Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Catawba Falls (340 feet high)
As previously mentioned, we headed out on three separate days to go geocaching, which is essentially hunting for things that fellow geocachers have hidden by using GPS coordinates. Our Part 1 recapped our adventure on Christmas, and this entry will be all about our search for caches along the Catawba River to Catawba Falls on December 29, and to the peak of Kitsuma on December 30.
Some background on the Catawba River and Catawba Falls: The start of the 220-mile long Catawba River is about a 20-minute drive from the Inn on Mill Creek right here in our county, McDowell County, North Carolina.
Near the start of the Catawba River
You can access a beautiful set of waterfalls from a trail that runs along the Catawba River (which is more like a creek at this point because it's the headwaters of the river).
Crossing the Catawba River...piece of cake!
Part of the trail was previously located on private property, but the Foothills Conservancy made an agreement with the landowner and was recently able to purchase the land to make it formally open to the public.
On December 29, we went with Mike and Carolina from Michigan, mostly to hike the Catawba Falls Trail, but also to see if we could locate one or more of the handful of caches hidden along the trail. We easily found See Spot Run, but didn't give too much of an effort in finding the others because we were more interested in getting to the falls before dark. Even though the weather was beautiful, we knew the winter day was still going to be short. Enjoy the following photos that Dave took on the hike (click to enlarge):
Mike and Carolina
Part of the Catawba Falls Trail
Water rushes through a former dam near the Trail
Near the falls
The lower portion of the falls
Unfortunately, we didn't take any photos when we went to Kitsuma on December 30 with the innpugs in tow, but we did have success in finding the Cache of Kistuma Peak. We've hiked the Kitsuma Trail before, and our hike this time proved to be just as incredible in terms of weather and even better in terms of views. The nicest thing about the hike was that the sun was shining the entire time, warming up the damp pine needles on the trail and creating the heavenly scent of pine all around us as we hiked up the mountain.
One of the really great things about geocaching is that it allows you to see places you might not otherwise go. The Cache of Kitsuma Peak hunt leads you to a rocky overlook where the views are simply spectacular, and where the cache's coordinates are written on a rock. What we didn't realize is that there is more than one rocky overlook. Our GPSr seemed to be way off and we walked up and down the path several times thinking the GPSr was not going to be any help at all.
Now, as explained in Part 1 of our Late December Geocaching entry, Brigette relies heavily on the GPSr, while Dave takes the method of looking around with his eyes at the actual location where the cache should be. So what happened? Dave ended up taking the GPSr and following it, and lo and behold, it led us to a little trail off the main trail to the correct outcropping of rocks. We were rewarded with views of the mountains around Ridgecrest, Black Mountain and Montreat. Plus, we got the coordinates and were able to find the cache. What a great day.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Swannanoa Creek where Brigette crossed it
The weather has been pleasant the past two weeks and we had the opportunity to go in search of geocaches on three separate days. This blog entry will highlight Christmas Day, when we decided to take the innpugs on a geocaching adventure on the old stagecoach road that partially runs along Point Lookout Trail, a 3.5-mile greenway near the Inn.
Like Forest Gump, Csaba just felt like runnnnin'
Bugsy action shot
You can access the stagecoach road by starting at the bottom of Point Lookout Trail -- near Piney Grove Baptist Church off Old Highway 70 in Old Fort -- and heading along the trail a short distance until you get to a brown barricade on your left that marks the dirt stagecoach road, once used as a route between Old Fort and Asheville in the 1700s and 1800s before construction of the railroad through the area. The stagecoach road is now used by hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders, as well as geocachers on the hunt for two caches, Cross Creek Climbing Cache and Spyder's Cache.
We'd walked along the old stagecoach road before in the fall, and not much had changed since our last visit, except for the lack of fall foliage. The cache search led us further than we had gone before, along Swannanoa Creek, which we enjoyed listening to as we hiked, and we hoped that the creek wasn't too full that we couldn't cross it when we arrived at the cache location.
One of the unique things along the way was a grave marker for an unknown Confederate soldier, still respectfully maintained by someone. It was interesting to think about Civil War skirmishes taking place along the stagecoach route in the exact spot where we were walking.
Once at a good location to cross the creek, Dave stayed with the innpugs while Brigette volunteered to climb up the hill where the cache was hidden. Crossing the creek was not as easy as we had hoped, but Brigette, clearly (crazily?) committed to the caching mission, rolled up her jeans and stepped across the rocks to the other side.
See Brigette? Click photo to enlarge.
Then came the climb, also not easy, but Brigette adopted Bugsy the innpug's mountain goat mentality and skurried up the ridge to where the GPS receiver ("GPSr") said the cache would be. After about ten minutes of studying the GPSr and pondering where the cache might be hidden, Brigette started thinking it would have been a better idea for Dave to come and look for the cache. This is because on all previous caching adventures, Brigette, relying mostly on the GPSr, does what is commonly referred to as the Drunken Bee Dance, eyes intensely focused on the GPSr while stumbling in circles yelling out "2 feet south! 1 foot northeast! 5 feet west!". Dave, on the other hand, takes the approach of actually looking around and manages to locate the cache in what seems like just seconds.
Brigette attempted the Dave Method, to no avail. After 20 minutes, the sun headed over the ridge and the innpugs became restless.
Innpugs in "ready to go home" mode
It was time to call it a day without even considering a search for the other cache, Spyder's Cache. It was very disappointing to have to log a "Did Not Find" on the Cross Creek Climbing Cache, but we were able to enjoy a peaceful spot near Swannanoa Creek with no other people around and to take a hike on a beautiful December day with no need for coats or hats. That made the trip well worth it. Chances are, we'll be back to get those caches soon.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
A frequent visitor to the Inn
We're proud to announce that the Inn on Mill Creek has been given the designation of Certified Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation as well as the North Carolina Wildlife Federation.
In order to be a Certified Wildlife Habitat, an individual or organization must provide elements from each of the following areas:
- Food Sources. For example: Native plants, seeds, fruits, nuts, berries, nectar
- Water Sources. For example: Birdbath, pond, water garden, stream
- Places for Cover. For example: Thicket, rockpile, birdhouse
- Places to Raise Young. For example: Dense shrubs, vegetation, nesting box, pond
- Sustainable Gardening. For example: Mulch, compost, rain garden, chemical-free fertilizer
We often get asked what kinds of wildlife we and our guests see here in Pisgah National Forest. Birds are one type of wildlife in abundance in the woods. On any given day in Spring or Summer, you might see a Carolina Wren hopping outside around the Solarium looking for left-over breakfast crumbs, view Cardinals gathering food in the early afternoon, hear a Pileated Woodpecker knocking on a tree, spot an Indigo Bunting or Swainson's Warbler perched in the same tree, see our resident front porch nest-builder, an Eastern Phoebe, flutter to a nearby tree branch, enjoy the sight of Hummingbirds flocking around the birch near the boggy area south of our little lake, and hear Whip-poor-wills and Barred Owls in the evening. Some birds, such as Cardinals, are here all year round.
Birdwatchers, bring your binoculars when you visit. In 2009, as part of our The Inn Turns 10! celebration of the Inn on Mill Creek's 10th birthday, we'll be posting on our website a list of 10 common (and not-so-common) bird species that frequently hang around the Inn on Mill Creek. If you hear or see one of the birds, let us know and we'll add your name in the "They Found It" column. Plus, send us a photo and we'll post it.
And don't forget, the Inn on Mill Creek is also a site on the North Carolina Birding Trail mountains section. For other sites, visit www.ncbirdingtrail.org.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
As you can see above, our small Christmas cactus is blooming right on schedule. Our large Christmas cactus is confused by the mild weather, thinking that winter is not quite here yet. We think we saw one bud peeking out, so we're hoping the big guy blooms within the next couple of weeks.
We'd like to take the opportunity to wish our friends and guests a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Inn on Mill Creek. We hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday weekend!
Have a holly, jolly Christmas;
It's the best time of the year
I don't know if there'll be snow,
but have a cup of cheer.
Have a holly, jolly Christmas;
And when you walk down the street
Say Hello to friends you know
and everyone you meet.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Since 2009 begins next week, we thought we'd better get started on our list of New Year's Resolutions (the majority of which will in all likelihood be broken by the end of January). On our list will be the usual "Get more exercise" which we plan to do by hiking all 17 trails in Montreat...or maybe at least three of them. Also on the list will be to reduce stress, which Brigette will achieve by gardening and planning a walking labyrinth at the Inn (Spring cannot get here fast enough...3 months to go!), and Dave will do by not watching the stock market so closely.
If, like us, you're looking to reduce stress, keep in mind that what we in the Black Mountain/Asheville area consider the "quiet" season from January through March is precisely that: quiet. Less crowds and less traffic in the quiet season really help with stress reduction.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
The McDowell Arts Council Association (MACA) is located at 50 Main Street in historic downtown Marion. For more information, call 828-652-8610.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
The package containing our newest arrivals
As members of the Arbor Day Foundation, we receive ten baby trees of our choice each year. Last year we chose flowering trees. Since the Inn on Mill Creek is a site on the North Carolina Birding Trail, we chose wild bird garden trees this year, which include:
- Red Oak
- River Birch (cool cinnamon-colored bark in the winter)
- Sargent Crabapple
- Washington Hawthorn
- Arrowwood Viburnum
- Canadian Hemlock (2)
- Gray Dogwood
- Bur Oak
Here's what the Gray Dogwood looks like:
It's actually a shrub with white flowers in the Spring. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, the Gray Dogwood's "best ornamental feature is the reddish pink color of the pedicels (fruiting stalks) that are exposed when the fruit falls. The red color persists into fall and winter." This might be our favorite baby of the bunch.
Speaking of babies, we also send our congratulations to Brigette's brother and sister-in-law, Carson and Laura, on the arrival of their first baby on December 2!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
One of our 2009 projects will be to "green up" the Inn on Mill Creek. Having the luxury of beautiful mountains all around and hundreds of thousands of acres of National Forest as our backyard really helps us to appreciate nature, and inspires us to do our part as a responsible business to preserve the natural setting that we get to enjoy every day and share with our guests.
One way for us to reduce our business' impact on the environment is to discover and implement methods to reduce plastic waste. The largest category of plastics are found in containers and packaging, according to the EPA. This includes amenity-sized bottles, which pose a recycling challenge due to their size. When recycled scrap plastic arrives at a reclaiming facility, it is sent through a shaker screen to remove dirt and trash, and the tiny bottles can potentially slip through and be disposed of as waste.
Plastic does not biodegrade. It takes 700 years for a plastic bottle to start decomposing, according to SKS Bottle & Packaging, a company that designs and supplies amenity bottles.
So, with this knowledge, we've been researching eco-friendly packaging for some of our amenities. We've chosen an alternative to plastic with the help of Gilchrist & Soames, a company based in Indiana that is serious about its role as an environmentally responsible business. The company's extensive environmental and no harm policies are impressive. Their BeeKind collection features paper packaging, which is up to a 59% reduction in packaging material by weight and a 92% reduction in waste by volume after use compared to plastic bottles. Additionally, part of the proceeds of BeeKind amenities supports the honey bee and sustainable pollination research being done as part of the UC-Davis Honey Bee Research Program.
Our new amenities will debut in 2009.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Geocache is somewhere near here...but not too near
We've hidden our very first geocache and it was approved by the reviewers at Geocaching.com, so now you'll be able to look for it when you're in our neck of the woods. We've hidden it in a serene spot and put a bench nearby so that people can take in the stillness and tranquility of the forest. You almost feel like time stops when you're there...yes, it's that peaceful, especially heading into wintertime. It reminds us that the number one reason guests tell us they like the Inn so much is because of the "relaxation factor". You get to step away from the racing heartbeat of your busy life for a little while.
It's our hope that fellow geocachers enjoy the search. We've stocked our cache with ten items for trade in celebration of the Inn on Mill Creek's upcoming 10th birthday in 2009. Enjoy!
Thursday, December 11, 2008
White Horse Black Mountain's logo
White Horse Black Mountain is a new music and arts venue in the heart of downtown of Black Mountain, right on the corner of State Street and Montreat Road. The venue can seat up to 250 people, has a state-of-the-art sound and lighting system and a 30-foot barrel ceiling for acoustics. You can also have a drink (they serve wine, beer, coffee and tea) and light snacks while you enjoy live performances.
We can tell that the owners, Bob Hinkle and Kim Hughes, are excited and proud of their new venture. We had the pleasure of hearing both Bob and Kim perform at a recent event and they wowed the crowd. They're both extremely talented singers and you can see that they have a real appreciation for music.
Below are some upcoming musical acts that Bob and Kim have lined up at White Horse Black Mountain:
- December 18: Appalachia Song (shades of bluegrass and standards)
- December 19: "Free Form Friday" featuring selected local talent
- December 20: Multi-band Winter Solstice concert and live recording, featuring Kellin Watson, Fox Watson (with members of Donna the Buffalo and the Duhks), Woody Wood & Hollywood Red, Velvet Truckstop (w/Sons of Ralph) and The Artemis Pyle Band
- December 26: "Free Form Friday" featuring Black Mountain musicians Robert Swain and Bert Brown & Friends
- December 27: Blonde Blues
- December 31: Barrel House Mamas & Dehlia Low
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Pope John Paul II Rose
Brigette is heading into "winter gardening mode", which means she's sifting through piles of nursery and garden catalogs and magazines to plan next year's garden projects.
One such project is the White Garden, which will consist of white-blooming flowers and shrubs, as well as silver-leafed foliage plants. The White Garden has been in the planning stages for the past several months as we've been researching all about white flowers and plotting exactly where everything is going to go.
We've chosen an area between the Main House and the Lake House (closer to the Lake House) that already contains a few evergreen boxwood shrubs. We plan to clear the area in late Winter/early Spring and will start planting in the Spring. Putting in the garden will be a year-long -- or more -- undertaking and is one of our 2009 Projects that we're really excited about.
Here are some picks for the Inn on Mill Creek White Garden. Credit goes to Jackson & Perkins (rose) Springhill Nursery (aster) and Blue Stone Perennials (all the rest) for the photos:
Artemisia / Cut Leaf White Sage
Other picks include Bellflower, Carnation "Starlight", Cosmos, Crocus, Daylily "Joan Senior", Lambs Ear, Mockorange "Snowbelle", Peony, Tulips and Viola.
Got any ideas? Share them with us by e-mail.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
View from Horse Ridge near the Inn on Mill Creek,
photo taken by Perry & Heather
From time to time, guests send us their photos of the Inn as well as Pisgah National Forest and its surrounding areas. Guest photos often make their way onto our website and blog or into our biannual newsletter. Below are a few shots taken by guests who stayed with us in 2008. We weren't able to post every photo sent to us, but thanks to each and every one of you for sharing your pictures with us!
Rhododendron, photo taken by Perry & Heather
Spring flowers, photo taken by Perry & Heather
Travis, Innkeeper Dave & Carson, photo taken by Nicole
Morning Glory, photo taken by Lori
Apples and Cardinal Flower taken by Warren
Train heading into cut, photo by Lee
Train coming through tunnel, photo taken by Lee
Andrews Geyser, photo taken by Woody & Carmen
If you stayed here recently and have photos that you'd like to share with others, you can e-mail them to us at email@example.com.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
We can never say enough good things about the North Carolina Arboretum. What a great place to enjoy gardens and get an education about trees, shrubs and flowers at the same time.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
We love being inside a National Forest where light pollution is virtually nonexistent. A big reason is that the dark skies make for great stargazing on clear nights. One such opportunity for being star struck -- or planet struck as the case may be -- was just last night, when Jupiter, Venus and the crescent moon were grouped together. The snow flurries in the morning melted away in the afternoon sun and the skies cleared up for a good show.
You may have noticed if you recently looked up at the night sky just after sundown, that Jupiter and Venus, the two brightest planets, have been inching closer and closer together. Last night, they were at their closest point and now they start moving away from each other again. The next time this particular conjunction will occur will be March of 2012.
Though the planets and moon may seem to be in close proximity to each other, scientists tell us that last night, the the moon was about 251,400 miles from Earth, while Venus was nearly 371 times farther away (93.2 million miles), and Jupiter was almost 2,150 times farther away (540.3 million miles).
We're gearing up for the next celestial show, the Geminids Meteor Shower, which is the most consistent of all the annual meteor showers (in terms of the amount of meteors and the amount of layers needed to keep warm while watching the meteors). The Geminids will be raining down December 13-14, with the opportunity to see 1 to 2 shooting stars per minute at the peak (weather permitting). The peak for Western North Carolina's viewing of the Geminids will be in the early hours of December 14. Happy stargazing!