Leaf Season in Asheville North Carolina during the Fall Season
It’s that time of the year again, Fall 2016 Leaf Season in Asheville North Carolina. This is the time of the year when the local can sit back, take a deep breath, and reflect on the year while surrounded by colorful beauty. Then many visitors from out of town arrive to gaze upon and digest the majesty of the Western North Carolina mountains. Now there are several places across the USA where you can experience Leaf Season, but the Asheville area is a favorite for many due to all of the plentiful amenities that come along with it. Here is a little guide post to get you around town:
Hooker Falls – Located in DuPost State Forest. The easy hiking trail has made it one of the most popular waterfalls in the area. From the main parking lot, use the trail to the right and follow the signs to reach the falls. The trail is about a quarter of a mile. Upon getting close to the falls, you’ll notice small observation deck. You can keep going about 100 yards to get a better view of Hooker Falls. Though it’s only 12 feet high, the water rushing down makes quite an impression, especially after some heavy rain. Please use caution if you decide to take a swim near the falls.
Triple Falls – Also located in DuPont State Forest. You can visit Triple Falls after seeing Hooker Falls. From the main parking lot, walk over the bridge, to reach the trail. It’s about half a mile one way, but it will feel longer once you reach the incline. You will be able to see all three cascades from an observation point. Keep going just a little more, and you’ll see some wooden steps to the left which will take you to a flat area and you’ll be able to sit and relax for a moment to enjoy some beautiful falls. Please use caution, and also be aware there is no swimming allowed.
Looking Glass Falls – Located in Pisgah Forest, it is has become one of the biggest attractions in the area because of its easy access. Located right off the road on Highway 276 near Brevard, NC, and there are some steps you can take to get a closer look at the waterfall. Enjoy the view from the observation deck, or cautiously walk down to the water and enjoy a little swim. Looking Glass Falls is a beautiful sight, and it looks spectacular after some heavy rain. As always, please use caution if you decide to go for a swim.
Sliding Rock – Located just up the road from Looking Glass Falls, it is a popular spot in the summer for swimmers of all ages. There is a small fee to enter during the summer, so keep that in mind if you decide to go. Sliding Rock gets extremely crowded on those warm summer days when everyone wants to cool down, but it’s a fun experience. There is a lifeguard on duty during the summer months. Always use caution when swimming at the falls.
Second Falls at Graveyard Fields – Located on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Mile Post 418.8. In the summer months, chances are you will see the parking lot filled with cars. Second Falls is an easy to moderate hike. From the parking lot, walk down the steps to the paved trail. Once you reach the river, cross the bridge and keep going until you see the dirt trail on the right. You’ll come to a long, steep set of steps. Once you reach the bottom, you’ll be able to see Second Falls. If you decide to go over the observation deck, please use caution as rocks can get slick. You can take a swim right below the waterfall, but please use caution there as well. The hike is about half mile one way.
Upper Falls at Graveyard Fields – Located in the same vicinity as Second Falls. If you’re hiking in the direction of Second Falls, take a left after crossing the wooden bridge and wooden trail. Be sure to follow the signs. One you reach the falls, it may not look like much if it hasn’t rained much. Use caution while walking over the rocks as they can be slick. Expect to hike over a couple of miles if you visit Upper Falls.
Eastatoe Falls – It’s a beautiful waterfall located in someone’s backyard. Please respect their property if you decide to visit. Conveniently, they have allowed people to park their car behind their house (you will see the sign). Located in Rosman, NC near Brevard, it is off Highway 178. Once you turn on Highway 178 from Highway 64, go about three and a half miles until you see a sign that says “Mountain Meadow” on the right side. Follow the driveway to the back of the house. Walk further back into the backyard and you will hear the waterfall.
Dry Falls – Located off Highway 64 near Highlands, NC, this waterfall is amazing. It is a beautiful 75 foot waterfall. Once you reach the parking lot, walk down the long staircase and follow the walkway to the waterfall. You will be able to walk behind the waterfall! It is definitely a great experience, especially if you go after some heavy rain!
Rainbow Falls – Located in Gorges State Park. Rainbow Falls is near Sapphire, NC on NC-281. It is about a mile and a half hike one way, and it is moderate. The waterfall will be worth the drive and the hike. The 150 foot tall waterfall does not disappoint, and there is also an observation deck to get a closer look. Many people also swim near the waterfall, but always use caution as the rocks get slick and currents are tough after some heavy rain. You can also walk about a quarter of a mile up the trail to visit Turtleback Falls and take a swim up there as well.
Whitewater Falls – Located near Gorges State Park and Sapphire, NC on NC-281, Whitewater Falls is the highest waterfall this side of the Rockies. Once you get to the parking lot, please be aware there is a small fee ($2) per vehicle to park – this is to contribute to the upkeep of the park area. Once there, follow the paved trail about a quarter of a mile to see this magnificent 411 foot waterfall. Once you see the waterfall, you will also see a steep staircase to the right. Go down to get a better look. The steps are steep, and there are 154 of them! Unfortunately, you cannot get a closer look of the falls other than the one from the observation deck. For the experienced hikers, there is a trail near the observation deck which takes you to the bottom, but please use caution.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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!
Remember the days when “getting away” was all we did. Nature, water, hiking, enjoying the great outdoors. We had lots of time on our hands, and spent it carefree; in moments that would never be revisited. We made friends, we lost friends, we had our ups and downs. We lived, we played, we lost, we won, we survived; standing here today as a witness to a universe that balances all of our lives.
In the photo above are some of our family and friends enjoying a beautiful sunset at Craggy Gardens, near Asheville. We do not have forever, but we do have right now. Take a moment today to make a friend, build a relationship, or maybe renew a friend that has faded away over the years. Maybe you need to get away for a little, for some rest and relaxation in the mountains? You deserve it. And bring some friends. Someone once said that… we are all we have. This is true.