Shadow of the bear to reappear soon
CASHIERS-HIGHLANDS PLATEAU -- A trip to the Cashiers-Highlands plateau in the fall isn't complete until viewing a natural wonder at Whiteside Mountain.
On clear, sunny days for about three weeks each fall, the eagerly anticipated and somewhat mystical shadow of a bear emerges slowly from behind Whiteside Mountain. It starts slowly, more like a blob than a bear, but beginning at about 5:30 p.m., a small shadow grows and morphs into various shapes, including a turtle, and eventually as a giant bear shadow across the treetops of the valley. The entire event takes about 30 minutes.
This phenomenon attracts visitors and local residents alike, many hoping to capture a good photograph. Finding the ideal conditions for photography can be hit or miss, however. Mountain haze, cloudy conditions and other little tricks of Mother Nature sometimes obscure the shadow, making good photographic results difficult or impossible to achieve.
The bear shadow is created by a series of small, bumpy peaks on the mountain that block the sun's rays and cast shadows on the slopes and valley below as the sun sinks lower in the sky.
The bear shadow appears for about three weeks during the fall from mid-October into early November. It reappears in the winter, from mid-February into early March, however fall, when the foliage creates a colorful canvas, is by far the better time for viewing.
The best place to see the bear shadow is Rhodes Big View Overlook, located along U.S. Highway 64 West between Cashiers and Highlands. There is a wide pull-off area across the road from the overlook. Remember to be cautious when parking, crossing the road, viewing and exiting the area.
To get to the overlook from Cashiers -- Beginning at the traffic light at the crossroads of U.S Highway 64 and N.C. Highway 107, travel west on U.S. 64 toward Highlands for about 4.3 miles. The overlook, which is not marked, will be on the left. If you reach the sign for the entrance to the Whiteside Mountain Trail, you have gone a tad too far.
From Highlands -- Travel east on U.S. Highway 64 for just more than 5 miles, shortly past the sign to the Whiteside Mountain Trail and just over the Jackson County line. The overlook will be on the right.