Saturday, February 27, 2010

Chimney Rock March 2010 Happenings



Just like the rest of us, our friends at Chimney Rock Park are ready to welcome Spring back to the mountains after a memorable winter! Here are some of the events going on in March at Chimney Rock, which is only a half hour south of the Inn on Mill Creek, making it a very popular daytrip destination for our guests:

Photo Contest -- for all you photographers out there, Chimney Rock's 2010 photo contest kicks off March 15. The theme this year is Show Us a New View, so be sure to bring your camera and send them your unique views of Chimney Rock Park when you go.

Naturalist Series: Survival Skills -- The Naturalist Series is offered once a month and focuses on outdoor stewardship and education. In this session, which takes place March 20, participants will learn how to recognize and prepare edible items in the southern mountains environment in the morning (keep in mind, this is not a cooking event). During the afternoon, participants will join a park ranger to learn how to be prepared in the wild, including building a shelter and making a fire. Here's the registration link for this series: www.chimneyrockpark.biz/category_s/25.htm

"Simon Says" Guided Bird Walk: Early Arrivals -- the 2010 "Simon Says" Guided Bird Walk series starts off on March 27, from 9am to noon. This walk, led by well-known ornithologist Simon Thompson, is all about early arrivals to the Park, such as Blue-headed Virios and Black-throated Green Warblers. Here's the registration link: www.chimneyrockpark.biz/category_s/26.htm

Grand Opening of The Birdhouse --this exhibit space has its grand opening on March 27, at 12:30pm. Artist Clive Haynes painted the murals on the walls of The Birdhouse. Mr. Haynes painted the awesome murals in the park's restrooms, yes, the restrooms, making them almost an art gallery in themselves. The Birdhouse is an educational feature of Chimney Rock, with signage and exhibits organized by season that are dedicated to helping visitors learn about the many bird species that you can find at the Park.

Then, coming in early April are Chimney Rock's annual Easter Sunrise Service on April 4, and a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day on April 17. For even more events, check the Chimney Rock website at www.chimneyrockpark.com.

McDowell Quilt Trail Reaches the Inn



We're excited to share that two quilt blocks were installed at the Inn on Mill Creek yesterday as part of the McDowell Quilt Trail. We have blocks #23 (Dave's favorite/lucky number, coincidentally) and #24. Our blocks are Morning Star, which we did in Fall colors and installed on the south end of the Lake House, and Evening Star, which we had done in Spring tones gracing the Pool Garden on the north end of the Lake House.

The McDowell Quilt Trail, a project of the McDowell Arts Council Association (MACA), currently has 25 blocks that highlight the historical significance of Appalachian arts and crafts in our part of Western North Carolina. The blocks are featured on homes and businesses throughout McDowell County.

According to the McDowell Quilt Trail website, one of the primary goals of the quilt trail is to "honor the mountain heritage of quilt making," and we think that's pretty cool. Below are a few photos we took during the installation of our blocks on the McDowell Quilt Trail; more photos are available on our Facebook page. We hope you'll consider being one of our fans on Facebook, where we'll be posting lots of photos throughout the year, and if you get the chance, drive the McDowell Quilt Trail.





Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Latest from Davidson's Fort



As many of you know, Old Fort residents and volunteers have been busy reconstructing Davidson's Fort, the Revolutionary War fort that gives the town of Old Fort its name. Once it's finished, it will be the site of reenactments, educational activities for visitors, historical interpretations, and more.

Work on the fort was a bit delayed due to the wintry weather we experienced in our area of Western North Carolina during January and the first part of February; however, good progress has been made over the past few weeks, as the temperatures warm up and Spring inches closer.

We received the latest progress report from Davidson's Fort, and are happy to share that the roof of the blockhouse (pictured above) is currently being installed with the help of Bill Gilham of Bg Framing & Timberworks in Swannanoa, along with donations from individuals and organizations. The workers are doing a tremendous job to ensure that the roof is well insulated, waterproof, and built to last. Here they are installing the shakes (wooden shingles made from split logs):



To learn more about Davidson's Fort and the reconstruction efforts or to make a donation toward the building of the fort, visit www.davidsonsfort.org.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Dine to be Kind on February 23



Our innpugs, Csaba and Bugsy, would like to remind everyone about Dine to be Kind. On Tuesday, February 23, many of our local restaurants will be participating in Dine to be Kind. The restaurants will donate some of their proceeds that day to support the spay/neuter and foster programs of Animal Compassion Network.

In Black Mountain, you can grab a cup of coffee at the Dripolator, have a bite to eat at Madison's, Morning Glory Cafe, or Thai Basil, or even stop in to places like Bone-a-Fide Bakery and pick up a treat for Fido (or Csaba and Bugsy), and a portion of your sale will go toward protecting and saving homeless pets.

There are more than 50 participating eateries, and you can view the entire list at www.animalcompassionnetwork.org.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Ten Hikes for Winter in the North Carolina Mountains



Each season, we're listing nice hikes around Asheville, Black Mountain and Old Fort, North Carolina. All trails are less than an hour's drive from the Inn on Mill Creek (and some are just a short walk from the Inn). Winter weather conditions can be very unpredictable (proven this year by the amount of snow we've gotten compared to the past several years!) so it's important to note that some hikes may be inaccessible during some wintry days, due to park closures, for example.

We still have over a month of winter left (I know, grumble grumble!) but if winter doldrums don't get you down, put on some layers and your lip balm, check the weather forecast, call ahead to make sure a particular place is open, and enjoy the following hikes for wintertime in our part of Western North Carolina, in alphabetical order. There should be a little something for everyone in this list, from easy nature trails, to more strenuous hikes:

Bass Pond (Biltmore Estate) - If you'll be enjoying a day at Biltmore (don't forget, we have two-day winter passes here at the Inn on Mill Creek for $30!), bundle up and head outdoors through the gardens and down to the Bass Pond. From there, you can walk a half-mile easy loop around the pond, which is a fantastic spot for winter birdwatching. Then head back to Biltmore House for some coffee or hot chocolate at the Bake Shop near the Stable Cafe.

Carolina Mountain Trail (North Carolina Arboretum) - The 1.2-mile Carolina Mountain Trail winds through three different forest types, include pine. The trail also has an overlook for checking out Bent Creek. The Arboretum website has a list of all its trails. It is best to call ahead to make sure that the trails are open in wintertime.

Heartbreak Ridge (Old Fort) - We did a short hike up the switchbacks to the top of the ridge with the pugs earlier this year and saw some great winter mountain views just from the short hike. The north end of the ridge leads 13 miles up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and is part of the Off Road Assault on Mt. Mitchell mountain biking race each July. To access the trailhead, venture to the bottom of our road and turn left on Graphite Road. An old access road leads off to the right just past the church.

Kitsuma Peak (Ridgecrest) - Kitsuma Peak is accessed via the Young's Ridge trailhead. To reach the trailhead, go east past Lifeway Conference Center in Ridgecrest, across Yates Avenue to the parking lot at the end of the road. The trail is a set of switchbacks leading up, up, up to the top of Kitsuma, which is a popular mountain biking trail. From the top, you can access a rocky outcropping that overlooks the Black Mountains, Ridgecrest and Montreat. For a more strenuous trail, continue along Young's Ridge, which ends more than seven miles further at the Old Fort Picnic Grounds.

Mountains to Sea Trail at the Folk Art Center (Asheville) - For access to one of the easier sections of the Mountains to Sea Trail (MST), park at the Folk Art Center, off of I-40, exit 55. From here, you can hike an easy mile to where the trail crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you want to keep hiking, another 4.5 miles will bring you to Craven Gap (a nice Spring hike). Our friends at www.hikewnc.info say that this portion of the trail can be accessed even when the Parkway is closed by parking at the Tunnel Road intersection.

Point Lookout Trail (Old Fort) - One end of this 3.5-mile greenway bike/walking trail starts at the split where our road begins off of the paved road. The paved road is actually the former Highway 70, which was the main highway through the area before the construction of I-40. The trail provides beautiful views of Royal Gorge and the ridgelines near the Inn. The bottom of the trail is near the Old Fort Picnic Grounds. A little over a mile from the top of the trail is Point Lookout, one of the original overlooks in North Carolina. It looks out on Royal Gorge, the site of both Revolutionary War and Civil War activity.

Owl Ridge Trail (North Carolina Arboretum) - From the Arboretum website: The Owl Ridge Trail is the upper portion of a recreational loop for use by bikers, hikers and pets on leashes. This naturally surfaced section of the loop is about .94 miles joining Rocky Cove with Hard Times Road and a connection to the lower trail which crosses the creek to rejoin Bent Creek Road making the whole loop about 3.5 miles.

Rattlesnake Lodge (Asheville) - The short, yet fairly strenuous, Rattlesnake Lodge Trail is named for a physician/outdoor enthusiast's early 20th century retreat, the stone remnants of which are still visible at the end of the hike. Part of the Mountains to Sea Trail (MST), this hike offers nice winter views. RomanticAsheville.com has detailed information about the trail and its historical significance.

Skyline Trail (Chimney Rock Park) - For some stunning winter views of the Hickory Nut Gorge area, located just a half hour south of the Inn on Mill Creek, check out the Skyline Trail at Chimney Rock Park. The trail leads up to the highest point in the Park, Exclamation Point. For more Chimney Rock trails, visit the trails section of Chimney Rock Park's website.

Stone Mountain Short Hike (Dupont Forest) - Located in parts of Henderson and Transylvania Counties southwest of the Inn on Mill Creek, Dupont State Forest is known for is its outstanding waterfall hikes. Waterfalls abound in this part of Western North Carolina. However, Dupont Forest also contains a few nice mountain hikes that offer 360-degree unobstructed views in the wintertime. One such hike is Stone Mountain. Visit the Stone Mountain hike section of Dupont Forest's website for detailed information about this hike, which has both moderate and more strenuous options.

The Start of our Kiva Loans for 2010

We are proud to be a part of Kiva, a microlending organization that connects regular people like us who want to help entrepreneurs in poverty-stricken areas to be successful in their small businesses. With Kiva, lenders can choose where their money goes by selecting an entrepreneur based on preferences like geographic region, business sector, the terms of the loan, and even gender. As of November of 2009, Kiva had facilitated over $100 million in loans. (They also now allow funding of loans to U.S. entrepreneurs).

Along with Brigette's volunteering on the Kiva Editing Team to edit the loan descriptions that lenders see, the Inn on Mill Creek has been part of 19 microloans to small business owners, all of whom live in developing countries, and we continue in 2010, with our first Kiva microloan of the year.



While Brigette was editing loans this week, she came across one for Haidar (pictured above), a 43-year-old man who lives in Lebanon. He has worked as a painter for 20 years, specializing in home projects. He put in a loan request to buy new painting tools and supplies. Haidar's loan is funded through Kiva field partner Ameen, a micro-credit program in Lebanon established in 1999 through funds from USAID under the patronage of CHF International, a non-profit organization working in more than 35 countries.

Haidar's wish is to be able to meet the demands of his clients and to provide for his family, which includes three children. We hope everything works out for Haidar and that he is able to run his business successfully for another 20 years if that's his desire.

One nice feature of Kiva is that they will post an update on an entrepreneur when they receive one. We and 112 other lenders received an update recently about Babken, a young man who owns a bakery with his father in Sevan, Armenia, and who was the recipient of our eighth loan in 2009:



Babken Hovhannisyan had used his loan to buy wholesale purchase of flour and mini lorry. He used part of flour in his business; another part he had sold and has taken a good profit. Now with his new car Babken delivers his production to Sevan area shops. His business now is developing well. Babken is very happy and send his thanks to Kiva lenders.

We love hearing that small business entrepreneurs are succeeding in making themselves financially stronger and their communities economically viable. At just 22 years old, Babken is not only working toward making the bakery a successful long-term venture, but he is also using some of the profits to pay his way through teacher training school. And on top of that, we learn that he was able to buy a car to deliver his baked goods. Very inspiring. Way to go, Babken!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Photos to Share

As we watch the snow melt, we've been going through our photos, comparing last year's weather to this year... big difference! While waxing nostalgic about how last February, our crocuses had begun to bloom by the middle of the month compared to this February, when our White Garden is literally white -- covered in a blanket of pristine white snow -- we realized that it's very easy to take pretty pictures here in the mountains of Western North Carolina; no matter what time of year it is, the scenery just makes you smile.

What we like to do is take photos of particular places at different times of the year and compare them. For example, here is a photo of the view from our Lake View Room, taken just today after a brief snowfall this morning. It was a good thing we got this photo when we did, because the snow melted off the trees about an hour later:



Here is a photo of the same view in mid-October:



Sometimes, we don't have to wait months for the stark contrast to be seen. Next up is a photo of of the view when you're traveling to the Inn on Mill Creek from Black Mountain, about a mile from where our road begins. It's called Royal Gorge. This photo was taken February 7, of this year:



And here is a photo taken of the same spot today, just eight days later:



We like to say the mountains have their own personality in every season. We love capturing that personality. Be sure to bring your camera when you come to our neck of the woods.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Great Backyard Bird Count 2010


This year's Great Backyard Bird Count is coming up! What is the Great Backyard Bird Count, you ask? From the event website:

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent. Anyone can participate, from beginning bird watchers to experts. It takes as little as 15 minutes on one day, or you can count for as long as you like each day of the event.

The 2010 Great Backyard Bird Count takes place from Friday, February 12 through Monday, February 15. The event is a project led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, along with Bird Studies Canada. The information from the Great Backyard Bird Count will be used by scientists to study bird populations and how a bird species' range expands or shrinks over time, the effects of the environment on migration patterns, and what kinds of birds inhabit different areas, like cities and suburbs.

As members of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, we'll be participating by -- you guessed it -- counting birds at the Inn on Mill Creek this weekend. Just over the past couple of days, we've seen several different types of birds, including Cardinals (like the proud female cardinal pictured above at the Inn this past weekend), Tufted Titmice, Carolina Chickadees, Song Sparrows and more. This will be our second year to be a part of the Great Backyard Bird Count. We'll try to post our results on our Bed & Breakfast Facebook page next week.

Anyone in the United States and Canada can participate by counting birds over any period during the four-day event, then submitting a checklist to the Great Backyard Bird Count website. Last year, over 94,000 checklists were submitted, and North Carolina came in third in the number of checklists. Asheville, Black Mountain and Old Fort, the towns closest to us, were all represented. The Great Backyard Bird Count website is nice because it shows results sorted in a number of ways and also includes a map that is updated as results come in. We look forward to seeing how our area does this year!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Inn on Mill Creek Is Now on Facebook

We're excited to share that we have a brand new Facebook fan page!

On our Facebook page, you can see our seasonal photo albums and photos we take around the Inn, such as this one of a little visitor we saw just yesterday at the suet feeder outside of the Inn's solarium.



We'll also be creating photo albums for photos taken by our talented guests as well as area attractions that our guests enjoy, such as Chimney Rock, Grandfather Mountain and Biltmore Estate.

Additionally, we'll be sharing local events and information about the fantastic shops and restaurants in Asheville, Black Mountain, Old Fort and other great towns nearby. Our blog posts and Twitter posts will also be linked up to Facebook, so you can get everything all in one place if you like.

We hope you'll join us on Facebook by becoming a fan of the Inn on Mill Creek. We look forward to connecting with all our fans!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Groundpug Day Results Are In

Yes, that's right. We said Groundpug Day. Since we haven't seen any groundhogs lately in our neck of the woods near Asheville, North Carolina, we at the Inn on Mill Creek decided to check in with our own hibernation expert and one-half of our innpug duo, Csaba (pronounced "Chubba"), to see if he would act as our weather predictor this morning. It could be that the Inn on Mill Creek is a very relaxing place to be, or it could be that Csaba is lazy, (we like to think it's a combination of the two), but he is very much an expert at napping.

Csaba,when asked if he wanted to go outside, appeared to be only slightly interested in waking up out of his hibernation on Brigette's office chair (note the one-eyebrow raise and yes, that is his tongue, which is a good indicator of Csaba's hibernating behavior):



Word has it that the nation's favorite groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, saw his shadow today, predicting six more weeks of winter. Csaba -- or Pisgah Csabapugga as he is known on Groundpug Day here in Pisgah National Forest -- woke up out of his winter slumber (OK, he hibernates year-round) and did not see his shadow, predicting an early Spring for the North Carolina mountains. Exciting news! It helped that we had a foggy and beautiful misty mountain morning. Here we have captured Csaba in a rare moment of walking in the snow...this is not a snow loving dog, so he's happy that most of it is quickly melting away, hopefully another sign that Spring is just around the corner:



We're interested to see how accurate Csaba's prediction is, knowing that Phil the groundhog is correct only 39% of the time, according to weather experts. Csaba is quite competitive when it comes to predicting weather based on hibernation patterns. He is also extremely competitive when it comes to seeing who can fall back to sleep the fastest after predicting the weather. If sleeping were a sport, Csaba would win a gold medal.


Csaba victorious