Blog

The Magic of Little Switzerland and the Historic Orchard at Altapass

 Blue Ridge Mountains with Misty Skies from Wild Acres

Blue Ridge Mountains with Misty Skies from Wild Acres

Last week, I was fortunate to be able to attend a painting workshop at Wild Acres.  Of course I brought my camera along and stole away a few times to photograph.  This particular evening I watched the mist rise from the mountains and the clouds it was forming shape shift.  It really made me focus on the transience of our experience and how each moment is unique and not to be missed.

 Wild Acres Foggy Skies

Wild Acres Foggy Skies

The image above is in color from the same area in a slightly different direction.  There were too many clouds for a dramatic sunset, but there was a streak of pink across the sky.  How fortunate we were to spend time in this magical environment that was started by Thomas Dixon, the author of "The Clansman," which was made into the movie "The Birth of a Nation."  The proceeds from the movie were used to acquire this property, which Dixon hoped to turn into a cultural center until he lost everything including this land in the Great Depression.  I.D. Blumenthal ended up purchasing it at auction for a pittance and he and his brother restored the property, which was used by Ringling College of Art and Design for their summer residency program until 1946, when the Blumenthals began inviting series of groups. Here's a link to the colorful history of this amazing retreat center: http://www.wildacres.org/about/history.html

 Apple Orchard at Altapass at Dusk

Apple Orchard at Altapass at Dusk

One night I went to the Historic Apple Orchard at Altapass to see the old apple trees as the sun was setting.  It was a full moon a few days later, so that made it even more special.  In 2012, the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, a matching grant from Progress Energy, and contributions in memory of Eric L. Gressel, a long-time Orchard volunteer to the Altapass Foundation provided for the construction of a series of trails through the orchard.  There is a Guided Nature Walk that visitors can take.  

 Apple Trees in the 100 Year Old Orchard at Altapass

Apple Trees in the 100 Year Old Orchard at Altapass

The Holston Land Company, an arm of the Clinchfield Railroad, established this orchard 100 years ago on the top of the Eastern Continental Divide. In the 1930s, the Blue Ridge Parkway purchased a narrow strip of land through here, and today the remaining 2,500 trees produce 7,000 bushels of apples a year.  The 280-acre orchard was purchased by Katherine Trubey in 1995, but eventually the land above the Parkway was sold to the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation so it could be preserved in perpetuity. In addition to the orchard, there are wetlands and butterflies in this area.  Here's a link with information on the history of the orchard: https://www.altapassorchard.org/brochures/Trails_Brochure.pdf

 Dirt Road Through the Historic Orchard at Altapass

Dirt Road Through the Historic Orchard at Altapass

The sunset was magical to watch.  The clouds at one point resembled an animal jumping over the moon. 

 Clouds Over the Moon, the Orchard at Altapass

Clouds Over the Moon, the Orchard at Altapass

One of the last sights we saw was the moon framed by the tree branches.  I felt so grateful to be able to walk among these old trees that still bear fruit as nightfall descended.

 Full Moon through the Apple Tree Branches, the Historic Orchard at Altapass

Full Moon through the Apple Tree Branches, the Historic Orchard at Altapass