The Great Smoky Mountains

So much beauty, so much to see and do…every season.


DSC03229Ripley's Aquarium




























The Largest Home in the United States

A day at Biltmore (actually two)

We have been twice. This first visit was in July during our Honey Moon the second was yesterday under threat of snow. It did, however, snow in the higher elevations, (see picture below – it is so beautiful to see the snow on the mountains) but we were snow free, both ways. I will included pictures from both visits, so you can see summer and winter on the grounds of this magnificent home.


Upcoming events:

  • Biltmore Blooms, March 19-May 26, 2016
  • Biltmore Concert Series, selected evenings in July – August, 2016
  • Christmas at Biltmore, November 4, 2016 to January 7, 2017
  • Candlelight Christmas Evenings, selected evenings during Christmas at Biltmore.

 In 1895, George W. Vanderbilt created and opened Biltmore as an escape from everyday life for family and friends in Ashville, NC with the assistance of Richard Morris Hunt, Architect and Frederick Law Olmsted, Landscape Architect. There are portraits of both men hanging in the second floor living hall by John Singer Sargent – Yep, Sargent, isn’t that cool? 

The many thousands of acres were purchased by Mr. Vanderbilt at a bargain rate as the loggers had completely clear cut all the forest.  Olmsted had quite a job because of the poor condition of the property.  He called it his last great achievement.

George and his wife Edith had one daughter, Cornelia, who married John Francis Amherst Cecil in 1924. The fourth generation of the Cecil family still own, operate and live on the now 8,000 acre Blue Ridge Mountain estate, but not in the big house.  In 1914 George Vanderbilt died of complications from an appendectomy.

The estate was opened to the public in 1930 in order to assist in the cost of maintaining it. It has since grown to have many gift shops, restaurants, hotels, historic gardens, trails, America’s most visited winery and an equine center, all open to the public.

 The first building was the Conservatory and it remains filled with the most exotic flowers and plants from all over the globe.  All their orchids were in bloom yesterday, so we captured far too many on our cameras.  Here are only a few 

The house and gardens are pristine and exquisitely beautiful beyond my vocabulary. It has 250 r00ms, a bowling green, large Billiard room, many sitting rooms, a grand pipe organ, a grand dining room with three large fire places, 33 guest rooms, over 43 bathrooms – a rarity in 1895 when many homes in America did not have a single indoor bathroom. The estate was furnished with custom made furniture and draperies along with furnishing and tapestries purchased from all over Europe. The library houses over 23,000 volumes. 

Now for the pictures.



These beautiful Caldera, Lake and Mountainous areas are exactly what I expected and nothing of what I expected. The Tetons are bold, young, beautiful and still growing (only 10,000 years old). They are covered in glaciers and surrounded by glacier created flats, rivers and lakes; created by the last three ice ages. Yellowstone is stationed on a vastly large caldera filled with lakes, rivers, water falls, geysers, hot springs, pools and other volcanic features. Both are home to many endangered and dangerous creatures. More on these two wonderful places in following blogs—much more.

This blog is for my love of the wild flowers, grasses and trees. Eighty percent of the trees covering this area are called Lodge Pole Pine. There are no hard woods except the occasional white barked Aspen; very occasional. These pines produce a cone whose seeds are glued in and will not product until burned, so the forest fires are their only hope for reproduction.  When we came over the mountain pass in early June with my granddaughter (from south Louisiana) she sat up, looking out the windshield and said, “Oh my God, I have never seen so many trees on one place in all my life!”.  It is awe inspiring (to use an much over used word, but true).

I have lived most of my life within a few miles for the Natchez Trace. It is a National Scenic Trail managed by the U.S. National Park Service. It runs from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. I mention this because the Park Service cuts the grass along the route and in some of the meadows. I am pleased to say that is not the cast here in these two National Parks (I am sure in the great wisdom of our park service there is a good reason for cutting this grass). However, I am here to tell you, grass left alone is beyond beautiful. It grows to two, plus feet tall and produces bowing grain heads. It is hard to look at the areas above ground level as we drive around because these parks are filled with these magnificent trees, grasses and an abundance of wild flowers. Some of these actually grow within a few feet of these marvelous and often passionate hot springs. I am sure they all have beautiful names and I can correctly or incorrectly identify them, but I am going to allow the pictures themselves to do all the talking from here on.

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