Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Smokies - North Carolina and Tennessee

This was my first visit to the Great Smoky Mountains, a sub-range of the Appalachians, and it was a bit of a different experience for me this time.  I am used to the high mountain valleys and open meadows of Montana and here was more of a gentle rolling of hills shrouded in dense woods.  Looking back on stories and books that I read growing up about the difficulties the frontiers and pioneers faced on their west bound trip, I know understand that it was not the mountains causing issues, it was all the trees!  Making the drive west from Asheville, North Carolina, we were hoping to find a few good trails out into the middle of nowhere and setting up camp for a night.  No such Luck!   

For the trails that we did venture on, they led us to trickling streams with small tumbling waterfalls or some "high point" look-outs.  There is a unique beauty to this area though, the humid haze gives an interesting transition of layers from deep greens into various shades of blue, most likely where these mountains acquired their namesake - The Smokies.

Bits & Pieces of Asheville - Asheville, North Carolina

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Blue Ridge Butterflies - Western North Carolina

Basilica of Saint Lawrence - Asheville, North Carolina

On this weekend trip, our objective was to one, leave Augusta and two, explore.  Little did I know what this mountain city held in store for me!  I was thoroughly impressed by the largest private home on the Biltmore Estate, but to also stand underneath the largest freestanding elliptical dome in North America was a welcomed bonus!  Reading up on the basilica, I learned that this was the last building to be designed by Raphael Guastavino, Sr.  Some of his notable works include the Grand Central Station of New York City, the Great Hall of Ellis Island, and hundreds of others.  Finished by his son of the same name in 1909, the senior Guastavino remains forever in the crypts below this Spanish Renaissance masterpiece in the heart of Asheville as his final resting place.

Passing through the doors, I entered into the massive interior of the dome under it's span of 58 by 82 feet, adorned with stained glass windows, Italian-made statues of Christian Saints, and handcarved wooden ornaments and reliefs.