02 November, 2015

Thirty-three (and a Third?) An Anniversary and a Trip

October 23, 1982 was a cool, windy day in Elberton, Georgia (my hometown) when Dennis and I got married.  The next day was also cool, but with bright sunshine, when we had our reception in Athens, Georgia where I had lived since starting university there in 1972.  We celebrated our 33rd anniversary in South Englishtown, Belize a couple of weeks ago.  Aside from wanting to throttle each other from time to time, we have had a great marriage cemented by our shared passions in natural history, similar political views, and our goal (now achieved!) of living in Belize.  We prepared a simple but elegant meal to celebrate - salad of golden sweet pepper strips, lobster and mushroom Alfredo, and apricot tart accompanied by a French sparkling wine.  The apricot tart turned out fantastic and will definitely be added to my rotating repertoire of desserts.
Anniversary Tart
A few days later I flew to Asheville, North Carolina, to visit my brother for 10 days and help him out after particularly extensive shoulder surgery.  Poor guy has to keep his arm in a bumper sling secured to his torso 24 hours a day for at least 8 weeks and is not allowed to drive for that time and perhaps longer depending on his progress.  My oldest sister had been here earlier.  He is doing well, but 8 weeks is a long time!  When I leave he will have 2 more weeks to go.

Asheville is in the Appalachian Mountains and is situated right next to the Blue Ridge Parkway that winds its scenic way through the Blue Ridge National Park.  My arrival coincided with the peak of the autumn leaf color, which was at least a week late this year, so unintended good timing for me.  Fortunately, my brother is feeling well enough for long outings and walks.  On Thursday, a cloudy, misty day, we walked through the Botanical Gardens of Asheville.  I got some photos of the great fall colors, mushrooms, and other features in the garden.

Evidence of intense geologic activity in the past.  The Appalachian Mountains are quite ancient.
There were plenty of large fly agaric Amanita muscaria mushrooms, all growing under hemlock trees.
This unopened mushroom cap is the size of a baseball.
The grounds are a mix of landscaped and natural areas.  The landscaped areas feature native plants for the most part.
More Fly Agaric in various stages of maturing.
These particular ones are not the bright red that you often see.
The next day, Friday, was a beautiful sunny day so we decided to do some sightseeing and leaf peeping along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We packed a picnic lunch for a long day out.  Our first stop was at the Lake Powhatan area.  We saw more mushrooms, including these Coprinus sp., on the walk to the lake.
A whole field of Coprinus.
They were pristine.
Lake Powhatan is at a lower altitude than our final destination.
Wheel chair-access fishing dock.
Shadow self-portrait with brother.
The hike around the lake was gorgeous.
Bright red holly berries.
Colorful leaves at lakeside.
View of the beach area on the far side.
A surprise find was the mushroom Panellus stypticus, the mushroom I worked on for my PhD research.
Panellus grows on dead wood, usually hardwood.
The cool thing about Panellus is that it glows in the dark.  It is not terribly bright like some of the bioluminescent mushrooms in the tropics, but you can see a nice glow from the underside of the mushroom caps if you let your eyes dark-adapt.
Blue sky makes for great shots.
The reds were luminous.
Old beaver dam across the lake.
This scene is looking from the parking area across the parkway.
 We drove through some areas that were essentially tunnels of color.
Mountainsides of color.
Conditions were perfect for autumn colors; the rain of the previous day had cleared the air so visibility was terrific.

Stunning from all directions.
 Sourwood trees have the most intense ruby-red color.
Sourwood trees still holding on to their seeds.
Mt. Pisgah with its distinctive tower in the distance.  That is the direction we are heading, although we won't go to the top.
Hornets' nest next to the roadway.
More Amanita muscaria growing in the ditch next to the parkway.

One of the largest specimens I have ever seen.
Sourwood seeds on leafless tree.  This is at a higher altitude than the previous shot and the trees have shed more leaves here.
Love those reds, golds, and greens.
Our picnic area near Mt. Pisgah.  Another lucky thing for us was that it was Friday and not many people were around. 
We had the place almost to ourselves.
Closer to the top of Mt. Pisgah.
The city of Asheville is visible in the distant valley to the left.
Closer yet to Mt. Pisgah.
Another of Asheville in the distance.  Some of the trees at this altitude are bare.
Cold Mountain.
We hiked a bit on a trail that led to the site of a former hunting cabin owned by the Vanderbilts.  Back in the day, the only way to get here was on horseback.  It is a beautiful site.  The property was donated to the National Park Service in lieu of inheritance taxes.
remains of stairs leading to the site of the cabin.
Retaining walls are still standing.
Another view of the retaining walls and stairs.  The Park Service provides benches throughout the park.
Not sure what this.  It is a little removed from the site of the hunting cabin.  Maybe a cold cellar?
 We drove on up to the Pisgah Inn and Restaurant, also run by the Park Service.  A few more people were there and the Inn is usually filled to capacity this time of year.  This was as high as we went on the Parkway - close to 5000 ft, but we spent plenty of time taking in the views before we left.  The summit of Mt. Pisgah is ~5800ft.

Hard to get enough of these views.


  1. Absolutely beautiful; one of my favourite areas in the US!

    1. It is a gorgeous location any time of year and this autumn was spectacular.

  2. Wilma,
    What a stunning place and captured beautifully by your photos. It is also an area that has some truly great country music.

    1. Thanks, Derek. I was so pleased to be there when the leaves were at their magnificent best. Some great music does come from that area - country, folk, bluegrass, indie.

  3. Stunning scenery and beautifully captured in your photos.

    1. It is overwhelmingly beautiful there. First time I have seen autumn colors in 3 years!

  4. What amazing colour there is in that beautiful landscape Wilma.
    Happy Anniversary - that apricot tart sounds wonderful - any chance of a recipe?
    Hope your brother continues to do well.

    1. Thank you, Weaver. I'll post the recipe for the tart when I get back home in a couple of days. My brother is doing quite well; he made good progress while I was visiting. I will pass along your thoughts to him.

  5. Belated Congrats on the anniversary Wilma.
    Absolutely beautiful autumn scenes.
    We are at 45 years, not so much throttling by then.{:))

    1. So there's still hope for us? ;-) Glad you like the photos, Roy. Cheers!


Blog Readers -- your comments are invited. I would love to hear from you.