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You know you wanna go!

February 5, 2010 Comments off

Blue Ridge Parkway, January 2010

January 16, 2010 Comments off

The Blue Ridge Parkway remains closed, due to impassable conditions and debris covering roads.  The National Park Service is working on removal of downed trees but the damage is extensive.

One of our readers visited property along the Virginia-North Carolina border on January 14th and 15th.  These photos explain what she encountered when she ventured near the Parkway.

This photo is of the parkway itself.  Yes, that is a paved road!

Taken at sunrise, and with Pilot Mountain on the horizon, the next photo explains why the Blue Ridge Parkway draws so many travelers each year: these ancient mountains are breath-takingly beautiful.

Photos courtesy of Kathleen Simms, outdoor enthusiast and mountain lover.

Late Night Skiing at Appalachian Ski Mountain

January 9, 2010 Comments off

If you are looking for the best ski bargain in the Southeast, head to Blowing Rock and late night skiing at Appalachian Ski Mountain, through February 20th, 2010.  Two extra hours of skiing–until midnight–will extend your ski experience on Friday and Saturday nights, at no additional cost.

Appalachian is the only ski area in the Southeast region offering late-night skiing this winter.

Find out more at  www.AppSkiMtn.com, or call (828) 295-7828.

Good info on skiing in NC:

http://gosoutheast.about.com/od/mountainswaterfalls/ss/skiing_se_2.htm

Blowing Rock voted NC’s “Prettiest Town”

January 4, 2010 Comments off

via the Watauga Democrat

Blowing Rock is North Carolina’s prettiest small town, according to a poll of 32 in-state journalists.  The Crown of the Blue Ridge won out in a close race with the village of Pinehurst in the scenic Sandhills area.

The writers selected their top ten from a list of 45 nominated towns from the mountains to the coast. The towns were singled out for their charm, unique settings, landscapes, historic homes, architecture, character and commitment to preservation, among other factors. In order to be eligible, a town had to have a population under 15,000.

“We’ve always believed that Blowing Rock was the prettiest town anywhere, but when travel writers who have been all over the world agree, it validates what we’ve been saying all along. It’s a credit to the people who work hard to make Blowing Rock a special place: Shopkeepers, residents, town officials and employees now have one more reason to be proud of the work they do every day,” said Tracy Brown, Executive Director of the Blowing Rock TDA.

Rounding out the top ten list in order were Beaufort, Southport, Ocracoke, Highlands, Edenton, Linville, Southern Pines and Banner Elk.

“North Carolina is fortunate to have so many pretty towns,” said Carol Timblin, a Charlotte travel writer.  “Choosing the ten prettiest was a challenge, but it was an enjoyable assignment. It made me realize just how wonderful it is to live surrounded by such immense beauty.”

The poll was conducted by Bill Hensley of Charlotte, a writer and former State Director of Travel and Tourism.

Original story from the Watauga Democrat:

http://www2.wataugademocrat.com/story/Blowing_Rock_Voted_%22Prettiest_Town%22_id_001479

For more photos:

http://s997.photobucket.com/home/blowingrockweb/index

Christmas Across the Carolinas: Biltmore House, Asheville

December 11, 2009 Comments off

Step back in time to the year 1895 when you visit the Biltmore estate in Asheville, NC, during Christmas.  A National Historic Landmark–and America’s most beautiful French Renaissance Estate–George Washington Vanderbilt opened his elegant home to visitors for the first time at Christmas.  Every year, Biltmore continues the tradition with opulent Christmas decorations, garlands and music to reflect the romance of a by-gone era.

This year marks the 35th year for Christmas tours at the Biltmore House and the 26th year for Candlelight  Evenings.  During the day, a tour of the estate includes the House, Garden and Winery and the farm and barnyard.  During the evenings, the Candlelight tour features gorgeous decorations throughout the home accompanied by entertainment, roaring fireplaces and a magnificent 34-foot Christmas tree.

A new area has been restored and is now open for the holiday season: the Louis XV suite, which has set the stylistic theme for the entire home’s splendid Christmas decorations.

Besides the estate and home tours, there is also a very impressive shop , restaurants, and   carriage rides.

For ticket information, please check here:

http://tinyurl.com/ye5k4ly

A lovely overview of a tour of the Biltmore House at Christmas:

http://www.theblueridgehighlander.com/christmas_at_biltmore_estate/index.html

Christmas Across The Carolinas: Great Wolf Lodge, Concord, North Carolina

December 6, 2009 Comments off

Saturday evening saw the inaugural tree lighting at the Great Wolf Lodge in Concord, North Carolina.  Known for its water park, Great Wolf Lodge was transformed into Snowland; a rustic, winter theme complete with Christmas trees, carols from its animatronic display, and crystalline snow hanging from the rafters. This was an evening for the young, as well as the young at heart. Great Wolf Lodge has always done things in a tasteful, yet grand fashion. Only the biggest Scrooge could leave not having felt the spirit of Christmas.

Not even a brief technical glitch could put a damper on the evening’s proceedings. Santa Claus, accompanied by Concord Mayor Scott Padgett, made his entrance in classic Great Wolf Lodge fashion, riding not on a sleigh, but on a water park themed float: Great Wolf Lodge bed with stockings (hung by the pillows with care), replica water slides, and tube rings. The only thing missing on Santa was Bermuda shorts, as this was an entrance that would’ve made Jimmy Buffett proud. I’m not sure how many entrances Santa has made like this, but the water park looked great after seeing this float.

Once inside it was time to prepare for the Lodge’s first tree lighting. It was also time to honor Great Wolf Lodge’s charity of choice, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Charlotte and Concord, an organization that mentors children between the ages of 6 to 18. Formalities out of the way, speeches by both Mayor Padgett and Santa complete (I had no idea Santa said “Okay, you guys” and “y’all”), the time came to light the tree, as well as the trees on their various displays. The evening’s sole hitch, an uncooperative winter “snow,”  was minimized with the distraction of  “Jingle Bells” sing-a-longs. After the short delay, the animatronic tree, Pocahontas, and animals sang their Christmas carols as “snow” fell from the ceiling. With all of their trees lit, songs being sung, and snow blowing, Great Wolf Lodge transformed itself into a beautiful, scenic winter wonderland. Those with cameras, myself included, had to briefly put them down just to admire what had been accomplished.

Whether attendees were six or sixty years old,  it was evident by the smiling faces that the atmosphere and events had created the intended effect: Christmas cheer.  Great Wolf Lodge brings Christmas to the Charlotte area in a most delightful, wondrous manner. Snowland runs from now through Christmas day with snowfall magically appearing three times daily in the main lobby. It’s well worth the time and effort to visit as this is no less than a highly recommended trip–sure to be enjoyed by folks of all ages.

Carolina Adventures: Geocaching

December 3, 2009 Comments off

Recently, a friend of mine from back in New Jersey brought the hobby of Geocaching to my attention. Call me late to this party, “I’ve never heard of Geocaching before.” She proceeded to tell me that it has something to do with a high tech way of finding hidden treasure. High tech? Hidden treasure? Curiosity piqued, looking to be sold on a treasure hunt, and with Google close by, I took a look into the phenomenon of Geocaching. What is it, is this something that might be worth my while–and can you do it in the Carolinas?

Geocaching is a 21st century treasure hunt. What started in Oregon back in 2000 has grown in popularity, with more than 750,000 participants worldwide. With Geocaching, the trusty map is replaced with a Global Positioning System (GPS) and anything with a connection to the internet. The premise is simple: The initial geocacher places the cache in a waterproof container along with a log book. The location is then posted online with latitude, longitude, and clues to its whereabouts. Using a GPS, other geocachers are then invited to search for the hidden treasure. Once the bounty is found, the log book is signed, the treasure is kept and replaced, or left for other geocachers to discover.

There are various types of geocaches.  Some are simple variations, some are a little more off the beaten path The most common appears to be traditional–a basic hunt. Things get more complex the further up the geocache scale you go. The multi-cache is a hunt that contains multiple discovers or more than one point in between your first clue and the cache. The virtual cache can be simply a location and the geocacher may be asked to give the answer to a question. The location itself should be interesting enough to warrant the search.

Another is the mystery/puzzle-cache. The obstacles in finding this particular cache range from having to solve a puzzle, being provided a false set of coordinates, to whatever ingenious tricks the person hiding the items can come up with. The moving cache is where the finder proceeds to hide the cache in a different location, in essence starting an entirely new hunt.

If I’m going to do this geocaching, I don’t want to come up on something disgusting or worse: illegal. Bomb squads have been called in to investigate caches in the past, most recently last May at the University of California in Santa Cruz. The rules of what to leave are simple as well: no food, nothing illegal, no alcohol as you might lead an underage person to your stash. Keep it family friendly and everybody’s happy.

Okay, geocachers. You now have my attention. My next question is an easy one, “After you spent hours or days with your clues and following your GPS, what did you find?”

Another quick search and the treasures found were varied, but no less interesting. One geocacher found a pair of $50 dollar bills in his container. Another found three Starbucks gift cards in descending value for the first, second, and third place finders ($20, $10, and $5). Some have found movie passes, DVD’s, videogames, and CD’s. One claimed to have found a Victorian Gentleman’s bracelet, another claimed to have found a $100 gift certificate to the Gap. Seaworld had gotten into the act and one cacher found a pair of passes. Along with valuable caches are those of far lesser value. Some have found used batteries and broken GPS units. One unfortunate geocacher found an Anne Murray tape (I can only hope that particular search was quick and painless). Not exactly ethical geocaching practices, Anne Murray tape included, but finding lesser valued caches seem to be a bit more the exception rather than the norm. However, geocaching is more about the thrill of the chase than what’s inside the cannister.

Taking everything into consideration, I’m in. I’ve shaken off the notion of spending all that time and effort only to find a cheap cache, or worse, another Anne Murray tape. I’m ready. I have my GPS on my iPhone, a sense of adventure, and the thrill of the hunt. I’m set to go. Final question, are there any geocachers right here in the Carolinas?

A search of the popular site http://www.geocaching.com revealed numerous caches within a hundred miles of my area. Asheville, North Carolina has gotten into geocaching, promoting it on their website http://www.exploreasheville.com/geocaching/top-geocaches-in-asheville/index.aspx . Both North and South Carolinians have created their own geocaching sites, http://ncgeocachers.org/ and http://www.scgeocaching.com/ respectively. There are no shortage of geocachers in the Carolinas.

Sold! This does sound like a lot of fun. At some point I’ll give this a try and report back with any goodies that I happen to find. I’m up for finding a buried treasure. Unless it’s an Anne Murray tape. I’d rather keep that a buried secret.