BEARS!

These two were near downtown Asheville recently. Black bears are becoming more active as the days grow warm and last longer.  Mama bears give birth in January and February, and begin venturing out of their dens with cubs in March and April. They are on the move a lot in spring. Keep your eyes and ears open!

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The Writing Spider

The Writing Spider, or Argiope Aurantia is a pretty thing. Every summer I watch them weave their webs in my garden. The purpose of the telltale zigzag below the spider, in the center of the web, has not really been determined. Around these mountains in western NC, folks used to think if the spider wrote your name, death was imminent. Fortunately, all I have ever seen is the zigzag.  I fancied up this photo I took with an app on my iPad.IMG_0023

OH SNAP!

I came across this Common Snapping Turtle down the road from my house late last summer. In ten years I have only seen this creature once. He or she is at least 15″ long, excluding that tail. I think this may be a female, as I have read they travel good distances from water to lay their eggs. I also think she may be over 20 years old, based on the size of her carapace. This snapper worked its way up a steep embankment from the creek and was resting about 30 feet from our mailbox.IMG_5122I kept a respectful distance, but she let me zoom in without an argument. Check out those claws!

IMG_5123A closer look at the face only a mama could love. I sure hope we meet again this year.IMG_5123 (2)

Laurel River Trail

The Laurel River Trail is one of the flattest hikes around Madison County. It’s 3.6 miles from the parking lot out to the intersection of the Big Laurel and the French Broad River. The walk is not strenuous, but you will have to watch where you put your feet as the trail is rocky in places. There are some nice pools to take a dip or soak your feet along the way.

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If you walk the full 7.2 miles round trip, you reach the former town of Runion. There is still evidence of the old town. In fact, the trail you will walk on is the old railroad bed that went to Runion.

I am interested in plants and there is some wonderful plant life along the Big Laurel Creek. (I do not know why the Laurel RIVER Trail runs along the Big Laurel CREEK instead of the nearby Laurel River.)

Look at this shaggy moss. Don’t you want to roll around in that? You could, but someone might call the police – maybe just run your hands through it instead.

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This trail has pretty views everywhere you look. I have heard folks say they’ve seen black bears at the river’s edge, but I have not been so lucky! Yet.

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If you’d like to experience this hike, take 25/70 from I-26 in Weaverville toward Hot Springs. Go past Marshall and when you’re nearing the intersection of Highway 208 you’ll see a parking lot on the left. The trail head is on the left (south) end of the parking lot. Take the lower path, as the upper is residential private property. Enjoy your walk.

Mad Co Brewing

Mad Co Brewing is located at 49 N. Main Street in Marshall, North Carolina. They been in town for about a year and began serving their own brews this summer. My husband and I like the place a lot. The bartender Jamie is a friendly guy. The view of the French Broad River from the back deck is calming – a wonderful place to sip a cold one. Last weekend a great blue heron made a spectacular landing right in front of us.IMG_6084

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mad Co Brewing makes a very good Porter. I have not tried the Pale yet because they had a BEET beer. YES! BEET.  Where else could I get a beet beer? It was light, refreshing, and I like to think it was beneficial to my liver.  And that color!

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We hiked the Big Laurel trail for 5 miles, then  watched the sun drop behind the mountains from Mad Co. We always meet interesting folks there. Mad Co often has live music. They serve local brats. Check it out sometime while the deck weather is still good. Tell them Mary sent you.

Art Safari

The Weaverville Art Safari took place last weekend. It was such an enjoyable event. On November 4th and 5th, 53 artists opened their homes and studios to visitors. We began the weekend with Friday night’s Preview Party; Miya Gallery, Mangum Pottery and Artisans on Main all hosted and served refreshments. (Also wine. I like wine.)

There is SO much talent in this community and it was a gorgeous weekend for hunting works of art. Though oddly warm for the first weekend in November, we enjoyed blue sky, puffy clouds and glorious fall color in north Buncombe County.  IMG_6220

 

Saturday, I toured with my friends Larry and Marcia. We stopped by Crucible Glass Works at 60 Clarks Chapel Road. We saw part of a glass-blowing demonstration. Mike Hatch makes some beautiful glass pumpkins and mind-blowing vases!

Our friend Fian Arroyo was exhibiting at Crucible also. Fian does some really fun fantasy art with pen and watercolor. This is one of my favorites! The print comes with a story from Fian’s childhood:

Ring of Faith

When I was a young boy in Puerto Rico, my grandfather would make a circle of leaves on the ground put me inside it and say, “Don’t Move!”. He would then go about doing what he had to do while always keeping an eye on me and checking in with me from time to time. I always stayed within the circle not only because of the fear of disobeying him but also because, I felt a sense of security knowing that I was safe under his watch. “Ring of Faith” is not only a self portrait but a tribute to my “abuelo” who I loved dearly and lost too soon. The tiger is a symbol of him protecting me from harm and how I feel he still does somehow to this day. Signed archival fine art prints are available in my shop here.   ©2016 Fian Arroyo

Ring of Faith

From Crucible, we crossed the road and went to a new pottery called Salvaterra. The shop was small and crowded, so I’ll return another day because I am a pottery addict. We then set out for Barnardsville and visited three artists in the same neighborhood; Leo Monahan, Steven Forbes-deSoule and Phil Atwood. Leo Monahan creates colorful paper sculpture. Steven Forbes-deSoule is a potter and focuses on raku. Phil Atwood creates delightful birdhouses out of metal. I may go back for one of those – I liked them a lot and Mr. Atwood includes re-bar and a post for mounting the birdhouse. Our last stop was Good Fibrations. I got a new hat. And the goats! THE GOATS. I adore goats. Aren’t they cute?

Mark your calendars – the next Weaverville Art Safari is April 28th and 29th, 2018!

Rattlesnake Lodge Trail

This is a pleasant, not-to-strenuous hike about 10 minutes out of Weaverville. It’s a favorite of mine because it’s a good workout, close to town and pretty.  It’s dog-friendly, too.

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To get to the trail, take Reems Creek Road to Ox Creek Road. You’ll see a sign for the Blue Ridge Parkway where Ox Creek Road cuts off to the right. Go about 3.7 miles out Ox Creek until you reach a little pull off on the left. Be careful, vehicles come from both directions and you’ll be between curves. The trail head cuts left from the parking area into a few switch backs. You can hear the traffic from the Parkway at first, but not for long.

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There are tons of lichens, wildflowers, and birds to be seen, as well as the remains of the aforementioned Rattlesnake Lodge. For the record, I have never seen a snake up there! Just an owl and a few skinks and salamanders. It’s a nice hike during all four seasons, though it’s a root-filled, rocky walk and can be slick when it’s icy or wet.IMG_6631

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Now, about that lodge… It was built around the turn of the last century, and used by a family as a weekend retreat until it burned down in 1926 or so. Legend has it that the fellow who built the Lodge would pay $5 for each rattlesnake skin delivered to him, said skins were used to line the ceiling of the main hall. Not my preferred decorating material, but I bet it made interesting conversation.

There are still remains of a stonewalled swimming pool and several structures. Also a spring off to the left once you pass the home site – the trail will cut a sharp right, the spring is in a little cove under a fallen tree on the left. You can make it up to the spring and back to your car in about 90 minutes at a decent pace. And please, let me know if you find a rattlesnake.