A Visit To Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock NC

My husband has a brochure problem. Every stinkin’ time we are in a hotel on one of our many adventures, he looks for a brochure display and gets himself a thick stack of them to familiarize himself with the highlights of the area. The car is full of them.

Three years in a row he picked up the one for Chimney Rock. And now we were heading to the Round House we rented in Hendersonville and his dream may actually come true. He has lured me to Chimney Rock with the promise that there is an elevator to the top of the mountain. Cue the music signaling impeding doom.

On Top of Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock is about 25 minutes from Hendersonville. The town of Chimney Rock is a small town near Lake Lure with eclectic shops and eateries lining both sides of the main road that runs through town. On your right, is the Broad River. Being a rock lover, I couldn’t get over the huge boulders in the river! There were tons of places I could see where you’ll be able to eat lunch and wander out to the river. Even gem mining was there!! I love gem mining!!

The entrance is in the middle of town and easy to miss. You cross the river and a gorgeous narrow winding road will lead you up the mountain. You will pass several little grilling areas with picnic tables on your way to the tippy top.

So, here’s where the story picks up. We get to the hut where you pay the fifteen dollar entrance fee and the ranger says there is a discount today…wait for it…because the elevator is broken. At the time I was putting on lipstick, the circles of color just kept getting wider and wider till when my husband looks over we was staring at Bozo the Clown.

“I still want to do it,” he says with a wide grin. I look at the Ranger and he assures me there are places to rest on the way up and a cafe at the top. “I got this!” I said with confidence I didn’t feel. I mean I do Pilates but…

We stopped at the bathrooms at the base of the mountain before going up that last little bit. Have no fear though, if you drive all the way up, there are bathrooms there, too.

View of Lake Lure NC

We parked towards the top, if you arrive later in the day you will have to park down the hill and be shuttled up by school bus.

There was a guy playing the dulcimer in front of the gift shop, the music added a magical quality to the experience. A couple with an el fresco hot dog stand is on your right and a little further are the bathrooms and beyond that, the beginning of the stairs to Chimney Rock and Hickory Nut Falls.

The gift shop was our first stop. I bought myself a t-shirt, “I hiked it and I liked it!” The power of a positive mindset, right?

The journey up the 497 steps was slow going. There were landings you could stop and pretend to look out at the view and catch your breath! I did that once or twice, maybe!

The views are amazing, the rock formations gorgeous, and the history of the mountain just as high and wide. I swear I could hear the star of the movie, The Last of the Mohicans, yell, “I will come for you!” as he jumped through Hickory Nuts Falls. (You can even buy the movie in the gift shop!)

The Grotto Chimney Rock

You’ll come across a grotto, a tunnel to climb through called the “subway”, and small bat cave. We explored it all.

At the top, it is not a flat area with a railing. The top has been left with its natural contours and a fence around it. You can stand on one of the outcropping of rock and get a great picture of the 2280 feet of stairs you just climbed.

The cafe is closed in the winter but there is a gift shop, bathrooms, and a place you can get coffee.

Please, don’t just walk by the “emergency wheel barrow” for taking people down the mountain. It puts everything into perspective!

Now, there is another set of stairs to go a smidge higher. We choose to save that for next time!! LOL

Down the mountain is way easier and faster! And honestly, I’m glad the elevator was out, for really real. I would’ve missed the grotto, opera box, subway, and the bat cave. More importantly, the sense of accomplishment was thrilling.

My t- shirt was wrong, I hiked it and I loved it!

Btw, I’m wearing the shirt as I type for inspiration!

Karin AskAsheville Guest Blogger

Karin – adventurer and story teller!!

Follow me on Twitter @karin13773564

Asheville Meteor Shower Update

Asheville Meteor Shower Update

The clouds finally lifted Monday evening and Geminid meteors began to visibly soar through the sky. Even though the peak was Sunday night, there were still plenty of spectacular bursts to be observed last night on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Meteors will still be visible until December 17th so take advantage of the clear skies tonight, and try to catch a glimpse of mother nature’s holiday lights!

-Hunter Ward, AshevilleWX

6 Amazing Outdoor Spots in the Asheville Area

Blue Ridge Mountains
Blue Ridge Mountains – These mountains provide for a calm and amazing atmosphere. On a clear day, it is obvious where the name originates from. The Blue Ridge Mountains features many summits with plenty of trails to choose from.
Catawba Falls
Catawba Falls – Located only 20 minutes from Asheville, this waterfall is an attraction that is visited by many hikers. The trail is easy to medium. Because of the close distance, Catawba Falls has become one of the more popular areas in the last couple years. Be prepared to get your shoes wet as you walk over rocks to get across the river during the 3 mile round-trip hike.
Craggy Gardens
Craggy Gardens – This location provides a 360 degree view. Located off the parkway, and less than a mile hike each way, it is a great location to admire the Blue Ridge Mountains. The trail has a bit of an incline before reaching the top, but it is worth the breathtaking view you are given once reaching the top.
High Falls
High Falls – Located in DuPont State Forest, High Falls can be admired from the overlook on the trail, or continue to follow the trail as you cautiously walk over the rocks to get a closer look. It is a popular spot in the summer, but be careful as the rocks get slick when they are wet.
Looking Glass Falls
Looking Glass Falls – This waterfall get crowded in the summer because of the easy walk. You can park you car next to the road and walk down some steps to view the gorgeous waterfall. It is great location to take a swim on those warm summer days.
View From Mt Mitchell
Mt. Mitchel – The highest point this side of the Mississippi, Mt. Mitchell provides a stunning 360 degree view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Because of the elevation, the temperature is always much cooler than the lower elevations. Mt. Mitchell is located off the Blue Ridge Parkway.


-by Hugo G Photography

Geminids On Tap

Geminid In The Sky

Each year Earth passes through the debris cloud of Asteroid 3200 Phaethon around this time and that produces an annual spectacle known as the Geminid Meteor Shower. Traditionally the Geminid’s are some the most vibrant meteors and can sometimes reach rates of 120 meteors per hour. The peak of this shower is set to occur late Sunday night into Monday morning, but viewing around WNC could be limited by cloud cover and scattered showers. That being said, tonight should provide the best chance at clear skies over the next 3 days, so anyone wanting to see a meteor should venture out tonight.

Geminid Meteors

If you are wondering where to drive for best viewing in WNC, just venture up to the Blue Ridge Parkway after dark for a drive and look east. Tonight the show won’t be as vibrant, but the chance of cloud cover is less, so seeing a meteor is much more likely. Last year I ventured up to Beacon Heights near Grandfather Mountain for the spectacle and grabbed a few shots. This area is great to see the event, since you can easily look to the east and the light pollution is minimal. Other places around WNC like Wayah Bald in Franklin, NC (1.5 hr drive from AVL) and Max Patch (Haywood Co.) provide incredible views to see meteors. Be careful about heading up towards Craggy Garden or Mt. Pisgah because the Blue Ridge Parkway is closed around those two spots, but it is still open around the Asheville area in between. If you live in Hendersonville or on the NC/SC line, a great viewing spot can be found if you head down Highway 276 to the Ceasar’s Head Escarpment. Here you will find a phenomenal view. For people living in the Sylva, Cashiers, or Highlands area, Panthertown Valley will most certainly provide an incredible spot for viewing.
Meteors from the Geminid burn various colors as they enter Earth’s atmosphere and the chart below provides a bit of insight into which elements burn what color. The Gemini’s are known for their vibrant display of color and this year should be no different, provided that you can see them. The moon will also not interfere with viewing efforts this year since just last night we had a new moon. If we didn’t have an approaching front, this year would be almost perfect for viewing and photographing meteors.

Meteor Composition Colors

The key to photographing a Geminid meteor is to have the right equipment.

What do you need?

– DSLR Camera
– Intervalometer (recommended)
– Sturdy Tripod
– Dark Skies
– Jacket
– Patience

Geminid Meteors

First and foremost, one who wishes to catch a meteor streaking across the lens needs the right equipment. Any DSLR camera in which you can adjust the iso will work. You will also need a study tripod and I would recommend you pick up an intervalometer if your camera doesn’t have one built in. Set your camera up looking east towards the constellation Gemini and set the iso to 1600 or 3200. next you want to put your f/stop as low as possible. This will vary with different lens, but a lower f/stop will pick up more stars and faint meteors. After that is set, place your shutter speed on 30 seconds so that you can take 30 second exposures. Now you can either stand next the camera and click shots one after another waiting for a meteor to encounter the atmosphere, or you can set the intervalometer to 35 seconds so that the camera clicks the shutter itself every 35 seconds. This would allow you to go back and sit in the car where it is much warmer. After 2-3 hours of taking shots, go back and flip through the images to see what you captured. If you leave the camera in place, you can also use a program like Panolapse to produce a time-lapse of the event, but I will save those instructions for another article. Good luck to anyone venturing out to enjoy natures holiday special, have a blast and show us what you catch!


Ambient Autumn in Appalachia

Ask Asheville Linn Cove by Hunter Ward

Mornings first rays greet a frozen foliage wonderland that’s dressed in it’s Sunday best, waiting for Mother Nature to sever her ties. Ah it is Autumn at last. The stink bugs are disappearing, and on occasion one can see her breath. Snow is just around the corner. Neighborhoods are buzzing with trick-or-treat plans, and dads are preparing mountains of leaves for little ones to destroy. Recently I have been up on the Blue Ridge Parkway visiting the higher elevations since peak color has yet to descend into the valleys. This should happen over the next week or so as the chlorophyll within the leaves around Asheville dance with death. Isn’t it ironic that death by nature provides such joy and entertainment to the masses. Anyways, I had the chance to visit Linn Cove Viaduct (pictured) just below Grandfather Mountain on the Blue Ridge Parkway recently and the colors were magnificent. Completed in 1987, the Viaduct attracts visitor from all over who simply want to marvel over the exquisite architecture located amidst one of natures greatest places.

Ask Asheville Sunburst Falls by Hunter Ward

The following Tuesday I ventured to Graveyard Fields (which I had been to the week before) and the leaves were basically gone. I have been working on my annual fall time-lapse of the leaves, and was disappointed because I didn’t have great conditions. As I ventured down Highway 215, I had my windows down and could hear rushing water. I enjoy using neutral density filters to give water a motion effect, so the rushing water caught my attention. I came to a pull-off close to where I had heard the water and proceed to try and find a path. A steep trail was the only way day and it was leave covered, but I descended anyways. Unknowingly, I had stumble upon the beautiful Sunburst Falls. The second picture is of the scene I found as the sun went behind the ridge line. Now is the time to begin exploring locations above 3000′ and anything about 2000′ should be stunning in the next week or so. I hope you enjoy!

-Hunter Ward, AshevilleWX