Reflections on fall in the mountains.

We have split our trip to the North Carolina mountains in two with a few days in Virginia where I sit in the Hotel Floyd blogging right now. The weather for the most part has been glorious, the people have been friendly, and the drive has been a joy. Everyone keeps telling me that the leave color is not up to par but from this boy from the Texas coast, I ain’t ever seen color like this in the fall.

Asheville was beautiful as was the drive to and from. The colors were vivid all the way to Charlottesville. The drive back down the Blue Ridge Parkway gave us the opportunity to enjoy a bit of snow as well.

Here is a slide show of what we have seen…

Reflections on fall in the mountains.

We have split our trip to the North Carolina mountains in two with a few days in Virginia where I sit in the Hotel Floyd blogging right now. The weather for the most part has been glorious, the people have been friendly, and the drive has been a joy. Everyone keeps telling me that the leave color is not up to par but from this boy from the Texas coast, I ain’t ever seen color like this in the fall.

Asheville was beautiful as was the drive to and from. The colors were vivid all the way to Charlottesville. The drive back down the Blue Ridge Parkway gave us the opportunity to enjoy a bit of snow as well.

Here is a slide show of what we have seen…

Waiting for fall

Reading the muse from South Carolina has me holding out hope. There is a chance yet that our drive up the Blue Ridge in November might have a bit of color left…

For a couple of weeks now, I’ve been searching for signs of fall — with no luck.

Where the heck is autumn?

I need some crisp air, crunching leaves, shivery nights.

I need to dig sweaters out of the back of the closet. Take a walk for no reason other than the weather is especially fine. Breathe air that smells of wood smoke and ripe apples.

During the 25 years I lived in Florida, I got used to having no fall to speak of. Signs of autumn there are so subtle, they’re pretty much lost amid the traffic jams at the beach, the blaze of sun on white sand. Oak trees in the Sunshine State don’t lose their leaves until January.

Here, it’s different. These are the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a place that could be called Fall Foliage Central. Autumn is practically a sacrament here. People make pilgrimages to the mountains year after year, so they can stand amid blue spires and inhale the beauty.

They lean against the railing at Parkway overlooks and try to put it all into words.

It will definitely be a different kind of drive. Going from the remnants of summer on the Gulf Coast into what should be the beginnings of winter in the mountains of Virginia. We will be running north up half the length of the Blue Ridge. Catching it in Georgia and leaving it somewhere in Virginia.

We aren’t planning to stay in any one place this time. Just wandering along the Blue Ridge for a week or so before wandering back to Texas.

Wish us luck in our search for Autumn.

Waiting for fall to bathe us in color : Columns : Anderson Independent-Mail

Brinegar Cabin

On the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge way up in northwestern North Carolina there sits a cabin. Built by hand in the 1880’s it is said by one Martin Brinegar for his bride Carolyn Joines. For six score of years this cabin has watched the seasons roll around the calendar. Winters turning into spring, gardens reaching for summer skies, putting food by through the autumn so the winter would roll around again.

A cool, misty, rainy day on the Blue Ridge of North Carolina…a sturdy log cabin for shelter…a warm fire in the fireplace. There’s a garden out back, planted with the seeds we saved from last year. There is a springhouse down below with milk from the cow fresh this very morning. The cow and her calf are in the pen out by the barn. Chickens and pigs or turning and scratching the fall garden plot. there is fresh butter being churned by the door. Momma is working on grannies loom, cloth for new clothes for the comin’ winter. The dogs are resting under the porch awaiting the next hunting trip into the woods up the hollow…Life is hard here on the Blue Ridge but really…what more could a family ask for?

Life on the Blue Ridge had its blessings even at the end of the 19th century when Martin and Caroline raised their children here. The cabin Martin built stands still in the little hollow off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The view of the rolling piedmont below and the cool summers must have been one of the things that kept the Brinegars on the Blue Ridge for their life together.

The little cluster of log buildings aren’t very imposing but they were home to Martin and Caroline for going on 50 years. Good years and bad, these buildings have weathered everything nature and man have thrown there way. Inside the cabin stands the loom Caroline inherited from her mother…The loom she used to make the cloth that clothed her family. The cloth that made the blankets that kept out the cold on those winter nights when the icicles would reach the ground from the eaves.

The 1900 census records show that Martin and Caroline raised three children in this cabin. First born was Alice, then Sarah in June of 1881. A son John W. was born in September of 1888. The spacing tends to leave one to suspect other babies were lost to the hardness of the times.

The 1920 census finds Martin and Caroline still in the cabin on the Blue Ridge with their grandson Bearl at 7 keeping them company. It would not be hard to visualize the young grandson playing on the porch in the photo below. By mid decade Martin will be laid to rest in the little cemetery on a knoll above what is now the Blue Ridge Parkway. Caroline will continue to live in the cabin until the government purchases it for the new park. Not long after, she will again rest beside Martin.

The next time you are cruising the Blue Ridge Parkway and pass the sign for the Brinegar Cabin pull in and spend some time thinking about what it was like to be living on the mountain shortly after the Civil War…

Virtual Vacation

Part One is Here

Had this years vacation not been canceled due to my treatment regime today’s plans called for a pleasant meander from Asheville to Valle Crucis via that bestest of all American Byways…The Blue Ridge Parkway…

Leaving out of Asheville after sleeping in, always makes that initial climb to the top of the ridges such a long anticipated change in attitude and altitude. Leaving the traffic and the modern speed limits behind and settling into the slower, more natural rhythm of the road as it swings in and out of the clouds, through the laurel thickets, windows down and the moonroof open. The cool air blowing through the car after all those hot humid southern miles across five states comes as a long awaited relief. It’s easy to see why southerners have been spending summers in these mountains for so very long…hoping to escape the long hot summer days and not much cooler nights.

So here we are on the Parkway heading north. First stop is always Craggy Gardens Visitor Center. Stretch the legs, enjoy the view, make a potty run. It’s too late to really enjoy the peak bloom in the Gardens. The guide book says there is a short trail leaving from the Visitor Center. We have never taken the time here so close to the beginning of our day to do the almost one mile hike…Maybe next trip.

Once I can gather everyone up and get back on the road, the next section of the trip is usually short. It’s just about 10 miles to the turnoff to Mount Mitchell State Park. It is almost impossible for any vehicle I’m driving to drive past that turnoff…I don’t know what it is about that road, but every time I’ve driven the Parkway I’ve had to drive up to the peak. This year I would have passed it by rather than fight the construction on top…

The next stop we generally make up the Parkway is all the way up past Little Switzerland at the Orchard at Altapass. The orchard is one of those places that managed to catch my eye even before we made our first trip.

When the Blue Ridge Parkway chose its path, it too followed the ancient buffalo track and came through the middle of the Orchard, dividing it in half. That required a condemnation process, a court fight that eventually reached the NC Supreme Court. The momentum for the Orchard was lost, and it began to decline. Neighbors despaired the loss and braced for the expected development of this beautiful place. The wild growth of the trees became a sadness for Parkway travelers who had seen it in better times.

When it was offered for sale in 1994, Kit Trubey bought the land and her brother Bill Carson with his wife Judy started the preservation of the place, including its apples and its memories. The preservation project is underway today, with hayrides, music, story telling, butterfly tagging, free mountain music on weekends, and a store to sell ice cream, fudge, country products, local crafts. The half of the Orchard that lies above the Blue Ridge Parkway has been sold to the Parkway, to assure its perpetual preservation. The remaining land will be protected by conservation easement. The history of the Orchard continues.

This is one stop that tend to last a long time as the wife and kids spend time looking through the gift shop. Me…I wander down through the orchard and check out the ancient apple trees.

From the Orchard we would drive on up the Parkway to the cut off to Linville. After jumping of in Linville it’s just a short run north on 105 past Grandfather Mountain to the turnoff to Valle Crucis. Each year we stay in Valle Crucis we rent a cabin from Valle Crucis Log Cabin Rentals. They have always been great and our experiences with their properties have always been fantastic. They treated us better than expected when we had to cancel this years reservation. I am sure we will be staying with them again. After picking up our keys at the office we’d be looking forward to that drive up Clarks Creek Road to the top of Nettles Ridge… Here’s the view I expected to be watching as the day ended today…

Can you describe the Floyd lifestyle?

One of the places that was on the list for a visit on this year’s Blue Ridge Mountain trip was (and is) Floyd, Virginia. I have made the acquaintance (virtually) of a few residents of Floyd County over the past couple of years and I feel the need to feel that little piece of the Blue Ridge Country under my moccasins. I have been intrigued ever since I first started reading Fred First’s blog, which led to Colleen’s, then I found Doug’s, then it was David’s. Between the four I almost feel like I live in the neighborhood.

Doug posted an essay that I really found quite interesting, I thought I would point a link at it during this, my virtual vacation trip…

Floyd is the young husband getting up at 4 a.m. to feed the animals before he has to drive an hour and a half to his job at the Volvo truck plant two counties away.

Floyd is the farmer up at the same hour, preparing for a long day cutting hay, mending fences, slopping hogs and worrying about the weather and the price of beef on the hoof at

Go read the rest …
Source: The Floyd lifestyle | Blue Ridge Muse

There seem to be a few things that Floyd County Virginia is famous for:

  1. Mabry Mill – The most photographed spot on what must be the most photographed road in America. Here’s my version from a rainy day in June of 2004…
  2. Fred’s Barn…the most photographed barn in the Blue Ridge Mountains (mostly by Fred).
  3. The Floyd Country Store

    The Floyd Country Store is more than a store. For generations it has been a place where people gather,conduct business, and enjoy each other’s company.

    About 25 years ago the store became known for its Friday Night Jamboree, an evening of traditional Appalachian music and dancing. Old-timers and new visitors come together to celebrate the local heritage and experience the joy of an old-fashioned family night out.

  4. Cafe del Sol – Hangout of the Floyd Bloggers. That’s Bloggers with a “B” not Cloggers with a “C”. Though I am sure a lot of Clogging goes on on the weekends…
  5. FloydFest 2007

    We are all travelers across the way; sometimes along the journey we come to a place so profound we must look more closely. Such a place is Floyd, home to magic and The Floyd World Music Festival. A crossroad for those searching and finding… perhaps themselves! Come across the way and if you listen you will hear.

Do you have a “Famous Floyd” fact or location I should add to my itinerary? Leave it in the comments…