A Fall Evening at The Windover Inn Bed & Breakfast

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Connecting to Nature and DuPont State Forest

After driving about 47 miles from the Inn I connected with DuPont State Forest. This 10,000 acre state forest has over 90 miles of hiking trails. I chose the 3 mile roundtrip hike which takes you to 3 waterfalls, Hooker Falls, Triple Falls and High Falls. Its not a difficult hike and the trail is gravel and well marked, but there are a few steep spots when reaching the waterfalls. Most of the falls can be viewed from the top and bottom.

It was pretty crowded the weekend I went, but if you arrive earlier, during the week or off season you could avoid the crowds. There are restrooms and picnic areas. The movie Hunger Games was filmed in the park including Hooker Falls and Triple falls. I actually saw some of the filming the first time I went to the park a few years back.

Directions from the Inn- travel 276S through Pisgah National Forest and Brevard, in Penrose there will be a Marathon gas station on your right, turn right here on Crab Creek Rd, continue 4.3 miles to DuPont Rd and make a right after about 3.1 miles  you will see Hooker Falls Parking area on your right.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

At 5086 Feet Purchase Knob Connects You To Nature & History

http://www.nps.gov/grsm/naturescience/pk-about.htmPurchase Knob is located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is about thirteen miles from the Inn. It took me about thirty minutes to get there and the hiking time is about one and a half to two hours. The hike starts on Purchase Road at the gate, park here even if the gate is open or you could get locked behind the gate. Then its a gradual climb on a gravel road. The road will split, take the road to the left, there will be a sign for Ferguson Cabin and Cataloochee Divide Trail follow that up. To the right, a grassy path will lead you to Purchase Knob this is a steeper climb but worth it. The round trip distance is about two and a half miles. The Smokies, Pisgah National Forest and the Black Mountains can all be viewed . On the way down there is a short trail to Ferguson Cabin which was built in the 1870's and was inhabited until 1902 it is open and the inside and outside can both be seen. Purchase Knob is great place to spend the day. There are other trails that can be joined for a longer hike and it doesn't seem to get as crowded as some other hikes.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Mast General Store in Downtown Waynesville Connects the Past and Present

Mast General Store is an authentic and nostalgic downtown emporium only about a mile from the inn. It features clothing, camping gear, gourmet foods, kitchenware, candy, toys, shoes and hiking boots. They have everything you need and things you didn't know you needed. A great place to do some holiday shopping and purchase souvenirs to take back home. The hours are Monday thru Saturday 10-6 and Sunday 12-6. There are three floors and each floor is worth checking out.

One of my favorite finds at Mast are these walking sticks. They are unique and are made from Tennessee hardwoods. Prices are $50-75 and they are located on the lowest floor where you can smell the popcorn and hear the old wood floors creak as the people walk above you.

 On the top floor they have really nice hiking and camping gear. And if you have any questions or need any help they have a knowledgeable, friendly staff who are always eager to help. These packs are reasonably priced for a good pack around $175.

 They have quality long sleeve tees and sweatshirts which are great souvenirs and also look good. These are on the main floor the level you walk in off of main street towards the back. The price on the tees and  sweatshirts are $25.

 A local artist makes these hand warmer mugs. They are designed to keep your hands warm on those chilly winter nights and mornings. They have left and right handed mugs and a good selection of colors. These are located on the bottom floor and under $20.

Also on the bottom floor against the back wall you will find these local jams, jellies and preserves. They all look so good it is hard to pick
one so maybe get a few to take with you. Most of them run under $10.

 To the left of the jams is every kind of kitchen gadget you can imagine. A great gift for anyone who enjoys cooking and maybe a helpful tool for those that don't. Most of these gadgets are under $10.

And don't forget gifts for the four  legged ones.
Around the stairs on the bottom floor there are treats and toys for your pets. The dog biscuits
are around $7 a box.

Back on the main floor you will find women's, men's clothing, bags, jewelry, hats and footwear.

Now back to the best floor the bottom floor. The one thing that keeps me going back to Mast is the feeling I get when I see barrels full of candy. Just get a basket and pick out whatever you want take it to the register and they'll weigh it for $6.99/lb its a lot of fun especially on a rainy day. And you can check out all the great toys most you don't find in a toy store or even purchase one for someone or yourself. You can't help but smile on the this floor. Here is there website if you need any more information


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Reconnecting with Nature at Eastatoe Falls

About 50 miles from the Windover Inn I connected with Eastatoe Falls. After one of the guests mentioned its beauty I decided to check it out. The drive was about an hour and a half  going through Pisgah National Forest on 276 S.  I passed Looking Glass Falls, a must see and right off the road. When I got to Brevard, I made a right to get on 64W and continued until I hit US178 and made a left towards the town of Rosman. I followed US178 until I found this sign and a gravel road on my right, a little over 3 miles.
The owner happened to be outside when I pulled up and he assured me that all are welcome. He has a few signs up for parking I just went to the right of the house and parked.
After I parked I could hear the falls, its a short walk through his back yard and I was there.

 This wasn't a hike just a short walk but worth it. Its hard to believe its somebody's backyard.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Connecting to Our Guests, Our 'Calling'

A short time ago we found a very nice card left for us by a couple with an even nicer note inside. It was really uplifting in its message, partly because it was so flattering as it declared they had "a stellar experience" with "care and attention to detail unmatched in our travel experience". Of course it's always nice to feel appreciated whether it's by your spouse, family, friends, or - in our line of business - guests. A little further down in the message there was an even more insightful comment that said, "We have not been gifted or called to be innkeepers, but you obviously have been. You serve so well!"

This comment made us think about our previous jobs as vocational rehabilitation counselors in Pennsylvania. We always counseled our clients to prioritize their job search in the order of: 1)qualification (is training or education needed, and/or would your functional physical or mental limitations interfere with the necessary job tasks?), 2)interest or desirability (would you be happy doing this work day in and day out?) and finally 3)income (does the job pay well enough to satisfy your financial needs?). Notice we put the money question last after the desirability question because it's so much more important that a person likes what they're doing than if they're making a lot of money doing it. Of course, if you can have both of these benefits in your job, all the better! But we often cautioned our clients that someone who works primarily for the money, probably does not like his or her job very much. Over time this will eat away at the person with the end result being a well-off, but unhappy worker.

So the idea of a "calling" appeals to us. The couple who wrote this note probably enjoys their life's work, too, or they wouldn't be so keenly aware of this issue. The B&B "business" is one that we've often told our guests (when they ask) is not a 'get rich quick scheme'. But it is a labor of love and it is, truly, our calling. It is a lot of hard work, but the payoff is in seeing our guests enjoying themselves here, and leaving refreshed and, maybe, happier and less stressed than when they arrived. Of course we also love our 'home' and find it hard to imagine living somewhere else. Our favorite spot (like it is for many of our guests) is our porch. Every chance we get, we try to enjoy this area with all its quiet splendor. In fact, the guests who wrote that nice note, finished with this: "We have discovered and named "porching" (the verb) as our new favorite pastime." We couldn't have said it better!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Hot and Dirty Gardening

It was the 1970's and This Old House was brand new, and this old man was much younger with lots of youthful energy (some of which still exists!). It was shortly after the first gas crisis, and our culture had begun to 'raise its consciousness' by reflecting on the results that decades of "the throw away society" had bestowed on our quality of life. At the same time the Victory Garden made popular by James Underwood Crockett was in full swing. So outside I began a composter, although it was a much smaller version of the Victory Garden's and looked nothing like it. Someone had given me this creepy elongated  wooden box and I figured I'd give it a try as a composter. It consisted of three old doors nailed together in a "U" shape with chicken wire covering either end for some ventilation. It was creepy, because it actually looked like an open coffin. But after a few weeks of feeding it grass clippings and mulched leaves as well as organic kitchen scraps, it rewarded me with deep, dark healthy compost! Even better, it turned out to be "hot" compost. All I did was add some 10-10-10 occasionally, keep it moist, and turn it every few days with a piece of rebar. Totally ignorant of the 'hot' compost concept, I noticed after a week or two that when I pulled the rebar out of the center of the pile, it was hot (I mean 'ouch' hot!) to the touch. So, I did a little more 'research' (this was when research meant going to the bookstore or library) and discovered I had a working hot composter! The raw materials I added cooked down into a dark rich compost every couple of weeks, even in the dead of winter. So I never had to buy any mulch or potting soil for my postage stamp garden during the time I kept this baby in operation.

Fast forward to now, and I have a brand new composter built with the help of my good friend, Mike Denson. He was the handyman and I was the gofer. To my surprise Mike produced a copy of the original "Crockett's Victory Garden" book from 1977 which he discovered to have the very best composter design (sometimes the original is still the best!). So he built his composter based on the design and layout of the Victory Garden Composter from 1977, and then helped me build mine.

Starting composter assembly!
Who needs Bob Vila and
Norm Abram?

With this set-up, we're looking
more at Tim Allen
and his sidekick Al from
Home Improvement!
Uh oh, that drill is smokin'!

A little stain to match the house and this
composter is looking good!
 What goes around comes around! And guess what! I've been feeding it grass clippings, dry leaves, and some manure to kick start it and ....wait for it, I have version 2 of a HOT COMPOSTER after about a weeks worth of work!!  I also picked up a good deal on a chipper/shredder at The Trader, a great local second hand store, to mulch our leaves and tree debris, and have arranged with our coffee supplier, Smoky Mountain Coffee Roasters, to collect their coffee grounds for composting. That takes care of the 'carbon' ingredients. I have all the nitrogen I can handle in the grass clippings and other greens from our garden. So, I should be in compost heaven forever! 
The right mix and now the composter's smokin'!
The 3 sections will allow for a lot of compost.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Gardening: The Only Project Allowed Never To End

I'm the kind of person that doesn't like to have unfinished projects of any kind.  It's the part of my personality that keeps me from enjoying things like knitting or reading novels, or when doing things like moving, keeps me from taking a break until everything is in its place, and the last picture is hung on the wall.  It's also the part of my personality that allows me to get things done and not to procrastinate, even when I'm tempted to.

Uncharacteristically though, when it comes to our gardens, I seem to do everything and anything to make sure the project never ends!

Every season - and this time of year, every day - is exciting for me in the garden. I like nothing better than to be pulling weeds in one area of the yard, only to get to the other side to find leaves on a tree that weren't there just an hour ago.  Sometimes it reminds me of the National Geographic time lapse photography of flower buds opening into beautiful flowers - but it's happening in front of my eyes!

Our Siberian Iris are just starting to unleash their beauty
now, and thanks to splitting we have them everywhere!

As our cut leaf maples mature, their color
gets deeper and richer.
I love to see how our newer additions flower into more mature plants, how our mature plants become richer in color and texture each year, and how each of their characteristics play off of each other each time as they appear, disappear, and yes, some of them appear again! (We have to take more pictures!)

Don't laugh, but I relish the chance to find a mature plant that needs to be split so I have the opportunity to spread their beauty around the garden.  It costs nothing but time, and it keeps the project from ending.  And sometimes, after a plant matures, I'll actually be excited to find now that it's grown, it just doesn't look right in its original spot.  I look forward to the challenge to rearrange the area, or better yet, start an entire new one to get just the right look. Oh yeah, and to keep the project going.
and here . . .
Thanks to last year's splitting we
now have daisies here . . .
and here . . . .
and here!!!

and here . . .

Maybe it's creativity at work, maybe psychologically, I just need a place where I allow myself an unfinished project, or maybe, I just luv to get dirty!  Whatever it is, I certainly enjoy it, and love sharing it with others, even if it is unfinished!

One peony bush I found
growing under one of our other shrubs
has been split one . . .
two . . .
three times to give us 4 bushes now!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Reflections on Easter Sunday

Having a bed and breakfast makes it difficult to participate in the traditional holiday celebrations.  Holidays are usually our busiest times, so it's sometimes difficult to even remember that it is a holiday!

But Easter has always been a special holiday for me.  Not in the commercial baskets and candy way, but in the spiritual sense.  As the only two early birds in our house, my Dad and I would get up early on Easter Sunday for Easter Dawn Service held at the Fire Tower on Mt. Penn in Reading, PA.  It certainly didn't provide a stage like our Smoky Mountains or the scenes along the Blue Ridge Parkway, but it did provide a setting that truly made you feel closer to God, and for me, a spiritual intensity that was very moving.  I looked forward to it every year!

As I was remembering those memories today, I was thinking about how living here amongst some of the most beautiful scenery in the country, gives me that feeling of intensity all the time.  And although I understand the symbolism of the mountains bringing a person closer to God, it's so much more than that. 

Maybe it's how the wonder of it all reaffirms my faith, maybe it's the sounds and energy coming from all the living things surrounding us, or how the stillness of the forest creates the perfect path to peace and reflection.  Whatever it is, I'm grateful for it, and happy that I don't have to wait for Easter to experience it!