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A Saturday not like All the Rest

(This will also be a blog post not like all the rest....) A couple of Saturdays ago, before my teacherly duties began, Becka and I planned to go to the mountains for the day. But alas, I woke up during the night with a bug and instead spent the day in bed sleeping (and losing 3 pounds). 🙁 Yesterday we were finally able to get away, but not before doing several jobs we really wanted to do — washing the car and cleaning the garage. Becka has a post about our day also, called A day in the mountains. Reading both posts will give you a more complete picture of our day.

picture of crossing sign

When I first went out yesterday morning to go to Krispy Kreme to pick up and bring home "hot ones" for our breakfast, I discovered that we ought to find, buy, and put up a sign similar to the one on the right. Apparently when we pulled in or out of the driveway on Friday, one of us ran over a toad. Although I took a picture of it, I'll spare you having to see its flat little body.

After breakfast, while Becka vacuumed out the car and washed it, I attacked the garage. Even though we don't have a sign warning about toads crossing our driveway, we do have a sign in the garage, beside the door into our kitchen, warning guests about something they'll find in our house.

picture of cat sign

Our cat Adelaide is crazy, but she's not at all dangerous. It was just a fun sign we found many years ago at the Mast General Store, and guests have gotten a laugh from the sign through the years.

picture of black widow spider

I frequently spray the perimeter of the garage because a number of bugs and spiders make their way in from outdoors. Therefore, as I cleaned, I found quite a few dead beetles and other less identifiable, dried-up, dead insects and spiders. As I swept out the garage, I had to kill two black widow spiders and I destroyed their egg sacks! This is not the first time we have found and killed black widow spiders in our garage. I've put a picture on the right of a black widow spider. They (and also the toads) live in the stone drainage ditch that runs the length of the back of our lot. Here a couple of pictures of the ditch whose maintenance seems to be my part-time job.

picture of ditch

picture of ditch

In the bushes on the right in the second picture above, I found a writing spider (also known as an Orb Web Spinner — thanks, Joe). Here's a picture I snapped of it. It's just huge — from tip to tip of its legs is about two inches!

picture of writing spider

After our cleaning tasks were over, we left for lunch in Travelers Rest. Right across the street from the café where we had lunch sits Leopard Forest Coffee, a place I've been wanting to visit. So we checked it out while we were that close. Here's a picture of Leopard Forest Coffee.

picture of Leopard Forest

After lunch and a stop to buy apples near Hendersonville, NC, we headed up to get on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville. Becka shared a few pictures of what we saw, but here a several others. Everywhere you look, it's gorgeous. A few fall colors were already visible.

picture of Blue Ridge Parkway

picture of Blue Ridge Parkway

We saw what we think are mountain laurels with berries. Maybe one of you botanists can confirm if that's what this is. (Added March 29, 2010 — A plant-loving young man told me that the tree is probably mountain ash, not mountain laurel.)

picture of mountain laurel berries

We got off the Parkway at Highway 276 to head down the mountains towards Brevard, NC. We stopped to visit the Cradle of Forestry. Becka has some description and pictures of what we saw there in her post, but I'm going to show you the cool car we saw in the parking lot.

picture of MG

picture of MG

We hadn't planned enough time to do everything available at the Cradle of Forestry. We did the 1 mile hike and saw the buildings that had been part of the Biltmore Forest School — first official school for forestry in America. However, we didn't have time to take the 1.3 mile hike to see the other interesting stuff, including this steam locomotive.

picture of steam locomotive

We'll just have to do it all when we go there next with a grandchild or two in tow.

If you missed my post last year about our trip to that area, it tells some of the other great things to see and do there.

Have any of you tried out any of the places we love in Western North Carolina? I'd enjoy hearing about your impressions of them. Happy Labor Day! In honor of the holiday, we'll be laboring.


"In an age that idolizes novelty, we must not despise history." - Eric Newton

=^..^= =^..^=

Before they invented drawing boards, what did they go back to?

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13 Comments on “A Saturday not like All the Rest”

  1. #1 Dan Schaffner
    on Sep 6th, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    Yeah, I’m afraid I have some black widow spiders lurking around that I should deal with as well. I was going to post a picture on facebook of the garden spider (Argiope aurantia) we have living in our front yard with measurements as well.

  2. #2 Cindy
    on Sep 7th, 2009 at 6:00 am

    John just helped build a log home in Highlands, NC. He told me about going to sleep listening to the stream in the gorge just outside his window. I was jealous, but had to man the fort here. Veggies to can & freeze, fruits to jam, etc. I miss being able to get away to the Smokies every so often.

  3. #3 LeAnne Solt
    on Sep 7th, 2009 at 8:15 am

    My husband and I love to drive up to the Blue Ridge parkway and hike–we did it a lot while we were dating, though not so much the last couple of years. We’ll have to stop by the Cradle of Forestry now that I know a little more about it from your post.

    If you’ve never eaten at the Pisgah Inn, I highly recommend it. If you get on the parkway where it meets 276 and go right, it’s up the road just a few miles. Not too impressive-looking from the outside, but great food!

  4. #4 Michael
    on Sep 7th, 2009 at 9:02 am

    My wife and I were in the mountains on family as well. We joined extended family for picnic at the Carl Sandburg house in Flat Rock, NC and then headed to the Sky Top Apple Orchard. The place was like a beehive as people were gobbling up their favorite apple varieties. I think the place was especially busy because of the annual Apple Festival in nearby Hendersonville. We got a bushel of our favorite kind, Honey Crisp.

    We were hoping to get to that barbecue place you like behind the Wrinkled Egg store there in Flat Rock, but we’ll have to save that for another trip up there. We may try to go one more time before apple season is over.

  5. #5 Sharon B.
    on Sep 7th, 2009 at 9:07 am

    Glad to hear that you finally got to go on your trip!

    Was it Skytop orchard that you went to? Our family goes to that one, and we really enjoy it.

    Up here in PA, the fall colors are begining to be more obvious. The weather has cooled significantly as well. It never gets above house temperature anymore.

    I really enjoy the mountains too. In this part of PA, the roads are never flat. They’re always going up or down. I have made a game of looking for grade percentage signs. The highest I’ve seen so far is about 11%.

    Black widow spiders are a very common sight in our yard in SC too. They’re in the shed, in the garden, hiding in small holes in the mortar that holds the bricks together on our house, and lots of other places. I don’t know how many black widows I killed when I was making my little flower garden.

    Have fun teaching school this year!

  6. #6 Janel
    on Sep 7th, 2009 at 10:43 am

    We are regularly visited by writing spiders. We enjoy watching them “work” but appreciate it so much more when they do it somewhere besides the front door!

  7. #7 Brian Tojdowski
    on Sep 7th, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Those look like the mountain laurel my parents have in their backyard. I was just up at the Cradle of Forestry in July on train history day. There was a lecture on the logging railroad that went through there. Most of the road you drive on to get up there was once a railroad. They also hooked an air compressor and a couple whistles up to that engine. They were very loud next to the engine but a little haunting hearing them through the woods. I finished the day with a little easy hiking at Dupont State Forest (you should check it out) and watched the sunset at Caesar’s Head.

  8. #8 Rob
    on Sep 7th, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    @Dan You don’t live too far from us, so it’s not surprising that your yard has the same kinds of spiders that ours does. Who knows how many centuries their ancestors lived here before we humans invaded? 🙂

    @Cindy John’s description does sound very inviting. It reminds me of camping at Davidson River Campgrounds in the Pisgah National Forest. It’s great to sleep with the sound of the river nearby. Sounds like you’re quite the canner and preserver! Do you have a big garden or do you buy the produce?

    @LeAnne The Cradle of Forestry is an interesting place to visit for the history and the surroundings. We’ve actually eaten at the Pisgah Inn’s restaurant. In fact, we stopped there Saturday to look through their gift shop and hit their restroom before we drove down to the Cradle of Forestry. 🙂

    @Michael That amazing! We bought Honey Crisp apples at McAbee’s Fruit Stand. Someone recommended that variety to us, and we were eager to try them out. They’re great eating apples. I’ll have to let you know if a pie made from that variety is as good as we’ve been told it would be.

    @Sharon As you can see from my reply to Michael, we didn’t go to Skytop. We were avoiding Hendersonville as much as possible since this weekend is the apple festival. We made that mistake one other year and were trapped in non-moving traffic for w-a-y too long on a day we’d planned to do several of our favorite activities. Glad you’re enjoying the autumn up there in PA. I’m sure it will become only more beautiful … before the wintry weather moves in for months and months. 🙂

    @Janel I agree. I much prefer them to do their writing in the bushes at the lower end of our ditch than near the house.

    @Brian Thanks for the confirmation about the mountain laurel. Your day up there sounds like lots of fun. Thanks for the tip about the Dupont State Forest, which we will have to check out.

  9. #9 Carrie
    on Sep 8th, 2009 at 1:47 am

    We just drove through mountains too–including Mount McKinley. It was actually visible on the trip down! On the way back it was shrouded with clouds though. We took a wildlife viewing cruise down in Seward too, which was spectacular. And the Kenai peninsula is gorgeous! Y’all come on up to Alaska, but wait til spring–it’s cooling off already. . .

  10. #10 b.j.
    on Sep 9th, 2009 at 11:38 am

    YUM! Honey crisp apples! I miss them! I wish you could send some down. I can’t get any here! 😛 and… pie made with them is great!

    I never heard of those spiders as writing spiders, only garden spiders. I read somewhere that the zig-zag reflects ultra violet light the same way the center of a flower does, and that it attracts bugs that way. A wasp flew into one at our house. The wasp could easily have flown right out of the web, as it was so strong, but the spider was on that wasp, and had it wrapped up in less than a second! We couldn’t believe the speed of the spider. If we had blinked, we would have missed it. shudder! I am not that fond of those things, though I leave them be since they “pay rent” with getting rid of bugs.

  11. #11 Rachel
    on Sep 9th, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    Yech! Big, huge, freaky, poisonous spiders! I am never moving to South Carolina. How does your wife handle them?

    Sounds like a fun hike. =)

  12. #12 Rob
    on Sep 10th, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    @Rachel My wife is not too keen on the big spiders. South Carolina is not the only place you find them, though. 🙂

  13. #13 Marilyn Donnell
    on Sep 10th, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    Yep, did a quick Google and “writing spider” is what we call St. Andrew’s Cross spider here in Australia. I have never heard them referred to as writing spiders. Thanks for that. At a previous home we had a great number of them around the house and “trained” them to build their nests high up above where we would be walking. To do that I would go out early in the morning with hands raised above my head, walking around on the paths, etc. After three or four days of doing this to tear down the lower parts of the webs – Mrs SAC would get the picture and there were very few webs built down low enough for me to touch.

    The trees (are those red berries or flowers?) look more like sumac than laurel to me. I cannot find an up close photo of laurel in the autumn to compare with it.