Bare Dark Sky Observatory Puts a Spotlight on Our Area

Big cities, bright lights, and towns that never sleep… All of these things have their place, but sometimes you just need to get away from all the hustle and bustle and see beauty in its most natural form. This is where the Mayland Earth to Sky Park & Bare Dark Sky Observatory comes in.

Operated by Mayland Community College, the Bare Dark Sky Observatory, also known as Blue Ridge Observatory and Sky Park, allows viewers to see the night sky as they’ve never seen it before; under the lens of an f/3.6 StarStructure Newtonian Telescope with a 34 inch mirror. This high-powered telescope allows visitors of the Bare Dark Sky Observatory to view stars, constellations, and the night sky at close range.

Open to the public, this observatory allows for visitors and locals alike to see 360 degree views of the spectacular night sky at an elevation of 2,736 feet. According to Mayland, Bare Dark Sky Observatory is the only southeastern Star Park certified by the International Dark Sky Association, which “advocates for the protection of the nighttime environment and dark night skies by educating policymakers and the public on the subject of night sky conservation and by promoting environmentally responsible outdoor lighting”. Not only are visitors and locals benefiting from this observatory, Astronomy students at Mayland Community College are getting a hands-on learning experience out of the classroom.

The Bare Dark Sky Observatory has been recognized on a national level by multiple media outlets, including CBS News, Blue Ridge Outdoors, and Go Camping America, just to name a few. In an article titled “4 Star Gazing Hot Spots in the Appalachian Mountains”, Blue Ridge Outdoors named the Bare Dark Sky Observatory one of the four hot spots. Blue Ridge Outdoors writes that the Bare Dark Sky Observatory is “the largest (Newtonian telescope) in the Southeast dedicated for public use”.

According to an article from CNN Travel titled “Dark Skies – 22 Best Places in the World to Stargaze”, Mayland’s Bare Dark Sky Observatory and Star Park came in at number 9 of 22, and was one of only 10 U.S. locations that made the list. According to the photographer listed in the article, Todd Bush, he says “Views of the Milky Way from this site are simply stunning. Future observers here will likely bask in its glow with the unaided eye”.

So what are you waiting for, go check out the Bare Dark Sky Observatory for yourself! The Mayland Earth to Sky Park and Bare Dark Sky Observatory has viewings one day per week for two hour blocks depending on sunset times. Tickets and reservations are available for purchase on the Mayland Community College website.

Mitchell County Chamber joins regional partners to create Neck of the Woods Trail recently featured by CNN

The Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce partnered with seven area county Chambers and organizations to create the Neck of the Woods Trail, a culinary trail featuring area farm to table restaurants, farmer’s markets, breweries and wineries.

“This was a great opportunity for us to work with our friends in the region to promote our wonderful local businesses in Mitchell County who feature local foods and culture,” said Patti Jensen, Executive Director of the Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce.  “Our hope is that this trail will be another tool in our efforts to market our beautiful area and our innovative businesses.”

A recent article by CNN Travel called the trail “One of the “World’s Most Enticing Food & Drink Trails”.  “We were excited to see the national coverage that was generated at the launch of the Neck of the Woods Trail and especially happy to see some of our own Mitchell County businesses highlighted in the article,” said Jensen.  We will have printed maps of the trail soon and will make these available to our visitors who stop in the Mitchell County Visitor Center.

From CNN Travel: North Carolina’s High Country is part of the eastern United States Appalachia region, an area known for its homemade jams, farmstead cheeses, fresh apple cakes, and sour corn.
These culinary offerings can be experienced along the Neck of the Woods flavor trail, a curated selection of everything from you-pick farms to cider houses, all with one thing in common: a passion for regional heritage.
There are nearly 100 businesses marked on Neck of the Woods’ interactive online map, each one color-coded to a particular category (eg. farm-to-table dining; vineyards & wineries), making it easy to create self-guided tours.
Highlights include stops like Spruce Pine’s Tin Shed at Soggy Bottom Farms, home to slow-roasted BBQ pork sandwiches and buttermilk, pecan, and berry-filled pies; and Mitchell’s Oak Moon Farm & Creamery, a micro-dairy specializing in small-batch, raw milk goat cheese.

 

Canada in Mitchell County. What?

A recent article in the Watauga Democrat shares what those in Mitchell County have known for centuries….there’s a little bit of Canada in Mitchell County…Roan Mountain to be specific.

“On Grandfather, Roan and Mitchell Mountains, a naturalist can be transported in time and place. On those high peaks, you can explore an Appalachia of long ago — one that is filled with evergreens and the smell of balsam.”

Watauga Democrat contributor Amy Renfranz writes “It would take a High Country-traveler 12 hours and two layovers to fly to New Brunswick in Canada. There, they would find a view that would look remarkably familiar. Renfranz  is a Certified Naturalist through the Yellowstone Association Institute and a Certified Environmental Educator in the state of North Carolina.

Range maps support this salient picture. A number of trees, shrubs and animals that live in Maine and Canada extend their range southward along the highest peaks of the Appalachian range.

The cause of this juxtaposition of north and south can be found in the climate books.”

Read all about the cool details of how you can stand on Roan Mountain and see similar surroundings and flora as if you were in Canada.  Again…we say, Roan Mountain North Carolina is a cool place!

http://www.wataugademocrat.com/mountaintimes/dear-naturalist-canada-in-north-carolina/article_8ab652ce-4d42-559e-a2a0-d88203de674e.html

 

Little Switzerland Featured As a Place You’ll Never Want to Leave

OnlyinYourState.com featured Little Switzerland, NC as a place you’ll never want to leave. “North Carolina is far from the Swiss Alps, but if you travel up the Blue Ridge Parkway, you’ll find a charming little village tucked away perched high in the mountains. With its sweeping vistas and views, this beautiful place feels like our very own version of Switzerland.”

The article features several Little Switzerland businesses including the Switzerland Inn and Skyline Inn.  The beautiful views, unique properties and delicious food options were highlighted in the article. There is no better time to visit Little Switzerland than during the Fall season when the foliage and the views are breathtaking. To read the full article click here.

 

 

 

The Secret Season is Upon Us

Our mountain air is turning crisp signaling that Fall is just around the corner, but September ushers in our secret season.  Why? Because the crowds haven’t arrived yet and our September visitors have our piece of heaven to themselves.  Check out these Top 10 Things to Enjoy During Our Secret Season.

1- The weather is perfect! Crisp mountain air but not too cold and crystal blue skies.  The days are still warm but the nights are a little cool, perfect for a mountain firepit complete with s’mores.

2- Early mountain apples.  Check out our local apple orchards for September’s early apples. You’ll find Golden Delicious, Grimes Golden, Stayman Winesap, Magnum Bonum, Rome Beauty and Virginia all coming in September. From sweet to tart, you will want to definitely take a basket of these home.

3-Great deals on lodging.  Between Labor and the Fall Leaflooker Season, you can find great discounts on lodging.  From hotels to mountain cabins and also campsites check out our local accommodations for some special deals.

4-Labor Day weekend is filled with special artists showings.  The calendar is packed with exhibits, special events and happenings in the arts community. Come enjoy a weekend touring the studios, galleries and exhibits.

5-Enjoy all of the gem mining without the crowds!  Check out each of the different gem mining options where you can pan for your birthstone, go in a real mine, take a mine tour, visit a museum and shop for beautiful jewelry.

6- The list doesn’t stop at just five things…check out our September Calendar of events for a packed itinerary of ideas for your visit during our Secret Season.

71st NC Rhododendron Festival June 16-17

Don’t Miss our mountain turning pink for the NC Rhododendron Festival this year! The 600 acres of Catawba Rhododendron atop Roan Mountain are poised to display their peak beauty during the Festival.

The two day event will feature a car show, crafts festival, 10K run, golf tournament, pageant and street dances.  Check out www.bakersville.com for all of the details and schedules!

Spruce Pine & The Masters: Over 40 years of history

www.themasters.com
by Sam Greenwood

There are 44 bunkers at Augusta National, each majestic and hazardous in its own right. The glistening sands look impossibly white, radiating in such a way that only nature could produce something so pristine.

Which is exactly what happened.

It’s called “Spruce Pine sand,” named for the mining district in Western North Carolina in which it’s found. It’s actually quartz, and it’s so pure that it prevents golf balls from burrowing into devious lies and has played a major role in computer technology.

The sand has filled these bunkers for the past 40 Masters, ever since Augusta National co-Founder Clifford Roberts was moved by its texture and how it contrasted beautifully with the emerald fairways and shimmering ponds of Augusta National.

 

Photo by: Sam Greenwood/Augusta National
Rory McIlroy hits from the fairway bunker on No. 2 during the final round of the 2011 Masters Tournament

 

“I’d rake it with my hand if I needed to,” said Jim “Bones” Mackay, the caddie for Phil Mickelson. “It fits the place so well. It brings out the green in the grass. It plays very, very well. You don’t hear about guys complaining about lies or balls getting away from them out of the bunkers.”

Of those 44 bunkers, 32 stand guard around greens and 12 are located in fairways. Nos. 3 and 7 have the most bunkers (five each) and No. 14 is the only hole without one. Whether they realize it from the tee or not, players face 10 holes in which they don’t have to worry about any fairway bunkers.

They are basically distributed evenly across the course. The first nine has 15 bunkers surrounding greens and nine in fairways; the second nine includes 17 at the greens and three in fairways.

“They give you certain holes you can aim for a bunker and still give yourself a good chance to get up and down for par or birdie,” said Zach Johnson, the 2007 Masters champion.

 “It’s very soft on top and has a firm base,” Johnson said of the sand. “You can’t necessarily spin it a ton, but it’s pure. What’s great about it is you have substantial high lips, but you won’t see a ball plug. Ever. It’ll hit the bank and go back to the middle of the bunker or go through it.”  

Those were Roberts’ thoughts, too, after he first saw the stunning white sand in the early 1970s, when it was being used at courses in  Western North Carolina. He liked its look and texture so much that he ordered truckloads of the sand delivered and installed in time for the 1975 Tournament.

“I’d rake it with my hand if I needed to.” – Caddie Bones Mackay

“On those greens, you have to be so precise,” said Mike Weir, who won the Masters in 2003. “The ball comes out a little slower. You have to be more aggressive with it. It’s very consistent sand. You have to get in there and get used to it, because it is a little different feel and requires a different touch.”

At first, the sand was viewed as a cheap waste product of feldspar, a valuable mineral extracted and used in making aluminum and ceramic products.

Scientists soon learned, though, that the sand was quartz, and an extremely pure version of it at that. Its makeup created a firm surface, and its pureness was such that Spruce Pine quartz is used in manufacturing semiconductors; computer chips throughout the world contain it. 

The sand often is identified with Augusta National, but the Club doesn’t hold the mineral rights and there’s no patent given for quartz.

“I’ve certainly heard people say, ‘Oh, this is Augusta-like sand,’ but I don’t think I’ve seen it somewhere else,” Mackay said.

Scott K. Brown/Augusta National
Lee Westwood on No. 10 during the second round of the 2011 Masters Tournament.

 

The huge fairway bunker at No. 10 is arguably Augusta National’s most recognizable and photographed. It’s almost 400 yards off the tee, at the bottom of the hole’s steep slope, and it used to protect a green that was moved back to its current position in 1937. If a player lands in there, he mishit or even shanked his second shot.

“There’s no way you should be in it,” said Johnson. “You really don’t want to hit that trap.”

Among the par-4 holes with bunkers players fear the most: the fairway bunker at No. 5; the back bunker at Nos. 7; and the fairway bunker at No. 18.

On the par 3s, the bunker behind the green at No. 12 leaves a player with a treacherous downhill shot while staring at Rae’s Creek in front of him; and both greenside bunkers at the long fourth hole.

“You basically don’t want to shortside yourself around any of the greens,” Weir said.

On the par 5s, the back bunker at No. 13, especially to a front hole location, is the one fraught with the most danger.

“The green is sloping away from you towards the creek, and like No. 12, you’re looking at the water,” Weir said.

Augusta National hasn’t significantly altered the layout of its strategically placed bunkers over the 79-year history of the Tournament.  However, in contrast, No. 9 initially had one big greenside bunker, then five of various sizes, then in the late 1940s it was restructured with three. Now, two are located greenside.

The 14th has been bunker-less since 1952; prior to that, the hole had just one, which was largely out of play near the tee. The 15th did not have a bunker until 1957, when, at the suggestion of Ben Hogan, one was put to the right of the green.

And in them all for the past 40 years, there has been sand so pure that players never complain about buried lies.

Spruce Pine’s Knife & Fork Restaurant Makes Our State Top 7 List

Our State Magazine is highlighting their Top 7 Farm to Table Restaurants in North Carolina and we weren’t surprised to see our own Knife & Fork Restaurant on the list. 

The folks at Our State Magazine say  “Some might scratch their heads at the existence of a farm-to-table restaurant in a town with just over 2,000 residents, but to chef Nate Allen, Knife and Fork’s location in Spruce Pine makes perfect sense. “We’re really in an agricultural promise land here,” Allen says. The restaurant’s proximity to so many of its farmers allows for an innovative menu that changes daily. Allen appreciates the creative opportunity that comes with using seasonal ingredients, and he enjoys showcasing the plants he uses in their entirety. “I get such beautiful products. I don’t want to chop them into little cubes,” he says. Try Knife and Fork’s regularly featured spicy kettle corn. Mixed with turnips sautéed with garlic and olive oil, this side dish has a nice bite to it.”

KNIFE AND FORK
61 Locust St., Spruce Pine • knifeandforknc.com • (828) 765-1511

Trout Season Opens April 1st in WNC

 

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will open Hatchery-Supported Trout Waters in 25 western counties at 7 a.m. on April 1. The season will run through Feb. 28, 2018.

While fishing on Hatchery-Supported Trout Waters, anglers can harvest a maximum of seven trout per day, with no minimum size limits or bait restrictions.

To give trout anglers opportunities to plan fishing trips in advance, the Commission has posted on its website a Hatchery-Supported Trout Waters stocking schedule that provides information on what weeks each water is being stocked. Anglers can search by county and by month. The agency also posts daily updates at noon for all waters stocked that day. Information can be searched by county, by month, or both.

Hatchery-Supported Trout Waters, marked by green-and-white signs, are stocked from March until August every year, depending on the individual stream. Many of these waters are stocked monthly, although some heavily fished waters are stocked more frequently. 

Commission personnel will stock nearly 916,000 trout in 2017 — 96 percent of which average 10 inches in length, with the other 4 percent exceeding 14 inches in length.

Stocked trout are produced primarily at two mountain region fish hatcheries operated by the Commission and are distributed along hatchery-supported streams where public access for fishing is available. While Hatchery-Supported Trout Waters are open to public fishing, many of those miles are privately owned so the Commission urges anglers to respect the property they’re fishing on and remember that landowners can take away access if they feel their property is being misused.  Anglers can help prevent the loss of public access to fishing by:

  • Respecting private property and landowners at all times;
  • Removing all trash and litter from fishing and parking areas;
  • Parking only in designated areas and leaving driveways open for traffic;
  • Closing and/or locking gates after use; and,
  • Reporting wildlife violations by calling 1-800-662-7137.

For a complete list of all Hatchery-Supported Trout Waters, as well as trout maps, weekly stocking schedule, and daily stocking updates on Hatchery-Supported Trout Waters, visit the Commission’s trout fishing page.

Looking for where to fish on public waters?  Would you love a map for each one?  Look no further! Click here to see all of the public mountain trout waters in Mitchell County! https://ncpaws.org/pmtws/TroutSearchResults.aspx