A Fall Evening at The Windover Inn Bed & Breakfast

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Cookies from Oma's Kitchen

For my birthday this year, I received a wonderful cookie jar that says "Enjoy cookies from Oma's Kitchen".  It conjured up wonderful memories of special moments shared with my grandmothers in their kitchens.  Whether I was helping with the dishes, helping them make something like cookies, or I was just sitting at the kitchen table while they were doing something, it always seemed to be the times we had our best talks.

Subjects would come up naturally in the process of whatever was going on, and they both always seemed interested in what I had to say.  Both of my grandmothers, although strict disciplinarians, were very tender and loving.  I can still feel now, how good I felt after talking with them.  It was like I was the most important person in the world to them.  They never made me feel like anything I said was silly or childish.  As a matter of fact, they seemed to be interested in anything I had to say!  (Of course I understand now, as a grandparent myself, it's a lot easier to be an attentive listener when you aren't the parent doing it 24/7!  I also understand after being a parent, that the time I spent with my grandparents gave my parents some well deserved time off!)

When spending time with my grandchildren, I try to remember those times with my grandmothers, and how they made me feel.  I want them to have the same sweet, warm memories of their Oma (German for grandmother) that I treasure to this day of my own grandmothers.  It seems harder to do these days though. Times are different.  (And now that I've made statements like that, it's obvious I'm old  enough to be a grandparent!)  But seriously, with modern conveniences and electronic entertainment, the numerous school activities and sports children can participate in, families spread out in different states, and a lot of grandparents still in the workforce, like this innkeeper, those "natural" times I had with my grandmothers are a lot harder to come by. 

But  it is doable, and I'm trying my best to make it happen whenever and however I can.  As a matter of fact, the cookie jar also sparked an idea - a new category to add to our blog . . .Cookies from Oma's Kitchen.  I'm going to try very hard to use the blog to share thoughts and feelings as they come up naturally that I want to share with my grandchildren.  They may not get to hear it naturally at that moment in time, but at least it will help me remember to tell them - another time. And who knows, maybe sharing some of the warm and sweet thoughts of them that come from Oma's kitchen, may spark some of our best talks ever!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Blue Ridge Parkway Winter Hikes - Part 2

In keeping with our mission to locate and hike as many (easy to moderate, thank you!) trails as possible again this winter, we hit the road last week and found another great trail, or should I say many great trails! Our theme here at the Windover Inn is "connections" and we have found that our lovely backyard of wonders here in Western North Carolina is also a place where trails flow into and out of each other creating unexpected and exciting connections of their own.

This year's first winter hike took us to Graveyard Fields, a popular destination which is accessible from the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP or 'burp'). Just a mile down the BRP an access road (Black Balsam) leads to a parking lot for trailheads to Sam Knob Summit, Flat Laurel Creek Trail, Graveyard Ridge Trail (which leads back to Graveyard Fields), Investor Gap, and the Art Loeb Trail (rated by Backpacker Magazine as the country's #2 trail in their "Ten Hikes to Big Alpine Views") which takes one to the pinnacle of destinations here, Cold Mountain, as well as to numerous feeder trails along the way. Meanwhile, the 530 mile Mountain-to-Sea Trail snakes along in the general direction of the BRP and connects with Graveyard Ridge Trail as well as many of the others mentioned above. So... here in the space of a few miles in what is know as the Middle Prong and Shining Rock areas of the Pisgah National Forest, we are able to access trails which can satisfy everything from a short bite-sized easy walk in the woods, through a major, hundreds of miles long march to the sea, or into neighboring states, with many, many others somewhere in between these two extremes. That's what I call hiking options! No wonder Haywood County boasts the second longest 'mileage' of trails east of the Mississippi!

Since the February weather continues to cooperate in keeping the BRP opened, we used the Black Balsam access road and chose the bite sized, but scenic, Flat Laurel Creek Trail which connects with the Sam Knob Summit Trail. Last winter we had accessed this trail from its opposite trailhead off Rt. 215 (yet another option!) and got as far as the Sam Knob Summit Trail, but we chickened out and didn't make the climb. This time we did! And what views! After a climb of about a half mile we reached the summit which is about a 500 foot climb. So, it is steep but features an accomodating mix of river rock, sandy soil, and some built in steps to soften the cardio. On the trip back to the parking lot the trail crossed a grassy field that offered scenic rear views of the pinnacle we had just descended. Pretty cool for a 3 mile walk in the woods of just over 2 hours!

Slow season's opportunity to explore and develop new day trips for our guests, always reinforces our "connection" philosophy as we take time to reconnect with nature and each other through this amazing landscape that first brought us to Waynesville and eventually The Windover Inn !

Monday, February 6, 2012

Graveyard Fields Along The Blue Ridge Parkway

It's that time of year again, and we're off to explore the beautiful vistas here in Western North Carolina. Winter hikes work out better for us since we're not as busy at this time of year. The timing might be involuntary, but this doesn't mean the views are any less spectacular than they are in other seasons. Each season reveals its own treasures, and winter is no different. Since there is no foliage to hide the views, the shapes of our mountain ranges are clearly defined in winter. This results in interesting images created by the mountain terrain. For instance we see the rumples of a large rug in some of the folds between the mountains.

We decided to visit Graveyard Fields near mile marker 419 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Blue Ridge Parkway is only open at the whims of the weather from November to April, but this year's warm winter has, fortunately, offered many days of trail access along the parkway. So, we decided to give Graveyard Trails a go! This is a popular trail that we often recommend to our guests but we hadn't hiked it, ourselves, since 2002 when we were still 'visitors' to the Asheville area. However, once we arrived and descended down the 'stairs' to the trail head, we instantly remembered why this is such a popular trail. It is a relatively easy hike made more accommodating by the numerous boardwalks and bridge upgrades over the muckier areas. It is relatively flat with only a 300 foot total rise over about a mile and a half. But be aware, this can be (and was!) a muddy hike at certain spots especially after the above average rains we had here in January. If we weren't careful, it could (and did!) become a 'slip and slide'! The trail basically takes you through a valley seam between two ridges with lots of interesting foliage and landmarks (even in winter) along the way. The namesake 'graveyard' mounds are evident and the sleeping vegetation is still pretty colorful even in February. The destination upper waterfalls announced itself well in advance as we approached, and upon our arrival the rushing waters marked this as a spiritual spot like so many others in this amazing part of the world. After enjoying the falls, we retraced our steps back the the parking lot resulting in a 3.2 mile leisurley hike that took us about 3 hours. What a wonderful way to spend a winter's day in Western North Carolina just about a half hour from the Windover Inn and Waynesville