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US Forest Service Web App Features Trails for Leaf Viewing

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

ASHEVILLE NC – The U.S. Forest Service invites national forest visitors to use the new NCtrails.org web application for planning their fall foliage adventures.

Unveiled in May 2014, the searchable web application (web app) offers details on three popular trail systems in western North Carolina, as well as state-of-the-science information on the region’s forests.

The Browse Trails section of the web app includes information on trails in the Tsali (pronounced “SAH-lee”) Recreation Area, located in the Nantahala National Forest Cheoah Ranger District, and the Jackrabbit Recreation Area in the national forest’s Tusquitee Ranger District. The site also features two large sections of the Appalachian Trail that pass through the Nantahala National Forest.

The Forest Service’s Southern Research Station and National Forests in North Carolina produced the web app in cooperation with the University of North Carolina Asheville National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center.

Enjoy Fall Foliage in the Mountains

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

ASHEVILLE NC – The U.S. Forest Service National Forests in North Carolina unveiled its Fall Foliage 2014 webpage, which features scenic drives and other activities for enjoying autumn‘s colorful splendor in the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests.

The feature is posted at http://www.fs.usda.gov/nfsnc, click on “Fall Foliage in Western North Carolina – 2014.”

The webpage describes scenic drives and popular locations for viewing mountain plants at high, middle and low elevations this fall. For example, driving along NC 28 and 143 in Graham County from Fontana Village to Stecoah Gap will allow visitors to see vibrant fall colors at the mid-elevation level. The webpage also includes links to webcams, maps and other useful online sources.

Get Close to Fall Color at Biltmore

Monday, August 26th, 2013

ASHEVILLE NC – Fall road trips through the western North Carolina mountains offer what very few areas in the country can: a chance to drive on roads canopied in golden autumn leaf colors. Stopping at Biltmore along the way is a great fall travel idea since the estate’s 8,000 acres give the chance to stretch the legs and explore that color close up.

Park the car and wander through Biltmore’s formal gardens, filled with colorful mums and other seasonal blooms; hike through forests; or even climb to the rooftop of America’s Largest Home, the 250-room Biltmore House. Whatever you choose, Biltmore’s sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains makes the estate a sweet spot for taking in vivid fall color.

Fun for families

Families will enjoy Antler Hill Village where children can run off energy in the Village Green, or play in Pisgah Playground. The playground is a new addition this year and features a ferry that children can navigate across a small lagoon. A Children’s Maze offers a pathway through a forest of 500 trees. The Village also features a kid-sized Land Rover Course complete with small Land Rover carts and a track populated with small hills and other obstacles to drive over. The course is part of the estate’s Land Rover Driving School.

NEW inside Biltmore House
Two rooms inside Biltmore House – the Second Floor Living Hall and the Salon – will re-open this fall after the estate’s Museum Services team restores them to their appearances as they were when George Vanderbilt opened the home in 1895. To bring the rooms back to their original states, the team has spent the summer conserving all the furnishings, recreating elaborate window treatments and making structural changes.

As appropriate for such a grand space, several notable paintings are being returned to their original locations in the Hall. John Singer Sargent’s portraits of Richard Morris Hunt and Frederick Law Olmsted and Anders Zorn’s painting “The Waltz,” which have been hanging temporarily in the Salon, will once again hang where George Vanderbilt intended. The restored room will re-open Sept. 1.

Relocating the paintings from the Salon has led to its reinterpretation. Curators decided to tell the story of how the room has changed through the years. Removal of a wall revealed an original firebox and brick walls. A section of the fabric ceiling treatment is being removed to show the terra cotta tiled ceiling above. Information panels will explain the new interpretation of the room when it re-opens Oct. 1.

Extend your stay – experience more of the estate
You may linger on the estate by staying a night or more at the award-winning Inn on Biltmore Estate. Several specials are available through the season, including a Labor Day Celebration Package which includes two nights, access to Biltmore House and estate, a Celebration Dinner with Fireworks and more.

Guided outdoor experiences include horseback riding, Segway tours, sporting clays, fly fishing, archery, river float trips and bike riding. Guided indoor activities take you behind the scenes of Biltmore House to explore more about how the home operated when the Vanderbilt family lived in it more than a century ago. A special exhibition, “The Vanderbilts at Home and Abroad,” provides an intimate look at the time the Vanderbilts spent as a family and features objects they collected during their world travels. Many of these items have never been displayed until this exhibition.

Winery
Biltmore’s Winery feature self-guided tours and a tasting room offering free samples of the estate’s many award-winning varieties. Special guided tours and seminars include the new weekend Vine to Wine Tour; Red Wine & Chocolate seminar; and Biltmore Bubbles, a look at how Biltmore produces its sparkling wines.

Dining
Biltmore’s Field to Table Program focuses on growing – and finding – the best, freshest foods in season for the estate’s restaurants, which range from barbecue to fine dining. Fresh produce is supplied to the restaurants by the estate’s agricultural services, and the award-winning culinary teams incorporate this bounty into recipes featuring estate-raised products and locally-sourced foods.

Fall travel deals at Biltmore
Save $15 on daytime admission if you purchase tickets seven days or more prior to your visit on www.biltmore.com. Booking within six days of your visit, save $10. Youth ages 10-16 are half off the adult admission price.

More information about Fall Color at Biltmore is available at www.biltmore.com.

Forest Service Offers Tips for Fall Foliage Fun in the Mountains

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

ASHEVILLE NC – The U.S. Forest Service National Forests in North Carolina unveiled its fall foliage 2013 webpage, featuring scenic drives and others areas in the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests to enjoy leaf viewing this autumn. With more than a month before the fall foliage season begins, the feature will help visitors plan their fall adventures.

The feature is posted on the National Forests in North Carolina website, http://www.fs.usda.gov/nfsnc, click on “Fall Foliage in the Mountains.”

“Fall Foliage in Western North Carolina – 2013” describes popular locations for viewing mountain plants at high, middle and low elevations during peak season. For example, the Big Butt trail in the Mount Mitchell area of Yancey County enables travelers to enjoy a variety of colorful, high-elevation plants in late September and early October. Visit the webpage to see more featured locations and, remember, always practice safety when visiting the national forests.

WCU’s Fearless Foliage Forecaster Predicts Good, but Spotty, Fall Colors

Monday, August 20th, 2012

ASHEVILLE NC – Visitors to Western North Carolina’s mountains can look forward to a good display of color this autumn, although some areas will enjoy brighter hues than others, predicts Kathy Mathews, Western Carolina University’s fearless fall foliage forecaster.

The intensity of the color show will vary depending on where leaf-peepers are looking because of fluctuations in the amount of rainfall received across the region this spring and summer, said Mathews. An associate professor of biology at WCU who specializes in plant systematics, she bases her annual prediction in part on weather conditions, including rainfall, during the spring and summer growing season.

“This should be a pretty good year for fall color, but colors will be spotty,” Mathews said. “Many areas of Western North Carolina have experienced a lot of rainfall throughout the year, while Asheville and points north have been drier. The drier areas should have the best fall color, while the wetter areas will be less vibrant.”

Mathews believes that the formation of higher levels of yellow, orange and red pigments in the leaves correlates with dry weather throughout the year. The drier the climate, the more brilliant the fall leaves tend to be, she said.

“This has been an unusually rainy spring and summer for much of Western North Carolina, which, if it continues through September and October, could mean less color, especially in the red range,” she said. “However, if evening temperatures continue to drop steadily through the next two months, it will hasten the loss of green from the leaves to reveal more yellow and orange pigments.”

In addition, a trend of warm, wet weather could equate to a longer fall color season. Mathews predicts that areas that have seen drought conditions, including the U.S. Midwest, may experience bright fall color, but only for a brief period before trees drop their leaves.

As is the case with predicting the weather, there are no guarantees when it comes to forecasting the intensity of the fall color season. Cloud cover and ample rainfall in the weeks ahead could mute the color show, Mathews said.

Cooler temperatures and fewer hours of daylight in the autumn contribute to the decomposition of chlorophyll, the chemical that gives leaves their green color in spring and summer. As chlorophyll breaks down, yellow and orange pigments – always present in the leaves, but masked by the green of chlorophyll – are revealed, and new red pigments are produced.

Depending upon the timing of the first frost, the peak of fall color should arrive during the second week of October in the higher elevations, and during the third week of October in the mid-elevations, Mathews said. Because freezing temperatures quickly degrade chlorophyll, leaves predictably peak in color a few days after a frost, she said.

The color change should begin at the higher mountain elevations in late September and continue through mid-November in the lower levels of WNC.

Regardless of when the peak is and how intense the hues are, visitors can always find good fall color somewhere in the WNC mountains, Mathews said.

“We have more than 100 tree species in the Southern Appalachians, which means not only many different colors of leaves in the fall, but also a lengthy fall color season. Some trees change and drop leaves very early, such as tulip poplar and yellow buckeye, while others linger and change later, such as oaks and hickories.”

The U.S. Northeast and Midwest have fewer tree species with good fall color, mainly sugar maples, leading to a short burst of brilliant colors, she said. “The same is true in the Western states, with color mainly coming from quaking aspens,” she said. “In Europe, again, there are many fewer tree species, meaning shorter, less diverse fall color than in the Southern Appalachians.”

From the Great Smokies to the Blue Ridge, the WNC mountains offer ample opportunity for leaf-looking this fall, Mathews said.

“Look for some of the best colors on Grandfather Mountain, the Graveyard Fields area of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Nantahala National Forest along U.S. Highway 64 between Macon and Clay counties,” she said. “These and other ridgetop areas show colors in all hues of red, orange and yellow. The forested areas will have a lot of yellow tulip poplars, red maple, and orange and red oak. Graveyard Fields also has a lot of shrubs that turn red.”

Chimney Rock Fall Leaf Updates

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

CHIMNEY ROCK NC – Leaf peepers hoping to catch fall colors during their peak won’t have to look far to find it now. Brilliant reds and yellows are appearing at Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park, and peak fall colors are expected in areas of Chimney Rock and Lake Lure from mid-October through early November. Guests can plan their visits with weekly fall color and wildflower reports at chimneyrockpark.com (see the latest below). Chimney Rock offers six spectacular ways to view autumn color this year, from expert- and self-guided hikes to a photography workshop. The Park has been voted one of the top three Readers’ Choice “Best Scenic Views” by Southern Living magazine.

“The Blue Ridge Mountain range features one of most colorful and longest leaf color displays in the U.S., attracting visitors from around the world. The region’s weather pattern so far suggests that Western North Carolina will again be a premier destination for viewing incredible displays of fall leaf colors,” said Ron Lance, Naturalist, Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park.

Fall Color Report | October 11, 2011. Thanks to the recent streak of sunny days and cool nights, upper elevations of Chimney Rock have started to brighten with color more than a week earlier than anticipated. The sourwoods are the most brilliant now with a vibrant red! Other reds are appearing in the red maples, black gum (or tupelo) trees and Virginia creepers. Yellows are bursting onto the Park’s fall spectrum as well! Poison ivy, tulip poplar and hickory trees are starting to brighten, and the Fraser magnolia trees are taking on a greenish-yellow. Birch, walnut and basswood leaves are also just starting to turn. Meanwhile, fall wildflowers are blooming now, including the Pink Turtlehead, Golden Aster, White Wood Aster and Late Purple Aster, Snakeroot and Goldenrod.

Peak colors can be expected for several weeks starting in mid-October due to the range in elevation from 2,500 to 1,100 feet and a large variety of deciduous trees in the Hickory Nut Gorge. As the higher elevations, such as the Chimney level, continue to explode with stunning color, leaves in the lower elevations will likely peak in the next couple weeks. See the Chimney Rock’s current leaf colors in our photo gallery.

Catching Colors at Their Peak.  Fall in the mountains rewards leaf peepers with brilliant displays of leaf color, and Chimney Rock shows the full spectrum—from deep red and maroon to fiery yellow and orange. When planning a trip during the fall leaf season, be sure to check the Park’s weekly fall color updates online at chimneyrockpark.com. Chimney Rock offers countless ways for leaf peepers to view the beautiful autumn foliage. Below are six of the Park’s favorite outings that will reward guests with an eyeful of stunning fall color:

Get an Expert Guide

  1. Head Off the Beaten Path and take a guided Fall Color Ridge Hike with Park Naturalist Ron Lance on Saturday, October 15 from 9:30-11:30 a.m. This is Park’s most scenic guided hike of the entire year.
  2. View striking fall colors from the end of a rope high above the Gorge. Sign up for a rock climbing adventure with Fox Mountain Guides, and bring your friends to save money with a group rate.
    No prior experience is necessary. Two-hour, half- and full-day clinics are available.
  3. In addition to autumn color, fall brings a variety of bird calls from migrating birds heard throughout the Park. Join world-traveled expert Simon Thompson for a guided Southbound Migration bird walk on Saturday, October 23 from 9 a.m.-noon.

Take a Hike

  1. Soak up 75-mile panoramic views on top of the Chimney. Elevations in 14-mile-long Hickory Nut Gorge range from 1,100 feet on the valley floor to more than 2,500 feet on the mountain peaks. This is the most dramatic and popular way to get your fall color fix! Remember, the elevator is out of service for a modernization until April 2012, so be prepared for the 25-minute hike up stairs.
  2. Immerse yourself in the vibrant leaf colors by hiking along the Hickory Nut Falls trail. Study the diverse range of leaf colors from oak and hickory to red maple and enjoy gazing at the 404-ft. waterfall—the 2nd highest on the east coast—at the trail’s end.

Capture Colors on Camera

  1. Shutterbugs looking for expert tips and tricks to frame fall colors should attend the two-day Shutterbugs Nature Photography Workshop at the Park on October 29-30, 2011, from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. Award-winning WNC photographer Jeff Miller’s work has been featured in many regional, state and national publications. For details and to register, visit chimneyrockpark.com/events.

Park admission is $12/adult, $5/youth ages 6-15 and free for 5 years and under. Guided hikes, rock climbing and workshops cost extra.

Chimney Rock in the Spotlight. Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park, an iconic Southeast travel destination, is home to soaring rock cliffs, a stunning diversity of colorful deciduous trees and rare species of animal and plant life. Chimney Rock has been named “One of the Best Places to Stand in NC” by the Charlotte Observer. Its rugged natural beauty was in the spotlight in the 1992 epic romantic adventure The Last of the Mohicans starring Daniel Day-Lewis, and Dirty Dancing was filmed just a mile east at Lake Lure.

Fall Flavors. After a cool day of leaf peeping, satisfy your appetite at the Old Rock Café in Chimney Rock Village with a hot bowl of award-winning chili and a grilled sandwich. New soups are offered weekly. The Café is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends through November 6. Call for weekly specials at 828-625-2329 or view our menu online.

About Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park

Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park is a developing international outdoor destination located 25 miles southeast of Asheville on Highway 64/74A in Chimney Rock, N.C. It is recognized as one of the Southeast’s most iconic sites and popular travel destinations. The Park’s 535-million-year-old monolith called Chimney Rock offers guests 75-mile panoramic views of Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure. Hickory Nut Gorge, one of the state’s most significant centers of biodiversity, is home to 36 rare plant species and 14 rare animal species, and the second highest waterfall of its kind in the eastern United States. A destination for travel groups, weddings and special events, the Park also hosts innovative educational programs for schools, homeschoolers, scouts and summer camps. Visit Chimney Rock’s website at chimneyrockpark.com. More information on current Capital Improvement projects at chimneyrockpark.com/progress or by calling 800-277-9611.

 

More information about things to do near Asheville, events, and hiking.

Fall Colors Should Be ‘Excellent’

Monday, August 29th, 2011

ASHEVILLE, NC – Kathy Mathews predicts 2011 will offer an excellent season for fall colors in the Western North Carolina mountains.

The annual prediction from Kathy Mathews, Western Carolina University’s fearless fall foliage forecaster, should make chamber of commerce officials across the Western North Carolina mountains happy this year.

That’s because Mathews is calling for an excellent fall color show, thanks in large part to weather conditions over the spring and summer.

“2011 should prove to be an excellent year for fall color,” said Mathews, WCU associate professor of biology specializing in plant systematics. “While heavy spring rain is generally not a good sign for fall color, records indicate that rainfall was slightly below normal for March, average for April and May, and slightly below normal for June and July, as gardeners struggled to keep their crops watered,” she said. “These conditions actually are promising for good development of leaf color in September and October.”

In addition, mid-August brought a respite from the hot temperatures of June and July, another good sign of vibrant leaf color during autumn, she said.

Mathews believes that the formation of higher levels of yellow, orange and red pigments in the leaves seems to correlate with dry weather throughout the year. The drier the climate, the more brilliant the fall leaves tend to be, she said.

Of course, when it comes to forecasting the vibrancy of the fall color season, just as with forecasting the weather, there are no guarantees. Cloud cover and ample rainfall in the weeks ahead could mute the color show, Mathews said.

“Anyone remembering the last two years may have noticed a shortage of brilliant red leaves in our area, which could be blamed on cloudy weather and rain during the fall,” she said. “Hurricane season also can be hard to predict as far as bringing rain to the mountains, but if we see cool and sunny weather, we can expect nice red color to develop this year.”

Some weather forecast models show Hurricane Irene, currently moving across the Caribbean Sea, dropping heavy rains on Western North Carolina, which could affect fall colors in the mountains, Mathews said.

Cooler temperatures of autumn contribute to the decomposition of chlorophyll, the chemical that gives leaves their green color in spring and summer. As chlorophyll breaks down, yellow pigments – always present in the leaves, but masked by the green of chlorophyll – are revealed, and new red pigments are produced.

Depending upon the timing of the first frost, the peak of fall color should arrive during the second week of October in the higher elevations, and during the third week of October in the mid-elevations, Mathews said.

“Early November can bring surprising bursts of color, too, particularly between 2,500 and 3,000 feet as the oaks peak out in oranges and reds while other trees’ colors are lingering,” she said. “Those planning leaf-peeping vacations should have a fairly broad window of time in which to choose for viewing excellent color change in the mountains this year.”

The color change should begin at the higher mountain elevations in late September and continue through mid-November in the lower levels of WNC.

“Look for the earliest color change to take place on the sourwoods and dogwoods, which both turn red, as well as the tulip poplars, which become yellow but tend to turn brown early,” Mathews said. “Colorful maples, with hues of red, orange and yellow, and birches, which turn yellow, bring us into the peak period. Finally, oaks turn orange and red to round out the later color change in the season.”

Sweet birches and tulip poplars already are starting to turn yellow in the mid-elevations around Cullowhee, which is a normal occurrence for this time of year, she said.

“Over the month of September, the color change should continue and spread. Expect buckeyes to give pops of orange early, as well. Maples will add more yellow, oranges and reds as they gradually change in late September, and sourwoods should turn a beautiful, deep red,” Mathews said.

Nutritious Vegetables – What to Plant for Fall

Monday, July 25th, 2011

ASHEVILLE, NC – Can’t get enough fresh vegetables? It’ll soon be time to plant fall vegetables, including all those healthy crucifers – cabbage family crops. Here’s a look at what some of your favorite Carrots supply vitamin A, & beta-carotene.vegetables supply:

* Asparagus: vitamin C, potassium

* Broccoli: vitamins C, A, B, potassium, calcium, iron

* Brussels sprouts: vitamins C, A, iron, calcium

* Cabbage & greens: vitamins, C, A, iron, calcium

* Carrots: vitamin A, beta-carotene

* Green Peas: protein, vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin, iron

* Sweet peppers: lots of vitamin C, vitamin A

* Tomatoes: vitamin C, potassium

* Winter squash: phosphorous, vitamin A, riboflavin, minerals