Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tsali Mountain Biking Pictures

As promised...

Left Loop Trail cuts right through this old house...amazing the chimney is still standing after all these years.

Most of the trail is pretty tight single track with these pretty mountain laurel blooming on either side of you this time of the year. I also caught some whiffs of honeysuckle while flying by.

Single track for days!

The first half of Left Loop trail skirts Fontana Lake. That is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park you see across the way. This view reminded me how lucky I am to live in the most beautiful place in the world.

Pretty much my only view of Landon all day. I've gotta get back into biking shape!

A very welcome sight after 11+ miles...the Trailhead sign!

And a video of Landon on one of those great downhill stretches.


Mountain Biking at Tsali

I went mountain biking with my friend Landon yesterday at the world-famous Tsali trails. The Tsali (pronounced SAH-lee) area boasts some of the best single track in the world and people come from all over the country to ride these trails. They are located on Highway 28 between Bryson City and Robbinsville, NC.

We tackled the Left Loop trail, which is eleven miles of rolling singletrack that skirts Fontana lake. Most of the trail is pretty level with a few big climbs that pay off with wide open downhill areas. I hadn't been biking in a while so I was pretty slow, but it was a beautiful day and I got some great pictures so it was definitely worth it.

There is plenty of information available on the web about the Tsali area, here are some links:

Mountain Bike WNC - General information on the history of the area, directions and lodging options.

Tsali Horse and Bike Trail information - Run by Graham County locals with maps, Trail information and a schedule of which trails are open each day

Tsali Area Informational Brochure - PDF of the same map and information given out at the ranger station.

Hundreds other pages can be found just by typing Tsali into Google or your favorite search engine.

I'll post pictures and videos later this evening after I pull them off my camera.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Santeetlah Lake Fishing

I went fishing yesterday on Santeetlah Lake in Graham County with my Papaw (that's what we call our Grandfathers around here). We didn't catch anything and from talking to other folks out on the lake, nobody else was having any luck either. The general consensus was that the two nights of temperatures in the 30s has slowed down the fishing. Maybe they'll wake back up by the weekend. We were using crickets and redworms for bream, smallmouth or pike. However, we did run into some people who were having some luck catching smallmouth bass on plastic worms.

Santeetlah is a normally very productive lake in the middle of Graham County. From Robbinsville, there are several put ins, but if you take US 129 North out of town, you'll cross the lake twice and can follow the signs for the Cheoah Point put-in. This is a very popular lake with locals as well as visitors, as evidenced by the increasing number of lake houses...usually second or vacation homes. If you like camping, there are plenty of campsites available along the shore (first come, first served) or the campground at Cheoah point (reservations recommended, can be made here).

Maybe next time the fishing will be better...but always remember that a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

WNC Gardening

Well, this is year two for our attempt at backyard gardening. Last year was extremely successful...we are still eating on some of the frozen and canned corn and beans! Our little backyard garden has given us valuable experience growing our own vegetables as well as helped us to eat healthier, save money and know that we are doing our part to help the environment (since we aren't eating veggies shipped halfway around the world).

Growing up in the mountains, I always knew people that gardened. My grandparents all had gardens, as did other folks around the community. I helped out in small ways, from picking and preparing corn for freezing to picking and stringing beans to be canned. However, I never realized the satisfaction of putting seeds into the ground, caring for and nurturing those plants and then harvesting the fruits (or vegetables!) of your labor.

I also used to think that gardening was just for old folks. It seemed to me that people gardened because that's what they grew up doing and that's what they were used to. However, I am beginning to understand that those "old folks" understand the value of hard work - that your food tastes so much better when it's your own two hands that have picked it and brought it to the table. I'm also noticing that more young people are getting involved in gardening - whether because of the economy or the eat local movement, it's always nice to have people to share my experiences with.

Another benefit of having your own garden is that you get to control exactly what goes into and onto the food. You have been there from start to finish and have chosen which (if any) fertilizers, pesticides, etc to use. These "old folks" were organic before organic was cool! One day, we'll add to our family and being able to control what we eat will be so great.

Ok, so enough chit-chat, how about some advice? So far this year, I've put out potatoes, tomatoes, green beans, lettuce, corn, onions, cucumbers and zucchini. That may seem like a lot, but our four beds combined cover about 1200 square feet. This is about double what we had last year. I waited until there was no fear of frost to plant most of the crops (early May for our area) but you can start potatoes, onions and lettuce earlier (early April) since they are more hearty.

I have found that asking people for advice has been the most helpful, whether it was people at the local farming supply store, my grandparents, the local extension office or other farmers. For example, in North Carolina, you can call up your extension office and they'll either help you out or direct you to someone who can. I also like to spend time reading plenty of books. I found that the Guide to NC Vegetable Gardening has been the most helpful, but I also liked all the tips I found in Country Wisdom and Know-how.

If you're thinking about gardening, I say jump in and go for it! What's the worst that could happen? You kill a few plants? I'll try to post some pictures as our garden develops and later on in the fall some tips on canning and preserving. Who knows, this time next year we may have even moved on to livestock...Am wants goats!

Monday, May 11, 2009

An Appalachian Evening at Stecoah Valley Center

AN APPALACHIAN EVENING June 27 - August 29, 2009
An Appalachian Evening, the summer concert series, offers an ever-changing schedule of bluegrass, folk and old-time mountain music by award-winning artists. These shows provide quality entertainment for the entire family, and the historic Stecoah auditorium brings back memories of community gatherings in days gone by. Rich in cultural heritage, An Appalachian Evening continues to be a favorite with locals and visitors alike.

I highly recommend this concert series - my husband and I attended several concerts last year and we were never disappointed!

2009 Schedule:
• Balsam Range - 6/27 *They were awesome last year!!!
• Red Eye Ramblers - 7/4
• Josh Goforth - 7/11
• Appalachian Fire - 7/18
• Dismembered Tennesseans - 7/25
• Kruger Brothers - 8/1
• Doc Watson & David Holt - 8/8
• New Southern Ramblers - 8/15
• Wayne Henderson, Helen White & Jeff Little - 8/22
• High Windy Band - 8/29

You may also enjoy a very tasty Appalachian Dinner prior to the show. Dinner is served family style at two seatings — 5:00 and 6:15 pm and reservations are required. Snacks are also available in the main building.

For more information:
Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center
121 Schoolhouse Road Stecoah (Robbinsville), NC 28771
Ph 828.479.3364

NC Cooperative Extension Events

May 13 - Home Water Gardening
May 21 - Family Fun Night at Robbinsville Elementary School Cafeteria 6:00 - 8:00
May 26 - Basic Canning Class for Non-Acidic Foods $10 includes a Ball Blue Book
(canning bible of sorts) and one can of jelly to take home

May 26- How to Start a Food Business @ Stecoah Valley Center
May 28 - Eat Smart - Move More @ United Methodist Church at 5:00
June 11 - Basic Sewing - Make Your Own Apron

For more information, call 828.479.7979

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Nantahala River Fishing

This weekend, I finally got a chance to get out and do some much needed fishing. My friend Matt and I spent a rainy Saturday on Nantahala River in Macon County. We had originally planned to hike in to Snowbird creek, but the rain made us re-think and stay close to the truck.

Despite the rain, the fish were really biting. At this time of year, Nantahala is under delayed harvest rules - meaning only single-hook, artificial lures and all fish must be released. Because of the muddy water and overcast day, we each used a Rooster Tail spinner with a gold blade which worked really well.

The Nantahala is stocked with brook, rainbow and brown trout and we saw all three species yesterday. The river is also very popular because of its easy access and the number of fish. Fly-fishermen usually rule the area, but we saw lots of spinner fishermen yesterday because of the rain as well as a number of people fishing nymphs along the bottom.

Here are a few pictures from the day:

My first brook trout of the day. Matt had never caught one, but he eventually got his first brookie too!

A little rainbow.

View of the Nantahala during a break in the weather.

Pretty little feeder stream.

Biggest fish of the day - a brook about 9 or 10 inches long.