Lake Norman Fall Cruise (2016)

Boating season has no end.

This axiom was put to the test Saturday, October 22nd, when I boarded the Jolly Roger (a.k.a. my sister’s family’s boat; unofficially named) for a fall cruise around Lake Norman. It was a crisp 46 degrees sitting still…and we weren’t going to be sitting still.

Approximately twenty boats—a combination of Benningtons and Cobalts—participated in Lake Norman Marina’s annual fall foliage cruise, and we had the pleasure of being one of them.

During the cruise, we passed locales like Sherrills Ford, Monbo, Long Island, and Buffalo Shoals. Translated, we went up the lake, turned around before it got too shallow, and came back.

Here are a few photos I took that day. Enjoy!

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Boats lining up at Lake Norman Marina for the fall cruise: There were a few pops of color along the shoreline, but the day was more about enjoying the lake with other marina patrons.


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The shoreline tried, it really tried, to impress us with some fall foliage, but it was a bit early for full-on fall color.


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A view of the Marshall Steam Station from the lake.


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When we reached the halfway point of the cruise, my nephew in particular enjoyed watching the boats turn around and face us.


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Adults, kiddies and canines, too, enjoyed the cold but sunny day boat ride.


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I took quite a few photos of the furry seafarers in front of us. Judging by their able footing, they’ve cruised Lake Norman a time or two  before and were clearly enjoying their sunny day adventure.

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The cruise ended back at the marina with a cookout and a promise that next year, the cruise would be a week or two later in hopes of more colorful foliage. Green or brown, yellow or red, the cruise was very enjoyable and Lake Norman Marina could not have been a more gracious host.

..But the day didn’t end there for the Jolly Roger and its crew. We set out later that evening for a cruise up river, er lake, to a waterfront restaurant. On the return trip, the sunset was the cream on the top of a very good day.

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Autumn at The Umstead

It arrived last week.

Autumn.

Every October, I fret that the fall foliage will fail to impress here in central North Carolina. Then, as Thanksgiving draws near, the leaves do their thing and it is spectacular…and I remind myself to remind myself next year to hold my horses.

Saturday afternoon, I found myself at The Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary, North Carolina, for a late lunch with my older sister.

If you’re a fan of coffee, I recommend the Espresso Fizz. It was delish and went surprisingly well with the pickled fried chicken.

In case you need some convincing:

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The ice cubes were made of frozen coffee, and a dash of cinnamon gave the Espresso Fizz a pleasing punch of sweet-spicy flavor.

After lunch we took a walk around the hotel, which is always a treat. (I’ve written about the Umstead before.) Although this five star establishment is right off of Interstate 40, it’s tucked into a wooded haven.

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A view from inside the hotel hinted at the beauty awaiting outside.

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Gas fire pits and heaters make the back porch at Umstead attractive to guests nearly year-round.

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These roses were a reminder that it was actually 75 degrees on this particular Saturday in latish November.

Umstead’s lake, located at the rear of the 12-acre resort, is tranquil and offers walking trails and benches. This time of year, these amenities were encased in vibrant colors of autumn.

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Locals and visitors alike are fortunate to enjoy this lovely place, which U.S. News and World Report has ranked as #1 in Best North Carolina Hotels.

Fall, Leaves

Fall is transforming the piedmont foothills of North Carolina into a tapestry of orange and red and gold. Last weekend, I took a few photos of the foliage around the Charlotte, North Carolina, area while celebrating the close of my nephew’s cart racing season.

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The trees around the track were as colorful as the racing flags. — Mooresville, NC

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There were copses of color here and there on the shoreline of Lake Norman. — Denver, NC

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This was a lovely sight along NC Highway 16 in Maiden, NC. (The park-like setting is on/beside the property of Christian Tours.) A blue heron glided down and rested briefly on the bank shortly after I took this picture. I managed one disappointingly grainy photo before he disappeared.

Murray’s Mill in Catawba County boasted color, too. (I’ve written about this National Register Historic Site before.)

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Spotted leaves and a millstone behind Murray’s Mill. — Catawba, NC

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Rustic spots like this one along Balls Creek at Murray’s Mill are popular places for family photos. — Catawba, NC

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Repurposing at its best: A skid-turned-swing along the bank at Murrays Mill. — Catawba, NC

Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.

— Emily Brontë, “Fall, leaves, fall,” lines 3-4

Summer’s Lease

It’s September already, and to quote Shakespeare, “Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.” I don’t know about you (or should I say, “I knoweth not what thou thinkest”), but I’m looking forward to autumn—”when yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang”.[1]

Although I didn’t venture too many places this summer, I did have a few new experiences and even discovered a different perspective on the familiar.

North Carolina Botanical Garden
Tucked into a corner of this free public garden, which is operated by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is a large and diverse collection of colorful carnivorous plants. It’s worth a look:

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Three hybrid pitcher plants at the North Carolina Botanical Garden. — Chapel Hill

Not far from these native bog plants is the Poison Garden. I don’t know how I missed this area all the other times I visited! I was enthralled—from sinister garden gate to the beguiling mountain laurel.

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The gate leading to the Poison Plant garden provides an artful warning of what lies ahead. — NC Botanical Garden (Chapel Hill, NC)

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Every part of the striking mountain laurel is poisonous–from leaf and bloom to the drops of honey it produces. If eaten, it causes nausea, stomach pain, difficulty breathing, loss of coordination, paralysis, and sometimes death. Ironically, mountain laurel can also be used in ointment to treat skin disorders. — NC Botanical Garden (Chapel Hill, NC)

Kart Track
I spent a bit of time at a sprint karting track. Rest assured, I was not behind the wheel. Rather, there were seven and eight-year-olds behind the wheel, my nephew included. That may sound a bit astonishing, to say the least. On the one hand, they were just kids—children who flung their arms around one another in greeting and who navigated the garage area on scooters between practice sessions, qualifying, and racing. On the other hand, they were focused little racers once their kart wheels rolled onto the asphalt. My nephew enjoys racing over any other sport—but maybe not as much as he loves Legos.

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Looking past the “boogity, boogity, boogity” and checkered flag, one can appreciate the uniqueness of a racetrack –it’s there at every track if one is curious to look. For instance, Victory Lane’s three-tiered stand at the aforementioned track is material (block curbs) salvaged from a former venue in Italy, the historic Kartdromo Parma track.

Duke Gardens
This place never gets old, but I discovered it in a whole new way a few months ago—in the evening, just before sunset. As the day winds to a close, a quiet falls over the Gardens and the colors of the sky reach down and paint areas such as the Garden Pond, Perennial Allee, and Blomquist Pavilion in tempered light and shades of gold that heighten their beauty.

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The Moss Garden at Duke Gardens looks particularly charming in the fading sunlight. — Durham, NC

Duke Gardens is open until dusk, and many people take advantage of this for evening strolls, romantic rendezvous, picnics on the lawn, or solitary contemplation. I’ve also seen more numerous and varied kinds of wildlife at this time of day.

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A sunflower makes its final bow in the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden. — Duke Gardens; Durham, NC

Perhaps you’ve been to these or similar places as well, or might like to put them on your list of things to do. The lease on summer may be coming to an end, but autumn in North Carolina and many other places is amenable to outdoor pastimes. Enjoy your autumn.


[1] Shakespeare’s Sonnets 18 & 73