North Carolina in the Fall
The Tapestry of Colors in the Fall are Breathtaking
I've long felt that this time of the year is the most beautiful for anything to do with nature. In my early farming days, the agricultural year of course revolved around harvest time, gathering in the hay, corn and other crops or vegetables.
Then when I became a winegrower (growing grapes specifically for wine), harvest time again was the pinnacle of the year. In fact, whatever one grows in the garden for food, all be it apples, pears, vegetables or any other foodstuffs, fall is the special time when the crops have ripened and are ready to be gathered in.
Nature is truly wonderful in its cycle of life, from producing the young buds in springtime, nurturing the plant through the vibrant summer season through to dropping the leaves in the fall.
This is a special time for life generally, the young animals and birds have grown strong enough to face winter after binging on the fruits and seeds, so now they are prepared for those difficult winter months ahead. But behind the practical side of plant life lies a never ending trail of beauty.
Created on 11 Oct 2013
IMMINENT Fall Harvest
All photos © Rob Hemphill
Fall Foliage Colors
My first visit to this beautiful part of America was a few years ago. I had heard about the immensely wooded areas of the Appalachian mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway, but I had no idea why people spoke fondly of North Carolina in the Fall.
On this visit, we were heading up to Boone in the north-west of the state, near the Tennessee border, having acquired the use of a cabin on Buck Mountain about 15 miles from the town, I was soon to witness the glorious fall foliage in full color.
The greens, golds, reds and browns of the leaves at this time of the year are simply beautiful. It's the interaction of the different tree species throughout the forests that make this a pretty tapestry across the landscape. From the various greens of the different conifer trees to the ruby reds of the maples, and from those trees with shades of yellow through to the final brown color of the dead leaves, the views are fabulous.
A Natural History of Trees
If you're a tree lover, then this book is for you. It provides useful detailed natural history information on many of the major tree species of the eastern and central areas of the U.S. It's not a book for identification purposes as it presumes that many tree enthusiasts know the tree types they are looking at.
The author enjoys telling stories about trees which helps to bring the text alive.
Our Cabin Retreat for a Few Days
Once we arrived at the cabin, I was spellbound at the views all around of just trees and mountains, we had found a real hideaway in the hills. After settling in we decided to explore the immediate area and were surprised at how remote the location was. Even though there were other cabins around, they were well secluded each with their very own great view - of trees and more trees. But the trees were majestic, and the foliage colors were like an artists paint pot, different hues and shades.
We heard the sound of running water so followed a path to the base of a small waterfall. Now, not only do we have the gorgeous leaf and bark colors, we also have the lushness of water-loving plants surrounding the cascade.
This is the sort of place one would come to meditate or take pictures, or both! With my tripod all set up, I took loads of images of the scene. I had just learned how to take those dreamy, slightly blurry photos of moving water that some people love and others hate. I think a small amount of blur versus no blur all adds some subtlety to the shot. This is of course subjective which is why this hobby of photography is such fun - nothing is wrong, and beauty is always in the eye of the beholder.
Day Trips Around The Area - Grandfather Mountain
There were so many lovely areas to visit, however, some being higher up the mountains the trees had already lost most of their leaves.
It's difficult to know the optimum time to visit to see the colors from year to year, but hopefully at some altitude they will be at their best.
On this particular day, we headed of to Grandfather Mountain, renowned for a tiny scene in the film Forrest Gump, when Forrest was running around America, he (or at least in this instance, Tom Hank's brother) ran up a section of this very mountain.
And it was not a 'peas and carrots' of a climb!
Anyhow, we arrived near the top, got out and couldn't believe how cold it was as we prepared to take the visitor walk out along the ridge to view the surrounding area. It was extraordinary how the weather here was so cold, yet a few miles away we were in shirt sleeves!
Almost Winter at the Higher Altitudes!
Whilst at the top of the mountain we encountered the Mile High Swinging Bridge - that gives you an idea of how cold it was up there! Walking across it sends shivers down your spine, but these things must be done, so we did it. Once on the other side we could walk some distance to be presented with 360-degree panoramic views from this majestic mountain.
This amazing bridge was built in 1952, so if and when you ever cross it, spare a thought or two for the engineering masterpiece that it is. Being a mile above sea level is something else!
On our way back down a couple of deer were oblivious to our presence and were clearly quite used to cars or Forrest Gump passing them!
It was back to the cabin where we prepared the barbeque, warmed up and enjoyed a steak! There is something ethereal about being in such a remote location on a wooded mountainside with just your thoughts and the odd squirrel, deer or even snake passing through. The quietness in the evening was spellbinding with just the occasional soft sound being heard as perhaps an animal was on the move.
I could remain at a place like this for some time, but like any good time it has to come to an end and we had to return to reality.
Photo: The deer are used to people and traffic on the road up to Grandfather Mountain.
Have You Been to Grandfather Mountain?
Tha Appalachian Trail
Fall foliage colors are superb.
Isn't that red the color of lipstick?
There's something adorable about the Maple tree, not only does it produce the tasty Maple syrup, but also gives a great value showing of its leaves right through the year.
The Mast Farm Inn
Stay in a romantic Country Inn
We were so fortunate to be treated to a couple of nights at the Mast Farm Inn, a historic North Carolina Country Inn located at Valle Crucis near Boone. Our designated room was the Blacksmiths Shop situated next to the Woodwork Shop. The rustic building, which has been tastefully refurbished, is part of an old cottage in the garden that once served both these purposes.
If you ever want to go back in time with a little bit of added romance, this is definitely the place for you. It's regarded as a boutique hotel and restaurant which offers fine dining, and I really mean fine. The menus are different, and the food is exquisite.
There are vineyards, museums and craft centers, caves and waterfalls, and even Bluegrass festivals. The area always seems to be buzzing no matter what time of year we've visited.
Mast Farm Inn and CottagesClick thumbnail to view full-size
One of my Favorite Coffee Table Books
The photography is wonderful
I picked up this book from the Mast General Store with the aim of giving it as a gift, but as soon as I delved into it I was blown away by the quality of the photography. The author/photographer, J Scott Graham had also signed this copy, so I felt I needed to hang onto it.
It's very much a 'coffee table' book, but that's fine with me as I get to see it all the time. If you're interested in the Blue Ridge Parkway this book is stunning - go and get it!
I imagine this book to be fairly similar to mine above, but it's still by the same great authors.
It's a must-have for photographers and nature lovers.
What's Your Favorite Time of Year?
Timelapse: A Progression of Color
Info on Fall Foliage Colors
- Fall Color Map for North Carolina
This map gives one an estimation of the timing of fall color peaks for several regions of North Carolina.
- Asheville NC Mountain Fall Leaf Color Forecast
Find out when to see the best foliage color at different elevations.
- The Science Behind Fall Color
Trees are not just artistic, they are smarter than you think!
In Summer Visit Waterfalls - In Winter Ski
North Carolina has its fair share of waterfalls, some small and easy to get to, others very large and requiring a decent hike. I was on a mission to visit some of them as I was struggling to learn about blurring moving water in photography. It sounds fairly straight forward, but the technique takes some patience and trial and error to achieve pleasurable results.
One of these waterfalls, the Elk Falls is located near the town of Banner Elk, half an hours drive from our lodgings at the Mast Farm Inn. These falls are 50 feet in height with a large pool at the bottom offering a cool but refreshing place to swim. Students from Appalachian State University and other youngsters have taken to jumping off the falls in the summer months - not a good idea as a few unfortunate ones have paid the price with their lives or been paralyzed.
Anyhow, I digress. I shot loads of digital film here at various shutter speeds from my tripod and got different amounts of motion blur in the falling water.
The Boone area is known as the "Ski Capital of the South". There are four ski resorts offering skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing at:
Photo: Snow can be seen on the top of the mountains, winter is coming!
A Final Thought
I have only touched on a small part of the state, but have fall pictures and experiences from other areas right across to the coast at Atlantic Beach. Perhaps a Fall series beckons sometime; however, for the time being my North Carolina in the Fall story has been confined to the north western part around Boone and Blowing Rock.
I've enjoyed seeing many things and find that fall is the best time of the year to visit this beautiful area.
I'll be back!