Sunset from the back deck of the house we were renting.
Parts of The Hunger Games were filmed in DuPont State Forest, southwest of Asheville, NC. Daughter said that the State Forest is very busy on weekends now because of the movie. We went there on a chilly, drizzly Monday so it wasn't very crowded.
The covered bridge
View from the covered bridge of the top of High Falls
The ceiling of the covered bridge
High Falls from up on the trail
View from the rocks at the bottom - you can see the covered bridge.
The rather optimistically named Lake Imaging. We had our picnic lunch in the shelter on the left.
Dear husband at the bottom of the second waterfall
We had a different sort of vacation this year. It was shorter because dear husband started a new job in July and he hasn't built up much vacation yet. For the first time since before daughter was born, we didn't spend our vacation in Blowing Rock, NC. Since we were trying to make sure that both daughter and older son could join us, we spent our vacation in Black Mountain, NC, near Asheville. That way, we could easily pick up daughter in Asheville, and older son could take the bus back to the Triangle when his break was done. Many thanks to my mother who picked him up at the bus station!
Older son hasn't been able to spend the time in the mountains that the rest of us have been able to spend the last few years. We went to two of the most beautiful places while he was here.
The first day, we went to Graveyard Fields - a somber name for a beautiful valley southwest of Asheville.
Older son wanted to save Mt. Mitchell (one of his favorite places, which he hasn't been to for three years) for the second day, when daughter could join us.
Older son found a red-spotted purple.
The fog moved in on the drive up to Mt. Mitchell, and it was a lot colder than the previous day.
Older son, younger son, and I waded in the stream like usual.
...which is my favorite part so, even though it's mid-July, I'm going to post it.
I finally have moved all my photos to the new (and fast!) computer so it will be so much easier to work with them!
In Part 2, we wandered through the shrub gardens at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC in May.
We have walked through the azalea gardens a number of times during the year we've had our membership here, but not when the azaleas were blooming. We were richly rewarded!
It sunned up just a few minutes before we got to the azalea gardens. The colors were wonderful - like walking through a candy box.
I'm not writing much more - really, the flowers speak for themselves.
This series started out, in Part 1, with me being irritated at people who thought the Biltmore Gardens are boring. If I haven't already shown you enough of why that bothered me, there's one more post to come...
A few weeks ago, there was a Gardening Convention in Asheville. I've been reading about it on the blog, Garden Rant. In Beautiful, but also kind of a yawn, they posted about how the Biltmore gardens were "disappointingly lacking in personality," which really surprised me. We've had memberships for the Biltmore Estate for the last year,* and we still haven't finished exploring the grounds. I've taken hundreds of pictures. You haven't seen most of them because my aged computer is having trouble with all sorts of things including photo editing programs and uploading to the Internet.** However, their post has given me the incentive to overcome the computer's difficulties and blog these photos from April (and before).
For those of you who aren't from NC, the Biltmore Estate was built in the 1890's by George Washington Vanderbilt II as his summer home. At 135,000 sq. ft. and 250 rooms, it was the largest private home in the world. It was first opened to the public by his daughter in the 1930's and turned into a house museum in the 1950's. It's one of Asheville's top tourist draws.
Most of the blog post commenters that went to the convention also agreed that the Biltmore Gardens were boring and not nearly as interesting as the gardens of British estates (which I haven't seen).
Are we talking about the same gardens?
No, as it turns out. They, apparently, only saw the gardens near the house. You know, the ones that you'd use for entertaining hundreds of people - since, if you were the Vanderbilts and had the largest private home in the world, you'd probably have lots of people over to your parties. In the wonderful spring, summer, and fall weather, you'd probably entertain outside much of the time. Those gardens would have lots of functional space for people to gather. Dear husband says that, in these parties, you wouldn't want the gardens to show up the women in their gowns.
We don't spend much of our time in those parts of the gardens so, when the post complained about too much lawn, it took me a while to figure out what lawns they were talking about.
No, they liked the view from the house.
This is the hiking trail from the river up to the house. Basically, this trail was the tipping point that made us decide to get the memberships. The gently rolling hillsides, the variety of trees, the occasional view of the house - we knew we'd want to hike it again!
Same trail from the house end. Doesn't it look tempting?
Heading back down the trail towards the French Broad River.
It took me a while to remember one of the lawns they were talking about because I don't usually photograph it. In fact, it's been so long that I can't easily find a picture. Fortunately, Wikimedia Commons helped me out:
Yes, that's a lot of front lawn. It's there so that you're impressed by the house. Actually, the front lawn is at its best after dark in December (Wonderful Flickr photo of the lit Christmas trees on the lawn here).
Luminaries on the front lawn last December.
I will confess, in the year that we've had our Biltmore membership, we've only been in the house once - at Christmas. Younger son hates crowds so we went at 4:30 pm when it's the least crowded. I don't usually linger over the front lawn view. I wave at the house on our way to park at the gardens. Or, when we do go to the house, I'm too busy taking pictures of the architecture to pay much attention to the lawn!
By the way, speaking of architecture, older son is in Prague right now for the summer session of the NCSU Design Institute. His blog, with lots of architectural photos, along with lots of other views of Prague, is Chocolate and Lace.
The statue and pond garden came in for some criticism too:
Again, it isn't where we spend much of our time, but I can see that it would be a wonderful place for an elegant garden party. The gardens also change a bit each year. The photo above was from a year ago, but I like this April's view much better:
The irises were in full bloom, and there were lots of tadpoles in the water. Unfortunately, the tadpoles weren't in focus.
What you can't tell from this photo is that the sides and the back have long perennial borders.
Here's a better view of one of the borders:
The rose garden is to the left:
Here's an iris in one of the side gardens...
...with a bit of a view of the house in the background.
Another border last October:
The gardens are quiet in the winter, of course. However, there's nothing like the Conservatory on a barely-above-freezing, mountain day in February (2012).
The photos below are from May, 2011. There's often something whimsical going on in the Conservatory:
They had plants growing in various old suitcases.
However, our favorite gardens are the ones further down the hill from the house. They get a post all their own tomorrow.
You could, of course, ask why the show of flowers near the house isn't greater.
This has to do with how they lived here, and how their guests arrived. Vanderbilt, whose family made its money in railroads, had a three mile long railroad spur build right up to the site of the house for the construction. This was actually taken out when the house was finished because he didn't want to live near a railroad. Instead, the guests had an hour long carriage ride through the grounds to get from the estate entrance to the house. By the time they got to the above lawn view of the house, they had spent that hour being amazed by Frederick Law Olmstead's design of the grounds (this was mentioned in the Garden Rant post). After their trip, the guests weren't going to be leaving soon. They had plenty of time to explore the grounds and find all the wonderful touches in the gardening and landscaping. When we were discussing this post, dear husband mentioned that Olmstead's placement of the oaks on the hills going down from the house to the French Broad River is beautiful and well thought out.
When the house was first built, the estate had to be reforested. The estate was originally listed on the National Historic Registry, not because of the house, but because of its forestry!
Originally, the estate had 125,000 acres. Vanderbilt's widow donated 85,000 acres to the government to be part of the Pisgah National Forest. Vanderbilt originally had a hunting lodge built on Mt. Pisgah, but it was torn down when the land was given to the Blue Ridge Parkway after his widow's death. The current estate seems huge at 8,000 acres. I can't even imagine the estate at 125,000 acres. Long-term guests would have lots of time to explore.
BTW, this was the turn of the century. The single gentlemen stayed in a totally different wing of the house from the single gentlewomen.
We had a wonderful vacation in the Asheville, NC area last week. It was more relaxing than I expected. We managed not to run around like maniacs the entire time, and the house we rented in Black Mountain (small town near Asheville) was very peaceful.
The view from the deck at the house we were renting.
This frog is at Lake Tomahawk in Black Mountain - part of the Black Mountain Sculpture Stroll.
There were lots of goslings and ducklings at the lake.
The bumper stickers in Asheville are always interesting!
Hopefully, this is only part one, but I don't always get back to posts.
The fall color is at its peak in Hillsborough, the weather has been in the 60's and beautiful, and we've been spending lots of time outside. We always take a break from our formal homeschooling for the most beautiful weeks of the spring and fall.
We had a whirlwind trip to Asheville this weekend. Daughter was in seven of the fifteen dances in the Fall Dance Concert. For the first time, older son was able to come with us and see a dance concert there. The next day, we all had a wonderful time wandering around Asheville. Here, we're playing Pooh Sticks on a bridge on a trail in the NC Arboretum.
We had been wanting to show Older Son some of the things we've enjoyed in the last year of trips to Asheville. He's usually been too busy with his studies to come along. However, when we dropped daughter off at UNC-A, two weeks ago, older son was able to come.
First, we moved Daughter in to her dorm room. The dorm this year is lighter, and the hallway near the stairs has a view of the mountains.
Over the winter, I forgot about the beautiful beds of perennials on campus. These are in front of her dorm.
If you're in the Asheville area, a wonderfully expressive artist that I know online, Genie Maples, will be having an exhibition, Paint and Chocolate, at the French Broad Chocolate Lounge from September 15 through October 15. Unfortunately, next time we'll be in Asheville is the weekend after it closes. :( You can also enjoy her work at her website.
We had dinner at Marcos, an Italian restaurant that Dear Husband, Younger Son, and I enjoy.
One of the main things I wanted to show older son was Asheville on a summer evening - the stores, the liveliness, the food, and, most importantly, the street performers!
I've always loved these stars in this store on Lexington Ave. We bought one last spring when we were in Asheville to bring Daughter home. We still haven't figured out a place in the house to put the star!
I enjoyed Karen Hollingsworth's paintings, which were in this gallery window. My photo of her book doesn't do justice to the colors, but you can see how they should look at her site. This painting was my favorite of the ones in the window.
There's a lady with a beautiful voice who sings in the doorway of the next store over from this gallery. We've heard her sing gospel, and, I think, blues. I didn't take a picture of her, but we always stop and enjoy for a while.
I've already lightened this photo a good bit. Some street performers in Asheville dress as statues, then "come to life" when you put money in the bucket. She plays her drum, and then curtsies and looks you straight in the eye before going back to being still.
This was a particularly good evening for watching performers in Asheville. These dancers were doing the tango.
There were bluegrass bands playing at Shindig on the Green. At this point, I mentioned that it's kind of like the Festival for the Eno, except at night and without the heat (or the craft booths)(or the sand sculptures).
This was my favorite group! The Red Hot Sugar Babies played wonderful Dixieland music. I'd love to see one of their concerts, but they only play in the Asheville area so I'll have to see if a visit there coincides with a concert.
Here's another view where you can see the pianist.
"Hot Tamale Man" was one of the songs we heard them sing (the sound on the video gets better after the first minute).
My favorite song of the ones they sang is Sugar, here sung by Billie Holiday:
I posted Part 1 (about our trip up to Asheville to see daughter's dance performance) two weeks ago, and, even though I had the photos ready, I never got back to posting them.
The plan was that we would drop daughter off at her dorm at 4 pm so that she could get her work done and we could get home by about 8:30 pm. However, after dropping her off, we realized that we needed a bathroom, and the Asheville Botanical Garden was just around the corner so we'd just stop there for a minute.
You know we can't just stop in briefly at a garden:
There were lots of (trilliums? trillia? trillium? I've found all three recommended) trillium plants blooming that day.
Dear husband has gone to sleep already. I'll ask him what these are tomorrow.
Sweet white trillium (I took a photo of the tag for these)
I love the way the white sycamore branches caught the sunlight.
We left the Garden in time to get home by 9:30. However...
... as we were approaching the town of Black Mountain, where we stayed for a wonderful vacation two years ago, I mentioned that, if we were younger and had less sense, I'd suggest a walk around Lake Tomahawk. Dear husband said that he had been wanting to take a walk there and that we'd be tired whether we got home by 9:30 or 10:30. Younger son, actually, almost was the only voice of reason, but he decided he'd like to take a walk too.
It was beautiful there:
Cherry blossoms framing the lake and the Seven Sisters Mountains