I feel fortunate to have spent so much of my life in North Carolina and Virginia. Both states have spectacular spring seasons.
We once had some friends we made while living in Canada visit during spring in the Shenandoah Valley. They asked us why in the world we ever moved to Canada?
Well Canadian spring was certainly not the reason. Back in the seventies we got a storm of over three feet of snow on our New Brunswick farm in early April. My years at college in Cambridge helped instill the love of spring in the Carolinas and Virginia. There is nothing better for your spirits than going from lumps of dirty snow to the beautiful pinks and greens of an Appalachian spring.
Spring is definitely a time of quick weather changes even in the South. Weather can surprise you from morning to afternoon. The three weeks in the middle of March 2011 were absolutely fantastic along the Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina. Those three weeks ended with a fantastic series of days when the water warmed to close to seventy degrees. That actually sent me on my first fishing trip of the season. Not long after that we had an abnormally late frost which reached all the way to the water. I even saw the temperature drop over twenty degrees in a kayaking trip that only lasted an hour.
Even a frost cannot destroy the feeling of spring once it is on the move. After a winter that brought some snow even to the coast, those mid-March afternoons with temperatures in the eighties were very welcome and quickly wiped away memories of winter. However, the warm temperatures finished off the blooms of our Bradford pear trees and even did in our daffodils. While spring comes with a flourish to the coast, it certainly doesn't have the explosion of color and staying power that you see in the interior of North Carolina and Virginia.
Fortunately while waiting for spring to get its second wind along the coast, we planned a trip to Roanoke, VA which is nestled in the mountains about 5.5 hours of driving from the Emerald Isle, NC area.
Our drive across central North Carolina into the mountain foothills of Virginia was stunning. We took one of our alternate routes which takes us through the farm country north of Hillsborough, NC and into Virginia at Danville. When we got to Roanoke that evening the temperature was in the sixties. I was pleased to see that our grass had been mowed right on schedule. However, that was the last we saw of the sixties in Roanoke.
The next day our high temperature was 37F. The second day we managed to make it to 40F. We were there several days and never saw a high temperature out of the fifties, but cool temperatures can have an advantage in spring. They keep the blooms on the trees. We got to enjoy several more days of Bradford pear tree blooms along with redbuds and cherry trees. Even the daffodils in Roanoke were just hitting their stride.
We left for the second part of our spring tour on Saturday, April 2. We took a route that seems to have defined much of my life, Interstate 81 to Interstate 77 and Fancy Gap. I have been traveling the area since before those roads were finished so I have seen about every type of weather the area can throw at you including some serious fog on Fancy Gap.
However, even I was slightly surprised to see snow flurries mixing in with the rain as we headed out of Roanoke. The drive from Roanoke to Blacksburg on Interstate 81 south is often a special treat in the spring because the hillsides are covered with redbud trees. This year was no exception, and the drive up Christianburg Moutain was as pretty as one would expect.
However as we got to Radford and Pulaski, spring became muted and close to missing in action. I think the cold weather of 2011 has kept spring in check in the high mountain valley south of Roanoke. If we can get back in another ten days to two weeks, we can probably catch it at its peak.
Of course as you cross the New River near Pulaski and eventually again on Interstate 77 headed to Hillsville and Fancy Gap, you are beginning a gradual climb up the mountains until your reach the Blue Ridge Parkway where you start heading down the mountain to North Carolina. This stretch of road around Hillsville is one of my favorites normally. I love the huge fields and long vistas.
Unfortunately most of the population of states north of us happened to be migrating south along Interstate 77 on Saturday, April 2. Traffic was so bad coming down Fancy Gap that it eventually became bumper to bumper. With stop and go traffic and speeds down to 20 MPH, it was hard to enjoy anything. We were headed to Mount Airy, NC, and being locals, we knew to get off at Exit One where we took the backroads into town. I was happy to see that Odell's is still in business selling Big Moe's.
Spring in Mount Airy was farther along than it was in Roanoke, but it still not at its peak. We visited with a favorite older relative who had a birthday on April 2, and then continued our journey south to Cornelius, NC only stopping for dinner in Yadkinville, NC. My mother's family, the Styers, have been in North Carolina since 1790. My mother's dad was a miller, and she grew up on a millpond just a few miles from Yadkinville.
Sunday, April 3 found us near Lake Norman, and enjoying spring at its peak. It is hard to describe a full blown North Carolina spring, but we experienced it on April 3. As we wandered the streets near our daughter's home, my belief that the true home of spring is in North Carolina was reinforced. From azaleas and tulips to dogwoods, we were overwhelmed with the beauty of spring in full bloom.
It is a spring that I learned to love at our family homeplace in Mt. Airy, NC. Sometimes the ground under the tulip magnolia there looked like it had been covered by pink snow. April 3, I felt like I had come home for spring once again.
We are now back on the Carolina coast enjoying the second stage of coastal spring. Even the wind that spring often brings to the area cannot diminish the beauty of the wisteria, azaleas, and dogwoods. We might have wind blowing into our inlet, but it is mostly a warm wind.
Soon we will make our annual trip to Tryon Palace in New Bern to enjoy their amazing flower and vegetable gardens. Even there in the midst of amazing beauty, I will be yearning for the magic of the full blown spring like we recently experienced in Cornelius.