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October has come to an end

blog17October has come to an end and for many that is the end of the leaf color season. While the peak has passed, Lainey and I were awed this past weekend as we drove to Knoxville to see our son Steven. The colors were still ablaze in parts of the park. I have attached some photos I took in the park for you to see. We saw gorgeous bright yellow colors in places, wonderful waterfalls in others,. and then complete fog and winter like conditions at the crest of the Smokies at Newfound Gap. The Smokies are a marvel, no matter what time of year.

This has been an interesting year to say the least. The unusual economic conditions made it difficult for many to travel this year, but we were encouraged all year long by our regular guests and new guests alike. How blessed we are to have the friends new and old that support Hemlock Inn. As I sat at the dinner table one night with four couples, we figured between them they had been coming to Hemlock Inn for 135 years. I don’t think many places can boast that kind of loyalty.

We are still open….

We are now starting the Polar Express season. This very popular train starts its magical trips to the North Pole this weekend, November 6.

Most Saturday nights and many Fridays are already sold out, but there is still plenty of room other times. We just had a cancellation for Friday and Saturday December 18-19 in the Red Cottage. I advise you call soon. This is a wonderful treat for the whole family.

Another grand time is Thanksgiving. We still have some room available for that wonderful weekend. Our rates include those great home cooked meals including the Thursday night Thanksgiving feast.

I encourage you to rejoice this season! Things are getting better and no matter our circumstances, we are really blessed.

–Mort

Leaves, Leaves, Leaves…

blog16It is mid October and in the mountains and all the attention is on the changing colors of the leaves. This is a great time of the year, the best time many folks feel. Right now, there are beautiful colors to be found all around. But there are still areas where the color still has a ways to go. So there is color available now and still more color to come. I think we will have some vibrant colors into November.

The air has cooled considerably with the lows at night well into the 30′s while the daytime temps stay in the 50′s and 60′s. In addition, we have had good amounts of rain so the streams and waterfalls are accenting the overall beauty of the fall season. There was even a little bit of snow at Clingman’s Dome last night. Hiking is wonderful and the sightseeing is unmatched.

I feel sorry for folks who can’t witness all four seasons like we do in our mountains. A lady called a while back and wanted to make a reservation for December. She asked “Will the leaves still be pretty?”

When I explained that the color would all be gone by then, she paused and then asked “Well, will the leaves be green again? While I didn’t ask, I assumed she must be from some tropical climate and did not know that after the leaves turned their beautiful fall colors, they died and fell off the tree. Leaves were always on the trees where she lived.

The mountains have four wonderful seasons, none better that fall.

If you still want to enjoy the mountains in the fall, there is still color to be found and we still have a few rooms available, especially the last week of the month and into November. Give us a call.

Gift Certificates

On another note, folks are already gearing up for Christmas. I wanted to remind everyone that we offer Hemlock Inn Gift Certificates. It is the perfect gift for those who love simple pleasures, genuine southern hospitality, and the Great Smokies…not to mention wonderful homecooked meals. Call our inn and we can take care of all the arrangements.

Speaking of Christmas, don’t forget the Polar Express which starts November 6. Tickets are selling fast, so make your plans and give us a call. We can arrange accommodations and train tickets too.

Hope your fall is as wonderful and blessed as here in the Smokies. Come see us!

– Mort

When do the leaf colors reach their peak?

blog14We are accustomed to answering a lot of questions at our inn. The two most often asked are “How do you get up your driveway in the winter?” and ” When will the leaves be at their peak?” The answer to the first question is pretty matter of fact depending on weather conditions.

However the second question has no real answer because there are so many factors that influence the timing of the colors including amount of rainfall, temperatures etc.

The best bet is the middle of October around the second or third week. However, we have seen good color earlier in the month and some brilliant color well into November. It is hard to pinpoint the absolute best time. The only thing we can tell you is that the leafs always change, they will be beautiful.

A local motel a few years ago decided to be the leaf prognosticator. On the sign outside his establishment, he listed the percentage of leaf color up to that point. Early in the month, the sign would read “Leaf color at 10%”. As the month went on, the percentage would increase until it reached 100% at what he thought was absolute peak. Of course, his method was to step outside his door, look at the mountains, and make up a number. Truth be known, that is about as good as any more scientific method.

The colors have started. The dogwoods started a few weeks ago along with some sourwoods. We are beginning to see color change across the valley and all indications are that it is going to be a glorious fall.

It is one of the wonders of nature. I have been in the mountains since 1967 and at Hemlock Inn for since 1988. I am still amazed at the splendor of fall. The colors, coupled with cool temperatures, and clear skies make it breathtaking season. My mother-in-law, Ella Jo Shell, use to refer to October as the “color spectacular show in the world”.

Come enjoy the most beautiful time of the year in the mountains. Some room is still available in October and November. We will have a fire in the fireplace, hot coffee in the morning, good meals, wonderful fellowship, and the most beautiful scenery you could ever imagine. You don’t want to miss it.

– Mort

Are you watching it?

blog11PBS is showing a Ken Burns series on the National Parks. As with all of his work, this is very well done and tells the story of the formation of all the National Parks in our land. Of course, our special interest will be the feature on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Coincidentally, the Smokies are celebrating their 75th Anniversary this year. I encourage you to watch this series if at all possible.

Then, I hope you will take the next step and come visit the park. There is no better time to visit than right now. October is the best month to see the Smokies. The air is cool, the mountains are crisp, and the colors are unimaginably beautiful. I was down in Deep Creek just the other day and took some pictures of Tom’s Branch Falls. It is one of our favorite spots and we never tire of it.

Fall is definitely here. The nights are cool (we had a fire in the fireplace last night and this morning too), the leaves are beginning to turn, a gentle breeze rustles the leaves. We are breaking out our sweaters and sweatshirts. We finished our Apple Chips in September and are now starting our Pumpkin Chips. Our supply is just about gone.

You need to come to the mountains. Our weekends are pretty busy, but there is a little bit of room here and there. There is more room available on weekdays. Don’t forget about early November. Often the colors last into the first or second week.

Coming up is Thanksgiving and Polar Express. Both are very popular. Reserve now. The National Parks are a treasure and I hope you can come enjoy them soon.

– Mort

We can feel a change in the weather in the Smokies

applesWe can feel a change in the weather in the Smokies. Not only have we had a fair amount of rain this fall (especially lately), but the temperatures are cooling off. We are experiencing temps in the 50′s at night and 70′s during the day. Some of the dogwoods are already beginning to show a change in leaf color.

Yes, the fall season is upon us.

There is absolutely no time better in the mountains than Autumn. The mountains become ablaze with color, temperatures are cool and comfortable, we keep a fire going in the fireplace, and there is nothing better than a hot cup of coffee in the early morning as the early morning fog lifts revealing the beautiful colors of fall. A roommate of my sister’s once said the mountains in fall looked like a huge bag of M&Ms with the assortment of red, orange, yellow, green, and brown. I can think of no better example.

Even though we are busier in the fall than most any other time, THERE IS STILL SOME ROOM AVAILABLE. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you want to come, even at the last minute. We have changes and some cancellations and may have room for you. Often the color last well into early November as well, so that is another option for you if October is not convenient.

The other event of fall here at Hemlock Inn is the making of our Apple and Pumpkin Chips. This special recipe is the only one we don’t divulge. They are the creation of Lorraine Haney, the original owner of the inn. They are served on our tables every night and are very tasty and popular. We make our Apple Chip supply in September and our Pumpkin supply in October. We make enough to serve and sell. We just finished our Apple Chips and are in the process of getting our supply of pumpkins to start the Pumpkin Chips soon.

If you like to plan ahead, we are open for Thanksgiving and still have rooms available. We are already taking reservations for the Polar Express for November and December. I will give more information on that soon. But it is not too early to make your plans. Many nights and train excursions are already filling up.

We always look forward to seeing you. It is going to be a great and colorful fall. Make plans to enjoy it.

– Mort

The Light of Hospitality

blog9From the very beginning, the lantern has been the symbol of innkeeping. Visualize the innkeeper standing outside his inn with the lantern, welcoming weary guests to his establishment. Outside Hemlock Inn, there is a lamppost and lantern near the parking lot and right next to the “New Guests Park Here” sign. It has been our welcome to tired travelers of today.

None of us here know when the lamppost was installed. Maybe it was around when the inn was built in 1952. We found some pictures of it in the 60′s. We think the Haneys, the folks who built the inn and managed it for the first dozen years, may have found it at an auction or antique store. No one really knows the age of it …we just know it is old. Earlier this year, it began to malfunction. The lantern was showing some rust and the post was rotting. We thought maybe it was time to replace the whole assembly…new post and new lantern too.

Charles and Mary K Turkington had scheduled a family reunion at the inn for late June. As it turned out, several of the men in the family, including Will and Tim Turkington and Jack Ewing, loved to do handiwork and asked for a chore to do while they were here. I told them about our plans for the lamppost and they agreed to take on that task. But our plans to install a new lantern abruptly changed once they began to take the old one down. A quick examination revealed it was much older than we expected. First of all, it was very heavy. The top of the lantern was vented and the bottom was designed for a removable plate. It was quickly determined that this was a lantern designed for candles. The glass was very thick and some of the fittings were brass. This was a valuable and old treasure. We decided then and there that we needed to restore the old lantern and Charles Turkington, patriarch of the family, agreed to take on that job.

In Mid August, the Turkingtons returned with the refurbished lantern and it was installed in its original site. As I look at the lantern today, I think of how many guests it has welcomed over our 57 years of operation. I also think of the many the life long friends we have made here and how our lives have been touched by them. We hope our simple inn has touched them as well in some small way.

We often wonder if our inn is getting too old. We know much of the traveling public today want new buildings and modern amenities. Then I look at the lantern and remember that Hemlock Inn is also a valuable treasure offering a break from the stresses that seem to over take so many folks. You simply cannot find many places around any more that offer peace and tranquility in a wonderful natural setting, genuine southern hospitality, and delicious homecooked meals served family style.

Thank you Charles, Will, Jack and Tim. The new, refurbished lamppost and lantern is wonderful and has reminded us of our heritage May our lamppost continue to be the light of hospitality for many more years for folks looking for a special place to rest, relax, and renew.

Come enjoy the peace

– Mort White

Hemlock Inn and the electronic media

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a bit of a throw back when it comes to electronic media. I would still rather go inside a fast food restaurant (when I have to eat fast food) or into the bank than use the drive through. I just like to see who I am dealing with. I can remember many years ago sitting with some guests at one of our dining room tables talking about the new fangled product called email. I emphatically told everyone that I preferred to use the telephone to speak personally with guests and prospective guests to answer questions, check availability, describe our unique inn, and make room reservations. Much later, after it became apparent email was a necessity, I had similar hesitations about on-line reservation systems.

I didn’t want to give up the personal contact.

Today, of course, we have a Hemlock Inn website(www.hemlockinn.com), Hemlock Inn email (hemlock@dnet.net), Requests for Reservations on our website, and even on-line reservations available through Webervations (www.webervations.com). We also have a Hemlock Inn Facebook page (become a fan now), an Innkeeper’s Blog, and high speed internet service for our guests. It is all necessary I know. Many folks now want to do everything by computer and we want to accommodate them the best we can and make it as easy as possible for them. But it is also frustrating at times. We exchange emails back and forth when one simple phone call would answer all questions quicker and easier. Some emails are returned as undeliverable, others not accepted because Hemlock Inn in not on their approved listed. Folks are trying to keep down the spam you know. We still try to call folks who have sent us messages or reservation requests, but many times they don’t answer our call. They don’t recognize our number on caller ID. It is all part of the new way we communicate these days and we’d all better get used to it. I still prefer the phone…I like to hear their voice and find out their needs.

I want to tell them all about Hemlock Inn and make sure we do everything to make their visit pleasant.

There are still a few things I don’t have. I have no plans to twitter, I don’t have a Blackberry, and I don’t have a GPS system in my car.

Call me old fashioned I guess. But Hemlock Inn is all about escaping to a place where you can relax, refresh, and renew. It’s about meeting wonderful folks around a big dinner table and sharing the events of the day….personally…one on one. That’s still a great way to communicate. I think it is the best.

Fall is coming with beautiful foliage in October and parts of November.

Looking for a bargain?…September is your time to come to the mountains. Thanksgiving is always a special occasion at Hemlock Inn.

November and December is the time for “Polar Express.” It always sells out. Reserve early.

Get in touch with us soon and make your reservation. We have lots of ways to communicate with you…and we’d love to hear from you..

–Mort

Simple Pleasures

blog7We often speak of “simple pleasures” at our inn. That is partly because we are an older rustic inn and do not offer some common amenities such as a pool or hot tub. Goodness, we don’t even have televisions. We honestly feel folks sometimes need to get away from those things and escape to a simpler time.

Sometimes that is a bit scary for parents. What in the world will their kids do without television or pool etc? In reality, they don’t need to worry. This past week, we had several families with children of various ages. They did the usual things available in our area, tubing, hiking, riding the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, but they also occupied their time at the inn playing ping-pong and shuffleboard, chasing and capturing fireflies at night, and playing waffle ball in our front yard. But, by far the most popular activity was sliding down our hill on cardboard boxes. This entertained them, and all the parents watching, for hours.

We have a memory book in our sunroom. Some time back, a 12 year old girl wrote about staying at Hemlock Inn. “My Dad finally had time to play a game with me”, she said. Perhaps we parents work too hard to find things for our kids to do when all we need to do is spend some time with them let them use their imagination to create fun. It is the kids that often bring their parents back to Hemlock Inn.

Simple pleasures for the adults? That is easy….a hot cup of coffee early in the morning while looking over the mountains. Reading a good book while rocking on the front porch. Eating wonderful homecooked meals without having to cook them or clean up afterwards. The absence of constant phone calls and deadlines.

Interested in some simple pleasures? Come see us …..

– Mort White

What do you look for on vacation?

meadow titled printWe try not to take our good fortune for granted. We live in a beautiful and restful setting, but sometimes we just forget how lucky we really are. This past weekend, I was quickly reminded.

My family decided to take a short weekend trip to the greater Atlanta area. This was to be a combination trip to celebrate my son Steven’s return from Africa (he was there six weeks on a Campus Crusade Summer Project), also to celebrate his 21st birthday, and to attend the wedding of the oldest son of some dear friends. We made reservations at a fine four star establishment, planned to play a little golf on Saturday morning, attend the wedding late Saturday afternoon and return home Sunday morning. We left late Friday afternoon with great anticipation.

I forgot about traffic on Friday evenings on I-985 and I-85. We got a little behind in our schedule and decided to stop and eat a good dinner before checking in. We exited off at a busy intersection with many restaurants to choose from. As it turned out, we were fortunate there were many to choose from because most all had a waiting list of at least an hour. It was already 8:00pm and I was hungry. After all, I was used to our regular 6:30 dinner time at the inn.

After a late dinner, we finally arrived at our destination and it was beautiful…but it also was hosting three weddings. We were happy to finally hit the bed since we had an early tee time. But the fun was just beginning for others. We began to hear loud and persistent noises. Doors were slamming over and over and there was commotion and loud voices filling the hallway. I finally got up and went to the front desk to ask for help. On my way there, I passed the lounge and discovered that inebriation was the word of the night. I guess the bachelor parties were in full swing and they were spilling into the hallways. Security was helpful and finally, after 2 hours, we were able to sleep.

We awoke groggy eyed, played our game of golf, fought the traffic to the nearby town where the wedding was held (which was wonderful) returned to the inn somewhat fearful of a repeat of the night before.

As we drove back to the mountains Sunday, I was reminded why folks come to Hemlock Inn. The area is beautiful, we offer wonderful home cooked meals on time without waiting, the setting is peaceful and the traffic is usually not a problem. There is plenty to do in the area for those who want to stay active, but there is also peace and quiet for those who just want to relax. Folks hopefully return home rested and refreshed.

What are you looking for for your vacation this summer? There is still time to plan a fun family get away or couple retreat. We have some great deals and can help you plan the activities your desire. Come visit the mountains, get away from traffic, long lines, and the noise.

Come enjoy pure, simple, ….. peace………

–Mort

Small Towns, Big Doings

As most of you know, Hemlock Inn is located just 4 miles outside Bryson City. Our town has a booming year round population of 1500 and surrounding Swain County has about 14,000 full time residents. When I first moved here 21 years ago, it took me a while to adjust to living in such a small community. There were fewer stores and shops, no movie theater, everything closed up early in the evening, and I couldn’t find a radio station to my liking.

But small towns have their advantages also. Everyone calls you by your name, ask how you are and means it. You get to know the postman, your kid’s teachers, the folks who repair your car, and most importantly the hair dressers and barbers.

I believe there is an old saying something like this…”The best thing about living in a small town is everyone knows you and knows what you are doing and the worst thing about living in a small town is everyone knows you and knows what you are doing.” But there is one more advantage…

In Bryson City, every holiday is celebrated by a festival. That is what is happening this weekend for Fourth of July. Freedom Fest will go on all day Saturday with food, games, and music. The highlight may be the goat patty bingo and watermelon eating contest. All this is caped off by “the biggest firework display in Western North Carolina”. A great time is had by all.

We still have rooms available for the July 4th weekend. Come visit us and enjoy the fun. We look forward to seeing you.

–Mort