A Fall Evening at The Windover Inn Bed & Breakfast

Saturday, December 17, 2011


We began 2011 by giving the inn a ‘birthday party’ in January complete with a ribbon cutting by the Mayor, the local Chamber of Commerce, and many friends to commemorate the James Harden and Pearl Howell House as a local landmark as well as to toast a century of tourism that started here when Pearl opened the doors of Windover to guests in the spring of 1911. We were thrilled that Carey Howell-Duss, the granddaughter of James and Pearl, was able to visit us from Florida and participate in the ‘party’ and most importantly, act as a historian by recounting stories of her growing up next door in the 1940’s and 1950’s and actually helping out at Windover when it got busy, not to mention giving up her bedroom to ‘overflow’ guests from Windover during the ‘high season’! Also, Reimer and Judy Steffen, the second owners of this house from 1981 to 2004, were among the guests. They were the folks who ‘saved’ Windover from the wrecking ball by purchasing it from the son of James and Pearl literally days before it would have been demolished. Last but not least, Fay Clark, one of the employees who worked here for Pearl in the 1950’s was in attendance. She had been one of Carey’s babysitters, too. She is now in her 70’s and lives nearby. It was fun to see Carey and Fay reconnect (check out the picture!) as they hadn’t seen each other in many, many years!

The winter and early spring is typically a slower time here at the inn. But 2011 proved to be a lot busier than in the past. One reason was that the economy started to pick up a bit which was, hopefully, a good sign for all of us! We will continue to offer our 20% discounted pricing from January through March this coming year, too! And this will remain a tradition to welcome in future years as well.

It is still a well kept secret that some of the very best times to hike and sightsee in our area are during the winter and early spring. Without the heavy flora covering them, the vistas from local trails and roads are spectacular whereas these views are often hidden by thick growths of leaves and underbrush in the summer and early autumn. In early 2011 we had the opportunity to hike many nearby trails and were greeted by these stunning views found nowhere else in the country. There’s also skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing at Cataloochee Resort only 25 minutes away. And it’s nice just to kick back and relax here in the quiet (with perhaps the sight of a little snow dusting the mountains that ring our town) and then head into town for some shopping and a scrumptious meal at one of our fine restaurants. For a small town (less than 10,000) we think we have some of the best restaurants anywhere! In the past year alone, we have seen the addition of five excellent eateries in and around downtown Waynesville. It doesn’t get any better than that!

This spring saw some changes both outside and inside at the inn. We removed the old white lattice fence from around our private pool area, and had it replaced with a Victorian-style black metal fence. It looks much more attractive, and it’s easier to maintain! Also, inside we made changes to some of our rooms and suites to make them even more comfortable and inviting. We hope you agree!

During the summer months a project team from the NC Dept. of Transportation completed a pedestrian walkway on the portion of Old Hickory St. above us up to Brown Ave. This closed that portion of Old Hickory St. to vehicular traffic which had the effect of making us a cul de sac with the access road now being from Killian St. below the inn. This also caused us to get a new mailing address! So, we are now at 40 Old Hickory St. but we haven’t moved an inch! So, when you visit us, make sure you follow the directions on our website because many GPS systems have not yet been updated with this road closure.

Finally, in the interest of ‘continuous quality improvements’ we just recently made some changes to our dining room by introducing new tables and chairs. They are more comfortable for guests and easier to maneuver around for Jen to serve everyone at breakfast. With the new table and chair configuration, we were able to open the door between the dining room and hallway (most of you probably didn’t even know it was there!) to give this area a more spacious feel and to provide a better flow of guest ‘traffic’.

Most importantly, in 2011 we had the great pleasure of welcoming many folks for the first time (and many of you for the second, third and fourth times... and beyond!) through our doors. One of the great perks of our jobs is meeting and getting to know so many wonderful people and welcoming them into our ‘extended family’! We hope that you can visit us again (or for the first time!) in 2012. Until we meet again, Happy New Year!!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Color of Beauty

Looking toward the gazebo in our backyard.
Our maple tree by our parking area.

It just doesn't get any better than this! The pundits predicted we would have a showcase of autumn color in western North Carolina and they were right. This October marks our sixth autumn in Waynesville, and the colors nature has produced are definitely the most vibrant and long lasting of any year since we arrived here in 2006. Even now, in late October, the trees in Waynesville are still showing off their stuff. Up in the hills around town the trees are starting to bare their leaves, and farther up in the mountains, the trees have shed most of their leaves. But, the contrast is still exciting to view. Since we live in a 'bowl' surrounded by mountain ranges, depending on your perspective, you can view a close-up of multi-colored flora against a backdrop of semi-bared trees, followed a bit further up the 'bowl' by mostly bare trees. All together, it looks fabulous! It's hard to drive or walk anywhere without losing yourself in the beauty that surrounds you here in Waynesville. Even in our own yard, the colors still sparkle. See for yourself!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Happy Money

In these difficult times, people are spending their money more carefully than ever. I read an interesting article recently in Time Magazine (their Special Money Issue) that details how we've changed our spending patterns since the recession hit in 2007. The article points out that, while money can buy 'happiness' (broadly defined), there is a finite amount of money that works for this. Time claims that amount is $75,000. More than that does not buy additional happiness.

So, as I suspected, there are miserable multimillionaires (the 1 percenters) that are just buying stuff to keep up with the Jones! The more stuff they buy, the less 'bang for the buck' they get as far as how happy the purchase makes them feel. That's one reason the higher end retail stores (Coach, Tiffanys, Nordstroms, etc.) are doing gangbuster business regardless of the economic slowdown. Most of the previously rich are still rich (maybe a little less so), but they are still buying stuff at a pretty good clip. Those shoes, handbags, high tech gadgets, and high end golf clubs are still piling up. At the same time, Walmarts and Dollar General are doing OK, too. However the 'midde class' stores like Macys, Target, and Marshalls are struggling a bit. So the rest of us (99 percenters) have dialed down a bit to make ends meet.  But we're still buying lots of stuff.

Time makes the point, that, unfortuately, many of us are buying 'the wrong brand of happiness'. "We are doing things with our money that make us happy in the moment, but that's not always the best strategy for long-term well-being." says Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton, who researches the psychology of happiness. He points out that spending on 'experiences' like travel and leisure or on friends and loved ones offers longer-term bang for the buck. This is because these purchases enhance the feelings of meaning and social connection that underpin true happiness. Jen and I see this phenomenon here at The Windover Inn all the time. Guests often arrive a bit harried from the every day hustle and bustle, and leave relaxed and refreshed with memories, photos, and maybe some new friends they met here at the inn. These experiences do not deteriorate over time like most 'stuff' does, but rather gain in value through the reconnecting that occurs through the reliving of these experiences with significant others.

While these insights will not make it financially easier for us 99 percenters, it may help in maximizing the use of the money we still have!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The End of the Road

Funny how sometimes, things return to where they started. In our case this pertains to road access to our Inn. Originally, when the Howells built this house in 1910, Old Hickory Street ended just above Windover. It really only served this house since there were no other houses on the street.  In the 1920's Old Hickory St. was extended to connect with what is now Brown Avenue. Now, almost 90 years later, Old Hickory St. has been closed just above us so that we're once again at the end of the road just like it was in 1910!  The street has been replaced by a pedestrian walkway which connects us to Brown Ave.  This is something we've been anticipating since we purchased Windover in 2006. At that time the Norfolk Southern railroad planned to close the Old Hickory St. crossing above us and replace it with.... yes, a pedestrian walkway!  It only took five years, but now it is a reality and Windover is once again at a cul de sac at the end of Old Hickory St.

This is good in a couple of ways. First, there will be no traffic in front of Windover except for visitors to the inn. Also, train traffic will probably be even less noticeable (once or twice a day a train goes by) because they will no longer need to signal for vehicles. The only change is that our guests will need to access our inn from Killian St. instead of Brown Ave. These directions may not be updated on all GPS systems for a while. Also, this change has not been updated on Mapquest or Google maps as yet. Our website directions have always shown the Killian St. access since we anticipated this would eventually occur. So, if you're visiting us, please use the Killian St. directions shown on our website map at  http://www.windoverinn.com/directions.html.

Now we're even more secluded than we were before. That's a good thing!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Paula Deen's Celebrity At Harrah's Casino

Having a Paula Deen Kitchen at Harrah's in Cherokee has added a new reason for folks to visit Western North Carolina.   Now, in addition to the breathtaking scenery viewed as you drive through the area, the endless hiking trails to explore, the interesting history and culture to discover at local museums, and the many opportunities to experience beautiful artwork done by talented artists at our local galleries, you can enjoy the comfort food of Paula Deen not far from The Windover Inn.  But do you really?

What are you truly experiencing?  Paula isn't cooking there.  You don't get to hear her infectious laugh, see firsthand that twinkle in her eye that makes you think nothing in the world makes her happier than to make others happy.  No one is telling her amazing success story or poking fun at themselves to make you feel like they're just normal folk like you.

Yes, there's a menu with fried chicken, macaroni and cheese and cheesy meatloaf, pictures of Paula, and a nice store with her product line, but there's no Paula, just her "celebrity".  And as celebrity goes, that seems to work.  People love just having an experience, a connection, getting closer somehow to that person they marvel on the screen.  They can say they have been there - at a Paul Deen Kitchen, and that's a little closer to actually meeting the star.

Although I'm not the type of person to get star struck, I must say I am impressed with Paula Deen's story and success and understand why she clearly has "celebrity".  She exudes that southern hospitality that makes people feel welcome and comfortable, and her menu reminds people of the comforts of home.  And even though you don't get Paula Deen cooking in the kitchen of one of her restaurants, maybe just knowing she had a hand in its creation will give you that welcoming, comforting feeling, or at least a little taste of her celebrity, right here in the mountains of Western North Carolina!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

National Park Week Reminds Us To Appreciate Our Bed and Breakfast "Park" Right Here in Waynesville, North Carolina

It turned into summer early this year! How quickly we went from a very cold winter right into warm weather here in the mountains of western North Carolina in 2011. This week is National Park Week, and we've been fortunate to have taken some lovely hikes this spring in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as well as the Pisgah National Forest, and we've been talking about them on our blogs. Both parks are just minutes from our Waynesville, North Carolina bed and breakfast.

But now I turn my attention to our own little "local park" here at Windover Inn.  All year long there are fun things to do and see right here at the inn. Spring is probably my favorite time of year because it signifies a rebirth, and we're seeing plenty of that here. A robin family has set up housekeeping in the holly tree next to the veranda, and the parents are busy caring for their three fuzzy little children. The gardens have come alive with spring bulbs, blooming trees, and soon the perennial flowers and shrubs that dot the garden will color our world with their finery. Butterflies and bees are doing their thing pollinating our plants and feeding their families.

In my opinion, the sounds in our "park" are just as interesting as the sights! Birds seem to love it here, and they let us know by singing from dawn to dusk. I have names for a few based on their familiar tunes. "Beethoven", a tufted titmouse, always sings the first four notes of the 5th Symphony (da da da, doo!). I wish he could learn the rest of it! I wonder if perhaps Beethoven heard this same songbird and then became inspired to... nah, that's too far fetched!  But, just maybe... Also, there's "Eraser" or sometimes I think he is saying "Speed Racer". He's always first in the morning. Then there are the cardinals, our state bird, with their low to high chirps talking to each other, as well as the robins, sparrows, doves, bluejays and others who keep the airwaves alive with music here. Later in the summer, a family of red tailed hawks appears to raise their family in the field behind our inn. Their occasional screeching isn't as tuneful as some others, but it signifies their arrival and marks the parade of nature through Windover's "park" for me.

There are many places to enjoy the flora and fauna here. They include the Adirondack chairs around our fire pit, the porch swing in our gazebo, the two park benches in our secret garden, the rockers on our porch, and wicker furniture on our veranda (my personal favorite), as well as the hammock tied to two trees in our secret garden; a perfect place to kick back with a favorite book! Wherever you find your favorite spot in our "park", it's sure to be an enjoyable visual - and auditory - experience!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Smoky Mountains, Blue RIdge Parkway, Pisgah Forest and Aging? Oh My!

So much emphasis is put on staying young in our culture.  People reach age milestones and they panic because they feel they are getting old.  They search for the fountain of youth and products to make them look and feel younger.  What ever happened to aging gracefully and enjoying our golden years? 

In the past couple of years, the area we live in and the home we live in have reached milestones.  The Great Smoky Mountains National Park celebrated its 75th anniversary 2 years ago.  The Blue Ridge Parkway celebrated its 75th anniversary last year, and our home, The Windover Inn Bed & Breakfast had its 100th birthday.  This year it's the 75th Anniversary of the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest in the Pisgah National Forest and a century since The Windover Inn's first guest!  These milestones reminded me how seldom people want to celebrate their later year milestones.  It's made me take stock of what my own aging means, and to notice how much alike the aging process and it's impact is for all living and even nonliving things. 

For example, when I take in the beauty of the Smoky Mountains and their forests, I can't help but think of how it was almost bare in the 1930's when logging companies had stripped the mountains and how it's now lush with a whole new generation of forest.  The natural cycle of life is very visible in the forest, especially this time of year with less foliage to hide its experiences.  You can see new saplings growing everywhere among the thick rugged trunks of strong, massive trees, and the trees that have fallen to the ground,  not strong enough to withstand the storms because they're old and brittle, or weakened by disease.  As you walk through large rhododendron canopies along trails, you'll see some vibrant green plants with buds waiting for Spring to release their beauty, some others budless, but still standing tall in their duty of shading the trail, and some skeletons of what they once were bending over 3 feet high specimens almost as if to welcome the new plants that will take their place.

When I think of our house and its history, it seems like it too has a cycle of life.  Almost torn down  in 1981 after over 5 years of being empty and uncared for,  it had a rebirth when it was revived by the Steffens, and after further aging and weathering, underwent more cosmetic surgery inside by the Ferrees and outside by us within the past 7 years.  It's original strong foundation helped it survive, but hard work and TLC is what has kept it alive.

As I garden, I see new shoots of old plants and trees springing up everywhere this time of year and wildflowers never planted adding beauty and color to the landscape. The new growth sprouting out of the old, fallen willow tree we thought died last year, may be a sign she had other plans.  I've been witness to how with the right medicine some of our hemlocks are now free of disease and healthy, while those too weak to fight lost their battle.  And once in a while, I'll even find the sprout of something found nowhere else in the garden, maybe a gift from a bird in flight, or mother nature's winds, that reminds me the garden will go on with or without me - just differently. 

Is our aging and weathering much different than the forest, our home or the garden? As I'm slowing down, all around me I see my children blooming, our grandchildren sprouting.  A strong foundation of a healthy lifestyle in mind, body and spirit helps me to adjust to the weathering that could make me more brittle and vulnerable in a storm.  And yes, none of it comes without hardwork and TLC.  But most of all, I find comfort in the examples of how the forest and our old house were able to be restored, and how the life cycle continues on without us - just differently.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Stairway to Heaven, Part 2

As long as the weather cooperates, our goal is to take one hike a week during our slower season.  So yesterday, we worked in another hike in the Pisgah National Forest about an hour from the inn. Like we said before, each trail we've hiked has been unique, and this was no different. We chose Looking Glass Rock Trail which is one of the more popular trails in the area. It is well marked from Rt. 276 and has a good number of parking spots at the trail-head. It is a 3.1 mile trail and is listed as 'medium' in difficulty. Doing the math, our round trip was 6.2 miles and took us about 3 hours. But we spent about 20 minutes at the top, so our actual hike time was about 2 hours and 40 minutes. We hiked on a beautiful February day with the air temp. approaching 70 and met or saw at least 10 other couples, so expect this trail to get pretty crowed from late April to the end of October.

Some trails have great views and dynamic changes around just about every corner. Others, like this one, are really 'destination' trails. The hike is pretty much an uphill slog all the way, so be prepared for a good cardio workout! The start is forested and crosses a small brook, then uphill along a rim trailway which closes down to a rhody canape after about a mile. At this point you will find a nice wooden bench. Take advantage of this for a brief rest as the next mile will be composed of 17 switchbacks of around 100 yards each! What this means is that the mountain you are climbing is way too steep to go straight up! At around two miles, there is a helicopter pad to the left (If you can commandeer a helicopter, go for it!) and a mini Looking Glass rock structure on the right side of the trail. One more mile of more root and rock steps got us to the top where a makeshift campsite welcomed us. But, we weren't done yet. For the first time, the trail headed downhill for another tenth of a mile and turned a bit to the left where it ended at Looking Glass Rock.

If we weren't expecting something stupendous, we would have been completely blown away! And if we weren't careful and just kept walking while talking back to someone behind us, we'd have been in danger of walking right off the cliff at the edge of Looking Glass Rock! Even knowing that something special awaited us didn't prepare us for the spectacular view, and the amazing space that the top of this rock presents! No words can really do it justice, so we have included some pictures. Even pictures can't give you the sense of vertigo that initially meets the hiker as they reach this spot. Have a snack, or lunch here, or just groove. The good news is that the hike back is just about all downhill!
 On Looking Glass Rock looking towards Big Balsam Knob

On Looking Glass Rock, looking towards the Blue Ridge Parkway

A front row seat for picture taking

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Stairway to Heaven

Sam Knob

Flat Laurel Creek

Many people might not realize it, but winter hikes are just as much fun here as hiking any other time of year. The trails are the same, maybe a bit easier due to less vegetation getting in the way, and the views that are often blocked by the same vegetation in other seasons, are usually spectacular in winter!  Recently we chose Flat Laurel Creek Trail for a hike. This is one of dozens of relatively easy trails in the Pisgah National Forest just a half hour from the inn.

Over the years we have found that each trail we've hiked, much like each B&B, has its own very distinct personality. Flat Laurel is no different. It starts off with a little challenge as we need to ford a small stream over slightly submerged rocks (wear water resistant hiking shoes!) before heading north on a well trodden slightly ascending natural footpath. The trail will rise several hundred feet over about 3 miles, and it is rated as 'easy'. Although the air temp. is approaching 60, we find ourselves on pretty hard ice along shaded portions of the path so we need to be careful. The views of the mountains to our west are beautiful, and we can see Rt. 215 slinking along below us until it disappears into the terrain taking the traffic noise along with it. Not quite a mile into our hike we cross a stone bridge over Wildcat Falls which is still mostly covered with a white blanket of ice pack although the center has been carved out by its cascading waters. Very cool! The trail continues in micro climates of cool, warm, ice, snow and solid, although somewhat mushy, ground. The orange blazed trail is sometimes a narrow escarpment with beautiful icicle art and rhododendron canapes along the east side, while at other times it's wide open with brush and wild grasses on either side. It seems there's change waiting around every corner! 

About two miles into the hike, Sam Knob comes into view to our left. At the same time, we hear the sound of cascading water signaling our approach to Flat Laurel Creek. The trail arcs to the right as it passes between Sam Knob and Little Sam to our right with Flat Laurel Creek careening along our left. We are not close enough to the creek to get a great view, but it tells us it's still there! Several washouts down to the creek provide access, but today they are covered with ice and snow so we use discretion and decide not to become part of the cascade below! A few hundred yards further on we meet a trailhead marker to our left which leads up to Sam Knob summit. We start down this trail, but only go about half a mile before turning back to retrace our steps. The trail parallels rivulets up the grassy knoll from the creek that opens up into a large heathlike expanse. The hike up to Sam Knob is listed as 'medium' but we're ready to call it a day!

If we had continued in the opposite direction we would have connected with the Art Loeb Spur which leads to the Art Loeb trail that passes Black Balsam Knob (6214') and ultimately ends at Cold Mountain (6030'). The hike back is every bit as interesting as the hike out. We see everything from brand new angles, and the sun is dancing a different tune as well. By the time we return to Wildcat Falls the blanket of ice has retreated further revealing more of the rushing water underneath. We arrive back at our car three and a half hours later. Since this was a 6 mile hike we calculate our leisurely pace at less than two miles an hour. But, hey, we weren't in a hurry. Just out for some winter fun! By coincidence, Stairway to Heaven is playing in the car as we head home. We both smile and nod at the perfect song to end our hike.

Iciciles along the Escarpment

Wildcat Falls

Friday, January 28, 2011

The State of the Union and Relationships

While Glenn and I were watching The State of the Union address this past week, I started to think about relationships, and how the relationship between the President and the Congress is no different than any other relationship.

Think about it.  We have relationships with our spouses, our children, our grandchildren, our parents and our friends.  We have a relationship with ourselves, coworkers, our community, and our God.  They are all certainly different types of relationships, but for the most part, at least in my opinion, they all need to have their "state" reviewed more frequently than once a year! 

Day in and day out we spend a lot of time trying to get things accomplished in our personal and work lives.  Finishing tasks, completing our Things To Do lists, doing laundry, making dinner, and watching the President give the State of the Union Address.  Many days, weeks and yes, even months can go by without reviewing the state of our relationships if we don't take steps to plan and review on a regular basis.  Priorities can get lost, and plans are abandoned, and the more time that passes, the harder it is to reconnect and get back on track. 

When I was a manager, I held a short staff meeting every Monday morning.  It helped our office start each week with an agenda of what we needed to get done to meet our goals.  It was a time to reflect on the week that had passed, praise jobs well done and an opportunity to clear up any confusions or conflicts.  The time was well spent to keep the "state" of the office from getting out of hand.  In both my personal and business life, I've learned that long range goals are great, but I have to plan and review on a monthly, weekly and daily basis to stay on track.  It really helps me to stay focused in every area of my life.  I'd like to say I always do it faithfully, but I still need to work hard at it, but it's worth it.

Glenn and I are proud of how we have successfully worked together as Innkeepers of The Windover Inn Bed & Breakfast for almost 5 years now, working together day in and day out.  Being organized and having systems in place keeps us focused on what needs to be done, even in a business that requires more spontaneity.  And we know, as silly as it may sound to others, that holding our regular staff meetings (of two) have helped us stay on track in our business, which has kept our business from throwing our relationship off track. 

I wonder how often the President and Congress meet to seriously review the state of the union.  Given the state of their relationship, my guess is, not often enough!