Saturday, August 29, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
The McDowell County Oral History Project has been successful in capturing memories and passed down stories of seasoned residents of our beautiful area of the Western North Carolina mountains. What a fantastic endeavor! We feel so fortunate to be able to listen to our county's residents as they tell about the Flood of 1916, stories of prominent families like the Adamses and the Carsons (no relation to Brigette's Carson relatives as far as we're aware), the historical significance of Davidson's Fort, the history of the Cherokee, strong traditions such as Old Fort Mountain Music and the area's arts and crafts heritage, and more. The Project's website says it best:
We’ve heard stories of the Cherokee, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the building of the railroad, the Great Depression and other historical events. But mostly, we’ve heard stories of how real people lived their daily lives in the times before every convenience was available at the flick of a switch or at the push of a button. Remembrances of a time when folks relied on the land around them for their food, helped their neighbors and knew how to make just about everything they needed. It is the story of self-reliance and a strong community. It’s a spirit that lives on in residents of McDowell County to this day.
One piece of history that we enjoyed learning about was the old hydroelectric dam along the picturesque Catawba Falls trail in Old Fort (about 20 minutes from the Inn on Mill Creek...photos of the falls and the dam can be seen at our Catawba Falls geocaching adventure blog post). The dam was constructed by the larger-than-life Colonel Daniel W. Adams, who was not only a World War I veteran and member of the U.S. Forest Service, well-known conservationist interested in geology and forestry, builder of the Glendale Springs Inn & Restaurant in West Jefferson, NC, and inventor (he built the world's first fire tower), but was also instrumental in bringing electricity and water into the town of Old Fort.
To learn more about the McDowell County Oral History Project and to listen to (and see some of) the interviews of McDowell County residents, visit http://mcdowellhistory.com.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Brigette's mom was in town this past weekend, so off to Biltmore Estate they went. We love the fact that our bed & breakfast near Black Mountain is just 20 minutes away from the entrance, making for an easy trip over to the beautiful Biltmore, where everything is done on a grand scale. [The photo above is of the thousands of sunflowers lining the road as it winds its way to the Winery on Biltmore Estate. Sunflowers as far as the eye can see...amazing.]
As mentioned in earlier blog posts, Brigette and her mom have been to Biltmore so many times in the past that they now go with specific missions of things to see rather than trying to see everything at once. This time, the plan was to visit the Biltmore Winery, to see the Flower Carpet and to check out what's currently blooming in the gardens (with a side trip to the Gardener's Place shop behind the Conservatory where Brigette always picks up a plant before heading home).
First stop -- the Winery. The Winery is a converted dairy and you can take a self-guided tour through the Winery to see how the wine is made and where some of it is stored. This room shows some of the fermentation process:
The tour ends in the tasting room, which used to be where the milking process took place when the Winery was a dairy. Our tasting host, Mary Ellen, was fabulous and she made some really great recommendations, including the Limited Release Malbec, which might now be in competition with the Biltmore Sangiovese as Brigette's favorite. Biltmore describes its Malbec as having "intense aromas of spice, blueberry and plum". Yum.
Brigette's mom samples the Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc de Noir
The next stop on our tour of Biltmore was to the South Terrace adjacent to the Biltmore House, where the Biltmore Flower Carpet is currently on display. Over 100,000 plants were used to create a neat pattern that you can view from the Library Terrace:
Our picture, of course, does not do the Flower Carpet justice, but rest assured, it is as grand as everything else at Biltmore. Our next to final stop was to the gardens, where the roses are in bloom and smell wonderful.
You can see an entire list of what's blooming in the gardens at the Biltmore website.
Finally, it was to the Gardener's Place shop, which is located behind the Conservatory. The Conservatory happens to be Brigette's favorite spot at Biltmore because it shows off the creativity of Biltmore's gardeners. Here's the front entrance:
Walking around the Conservatory, you are greeted by several container plantings. These gave Brigette some great inspiration for next year's flower containers at the Inn!
It was hard to choose which plant to purchase this time, but Brigette ended up with a beautiful dark plum Huechera (coral bells), which will be planted at the Front Porch Garden at the Inn, near the tulips that were purchased from Biltmore two years ago.
If you are going to be staying with us at the Inn on Mill Creek, feel free to purchase tickets for Biltmore right here at the Inn and save $10 per ticket, plus your tickets will be good for two consecutive days. With so much to do at Biltmore, you can definitely make a two day trip out of your visit.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
As mentioned earlier this year in our International Year of Astronomy post, the Swift-Tuttle comet is the parent of the Perseids, "shooting stars" that appear to radiate from the constellation Perseus. You can see upwards of 60-80 shooting stars every hour.
Check our past Perseid meteor shower post for more about the Perseids. And National Geographic has a page showing some Perseid photos for those of us who may get stuck under cloud cover tonight...
Monday, August 10, 2009
This year in particular, we are loaning to ten entrepreneurs in developing countries in celebration of the Inn on Mill Creek's Inn Turns 10! tenth birthday celebration. [Plus, Brigette is now volunteering as an editor, working on translated loan descriptions for Kiva, which is a lot of fun and a great way to be more involved with the microloaning initiative.]
One cool thing about Kiva is that they allow third world entrepreneurs to apply for loans in groups, allowing the funds to be distributed toward improving more than one business. Our current loan is being utilized by four ladies from Pakistan: Kosar Parveen, Rasheeda, Sugran and Ailas.
The group sells kites, which are very popular with children, and the income they receive helps pay for their household utilities. Three of the ladies also want to start selling leather, while the fourth will use her part of the loan to help grow her husband's existing leather business (Kiva does allow a woman to take a loan on her husband's behalf, a common cultural practice in some countries).
Best wishes to these ladies with their ventures, and congratulations to Mavjuda, another female entrepreneur whose business we funded -- Mavjuda received a microloan earlier this year to expand her clothing store in Tajikistan and she has paid back her loan in full, and we got to use that money to help the four ladies above. Being able to re-use our funds to help others is another great thing about Kiva. Stay tuned to see where our next microloan will go!
Thursday, August 6, 2009
One of Brigette's favorite shots of our walnut tree in fall
So, we're less than two months away from the magical fall foliage season here in western North Carolina. We thought we'd take a moment to answer some frequently asked questions that we get around this time of year from people who are beginning to plan their trip to the area and are hoping to maximize their leaf peeping...
1. When does the fall color peak in the mountains of North Carolina?
This is a challenging question, because there are so many different elevations and microclimates in the mountains, so fall color looks its best at different times based on where you are...see the next two answers for more!
2. How long is the fall foliage season in the mountains of North Carolina?
The fall color in North Carolina stretches over a long period of time, starting in late September at the highest elevations in our mountain range -- the Black Mountains -- all the way to early November at the low elevations and points south of us. It is very cool to see the red and orange hues start appearing at the tops of the mountain peaks and then, like a slow motion waterfall, the color flows down the mountains as the fall season continues. [We may have to do a time-lapse camera montage this year for Pinnacle Mountain, which we can see from Mill Creek Road.] Essentially, for six weeks or more, you will be able to see color somewhere within a 20-minute drive of the Inn on Mill Creek.
3. When do the fall colors look the best at the Inn on Mill Creek?
Peak week at the Inn on Mill Creek seems to be between the third and fourth weeks of October. During the past two years, the fall foliage peak has been close to Halloween at our elevation (2,300 feet) near the town of Black Mountain. But we can never say for sure exactly when the peak will be. A lot of factors contribute to the timing of the fall foliage peak. But, rest assured, you won't have to go far to see awesome colors if Pisgah National Forest is still somewhat green when you're visiting the Inn (see answer #4).
4. Where are some great places to go to see fall colors?
At the beginning of the fall leaf season in the North Carolina mountains, some great places to visit are the high peaks along the ever-scenic Blue Ridge Parkway. The Black Mountains have six of the ten tallest peaks in the eastern United States, and that includes Mt. Mitchell. The gorgeous views from the Parkway of the higher elevations make for a great day trip. Bring a jacket because the temperatures will be cooler than at the lower elevations.
As the season gets on its way, Grandfather Mountain and Linville Gorge to the northeast, and Mt. Pisgah and Graveyard Fields (no worries, it's not a graveyard) to the southwest are sure to put on a show. Then in mid- to late-October come the areas around our elevation, such as the towns of Asheville, Black Mountain and Montreat to the west and Old Fort to the east, as well as at the North Carolina Arboretum just south of Asheville. Great hiking and other outdoor opportunities abound. It's also a great time to visit Biltmore Estate. Later, toward the end of October and beginning of November, you're sure to see fall color at Chimney Rock Park and the Hickory Nut Gorge area.
5. What is the weather like during fall foliage season?
From late September through early November, the mornings and evenings can be rather chilly, but the daytime temperatures tend to be fairly moderate. If the weather forecast calls for sun (which it usually does), then your best bet is to wear layers so that you don't get too hot under the afternoon sun shining in the Carolina blue sky. This is especially important if you'll be out hiking or driving where elevation changes mean frequent drops and rises in temperature. It might be 70 degrees at the Inn on Mill Creek (2300 feet), and five miles north, near Mt. Mitchell in the Black Mountains (6694 feet), it could be 50 degrees at the same time of day, while at Chimney Rock Park and Lake Lure (1200 feet), which are both located a half hour south of the Inn, it could be 78 degrees. And remember, our fresh mountain air can be rather dry, so packing some lip balm isn't a bad idea either.
We hope that answers some questions you might have about the fall color season in our area. If you can join us at the Inn on Mill Creek this fall, please let us know if we can help you find leaf peeping opportunities while you're here!
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Last year's Flower Carpet
The folks at Biltmore are outdoing themselves once again with the Biltmore Flower Carpet. Starting August 14 through the end of the month, the South Terrace of Biltmore House will have more than 100,000 plants arranged into an artistic "carpet" of color. Yes, that's right: 100,000 plants.
From Biltmore's website: This year's design was created by a Biltmore employee (Rachael McIntosh from the Bistro) and was interpreted from stone carvings, interesting lines, and intricate details from around Biltmore House. Most notably, the design reflects a fleur-de-lis motif found on a stone pillar outside Biltmore House. These pillars were inspired by the Chateau de Blois in the Loire Valley of France.
Viewing the Biltmore Flower Carpet by day is included in the price of daytime admission. Guests of our Bed & Breakfast near Black Mountain can purchase daytime admission tickets at a $10 discount off the gate ticket price, and those tickets are good for two consecutive days. We are located 20 minutes east of the entrance to Biltmore Estate.
Additionally, on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, you can view the carpet in the evening with admission to the grounds at 4:30pm, a self-guided candlelight tour through Biltmore House from 5pm to 8pm, live jazz music, plus daytime access to Biltmore Estate the next day. The cost for Flower Carpet Evenings is $65 and is purchased directly through Biltmore Estate.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Looking for something to do as the summer winds down? Our friends at Chimney Rock Park, just a half hour south of the Inn on Mill Creek and the Black Mountain area, have several events going on in August, such as:
August 8: Off the Beaten Path Hike: Know Your Trees
In the peak of summer, the woodlands are dense with information. On this hike, which is part of Chimney Rock Park's "Off the Beaten Path" series, you'll learn how to recognize trees and shrubs at a glance and make them familiar companions wherever you hike. Participants will see at least 30 different trees amid this easy 2-hour woodland excursion.
August 15: Music on the Mountain
Chimney Rock Park and the Rutherford County Arts Council will present an afternoon of live music with Phil and Gaye Johnson and the Dowden Sisters, from 3-6pm on the Meadows. Each band will play two 45-minute sets. There will not be an additional cost. Food will be available, but you’re welcome to bring a picnic.
Long-time residents of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Phil & Gaye Johnson offer a unique blend of traditional and contemporary folk, bluegrass and country music, along with generous portions of western swing, cowboy, blues and Old-Time traditions. The duo also hosts the nationally-syndicated King Pup Radio Show. The Dowden Sisters, from Asheville, blend lively fiddle tunes, exceptional vocals and instrumentals, plus sweet harmony singing for an unforgettable Appalachian sound.August 17-21: End of Summer Family Fun Week
Bring the family to The Classroom on the Meadows for a week of free programs. Each day will bring a new program, from Marvelous Mammal Monday to Frolic to the Falls Friday. Programs will last 1 to 1 1/2 hours. More details are available at the Chimney Rock Park website.
August 27-30: 5th Annual Hickory Nut Gorge Olympiad
This four-day sport and community festival features dozens of events and activities. For the hardcore athlete, there’s the triathlon, Race to the Rock or five-mile run. More of a weekend warrior? Try the 3x3 basketball, golf or the pontoon boat challenge. There’s plenty for non-athletes and kids, to.! Visit www.hickorynutolympiad.com for more information.
Even if you're visiting our neck of the woods when there isn't a specific event going on, Chimney Rock Park is a great place to spend a few hours or the entire day. Views of Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure from the Chimney are, as they say "Gorge-ous" and several trails will lead you around the Park from the top of the chimney to the bottom of Hickory Nut Falls.
And if you'll be staying with us at the Inn on Mill Creek, be sure to pick up a trail map and your coupon good for $2 off your tickets to Chimney Rock Park.