there from the Inn:
  • Take Highway 70 east through Old Fort then take scenic Highway 80 north for 12 miles to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Turn north on the Parkway and travel about 22 miles. You'll see some beautiful overlooks along the way.
     
  • Take Highway 70 east, go past Highway 80, and then turn left (north) onto scenic Highway 221 in Marion. Take Hwy 221 about 20 miles to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Along the way, you'll pass a winery, a fantastic local cheese shop, a golf course, and even caverns. Turn off of Hwy 221 and head south on the Blue Ridge Parkway and travel about four miles.
     
  • A third option is to take Highway 70 east and turn left onto Curtis Creek Road (before you get to Highway 80) and travel 12 miles up to the Blue Ridge Parkway, where you'll turn north. You'll be driving along Curtis Creek through the Curtis Creek Recreation Area, which was the first section of land purchased under the Weeks Act of 1912, establishing National Forests. IMPORTANT: Curtis Creek is unpaved for about nine miles to the Parkway and we recommend it only if you have 4-wheel drive. It can get bumpy!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

2014 Sourwood Festival is August 9-10

[photo credit: sourwoodfestival.com]
One of our favorite small town festivals is coming up on August 9-10, 2014: The Sourwood Festival in Black Mountain, NC. This is a free street festival where you can browse 200 art and craft vendors, honey vendors and more. That's an amazing amount of cool stuff to see in a downtown that is about four blocks. Lots of fantastic local food, live music, and even kids' activities are also part of the Sourwood Festival, which is named after the sourwood tree that honeybees pollinate to give us our fabulous local honey that we use in breakfasts at the Inn on Mill Creek B&B. And we have plenty of sourwood trees here inside Pisgah National Forest in the mountains of western North Carolina.

Sourwood tree in full bloom in July at the Inn on Mill Creek B&B
Honeybees loooooove these delicate flowers on the Sourwood tree!
One of the things we love about the sourwood tree is that it is one of the first trees to change color in the fall, sometimes as early as late September. When the sourwoods change, you know big blasts of fall color are right around the corner! And the leaves stay on the sourwoood tree for a long while, usually well into-October. The leaves turn a rich shade of red, almost burgundy that contrasts very nicely with its white flower fronds.
Sourwood trees change to a scarlet red in early fall
If you will be in the Black Mountain / Asheville area during the weekend of August 8, 2014, put the Sourwood Festival on your list of events not to miss, even if it's just to pick up some of that tasty sourwood honey. The street festival portion is Saturday, August 9 (9am-8pm) and Sunday, August 10 (9am-5pm), and the festival officially kicks off at 7pm on Friday, August 8, with the Sourwood Idol contest, an amateur singing competition. And believe us, there are plenty of talented singers in this area. In fact, the most recent winner of the national singing contest American Idol is Asheville native Caleb Johnson.

As of this post, we have a few rooms remaining for Sourwood weekend:

Check room availability at the Inn on Mill Creek

For more details about the festival, visit www.sourwoodfestival.com.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Herb Garden Makeover

The Inn on Mill Creek Bed & Breakfast has a small herb garden within the Pool Garden (our garden that used to be a swimming pool way back when). At our elevation in the North Carolin mountains, 2,300 feet above sea level in Zone 7b, some herbs overwinter just fine, while others are basically annuals. This means our herb garden has changed its look practically every year. But over the course of six years, one thing has remained certain: the Herb Garden has slowly become nondescript and has lost its identity, blending in with the rest of the Pool Garden over time.

Herb Garden in fall - St. John's Wort, Mint and Sage competing for space
Herb Garden, center right, blending a little too well into the garden
When we decided that one focus of our 2014 projects was going to be garden enhancements at the Inn, the Herb Garden was a natural contender for the number one spot on the “improve me” list. We give the extremely well thriving Chocolate Mint all the credit. The awesome smelling (yes, just like chocolate chip mint!) herb had basically taken over the entire herb garden – yes, we now know mint likes to grow, and grow, and grow – so we deemed it time to tame that plant and to tidy up the garden.

One trip to the social media wonder that is Pinterest was all it took to gather up some inspiration. Herb garden photos…check. Potted herbs…check. Potted herbs sunk into the herb garden…oh, now there’s an idea…

We set to work in early April, knowing that herb season – and the Painters Greenhouse Herb Festival – was just around the corner. The entire Herb Garden was dug out.

Goodbye for now, Chocolate Mint (photo from instagram.com/innonmillcreek)
Some perennial herbs were saved (St. John’s Wort, Thyme and Purple Sage made the cut), while others were taken to a more manageable size (Chocolate Mint, we’re looking at you). Pots were procured in two different shapes and three different sizes for variety and the plan took shape on paper.

What Innkeeper Brigette does in her spare time in March and April
We made it to the Painters Greenhouse Herb Festival in Old Fort and picked up quite a few plants for the herb garden: Rosemary, Sage, Lavender, Chives, Thai Basil, Large Leaf Basil, Dill, Chamomile and Parsley. We planted them all in pots, placed the pots in the garden and filled around them with dirt. A few bags of  large pine bark mulch and voila, potted herb garden! 

Before filling around with dirt (photo from instagram.com/innonmillcreek)
A couple of herbs were ordered online, Salvia and Tarragon, so two of our pots remained empty at the beginning of May.


Herb Garden Project 2014 at the Inn on Mill Creek B&B...pretty much done!
All plants in and happy, even the Chocolate Mint
Now that our herb garden has had a couple of months to grow, we are figuring out what works best in terms of watering (every other day seems to do the trick), what is struggling and why (the poor Salvia can’t catch a break from insects), and we actually pay attention to the growth habits of each herb – something we didn’t do when they were all competing for space and growing together amidst a sea of Chocolate Mint. We still love the Chocolate Mint, we do, it’s just that we love it much more in a container.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

July 2014 Exhibit at the Red House Studios and Gallery in Black Mountain


As you know, we at the Inn on Mill Creek B&B are big supporters of our talented local artists, including those who are members of the Swannanoa Valley Fine Arts League. So we wanted to make sure you knew that the SVFAL has an art exhibit showing in July of 2014, called People, Places and Things, at the home of the SVFAL, the Red House Studios and Gallery near the Monte Vista on West State Street in Black Mountain.

People, Places and Things will feature selected works by SVFAL members, showcasing, you guessed it, people, places and things. Curators for the show are Pat Cotterill and Lynn Newhouse. A reception for People, Places and Things will be held on July 11, from 5pm to 7pm.  You can check out the July art show at the Red House Monday-Saturday (10am-5pm) and Sundays (noon to 4pm). We highly recommend it!

Next up for the SVFAL is the 47th Annual Juried Exhibit in August. Learn more about the Swannanoa Valley Fine Arts League at www.svfalarts.org.