Rhodes Big View, conserved forever with HCLT and frequented twice a year by a friendly 'ol bear...
The 10 acres where this picture was taken is owned by the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust, a property donated by the Rhodes children. You can read about them below.
Five of the nine named peaks are owned by the US Forest Service (which of course means they belong to the citizens of the United States) and the other four are owned privately. Three of those nine peaks will forever remain undisturbed in their natural state because their owners, folks like the Warren Family and Will McKee, placed their land into a conservation easement.
In a conservation easement, the owners agree to limit their development of their lands forever. To learn how you can conserve your land forever with HCLT, email email@example.com.
Who Owns the View?
Every fall, folks flock to Rhodes Big View between Highlands and Cashiers to photograph the bear shadow that appears in the Chattooga River headwaters. Photographers set up their cameras and patiently wait for the shadow to creep over the mountains.
Have you ever wondered who owns the view? Who owns the parking spot at the Macon and Jackson County line where the photographers set up, or who trims the vegetation back so you can see the view? Have you ever wondered who keeps the mountains in the background from sprouting houses?
The answer to most of these questions is easy, the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust owns the 10-acre parcel where everyone parks. It was donated by Margaret and Ran Shaffner and Bucky and David Thomas in 2006.
HCLT staff keeps the vegetation trimmed as well as we can. Turns out the pesky shrub that sometimes take over the view is a rare endemic, Hartwig’s locust, only known from a handful sites in western North Carolina. We are attempting to balance the growth of the shrub and keeping the view cleared, not always easy with a NC endangered species. The answer to the last question is perhaps more complicated. This view is dominated by wonderful peaks, two that stand out are Rock Mountain and Chimneytop, both owned by High Hampton but protected by a conservation easement with HCLT. The story is the same for Timber Ridge, placed into a conservation easement by the Warren family in 2009 and Laurel Knob, placed into an easement in 2006 by Thomas and Georgene German. The rest of the view is conserved by the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service (you can see the Blueridge Parkway in the distance), and land owners that have chosen to not to develop their lands… yet. I guess you could say, a lot of folks help to protect the bear at the Big View.
The Story of a Family and the Bear Shadow at Rhodes Big View written by Mercedes Heller, former HCLT President
If you pass by Rhodes Big View on Route 64 East between Highlands and Cashiers, you may have noticed that in the fall and late winter there is a shadow of a bear that walks across the valley below around 5:30 p.m. That shadow has become legendary and draws crowds to watch the “bear,” especially in the fall when the trees on the hillsides are gold and red.
The story of a family who lived and loved Highlands for more than 100 years is the reason all who live in this region and those who visit the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau have the permanent benefit of the view and the phenomenon of the bear shadow.
The story goes like this: Rosine Raoul came to Highlands from her home in Atlanta in 1916 to be treated for tuberculosis at Dr. Lapham’s Sanatorium. She bought the house where the Highlands post office is today. Sadly, Aunt Rosine did not survive, and her home soon passed to her sister Rebecca Raoul Alstaetter.
Rebecca’s daughter Antonia (Toni) grew up spending her summers in Highlands.Toni loved Highlands so much that she wanted to be married here in 1942. Unfortunately for her fiancé, Bob Rhodes, there was a three-day waiting period to be married in North Carolina, and he could only get a three-day pass from the Navy, and that was not long enough to get here from Virginia and return a married man. Bob was on the bridge of the ship bemoaning his dilemma when the officer next to him said, “North Carolina? I can get the governor to waive the three-day requirement for you!” R. J. Reynolds, Jr., son of the tobacco baron, did indeed get the governor to waive the requirement. Toni and Bob were married in the family home by the Reverend Rufus Morgan, Rector of the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation.
After the death of her parents, Toni inherited the home, which is where she and her family spent summers.When Bob retired to Highlands to live year-round in the early 1970s, he and Toni bought the land above the Big View.
In 1983, they bought the Big View itself from Beatrice Ravenel. Living above the view, they would watch the bear shadow appear in the fall and late winter, as well as all of the other animal shadows one can spy at sunset.
The land was a wonderful refuge for wildlife and native flora in addition to having the most spectacular view of the surrounding mountains. It was during the years they spent in Highlands that the Rhodes children learned from their parents and grandparents their love of nature and their respect for the local residents.
On October 20, 2006, Rebecca Rhodes Thomas, Margaret Rhodes Shaffner, and Robert Rhodes, III, returned to the community some of what Highlands had given them. They gave the Big View to the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust.
Margaret, still a resident of Highlands, states, “We could think of no better way to honor our parents than to preserve their beautiful view of the mountains in their name.”
And now you know the rest of the story: this hundred-year-old love affair with Highlands by the Raoul-Alstaetter-Rhodes family is why we all enjoy the view, especially when the shadow of the bear passes across the valley each year.
This view and parcel of land is protected in perpetuity by the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust for the benefit of the public, thanks to the generosity this family.From Rhodes Big View, one can see several other properties that are also preserved by the Land Trust including Rock Mountain, Chimney Top, the James E. Warren Sr. Estate, Big Sheepcliff and parts of Laurel Knob.
Video courtesy of Kathleen Brugger, Time Capsule Video
Now you know about the bear but what about his other friends....
Did you know that depending on when you visit, the shadow of the bear morphs into a turtle, anteater, warthog, rhinoceros, and a duck!
Photos courtesy of Ran Shaffner
Mid-February through beginning of March detailed timing.
* Beginning around February 16th, you can see the bear clearly at 5:23 p.m. By 5:35 he becomes a warthog.
* The time progresses later and later until the first week or so in March. So a good time during the last two weeks of February would be between 5:30 and 6:00 p.m. Be there at 5:30 p.m. if you don't want to miss him.
* When Daylight Saving Time begins, he may show up, if at all, after 6:30, sunset being an hour later. It's his last fling before hibernating throughout the hot summer until late October when he awakes again for a draft of cool water from the Chattooga with the setting sun on his back and tourists mesmerized by the imposing shadow he casts into the lonesome valley. Mid-October through beginning of November detailed timing
* It is best to be at the Big View around 5:30 in October to get all the animals during the hour. But the duck doesn't show up until December. * The best time to see him in all his glory is around the third week of October. Of course, after daylight savings time ends, the bear will show up an hour earlier, so you should arrive by 5 p.m.