I didn’t snap a single photograph in the month of January 2013! January was the month that I began my second semester as part of the Planning Design and Built Environment (PDBE) doctoral program at Clemson University and I was a bit overwhelmed to say the least. Although I love to read and write and I also enjoy the classroom, I don’t LIVE for the classroom and the University lifestyle as I’m too outdoor-oriented. The impetus behind the degree was an opportunity to land a full-time position as, let’s just call it a professor-in-training position, within the College of Arts, Architecture and Humanities at Clemson. The job interview process was in full swing at this point of the year, with lots of impressive people who were far better dressed and spoken vying for the same position. I always thought that working as a professor would offer me the ability and flexibility to chase passions both inside of and outside of the classroom–a best of both worlds sort of situation. However, despite having over a decade of experience within the University, four years of which I successfully taught the classes I was interviewing for, I did not land one of the two open positions, ironically, in large part because of my history of degrees and experience with Clemson University.
So, when a light snow blanketed the mountains of Western North Carolina in February I put down the books and made the familiar drive that I had come to cherish over a decade of repetition, passing through the piedmont of South Carolina and up into the distant but always visible mountains of North Carolina. For those unfamiliar, Upstate South Carolina has very tolerable winters with average temperatures around sixty degrees. However, the higher elevations of North Carolina that tease the eyesight from Upstate South Carolina often catch a dusting of snow as winter storms pass through. The beauty of this geographical situation is a dry and warm drive along the South Carolina / Georgia border without winter weather hazards until just about arriving at the location—and more importantly, the ability to enjoy snow for a few hours and then drop off the mountains and live in much warmer conditions! On this particular February morning, though, I found the winter weather to have crept far into the Upstate with the two-lane, curving road up into Highlands and Cashiers, North Carolina completely covered and packed with snow and ice. My truck was more than capable of handling the situation; however I did have to slow down and was afraid that I did not plan enough time to make first light from my favorite little overlook on the backside of the mountain. After much careful navigating and some painfully slow following of a snow plow, I did manage to arrive and sprint up the mountain in time for sunrise. The cold air nearly knocked me down as I worked up the old carriage road by foot. My overdress caused me to break a sweat with the effort (never good in cold weather). I sat, rapidly cooling, in anticipation as blue hour approached, carefully observing my surroundings and thinking of compositions. The sun rose…no dice; clouds pretty much socked in the peak.
Down the mountain I went via the same trail. I didn’t want to lose the opportunity to see the mountains in the snow though, so I slapped the truck into gear and motored back down to Silver Run Falls and then on to the Chattooga Potholes (photographs I’ll post next). The snow continued to fall—a welcome surprise. By the time I finished up at the river, another several inches had fallen and the skies were breaking to fantastic blues with cotton candy clouds. What the hell I figured, and back up the mountain I went again to return to the overlook at Whiteside. All of my footprints from the morning had been washed away and the shot was once again clean for the taking. And take I did. This is Whiteside Mountain in winter snow conditions on a fantastic, adventure-filled morning and afternoon of mountain magic!