Black Mountain, and Lake James and Mt. Mitchell State Parks

Lake Tomahawk Park
Last fall, we traveled through North Carolina bound for Asheville, and planned a side trip for a festival in nearby Black Mountain.  The festival plans didn't work out, because tickets for the event were sold out.  But we spent several hours walking around the little town, talking with merchants, visiting local galleries, checking out the restaurants, and fell in love with it.  Earlier this year, as we tried to decide on our travel options for the coming months, we decided to rent a house in Black Mountain for 10 weeks.  This was a little scary for us.  We've traveled extensively, but never committed to an area for so long.  In the RV, we could always pack up and leave, once we had explored a region to our satisfaction.  Rarely have we made reservations, or planned a definitive route, unless the trip involved flights or commitments to meet up with others. 

Arriving in Black Mountain last week, we dug in for the long stay (okay, a long stay in our terms.) 
The town is surrounded by mountains.
Alan immediately met contacts, through The Red House Studios and Gallery, for plien air painting opportunities, and drawing classes.  Checking out the local gym, Cheshire Fitness, we found a well-equipped, clean facility, which offers not only the typical machines and weights, but also a heated pool, racquet ball courts, a hot tub and spa, so we joined.  Next, I found a connection for the Dr. John Wilson Community Garden.  While private plots are available (for $35/year) obviously we aren't going to be around long enough to take advantage of that, so I'll just be doing a little volunteer work.  Owners of plots donate 10% of their crop, but there are several hundred feet of donation-only gardens, tended by volunteers.  Produce is donated primarily to the the Bounty & Soul program, a local non-profit providing nutrition awareness and healthy food to individuals who may not have access to these resources.

The house we rented is a couple hundred feet from Lake Tomahawk Park, which also offers a level
Home for the next couple of months
walking trail around the Lake, a pool (not heated), tennis courts, croquet and golf.  During the summer, there are regular music programs along the Lake, but we've arrived too late to enjoy those.  On Saturday mornings, there is a Tailgate Fresh Produce Market about a half-mile walk from our home, which offers primarily organic vegetables.   While the availability of organic vegetables and grass-fed meats is not as extensive as we found in Maine, there are local resources, and we'll be checking those out further.

Lake James
Exploring for kayak locations, we scouted out the French Broad River in Asheville, but then drove out to Lake James State Park.  A 45-minute drive from Black Mountain, the Park offers 150 miles of shoreline, and 2 public boat launches.  The 6812-acre reservoir offers plentiful opportunities for boating, fishing and relaxing on the extensive beachfront at Paddy Creek.  Picnic tables and grills overlook the Lake, and numerous trails are also available through the Park.

View from top of Mt. Mitchell
Heading back to Black Mountain, we saw a sign for Mt. Mitchell State Park, and decided to check it out.  No distance had been indicated, and over an hour later, after a zig zagging mountainous drive, we arrived at the Park.  As the highest point east of the Mississippi, at 6684 feet, we didn't want to miss it.  One of the things we had not thought through was the fact that the temperature would be dropping substantially due to the change in elevation.  Weather had been in the low 80's at the start of the drive,  arriving at the parking area below the summit, our thermometer read 55 degrees.  Needless to say, we will be packing backup clothing in the car for future trips.  Walking up the final few hundred feet to the summit, we had gorgeous views of the surrounding area, that soon began to disappear as fog and clouds moved in over the mountain top.  Our timing had been perfect. 
View from deck at Mt. Mitchell restaurant
At the top
View along the drive
Clouds moving in
Hundreds of spruces and firs on the mountain are dying.  There deaths are caused by acid rain and clouds which surround the mountain 85% of the days.  Acid rain is caused by the combustion of fossil fuel.

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