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The Hills are Alive

Cone Manor (9383)

I’ve always said that the ideal retirement location is one where everyone goes on vacation, that way I’d be guaranteed some visitors.   If you are a photography addict and retiring in North Carolina, it’s got to be with the steamy coast or high in the mountains.  While a week’s long vacation on the NC coast is enjoyable, the photo opportunities of just sand, surf and seabirds probably soon becomes stifling.  Meanwhile the mountains offer diversity with the changing seasons, topography, forests, wildflowers, wildlife and especially the constantly changing lighting and weather conditions.

Blowing Rock is an unique mountain town; in 2009, it was voted the “Prettiest Small Town in North Carolina” in a poll of in-state journalists.  Most likely, many were influenced by the charm of downtown Blowing Rock with its shoppes, galleries and fine restaurants.  The town is also famous for its sixty-mile grand vistas as it is located at the crest of the Eastern Continental Divide with steep mountain gorges overlooking the Yadkin River valley on the east and southeast and the St. Johns River valley and the Pisgah Forest wilderness area to the southwest.

To the west and northwest of Blowing Rock stands majestic Grandfather Mountain and Calloway Peak along with Roan, Sugar and Beech Mountains, all with their peaks close to 6,000 feet.  It simply means of paradise for crazy nature photographers like myself that believe the day starts long before sunrise an ends long after sunset.

After being dazzled by the grand vistas, I’m sure the writers probably missed the subtle beauty in the hills, mountains and valleys immediately around Blowing Rock.  Some images for your enjoyment, all within five minutes of downtown.

Taken from Cone Manor on the Blue Ridge Parkway and looking east towards the Highway 321 corridor that connects Blowing Rock and Boone.   The Blue Ridge Parkway runs along the distant ridge line.

Also taken from Cone Manor overlooking picturesque Bass Lake.  Downtown Blowing Rock in the middle of the image is completely shrouded in fog.

This trail is relatively easy 2.7 mile hike from Cone Manor to the top of Flat Top Mountain.  The trail passes through some high meadows with an abundance of summer wildflowers and a wonderful view of the High Country west of Blowing Rock.


Another Flat Top Mountain trail image – summer wildflowers with a beautiful High Country sunset view and mild temperatures in the mid-70’s.  Life can’t get much better!

These two trees are located on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock and were featured in one of my January Photos of the Week.

At that time, they were covered with snow and ice.   My daughter Jenni suggested that one tree was mentoring and whispering to the other, perhaps a mother-to-daughter or father-to-son.   I couldn’t resist a repeat of these trees especially with the thunderstorm clouds rolling through the Foothills far to the south.  Six months later and still whispering, it’s got to be a Mother/Daughter as they are still talking!

I used a B&W conversion with this image to highlight the contrast between the trees and the storm clouds.  As a famous artist once remarked,”….black is the queen of all colors.”



2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Cynthia #

    I really like the Flat Top Mountain photos, what beautiful the summer colors. Excited to see more photos and blogging!

    August 21, 2011
    • Jim Ruff #

      Cynthia, Taking photos is a lot more fun than trying to get this blog up and running.

      August 22, 2011

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