A Trip To South Holston Lake

I spent the early part of my teenage years around South Holston Lake and I believe a little bit of that lake water still flows in my veins.

South Holston is a man-made lake created by the Tennessee Valley Authority for flood control and power generation. It is a serene lake buttressed by the Holston Mountain range to the East and some smaller hills on the Western edge. The beautiful rolling countryside of Southwest Virginia and upper East Tennessee create the tapestry into which this blue-green gem is woven.

We rode across the dam on a recent trip to South Holston and the crisp blue of a cloud punctuated sky and the greening of the mountains demanded that I make some photographs. Here is the result.

South_Holston_Lake_1_Blue_Ridge_Pilgrim South_Holston_Lake_2_Blue_Ridge_Pilgrim South_Holston_Lake_3_Blue_Ridge_Pilgrim South_Holston_Lake_4_Blue_Ridge_Pilgrim

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Good Morning!

Morning Glory One Morning Glory Two

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River Walk

I spent part of an afternoon at a small park along the French Broad River in Asheville, NC and made a short film about the couple of hours I was there.

Several other folks were also enjoying the warm November afternoon at the park.


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Strolling With the Queen

This is the time of year when Queen Ann  establishes her rule in pastures and by the country thoroughfares. Her dominance is evidenced not by ostentatious garb and bright finery but by a subdued wisp of lace.

Those in the kingdom of botanicals refer to her as “Daucus carota”, but us commoners will have none of that. Me thinks she would also find that title distasteful. Queen Ann’s Lace it is then.

So without further delay here are some images of ‘er Majesty’s presence:

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Welcoming the Autumn

Fall has arrived and with it the twice-yearly balance of day and night – 12 hours each. In the Blue Ridge the day occupies fewer hours because of the height of the surrounding mountains. Sunrise at 7 in the flatlands to the east could be anywhere from 8 to 9 by the time ol’ Sol summits the obscuring eastern peaks of these hills.

It’s comfortably cool now, the oppressive heat that drove us to the air-conditioned comfort of our houses and cars has drained from our valleys, replaced by early morning fog and mist. Long-sleeved shirts are plucked from summer storage and their spots now occupied by their short-sleeved brethren. Fine with me, I hate to sweat.

To mark this day I’ve found some Autumn quotes that I’ll share:

“Autumn days come quickly, like the running of a hound on the moor.” – Irish proverb

“Trees snapping and cracking in the autumn indicate dry weather.”

“If, in the fall of the leaves in October, many of them wither on the boughs and hang there, it betokens a frosty winter and much snow.”

“Spring rain damps;
 Autumn rain soaks.”

“Of autumn’s wine, now drink your fill; the frost’s on the pumpkin, and snow’s on the hill.”
- The Old Farmer’s Almanac, 1993

“Autumn has caught us in our summer wear.” – Philip Larkin, British poet (1922-1986)

Now I’ll savor the cooling breeze and the changing colors that herald frost and bare trees. The cycle abides.

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Sparks of Majesty

Sparks of Majesty

When we moved to the Asheville area twenty-some years ago I decided to build a fire pit by our small creek. As the yearly wood supply permits I will set campfires blazing over the course of the Spring, Summer and Fall.

Last evening I once again shouldered my responsibility as the “keeper of the flame” and gathered up my combustable materials to enhance the evening’s ambience (and also to promote the production of s’mores). With my supply of twigs, scraps of paper and dryer lint in hand I proceeded to build my small-scale towering inferno. Materials laid, match applied and in short order a fine starter fire was kindled to encourage the larger logs to throw in with the light and heat expo.

There is a soul-soothing harmony to the warm glow of the fire and the sounds of the blazing wood crackling, the flow of the creek and the intermittent call of a bird in our woods. As the twilight approached we impaled our marshmallows and set them browning while we laid a solid foundation of graham cracker and chocolate. Massive carbohydrate intake quickly ensued as the melting marshmallows were applied to the cracker base and were promptly disposed of.

The evening passed much too quickly, as all evenings wrapped in the companionship of friends and family invariably do. By the time darkness had fully invaded, our friends had returned to their home and my family had retired indoors. I’m a campfire addict and I’ll stay until the last ember is spent, ever-attempting to coax one more flame from the coals. The fire and I passed the next couple of hours in peace and solitude.

When the evenings festivities started the sky had been hidden by a light overspread of cloud. Not enough to threaten rain, but enough to obscure the revealing of the stars. The clouds accompanied my friends and family when they left and now the sky was clear, save for the typical summer’s eve mists in the Blue Ridge and a transient cumulus cloud or two.

Then I saw them. Sparks that sprang from the dying fire, sparks that lit the tails of the lightening bugs as they eased their way over the lawn and flew through the woods and the spark of stars that sprang from behind passing clouds. The physicist may ask how I can compare a spark from the fire to a star. The biologist may also question comparing the bio-electric glow of a firefly with the same star. As is all too often the case in human interaction with reality, it is a matter of perspective. The problem is that we measure the universe against ourselves rather than against the greater reality of itself.

Placed against the measuring line of eternity, even the billions-of-years life of a star is nothing but a spark. The 4 or 5 month twinkle of a firefly would be inconceivable to a fruit fly whose life span maxes out at a paltry twenty-four hours.

Or consider degrees of complexity. I am neither an astrophysicist nor a biologist,  and I wonder, is the physical intricacy of star’s burning greater than the biological involution of a firefly’s glowing tail? Greater mass for sure, but greater complexity? I can’t say with certainty, but I doubt it.

This night, however, such questions require far more cerebral neuron-firing than I care to engage in. I’ll enjoy the myriad twinkles of light and realize that every one of them are sparks of majesty from the Maker’s heart aflame.

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Campfire Fuel Resupply

I sent my 20 year-old chainsaw to the great forest in the sky this year. Poor thing ran for 10 seconds, died and never restarted. That’s been a problem for me recently because of untimely tree deaths and wind-falls on my property. My little bit of Blue Ridge has started to get cluttered and there was nothing I could do about it.

I started to revert to the “good-ole-days” and tried disposing of the mess with a small hand saw. I quickly realized, however, that this would be a life-long project and abandoned it.

In the nick of time good fortune happened by in the form of a cooperative-effort Father’s Day gift from my daughters and wife. He he, a new chainsaw! Freedom! Power! Danger!

For the next couple of days visitors might want to wait until after dark to come calling or they could come face-to-face with an adrenaline-saturated blind man wielding a sharpened chainsaw! Felled trees beware!


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Likin’ “Likes”

We’ve just announced a new Facebook “like” contest. Go to either http://www.facebook.com/pages/Blue-Ridge-Pilgrim/155384354520460 or http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bruce-Denton-Photography/227016243975693 and “like” either (or both) to be entered to win your choice of one 11×14 inch print. If someone recommends another FB friend and they win, I’ll award both a print! The contest ends 06/25/2011.  See the prints at http://brucedenton.com/galleries.php.


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The yearly reign of green receives its coronation in early April in the Blue Ridge, just in time to banish the tyranny of grey and brown. It starts with a tinge of color on the tips of the trees and in diminutive patches in the fields. Mid-April observes the advance of the populist desire for new life reflected in the influx of green and by the end of the month the revolution is complete.

I have two prophets in my yard that foretell the coming Spring, a forsythia and a flowering crabapple tree. Bright yellow and vivid pink strike a blow against the monotony of browns and greys, but yield their chromatic dominance to the yet tender but strengthening rule of green.

Now I can see the roof of my neighbor’s house through my woods, but in a few days that view will be obscured by the trees’ newly acquired leaf finery. And finery it is. Insects that will have ravaged those leaves by year’s end are still dormant or unhatched and have yet to feast on the new blades and fronds that garnish the mountains.

In April and May the colors are still vivid, the onslaught of humidity has not stolen the brightness and early fall dullness is months away. It is a rich time in the Blue Ridge and a season for the re-imagining of life.

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You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Isaiah 55:12 (NIV)

Ok, so when do trees clap? In the Blue Ridge they often clap in March. The sound of the wind rustling the leaves and conifer needles and flowing over branches gives the auditory sense of applause. In March that sound can be as standing ovation.

An ovation to laud what? It could be the demise of Winter or the arrival of Spring. This year I would wager it is for the fine prognosticating job Punxsutawney Phil did on February 2nd. No matter the reason, as I will accept all excuses, I agree and stand with the trees and clap along.

Rather than the muted oratory of the winter breeze in the bare trees on the Blue slopes, March brings the warming up of the mountain choirs. Bird song, insect activity and the “peepers” in my creek in this early Spring, all join in the crescendo of life that starts in March, fully arrives in April and sounds until October.

The sound and force of March winds can be fierce in these mountains. 20 odd years ago, when we lived in Boone, I had an MGB that was decapitated by the cutting tempests around the Ides. I woke up, looked out the window, and the fabric top of my car was completely gone, leaving only the frame. I searched diligently but never found it. Probably landed somewhere down in the Piedmont.

March is almost passed now and it’s winds are preparing to blow in the April showers. I applaud that as well.


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