Archive | River

The Lowdown on Summer Farmers Markets

Summer Farmers Market Display

Spring farmers tailgate markets in Asheville are full of promise: Vendors offer up plant starts to, well, start our home gardens, and they bring a trickle of veggies—from scallions to leafy greens—as weather permits. Summer markets are the promise delivered: They’re filled to the brim with more and more sellers, and farmers’ tables literally spill over with just-harvested bounty. It’s a produce peak you don’t want to miss.

A Taste of Tailgates

With summer officially underway, you can shop for seasonal fruits like blackberries, blueberries, and peaches. Load up on summer squash of all kinds, from crookneck to zucchini. Although the hot months are known for tomatoes, they’re also a brilliant time for beans: green ones, yellow ones, purple ones, long ones, really long ones, flat ones, ones for eating pod and all, ones for shelling, ones for drying, and the list goes on.

Speaking of ‘maters, small quantities can be found from select vendors now, and more are certainly on the way. In fact, a downright deluge of heirlooms isn’t far off. Of course, that’s not all: Also look for new potatoes, carrots, celery, cucumbers, garlic, herbs, mushrooms, peppers, and so much more. If you’re craving it or need it for a recipe, Asheville’s tailgate markets have got it now.

Stay up-to-date about what’s fresh each week via ASAP’s community site fromhere.org; you can even sign up for their emails and get the updates sent right to your inbox.

Local Food News

Have you heard? After three-and-a-half years in the parking lot of the Asheville Chamber of Commerce, Montford Farmers Market has moved to the RAD, specifically the All Souls Pizza lot at 175 Clingman Avenue. The market is still every Wednesday, and hours remain 2-6 pm. The name, however, has changed (fittingly!) to River Arts District Farmers Market. Mark your calendars for their on-site Grand Opening Celebration, July 9 from 2 until 10 pm.

There’s also news out of Asheville City Market, which sits just on the edge of the river corridor at 161 South Charlotte Street. They’ve launched their City Market Shopper Program. Sign up, and a membership card grants you access to market specials and prizes.

Location, Location, Location

The RAD is also home to the super-new Pink Dog Tailgate Market at 342 Depot Street, which aims to bring farm-fresh food to the area as well as sell art from the district’s working artists. If you want to shop close to the river, be sure to visit West Asheville Tailgate Market, which is a stone’s throw from the RAD at 718 Haywood Road.

For a complete list of WNC farmers markets, visit ASAP’s online Local Food Guide. And be sure to browse our guide to locations other than tailgates offering food, drink, and fun!

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Shake Rattle and Dive

Female belted kingfisher with dinner - Teddy Llovet photo

Female belted kingfisher with dinner – Teddy Llovet photo

Often it is the loud, dry, rattling call of the belted kingfisher that alerts the paddler to its presence. This noisy fisherman calls in flight as it patrols up and down the river searching for prey. The belted kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon, is one of three kingfishers found in North America. The other two barely make it to the southern U.S. The ringed kingfisher, which is larger is sometimes found as far north as south Texas and the green kingfisher, which is much smaller can be found in south Texas and occasionally Arizona.

Once you get the silhouette of this chunky, big-headed bird with the heavy bill and raggedy crest dialed in, you will be able to pick it out perched on tree limbs, snags, power lines – basically any suitable perch on or near the water where it can watch for its prey below. The belted kingfisher feeds on amphibians and crustaceans as well as fishes. It likes to perch over water where it can simply plummet headfirst into the water to take unsuspecting prey. It does, also hunt on the wing – stopping to hover before diving for prey.

Male belted kingfisher - note the single blue band across the breast - USFWS photo

Male belted kingfisher – note the single blue band across the breast – USFWS photo

The belted kingfisher is a stocky bird about the size of a male Cooper’s hawk (14 inches in length.) it is one of the few birds where the female is actually more colorful than the male. The head and back of both sexes is slate blue and the feathers are black tipped with small white dots. Both sexes have a blue band across the breast and white underparts. The female has a second chestnut-colored band across its belly that extends down the flanks. This second stripe is thought to help camouflage the female when she is on or at the nest. The nest is a burrow dug into an exposed bank on or near the water’s edge. Males and females both help excavate the nesting site, which can be up to eight feet long. The burrow tilts up at the back end where the eggs are.

Belted kingfishers nest from the southern U.S. to Canada and Alaska. They are obligate migrants – meaning they move southward in the winter as water sources freeze. They can overwinter as far south as Central America and northern South America. Birds that nest far enough south to have open water in the winter are generally year round residents. Whether in migration or just post nesting dispersal, belted kingfishers do tend to wander. They have been recorded from the Galapagos Islands, British Isles, Greenland, Hawaii and other places far and wide across the globe.

The oldest known fossil of a kingfisher is from Alachua County Florida and dates back 2 million years. Fossils of the belted kingfisher as we know it, dating back to the Pleistocene (600,000 years ago) have been discovered in Tennessee, Virginia, Florida and Texas.

The belted kingfisher is a year round resident along the French Broad. And while it is likely more common and more active during the summer nesting season don’t be surprised, should you take advantage of some winter high water, to be greeted by its garrulous call.

 

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Take Me to the River

bridgeAsheville is a runner’s paradise: Cool summers, moderate winters, never-ending trails and convenient urban routes provide a ‘no excuse’ running environment. The area boasts a number of intriguing runs along our local rivers and streams. Here are a few local favorites riverbank runs.

Connect Asheville!

The parks and greenway along the French Broad offer one of the most accessible river runs in Asheville. On any given day, hundreds of runners, cyclists and walkers utilize the riverbanks and paved greenway.

Local runner and marathoner Uta Brandstatter enjoys running along the greenway and Carrier Park. “I like the convenience: car-free and ‘flat’ terrain,” she says. Brandstatter, also a hospice nurse, has run several marathons, including the 2013 Boston Marathon. Finding long stretches of level ground in Asheville can be challenging, another reason she likes this run. “A few years ago, I often ran on the greenway and Carrier Park during my 18-mile training runs for a coastal marathon.” Brandstatter combined the park and greenway with a run on the river road (Riverside Dr./Lyman St.) to extend her mileage. Another park bonus she pointed out, “Seeing other active people running and biking there is motivating for me!”

But you don’t have to be a long-distance runner to enjoy this run in the park. There are several options and distances for all levels. Choose from multiple loops or figure-8’s in Carrier Park to an out-and-back, park-to-park 6-mile stretch from the French Broad River Park to Hominy Creek Park parking lot. Water fountains and restrooms are available at the French Broad River Park and Carrier Park.

Swannanoa River Romp

A charming route, this run begins and ends at Buncombe County’s Charles D. Owen Park. Start with a 1-mile warm up around the park’s two lakes. A grassy trailhead at the western end of the park leads to Warren Wilson’s River Trail that straddles the river and college farm.

The trail hugs the banks of the Swannanoa river for nearly 2.75 miles and provides a gentle out-and-back course. Turn around at Old Farm School Road. Route highlights include rolling farmland, a 40’ rock outcrop overlooking the river and several deep-plunge pools. The trail is well-groomed but keep your eyes out for roots and rocks. Of course, respect the college’s trail rules and regulations (posted at the trailhead), which require dogs be leashed.

Sneak Route Along Bent Creek

Those who know me well know that I’m pretty thrifty. Paying for an entrance fee to run trails just isn’t in my DNA, especially with all the free options in WNC! I love the NC Arboretum, and I’ve supported them from the very beginning. But when it comes to running there, I take advantage of their free entry policy for walkers, cyclists and runners (first Tuesdays of each month are free for motorists, too).

Park at the Bent Creek River Park parking lot off Hwy. 191 and walk under the bridge along the M-T-S connector trail built years ago by a local Eagle Scout. Cross over the Blue Ridge Parkway entrance ramp and enter the gates. Past the gatehouse, take a left onto Hard Times F.S. Road and cross Bent Creek, then take a right on the wood chip trail that runs upstream along the creek and intersects with Bent Creek Road (gravel).

To keep it simple, stay on Bent Creek and continue along the stream until you reach the Arboretum’s boundary. Continue through the self-closing gate and enter Pisgah National Forest. When you reach the intersection of Hard Times, continue straight for a scenic ¾ mile loop around Lake Powhatan. The trail snakes along the lake and beach area before it enters into a rhododendron-laced natural tunnel that leads to the dam. Downstream approximately ¼ mile, the trail returns back to Hard Times Road/Bent Creek Road intersection. The entire out-and-back ‘lollypop’ route covers a shade over 5 miles.

What are you waiting for? Grab one of your pals or four-legged friends and add one of these river excursions to your running repertoire.

River run tip ~ Pack a towel and a change of clothes. After the run, treat yourself to a dip in the stream or river. Some say cool water stimulates the body and boosts recovery after exercising. Try it, you’ll like it!

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A Summer of Music By the River

 

RiverMusic

Tonight’s the night: the kickoff of RiverMusic, a free summer concert series set against the backdrop of our French Broad. The event, entering its third year, is hosted by local nonprofit RiverLink. The organization works tirelessly to revitalize the river and bring people to its banks and waters to live, work, and play.

Of course, RiverMusic is about the latter. Not only does it feature live entertainment from well-known national and local acts, but it also offers countless food trucks and beer merchants hawking delicious drinks and dishes. New this year, vendors will work together to create food/beer pairings.

To get the full scoop, I caught up with RiverLink’s Dave Russell as he was preparing for opening night.

MC: Why did RiverLink begin the concert series? Why music?!
DR:
RiverMusic is staged to get folks down to enjoy the splendor of the French Broad River and discover the River Arts District. For years, neither the river nor the district were destinations for anyone, and we’re hoping to change that. It’s also a fundraiser to assist us in working for more parks and green space in our community. We chose music because nothing gets Asheville out more than beer, fresh air, and music.

MC: You encourage folks not to drive to the concerts, since parking is limited. What will you have set up for cyclists and river rats?
DR: We’ll have Asheville on Bikes for bike storage. Folks can put in at Bent Creek, Asheville Outdoor Center, Carrier Park, French Broad River Park, or Hominy Creek Park and float down to the venue if they want. Our river access consists of a set of stairs down to the water that allows folks to easily get their boats up to the event. We don’t have any special infrastructure for storing boats and tubes, but we can always find a spot for them.

MC: Seen any unexpected alternative modes of transportation over the years?
DR:
At our very first concert, a man galloped up on a horse!

MC: What’s the feeling you hope folks leave each event with about the French Broad?
DR: We want folks to leave feeling like the setting was perfect, the entertainment great, and that the river is a place they want to return to. We want them to come back not only for the concerts, but to tube and canoe and fish and to spend time in the River Arts District perusing the awesome studios.

Must-Know Info

Who/What: RiverLink’s RiverMusic free concert series
When: Kickoff is Friday, May 30, 5-10 pm featuring headliners Orgone, with additional dates through September; click for a full lineup of musical acts, two of which have river in their band name!
Where: At RiverLink Sculpture and Performance Plaza in the River Arts District
How: Entrance to the event is free, but bring money for refreshments; click for details about parking, pets, and more

Read another Asheville Pocket Guide blog post about the River Arts District.

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Dinosaurs on the River

Great Blue Heron Burg Ransom photo

Great Blue Heron Burg Ransom photo

The early morning sun is a fuzzy red ball in the dense fog. It’s hard to tell where the fog stops and the water starts. Your eyes strain to pick out the next rock or riffle before you’re upon it. The boat glides silently on the water; the only sound is the water dripping off your paddle as you scan the river.

Gggrrrruuuaaannnkkk! The bellow shatters the silence, followed by loud splashes, then the rhythmic thuds of large wings in the foggy abyss; a dark shadow approaches in the fog. The archaeopteryx – oh, wait, that can’t be an archaeopteryx – it’s much too large! It can only be one thing – a great blue heron.

This modern-day avian dinosaur, which can reach a height of four feet, is more than twice as large as its eons-old ancestor the archaeopteryx and in flight the great blue might evoke images of that other flying lizard the pterodactyl, with it’s slow deep wingbeats, long trailing legs and it’s big-headed appearance. The heron gets that exaggerated head look because it flies with its head close to its body, its long neck curved “S” like. Cranes, on the other hand fly with their necks extended.

This large blue-gray wader with its black and white head can frequently be seen stalking the shallow waters of the French Broad looking for prey. Prey could be anything from frogs, to insects, to small mammals and/or reptiles to fish. The heron has a long, strong, sharp beak. It will grab smaller prey in its mandibles but it often uses its spear-like beak to impale larger fish. Great blue herons nest in the area and can be see year round on the French Broad.

Green Heron Burg Ransom photo

Green Heron Burg Ransom photo

Its smaller cousin, the green heron, may be seen along the French Broad from late spring till early fall. Green herons nest in the region but they overwinter from South Florida all the way to northern South America. This crow-sized little heron might, if stretched, reach two feet tall. The adult’s back is a rich teal color and its neck and face are a rich chestnut – the throat is white and it has a dark cap.

The green heron, formerly “little green heron” is also known by a couple of descriptive colloquial names, both related to calls. Skeow is one and relates to its loud “skkeooww” alarm call. To the Cajuns of South Louisiana the green heron is known as “kop – kop” for another common call it makes when flushed from its marshy habitat.

The green heron is an expert fisherbird. It will use baits, both live (insects, earthworms) and artificial (twigs, feathers) to attract fish, which it either grabs or spears. The green heron feeds in very shallow water (four inches or so) and feeds on crustaceans, amphibians, fish, reptiles and insects.

Either or both of these avian dinosaurs may be found along the French Broad. To enhance your chances of seeing one or both try hitting the water in the early morning or evening when these stalkers are more active.

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A Paddler’s Paradise: Explore the French Broad on a SUP

Paddling and standing on the French Broad. (Photo: Effort, Inc.)

Paddling and standing on the French Broad. (Photo: Effort, Inc.)

 

For David Donnell, the perks of cruising down the French Broad River on a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) are all about the vantage. But then again he’s always seen Asheville’s chief waterway from a different angle.

When Donnell opened the Asheville Outdoor Center in 1992, the river oozed just about everything but charm.

“Back then the river had a stigma as a nasty body of water; there was no emphasis on making the riverfront pretty, but it was a great location for my business,” says Donnell. Three years after opening, he pioneered the recreational development of the riverside by transforming a former sand company on three acres into a sanctuary to promote his devotion to river sports.

Donnell says that it took a while for visitors to warm up to “calm water” paddling in the mountains—then, the thrill of whitewater was the principle lure to the region’s rivers. But in the last few years, boaters, anglers, and tubers have become a common site on the French Broad.

And lately, so too have paddlers on SUPs—especially Donnell.

As a whitewater boater, he was accustomed to standing in his canoe to anticipate challenges downstream, so the transition to navigating a rivercraft on two feet came easy.

Anna Levesque, the owner of Girls at Play and former member of the Canadian Freestyle Whitewater Kayak team, is also a devotee of the growing sport and appreciates the versatility of a SUP. “You can sit on the board, kneel, do yoga, or stand up. You can also vary the intensity; even when you’re going out for an easy float, you’re still activating and toning your muscles just by balancing on the board,” says Levesque, whose business offers SUP lessons and SUP yoga classes.

Both say the natural character of the river—its mellow tempo, the lack of obstructions, and occasional waves—make it a perfect venue for the sport.

Despite the relatively placid current, Donnell, a certified paddleboard instructor, stresses the inherent dangers of moving water, and says that knowing the risks and having the proper equipment are vital. Levesque agrees and suggests that instruction to develop skills, such as a strong forward stroke, can help paddlers stay out of trouble and get the most from the experience: staying focused on the views of the river that may be missed if sitting on your fanny.

“You can get lost and feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere and still be in the center of Asheville,” says Donnell. “So many folks experience a moment of peace and come off the river totally recharged. It’s a great release.”

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River Rendezvous

Urban infill, greener pastures and Elvis sightings were discussed during the monthly RiverLink bus tour.

Urban infill, greener pastures and Elvis sightings were discussed during the monthly RiverLink bus tour.

A dozen or so curious guests and I spent the first full day of spring touring the river district—an adventure I highly suggest you sign up for (details below).  Karen Cragnolin, executive director of RiverLink, guided us along the informative bus tour, which featured the French Broad and Swannanoa rivers. Even though I’ve lived here for nearly 25 years, I soon discovered several new chapters about the local history, recent riverside developments and future plans along the corridor.

Cragnolin shared intriguing stories ranging from a mystery bystander named Rockefeller to a close encounter with Elvis. In between these tales, we learned news about the bridge-to-bridge development of New Belgium Brewery, crossed over a stream with no name, and heard about a trolley era transportation system that was once powered by a hydroelectric plant on Hominy Creek.

The French Broad has a life of its own, and there are many ways to interpret the people, places and events along its historic past. It was fascinating to connect Asheville landmarks with their origins. When we dig a little deeper into the past, we better understand the present world we live in. The way we historically move people is a stellar example.

The first street railway in Asheville operated in 1898 and ran from Depot Street to the Public Square (Pack Square). In its heyday, the expanded operations carried over three million passengers annually along 18 miles of tracks in 43 streetcars. Once, the trolley lines extended west of town as far as the present location of The Asheville School. Eventually, around 1934, buses replaced streetcars.

During the tour I noticed our present-day system, an Asheville Redefines Transit bus, as we turned down Clingman Ave., passed the RiverLink office, and headed into the River Arts District (RAD). As we entered the RAD, Cragnolin reminisced about the district’s vacant buildings and warehouses when she first moved to Asheville. Today, she shared, the district includes one of the highest densities of artist-owned properties in the country.

Current riverside development features the shipping container architecture of The Smoky Park Supper Club.

Current riverside development features the shipping container architecture of The Smoky Park Supper Club.

The tour included historic sites as well as unsightly scenes along the riverfront. Abandoned warehouses, brownfields, steep slope development and former landfills became part of the discussion. She pointed out that our river faces ongoing challenges including poorly managed steep slope development, habitat degradation and urban runoff. RiverLink’s  “Forever Option” guides the nonprofit’s long-term land-use strategy and conservation efforts. These conservation easements permanently protect riparian corridors and water quality along waterways.

The tour continued with an eastbound journey along the Swannanoa River, a major tributary of the French Broad. The river’s course meanders 22 miles through Buncombe County, with land uses along it ranging from antique warehouses to a reclaimed recreational park. As we traveled near the WNC Nature Center, Cragnolin revealed that Thomas Wolfe often retreated nearby to a rustic cabin on a knoll above the river. Asheville’s native son maybe best known for looking homeward, but he also wrote a sequel to the classic entitled Of Time and the River: A Legend of Man’s Hunger in His Youth.

Today, we enjoyed our time along the river. The Asheville Pocket Guide is all about connecting you to these unique places and stories, both old and new! Take a tip from us and experience the river up front and personally. Connect with your hometown river and the French Broad watershed on these monthly two-hour guided tours of the Wilma Dykeman RiverWay Plan. $/Members Free. For more info, visit: riverlink.org.

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Chatting Cocktails with King Daddy’s (Recipe Included)

King Daddy's Sorghum Old Fashioned

This town is, as you undoubtedly know, a great place to order up a round of local beers—from saisons to stouts. But don’t count out its cocktails. Case in point: the badass bar menu from the newly opened King Daddy’s Chicken and Waffle, a stone’s throw from the river on Haywood Road in West Asheville.

Front-of-house manager and drink dreamer-upper Clint Thorman recently let us pick his brain about the restaurant’s cocktail choices. “My goal with the drink list was to be simple, not intimidating at all, and to definitely draw from the classics,” he shared—many of their recipes date back to the 1800s.

Focusing on the classics, he hopes, will keep folks happy with what they’re served. “Too often you pay $12 or more for something that ends up being disappointing for the price,” he said, citing the over-the-top direction the craft cocktail/mixology movement appears to be heading. To make the standards, bartenders use only fresh, quality ingredients: fresh-squeezed juices and no sour mix.

Serving Up Asheville

It was especially important to Clint when designing the list that the drinks “get along with the food.” That’s why there are options like Milk Punch (a milk-based brandy concoction favored in New Orleans as a hangover cure) and other breakfast-friendly and Southern-leaning beverages, like those made with orange and grapefruit juice, coffee, sweet tea, and sorghum (more on the sweet syrup in a minute).

But it was equally imperative to him and owners Julie and John Stehling—the folks behind downtown’s Early Girl Eatery—that the offerings represent home: Asheville. Order up their Knickerbocker, a raspberry rum drink made with raspberry syrup from legendary local berry grower and jam maker Imladris Farm. Also try their Stone Fence, a mix of rum and hard cider from Asheville’s Noble Cider, which is made with local apples.

Menu Musts

The chicken and waffles are all a la carte at King Daddy’s, so you can have fun mixing and matching. If you go for the traditional combo of a Belgian waffle with fried chicken, Clint suggests you pair it with one of their six sparkling wine cocktails.

And don’t miss the Sorghum Old-Fashioned, a Southern twist on the staple—it’s quickly becoming their best seller. Find the recipe below to make at home.

PS:If you’re out and about sampling Asheville’s cocktail culture at other bars and eateries, Clint passed along some words of wisdom: “Dive right in!” Don’t be afraid of combinations that seem like they might not work. In cocktails, unusual often leads to just right.

PPS:The above links for King Daddy’s take you to their website and online bar menu; you can also find them on Facebook.

King Daddy’s Sorghum Old-Fashioned
Recipe courtesy of Clint Thorman

Ingredients:
2 ounces of bourbon (like Evan Williams)
1 bar spoon (or teaspoon) of sorghum syrup
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
Lemon twist

Instructions:
Stir together the first three ingredients. Serve with ice, and garnish with the lemon twist!

 

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Rad Classes in the RAD

River Arts District

The River Arts District’s (RAD) semiannual Studio Strolls are amazing ways to immerse yourself in the Asheville arts scene—whether you’re a local or visitor. But if you only take part in the district through this passive experience, you’re missing out. Hands-on opportunities in painting, drawing, and ceramics abound all year. And if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find some unexpected class options, including chances to…

…Study Sake
at Blue Kudzu Sake Company: 372 Depot Street

Think sake is a distilled product, or a rice wine? Not so fast, says co-owner Mitch Fortune. “Sake is brewed in a totally unique way compared to other alcoholic beverages,” he shares. “It really belongs and is in a whole category of its own.”

Enter the brewery’s education program, taught by Fortune and other Certified Sake Professionals—a title only around 1,000 people hold. Four classes clear up misinformation: Sake 101 covers the basics, Sake 102 explores the brewing process, Sake 103 delves into history, and Sake 104 features an in-depth style exploration. Each costs $35 and includes a tasting flight, handouts, an appetizer sampler, and a 90-minute presentation.

Visit bluekudzusake.com for upcoming class dates, times, and registration info + a look at their tasting room menu. Note: Classes should be taken in succession.

…Tackle Textiles
at Cloth Fiber Workshop: Studio D122 Riverside Drive

Fittingly, this textile arts learning/teaching space is located in Cotton Mill Studios, a warehouse where denim was once produced for Levi Strauss. In other words, there was and is a strong textile culture and community here. “To keep it going, we need to share our knowledge and technique,” says founder and director Barbara Zaretsky.

That’s why Cloth offers classes to all levels, including beginners. This spring and summer, take everything from screen printing to embroidery. For a true Asheville experience, don’t miss their place-based class on dyes: You’ll tour the landscape to discover local dye plants.

Visit clothfiberworkshop.com for upcoming class dates, times, prices, and to register.

…Work on Wellness
at Nourish & Flourish: Suite 201, 347 Depot Street

There’s a wellness class here nearly every day of the week, but not one is run-of-the-mill.

Try “Yoga for the Eyes” on Fridays. The class combines yoga and qigong with the Bates Method, an alt-therapy for improving eyesight. Or sign up for Nia on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, a cardio workout drawing from martial arts, dance, and the healing arts.

Less classes and more not-to-miss events, you can also drop in for kirtan on Tuesdays or Dances of Universal Peace once a month. A Google search will fill you in if you’re not familiar.

Visit nourishflourishnow.com, or call 828-255-2770 for details. Nourish & Flourish is also a Network Care practice and juice/tea bar.

There are many more rad classes in the RAD. For artists offering them, grab a 2014 Studio Guide, or scroll through it online at riverartsdistrict.com. Also visit ashevillerad.com for class info and links to all the businesses in this bustling section of the French Broad River corridor.

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