Friday, August 8, 2008

New Path

Here's the new path down to the creek, right in front of the breezeway. The handrail makes it pretty easy, and maybe Chad can build a few rock steps right at the end. I'd like to keep it mulched, along with the path between the breezeway and the Cabin 4 porch - the doggies like to poop along here, but they might not on the mulch.

Ogle's Meadow

Once the site of a tourist hotel, this natural mountaintop bald is reached from Murchison. When you get to the top of the paved road on the way to Barnardsville, to the left is a seven mile single-track trail that goes to the Blue Ridge Parkway and to the right is the steep dirt road that goes to the meadow. As kids we picnicked here among the rhododendron, and today there are a few very nice houses with fabulous views of the Blue Ridge mountains. At the end of the road, where there is an incredible view of the whole Black Mountain range (Celo on the far left and Mt. Mitchel on the far right), lives Dan Wilson, great grandson of Big Tom Wilson, who led Elijah Mitchel to the top of the highest mountain east of the Rockies. Mr. Wilson is very friendly and has lots of stories to tell. Here are a couple of pictures taken from the meadow earlier this week.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Blue Sea Falls

This is the "mythical" and very hard to reach Blue Sea Falls at the headwaters of the Cane River in Yancey County, North Carolina, The old Mt. Mitchell Toll Road is used to get to the falls, which are on private property. For permission to enter this vast tract of wilderness, contact the "agent," Stuart Bagwell. As a kid I can remember coming up here and still seeing the remains of old railroad trestles which were used by small gauge trains to haul virgin timber out from the slopes of Mt. Mitchell. There was also the remains of an old saw mill up here. Today the area is a private preserve, primarily for bear hunting and trout fishing by a group of owners who built a log lodge deep in the woods. Mr. Bagwell told us that the bear population today is "plenty, almost too plenty."

The pictures below show the bridge that you cross right before heading up a treacherous trail through Rhododendron thickets that bar the final approach to the falls as well as some of the trout you see in the stream below the falls - this specimen must be 24" long.

Hike Near Barnardsville

Douglas Falls is a worthwhile and easy hike on a lovely trail head in the mountains south of Barnardsville just under the Blue Ridge parkway. Go to Murchison, then go over the mountain to Barnardsville and turn left and just follow the road. The last eight miles are dirt.

New Porch Railings

Although the plan is still to move and build in three years, now that Addy will be coming regularly I spent a week rebuilding all the porch railings for the breezeway and Cabin 4 this summer. Here are some pics plus a short video.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Looking Ahead

One of our goals for the quick trip to Cattail over the holiday was to measure the property to see if we can fit a five bedroom house on it. We’ve found a floor plan that we like, and Susan has added two guest rooms and another bath to it. We also looked at existing homes along our hikes there, to see what kinds of finishes we liked. The property, it turns out, is more than large enough for a one story home with an enclosed garage, five bedrooms, a great room, etc. We’d even be able to keep the woods above Cabin 4 intact to act as a buffer to any noise from the Community Hall.

Click here to see the design we have in mind, keeping in mind that the finish will probably be wood, with a green or brown metal roof. The design will be flipped, so that the garage is on the upstream side. The right side (downstream side) of the house will have two more bedrooms, a multipurpose room, another porch facing downstream, and accompanying baths.

The pictures above show a finish we like, the vertical board and batten wood, plus narrow horizontal stones for the foundation covering. Judging from the lay of our land, we’ll need some crawl space type foundation that will be low on the upstream end and a little taller on the downstream end – this would be faced with stone on the front and painted stucco on the stream side and downstream side probably. Our goal is to make the house large and weather tight – comfortable for a large crowd all year around. But we want to be conscious about energy use too, and we want to blend into the scenery. So, any suggestions are welcome!

As we think about retiring, we think less and less about exotic travel and more and more about time with our extended families. We see ourselves doing a lot of reading, hiking every day both around Cattail (see the pictures below from our big hike New Year’s Day) and along some of the wonderful trails that criss-cross the Blue Ridge and the Smokies, taking up Asian cooking as a hobby, and entertaining family and friends!

Cattail in the Snow

We came prepared for snow, and were surprised the first afternoon we got out to Cattail to find the weather balmy, which was nice for measuring the property. However, when we returned the next day for a serious hike, it was very cold and windy. We hiked up to the five-boled tree (on the way to the mica mine), and on the return trip it started to snow heavily, giving us a wonderful winter view of the cabins (see the picture in this blog’s header) and the creek when we returned. The picture above is the famous view upstream from the breezeway, and the first picture below is of Charlie Rathbone’s old house across the creek just below the Bathtub. The 2nd picture below is of Cabin 2 and Cabin 1. We were really thrilled to be able to see the cabins while it was snowing heavily, as this gave us a good feel of what it will be like to live at Cattail in the winter.

The Nu-Wray Inn

A highlight of our winter trip to Cattail was our three-night stay at the historic Nu-Wray Inn in Burnsville. Susan and I believe we once stayed there one Christmas before we had kids, and all of us have eaten many family style meals there over the years, but this was the first time we just settled in and really nurtured ourselves. WE played scrabble in front of the fireplace one night, and read and did computer things (on their nice wireless network) in one of the 2nd floor lounges. As you can see, the Inn was fully decorated for the holidays.

We also sat in our comfortable room and watched plenty of bowl games and drank good Asheville beer.

During the day, of course, we hiked out at Cattail and visited Louise, who is in great shaped by the way – we think she is 79. In the evenings we had several great meals at the Hilltop Inn, and also enjoyed a good meal at the China Garden just down the hill from the movie theater. The Appalachian Coffee House, across the street from the Hilltop, had some of the best chicken noodle soup for lunch I’ve ever had – the secret was home-made noodles!

The Nu-Wray Inn still serves family style meals, on Thursdays, with reservations. We also learned that Elvis Presley stayed there in 1969, and that Christopher Reeves lived there when he worked at the Parkway Playhouse! The Inn is apparently owned now by a British man who lives in South Carolina and is run by a Burnsville woman named “Wanda,” who is a real go getter and fixed us up with muffins and sandwiches to take on our hikes. The place was quiet, clean, and comfortable, as well as reasonably priced.

Cumberland Falls

Because we are in the process of retirement planning, Susan and I decided to make a quick trip to Cattail after Christmas to measure the property in anticipation of building a year-around home there in four or five years. Our plan is to move from North Manchester into a new home at Cattail that would be large enough to host the English Wellers as well as the American Wellers and the Pfitzers in a grand and comfortable scale. But more on that in another post.

Because both of us had a very lengthy Christmas break, this year, we decided to spend two days driving down to Cattail, stopping along the way the spend a night in the old lodge at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park in Kentucky and to do some serious walking there.

Below are some pictures of the lodge, which is lovely and has good food, as well as a few of the famous falls. This is a lovely and wild area of Kentucky, with lots of great hiking trails throughout the park, many of which provide great views of the stunning bluffs along the Cumberland River. Although the falls, which are the largest in the US south of Niagara and east of the Rockies, are impressive, Susan said they don’t look like much more than a showerhead compared to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, where she visited with her mom this past summer!