Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Top 5 suggestions for winter at Healing Springs

We  are open all year long! Here are our top 5 suggestions for what to do in our area during the colder months. 

Do nothing! Relax and enjoy a cozy flame from the fireplaces right inside your cabin. Snuggle with the special someone and enjoy the downtime and peacefulness that this time of the year brings. 

Snow Tubing! No prior skill necessary for this fun activity. Enjoy the largest snow park in North Carolina with Hawks Nest Snow Tubing located just an hour away from Healing Springs with over 30 lanes to enjoy snowy fun in. The offer four different levels of terrain to suit everyone from beginner to advanced. 

More snowy activities are available at Sugar Mountain Resort with skiing, snowboarding, tubing, snowshoeing and ice skating available. Located two miles east of Banner Elk, Sugar Mountain is open for winter activities November through March with 125 acres of skiable terrain. 

Appalachian Ski Mountain offers skiing, snowboarding and ice skating as well along with lessons for all ages. First opened in the winter of 1962 under a different name, Appalachian Ski Mountain now boasts 12 slopes and two terrain parks along with a 46,000 square foot base lodge and renown ski school - the French Swiss Ski College.  With a base elevation of 3635 feet and peak elevation of 4000 feet, all of the slopes are lit for night skiing, they are open from 9 am to 10 pm during the season. 

Take a hike! Hike up Mount Jefferson, which rises 1600 feet above the town of Jefferson. With five different hiking trails to choose from, the beauty and diversity of the Mount Jefferson State Natural Area can be enjoyed in just an hour or so. Find a list of trails here.

Also located nearby is New River State Park that covers 3318 acres and has 9 different trails, rated "easy" to "moderate"  to choose from at different points in the park. The park also holds regularly scheduled interpretative and education programs and is open all year. 

West Jefferson has a thriving arts community. Stop in at the Ashe Arts Council to see their rotating exhibits, enjoy one of their events or shop their charming gift shop. Dive deeper into the art world by joining one of the varied classes or workshops offered at Florence Thomas Art School. 

Well worth a stop to pause and reflect are the two Churches of the Frescoes as they are known. In West Jefferson at St. Mary's Episcopal Church and in Glendale Springs at the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church are large, Italian style frescoes painted by Ben Long in 1974. 

Ben Long, a North Carolina native grew up as an artist. After serving in Vietnam as a Marine Corps Combat Officer, Long went to Florence, Italy to spend 8 years apprenticing in the art of fresco painting.  Long also has paintings on display in the Smithsonian as well as frescoes in Italy at the Abbey of Montecassino and 11 other frescoes in the US. 

Whatever your energy level is for the winter months, plan on coming to Healing Springs to rest, relax and rejuvenate!

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Fresh cut Christmas trees are a perfect way to start the holidays!

We have lots of different Choose and Cut lots in Ashe County. They are all ready to help you pick the perfect tree, build your own custom wreath, enjoy a hay ride and get your picture taken with Santa!

Start a new tradition this year and get a fresh cut tree from one of our Ashe County Christmas tree farms!
Frostys Choose and Cut is hosting Santa! He will be taking pictures between 1pm and 4pm on November 23, 24, 29, 30 and again on December 1, 7, 8, 14 and 15. 

Long's Tree Farm offers a hay ride up to the top of the mountain and you can walk down and pick your tree. Their staff will help you cut, wrap and load it. Check their site for a discount coupon 

Mistletoe Meadows has hot cocoa and hot cider available to warm you up as you search for that perfect tree!

Little Grandfather Mountain Christmas Tree Farm will also be hosting Santa visits. Stop by and see Santa's workshop, enjoy a hay ride and build a wreath. 

Shady Rest Tree Farm offers a variety of different Fir trees along with some Blue Spruce. They have wreaths and garlands in addition to 30,000 trees to choose from. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Have you seen our Tree Houses?

Having always thought that tree houses were a neat concept, we of course had to build a couple of them! Have you seen our two tree houses?  Our Tree Top Cabin was certainly the most challenging to build. With a live Poplar tree in the center, the structure is suspended around the live tree, with room left for the tree to grow and move. 

The building of the structure was accomplished with a lot of help from a number of our wonderful interns under the supervision of my partner, Tom. In hindsight, I can say that building a hexagon is challenging!! In typical construction, you think about the size of the lumber that you will have and factor that into what you are building. With a hexagon, there is a lot of wasted lumber, due to the cuts that have to be made. Not to mention the complexity of making something out of a bunch of triangles!! I can tell you that this was a challenge and involved a lot of math! 

We had a great bunch of international interns that summer and it was a lot of fun watching folks revert back to their native languages to calculate the cuts. 

As most projects go, it did take us a lot longer to complete it than we originally planned. But in the end, it really is a cozy, rustic getaway and many folks choose to stay in the Tree Top Cabin. 

Friday, November 1, 2019

Christmas is coming! Where are you getting your tree?

As the holidays approach, have you given any thought to where you are going to get your Christmas tree this year?? 

Nothing beats the smell and feel of a fresh cut tree. Start a new holiday tradition and come with your family to get your tree right here in Ashe County.

Did you know that Ashe County is the largest Christmas tree producing county in the United States? The County has approximately 12,000 acres of trees in production, which equals approximately 20 million Christmas trees!

Christmas tree farms provide over 700 local jobs year around and adds an additional 2,000 jobs during the tree harvest season. Christmas trees and greenery contributes more than $85 million annually to the Ashe County economy. 

Most of the trees that you see growing in the fields are Fraser firs, which are native to Ashe County. The average 8 foot tree is between 10 and 12 years old. 

There are 10 different Choose and Cut tree farms in Ashe County to choose from. Some of them open as early as November 15th, with the remainder opening around November 20th. This link will take you to the map of the different farms with their hours and information. 

Many of the farms offer refreshments and snack. Some even have live music and Santa! 

Come to Ashe County and start your holidays off with a fresh cut Christmas tree!

Monday, October 7, 2019

History of the Linn Cove Viaduct by the National Park Service

One of the most beautiful drives through the Fall colors is on the Linn Cove Viaduct. Circling around Grandfather Mountain, it is worth the drive to enjoy the views!

The below is courtesy of the National Park Service and covers the history of the viaduct. 
Viaducts are elevated roadway sections carrying the road high above dry ravines or across the shoulders of mountains where extensive and aesthetically unpleasing fill sections would otherwise be required. The earliest of these is the Rocky Mountain Viaduct, constructed in 1937, on the northern section of the parkway at milepost 35. This steel girder structure is supported by arched stone piers and stone-faced abutments, and is the only viaduct to feature this treatment. Most other parkway viaducts are steel girder structures supported by reinforced concrete or steel piers.

Text excerpted from "Highways in Harmony" publication produced by Historic American Engineering Record (HAER), in cooperation with the National Park Foundation
Linn Cove Viaduct immersed in fall colors
The Linn Cove Viaduct is 1,243 feet long and is made up of 153 segments weighing 50 tons each.
Kristina Plaas photo
As the last piece of the Parkway to be completed, the Linn Cove Viaduct was a peak of Parkway engineering and environmental protection. Completed in 1983 at a cost of almost $10 million, the Linn Cove Viaduct is 1,243 feet long and contains 153 segments weighing 50 tons each. The American Society of Civil Engineers designated it a National Civil Engineering Landmark (Highways in Harmony). Visit the Linn Cove Viaduct (Milepost 304) to experience this engineering feat in person.

Establishing the Route

The exact route location of this segment, commonly referred to as the "missing link,” created a lengthy and heated controversy between private individuals and the National Park Service. Finally, North Carolina Governor Dan K. Moore negotiated a compromise location. A key factor in this controversy was environmental concern over Grandfather Mountain. Engineers were faced with a serious question: How do you build a road at an elevation of 4,100 feet without damaging one of the world's oldest mountains?

National Park Service landscape architects and Federal Highway Administration engineers agreed the road should be elevated, or bridged, where possible to eliminate massive cuts and fills. Figg and Muller Engineers, Inc. developed the bridge design and construction method. The result: the most complicated concrete bridge ever built, snaking around boulder-strewn Linn Cove in a sweeping "S" curve.
Black and white photo of Linn Cove Viaduct construction in 1979
Computer control kept Linn Cove Viaduct construction measurements accurate to 0.0001 feet.

Constructing with Care

In order to prevent environmental damage and to allow construction to continue during severe winter weather, builders pre-cast sections indoors a few miles from the site using a process known as "match casting." Each new segment was cast against the segment preceding it.

The viaduct itself was the only access road for construction. Each pre-cast section was lowered by a stiff-leg crane and epoxied into position against the preceding segment. Steel cables threaded through the segments secured the entire bridge deck.

The viaduct was constructed from the top down to minimize disturbance to the natural environment. This method eliminated the need for a "pioneer road" and heavy equipment on the ground. The only construction that occurred at ground level was the drilling of foundations for the seven permanent piers, on which the Viaduct rests. Exposed rock was covered to prevent staining from concrete, epoxy, or grout. Tinted with iron oxide, the concrete blends in with the existing rock outcroppings. The only trees cut were those directly beneath the superstructure.

Black and white historic photo of Linn Cove Viaduct construction
Out of 153 total segments, only one - the southernmost - is straight. The rest create a sweeping “S” curve around Grandfather Mountain.

Timeline of Completion

Although the Blue Ridge Parkway’s construction began in 1935, construction of the Linn Cove Viaduct was delayed until 1979, when Congress finally approved funding. In the meantime, other portions of the "missing link," most of them north of the Viaduct, were completed bit-by-bit between 1968 and 1987. In addition to 12 bridges, the 7.5 mile section includes a dozen parking overlooks and the 13.5 mile Tanawha Trail, stretching from Beacon Heights to Julian Price Park.

A ribbon-cutting dedication ceremony on September 11, 1987, heralded the completion of the Parkway and the end, too, of a narrow and crooked 14-mile detour around Grandfather Mountain via the Tonahlossee Trail (U.S. 221). The final section is not only a triumph of engineering and sensitivity to the environment; it is a joy to drive, safe but thrilling. Hugging the contours and Grandfather Mountain, the road gently curves and rolls, presenting motorists with magnificent views as it sweeps toward the sky.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

River House Inn & Restaurant

Located just 2 miles from Healing Springs is the River House Inn and Restaurant. Offering elegant, fine dining Wednesday through Sunday, River House is a culinary experience. 

The menu is small, as is the kitchen, and it changes daily to represent the freshest seasonally available products. River House offers a full service bar with a wide range of wines and beers, along with traditional and artisanal beverages. 

Dinner is served Wednesday through Sunday. Sundays typically offer live entertainment - known as the "Sunday Salon" starting at 4:00 pm, hors oeuvres and a 4-course Chef's choice dinner at 6:00 pm. Dinners are $45 per person excluding alcohol, tax and gratuity. Reservations are required. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

It's Fall Y'All!!

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year :) From stoking up a campfire to enjoy the crackling flames to relaxing and enjoying the spectacular colors of our surrounding mountains, there is something for everyone with Fall in the High Country. 

Colors start to change at the higher elevations first, so plan your leaf viewing accordingly! Late September to the beginning of October will see color changes in elevations that are 5,000 feet above sea level and higher. 

Grandfather Mountain with its' Mile High Swinging Bridge, located in Linville has breathtaking views, some great hiking, and a wonderful nature museum. 

The Blue Ridge Parkway is always a great choice for breathtaking vistas and a scenic drive through the Fall colors. It offers a variety of hiking trails and picnic spots. 

Linville Falls located at milepost 316.3 on the Blue Ridge Parkway is the perfect area for hiking, enjoying the scenic views and hiking to the stunning falls. The Falls have two different hiking trails. An easy trail leading to the upper Falls area and a more difficult trail leading to the larger lower Falls area. 

Kick off Fall in style with the Ashe County Museum of History - Autumn Leaf Festival - on Saturday, September 28th at the Museum. There will be historic demonstrations, children's activities, food, music, dancing and more! The Festival is free and open to everyone from 10 am to 2 pm.