Sunday, August 18, 2013

Exploring Simple Beauties...


One Summer afternoon in August 2013 I set out with my brother's Nikon D-40X looking to explore the areas around Banner Elk. I always love borrowing my brother's camera- there is a certain "power" in having a "real camera". A powerful camera allows one to take full advantage of the simple subjects and landscapes. Just off Shawneehaw Ave and Hickory Nut Gap Road near The Mill Pond in Banner Elk sits The Grandfather Home for Children. Founded in 1914, The Grandfather Home is preparing to celebrate 100 years of taking care of children in Western NC and advocating Foster and Adoption efforts throughout the state. Most travelers cruise down the road paying little attention to the home site or the simple barn structures around the property. One of the beauties of spending time in the NC High Country is the ability to slowdown, explore, relax and make connections with the land and one's surroundings. 


So it was I pulled over, got out, hiked around and allowed the camera to capture whatever the lens found to be of interest...



Just down from the main campus I notice a simple stone and wooden building with tin roof- nestled in the valley set to a backdrop of green fields, towering pines and woodlands.

Closer inspection revealed craftsmanship in the stonework and carpentry. Both of my Grandfathers were carpenters with one of my Grandfathers and an Uncle also being Masons/Freemasons. So detailed carpentry skills, woodworking and masonry have always held a special place in my heart. There is something to be said of creating and building structures that outlive their creators. Much of that art & talent is lost in today's world where we have houses built start to finish in 30 days or so... Nothing fascinates the eye like true craftsmanship in the design and construction of a building- no matter if it be a house, barn, outbuilding, etc...  


With my mom and dad being from the mountains of Georgia and North Carolina- I've always been interested in the story and plight of our Native Americans. I remember going to visit Cherokee NC as a kid- long before it was transformed into a "tourist" trap and gambling hot spot. So I was immediately drawn to the barn quilt artwork erected above the door. Throughout the mountains and valleys of Western North Carolina many barns and outbuildings are adorned with "art". Quilt Trails of Western North Carolina details the efforts to increase the use of quilt patterns and even includes maps to help provide a guide those interested in exploring this Appalachian art form. 


The artist's use of the star burst design with bold colors of white, black, red and yellow really make a statement against the aged building. The primary design perfectly capturing and evoking Native American history and culture. (I added my own impact to the art by using SmugMug's unique PicMonkey tools. Just couldn't resist...)


The stone and masonry work was impossible to ignore. The use of local materials and the ability to create a piece of art out of the foundation and structure of the building was so interesting. I could tell that over the years there had been repairs to wood and roofing materials. But no where was there any sign of repair of changes to the original masonry work. Amazing!!

On the opposite end of the barn was an additional piece of quilt art and initially I failed to see the imagry and connection to The Grandfather Home for Children. In fact, I took numerous photos before my eyes translated the art. The quilt square was comprised of 5 squares- the outer squares containing two squares each of 4 boys and 4 girls. The center square taking one boy & girl from each to form the union of two boys and two girls. Much like the cycle of Foster Homes and Adoption brings people together to form families- this piece of art was symbolizing that union. 


Much like the artist who constructed the building from raw materials- I was simply amazed at the quilt artist's interpretation. Damn- people are so talented... Nothing like the appreciation of an artist's work... But to then be somewhat be able to interpret the message and meaning is truly special. 


I wonder how many have walked past the barn- missing the quilt art all together or possibly seeing the art as a bunch of colors & designs- but failing to see the true design and never making the connection between the art and it's surroundings? 



Playing around with SmugMug's crafty tool PicMonkey, I created a photo that focused on the color and texture difference in the stonework and grass.  




Hiking away from the "barn"- I was still amazed and drawn to the simple yet amazing Native American Quilt Art. I know where this jewel is located and hope to visit again during the snowy months or possibly in the Spring. It would be interesting to see if there are any flowers or bulbs that sprout and bloom on the property.


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Spring Near Blowing Rock...


Nestled on a mountain top near Tweetsie Railroad & Blowing Rock NC, our friends Chad & John have a beautiful log cabin home. In May we enjoyed a Saturday afternoon with them- welcoming the warm Spring weather and enjoying the many blooms and fresh green foliage. So many plants seem to enjoy the cool moist mountain weather. Many of the flora species that would die in the Charlotte heat & drought of June and July seem to do just fine a couple of hours East and several hundred feet in elevation. Temperatures are frequently 20' cooler in the NC High Country than in Charlotte.

Nothing says "mountains" like a log cabin...


Orange Azaleas- a rare find & special treat...

Chad & John are very successful gardeners... We spent the afternoon exploring various plants that had weathered the harsh winter and finally exploded with new growth in the warmth of the May sunshine.

Food, Drinks and Good Times shared on the back patio.

After enduring one of the coldest and snowiest winters in recent years- it was a great way to enjoy springtime in the NC High County. 


Love the panoramic features of the iPhone!!


Monday, February 11, 2013

Winter Wonderland

So far... this has been an awesome 2012-2013 winter ski season in the NC High Country. Appalachian, Beech and Sugar Mountain Ski Resorts have all enjoyed favorable weather and great ski conditions for the Southeastern states. Sugar Mountain opened the earliest in the resort's history for the Halloween weekend. The early start was followed by Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and MLK- all which were fortunately fun, cold, snowy holiday weekends. Great economic boost to the NC High Country economy.

Many of the winter mornings, we have been greeted by fog and ice.

Wind, fog & blowing snow have made for some frosty mornings. Visibility limited to 5-10 feet.


Nothing like the clouds & fog clearing to reveal the beautiful NC and TN mountain ranges.


Cabin down the street seems perfectly decorated for the holidays in a blanket of white!!

Grouse Moor Drive on Sugar Mountain.

The road we have to navigate up to the top ridge of Sugar Mtn. Always a beautiful drive...

But often more dangerous than many weekenders prefer.

Brian and I enjoyed New Years Eve with Chad & John. We ventured to the top of the mountain, out onto the upper most slope & watched the fireworks with members of the ski patrol. Unique experience to view the explosions at eye level. Each "bomb" lit the lodge, slopes and valley below. What a great way to welcome in 2013!!

For two days- this was all that my dad got to see. Nothing past the villa below... Finally on the last day of his visit- clouds lifted, blowing snow ceased & views looking west toward Tennessee were revealed. Awesome snow covered mountain ranges- as far as the eyes can see...

It's been an awesome "virgin winter" for us. We've learned that we must keep up-to-date with the Sugartop weather forecast and not the Banner Elk or Boone forecasts. Winter weather conditions up at 5,000 feet are not for the weak... We have experienced several winter storms with winds over 60mph and a holiday storm with sustained winds & snow over 25 mph that lasted two days. My dad called it a "whiteout" as he thought he would never get to see a view past our deck to the villa below. Jersey has been a trooper- she tackles snow drifts that are easily twice her height. But she is not a fan of the hard & slippery ice coatings that tend to blanket the higher elevations. We are looking forward to more wintery adventures before spring arrives in April - May.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Girls Weekend...

In late July 2012- the girls headed up for a long mountain weekend. Emily, Tracy, Barb & Aspen were our first guests. Barb & Aspen spent a couple of days chilling out before Tracy and Emily arrived. The crew did not get cabin fever- they were out and about... all over the highlands. They visited every winery, restaurant and fun night spot around. We loved getting their texts and photos as they checked-in at some of the local attractions. 

Aspen loved hanging out on the deck- enjoying the cooler weather!!

Always a local favorite-

Banner Elk Winery was definitely on the "To See List".








After several bottles of wine, a stop by "The Frog & The Monkey" was in order...


No trip to Sugar Mountain in July is complete without a chairlift ride to the top of the ski slope.

Another Day - Another Winery...

This time it was Grandfather Winery!!

Grandfather Vineyard Winery - Cheers...

The Blue Ridge Mountains-

Views of Banner Elk & Tennessee from the Western Ridge of Sugar Mountain.