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A Reason to Smile

I was sitting on the front porch of the inn this past Sunday afternoon.  I was enjoying the beauty of the spring flowers including the daffodils, yellow tulips, and a forsythia bush.  The lawn was fresh green and the new growth on the boxwoods was evident too.  I could even see some early blooming dogwoods in the nearby woods.  It was spring at its best, and it was welcome.  Just a few days earlier, we had a cold spell that dipped below freezing for three nights.  I don’t know if it was dogwood winter or blackberry winter, but it was an interruption.  Sunday, on the other hand, was perfect. 

Sunday, of course, was also Easter, the most sacred day for Christians.  The resurrection of Christ is the validation of our entire faith.  It is a day that brought hope and promise that circled the globe.  It changed everything. 

Hope is a word used a lot lately, mostly in the context of the pandemic.  While it is still active, the situation is improving. With the vaccines and the warmer weather, the spread is not as threatening, and the future seems brighter. There is, for the first time in a year, a glimmer of hope

It all came together for me on Sunday as I sat on our porch.  Spring had returned, vaccinations are up and infections are down, and it was Easter.  I felt a renewal of spirit, a bounce my step, and a reason to smile.  There is HOPE and PROMISE.  There is a reason to get up and get out, a desire to reconnect, and joy in the prospects of the future. And it begins now. 

This is going to be a good year.

We hope to see you. We open April 21


A Ray of Sunshine

I just got back home from taking John Shell, Lainey’s dad and my father-in-law, to get his first corona virus vaccine shot. It was a ray of sunshine in what has been a challenging year.  It  boosted our spirits and for the first time in a long time and we feel encouraged and hopeful about the future.  A new day is dawning.

To say that 2020 was an aberration is an understatement.  Soon after the virus began to rapidly spread last winter and spring, we knew our year would be different.  We set three goal for Hemlock Inn:

                First was to provide a safe environment our guests and staff. Before we were allowed to open, we established guidelines for sanitizing, overall cleaning, contact spacing, mask and all the other protocols we  know so well.  Our real challenge centered on our family style meals.  Knowing we could no longer place large groups around our lazy susan tables, we followed the restrictions mandated by North Carolina and reduced the number of guests we could serve at 50%. Once we reached that level, we stopped renting rooms.  We also stopped accepting outside guests for dinner only.    We did what was reasonable and safe

                Secondly, we chose not to panic when cancelations came.  We realized some of our guests would be cautious and not travel until things stabilized. We needed to be understanding of their concerns.  Our numbers were down, but we never tried to talk anyone out of canceling their reservation.  We wanted the guests to return when the time was right for them.  Only they could decide.

                Thirdly, we just wanted to survive.   

We met our goals.  I am thrilled to report we had no Covid cases at the inn.   We have not received reports of illness from any guest and none of our staff was infected either.  We were blessed beyond measure!  Secondly, while we did have many cancelations, we still had a good number of our regular guests visit ( and we are so appreciative of each one of them) AND a fair number of new guests as well.  They were looking for a safe and remote place to vacation and Hemlock Inn fit the bill . We made many new friends as a result.  We were even able to host a small, reduced wedding, held completely outdoors; meals and all.  And we have survived. With the help of a PPP loan and some creative budgeting,  we made it through a tumultuous  year.

We now turn our attention to our next season

2021 is our year of HOPE!  Covid still rages for now, but we are closed for a few months and are enjoying our quiet isolation.  The availability of a vaccine provides light at the end of a time of darkness.  The vaccination process will take some time, but we expect to safely reopen on April 21; our usual time.   

Like many of you, Lainey and I are waiting for our turn to get the vaccine. We are also smiling as we wait in anticipation for our new season.   

We look forward to seeing you. Blessings on each of you


Elroy, Chip, & Dale

There is not much positive we can say about the pandemic that has impacted our lives so much over the past few months.  But there is one thing that has caught the attention of environmentalists and nature lovers.  With business closed and “stay at home” orders in place, people have not been out very much.  As a result, air pollution is down and wild animals have been spotted all over the place….including at Hemlock Inn.

As many of you know, our property covers 57 wooded acres just a little over a mile away from the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  It is not unusual for us to see squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, deer, turkey and even an occasional bear or fox.  Birds are filling the trees with their melodious cries and chirps. Mr Shell loves birds, so we put up several bird feeders on the deck right outside his window. 

But my attention has been turned to other “critters” lately. 

Elroy is my name for our local ground hog.  He, or his father, has been around for a few years.  We first saw him stick his head out of his burrow in our field a couple of winters ago when the grass was low and he was noticeable.  We would occasionally see him amble around the property and thought it was an amusing site. He even had a mention in an earlier blog I wrote about sitting on the inn’s front porch admiring a beautiful spring day. He nonchalantly ambled right in front of Lainey, Mr Shell, and me. We thought he was the symbol of a lazy spring day and just laughed at him.   

I’m not laughing anymore. Turns out, groundhogs like to eat flowers, at least Elroy does.  He has been know to eat everyone of the blooms off a gardenia bush and lay in the middle of our butterfly garden resulting in a large area of destruction.  Recently, he  ate the only bloom of a peony flower  and romped among a whole batch of ferns we had just bought to hand around the inn.   Elroy has become a pest.  I decided it was time to use my large live trap, catch him, and humanly release him far far away.  I researched just enough to find out that if I used cantaloupe as bait, I could lure him into the trap.  I put the plan into motion and set the trap in a location we often see him.  A few hours later, I check it and was disappointed to see it had not sprung.  But upon closer inspection, I also noticed the bait was gone.  I put out more bait and moved it to a location where I had just seen him.  A few hours later, the same result…no Elroy, trap not sprung, and no bait. Since I knew Elroy was too big to get to the bait without springing the trap, I knew something else was afoot. 

That brings me to Chip and Dale.  As you probably already guessed by their names, they are chipmunks. They are cute little critters always running around. In some ways, they are like watching a cat or a goldfish.  Peaceful, relaxing, comforting. … and mischievous. It didn’t take me too long to figure out these very light and nimble critters were able to get the cantaloupe out of the trap without setting it off.  Just like the cartoon characters they are named for; Chip and Dale were fouling my master plan to catch the nuisance Elroy.  To be fair, I had warning. Remember the bird feeders we put out?  They were specifically designed so squirrels wouldn’t be a problem.  One was a finch feeder the other was filled Safflower seed, which squirrels won’t eat. But apparently Chipmunks DO!   It didn’t take me long to discover Chip and Dale hanging from the feeder enjoying a feast.  They were consuming a full 7 pound bag every week. 

So, I still have Elroy, eating and destroying flowers and flower beds, and Chip and Dale eating the bait to prevent me from luring Elroy into a trap, as well as emptying our bird feeders at an alarming rate. As I sat pondering my next move, I felt I had only one option.  I went back inside my house where I felt safe and put on my mask.


            As our country was torn over the prospects of declaring our independence from Britain, Thomas Paine wrote a series of articles that were printed in pamphlet form urging support for the revolution. The most well-known was entitled “The Crisis”.  This pamphlet began with these iconic words….

                            “These are the times that try men’s souls”

          We are facing our own crisis these days. The pandemic is affecting all of us in some way. Some are sick, some are out of work as their businesses close, most have had their lifestyles affected as shutdowns and forced self-quarantines become common place. 

My thoughts this morning turned to all of you, wondering about your heath and how all of this may be altering your lives.  I just needed to reach out and let you know we are thinking of you, praying for you, and eagerly waiting until we can see you again. Please let us know how you are.

We also wanted to pass along an update of our status.

Personally, we are fine.  Mr Shell, Lainey, and I live in virtual seclusion all winter long.  We are well and without any symptoms.  In fact, our whole area is without a single case of the virus. We feel blessed that we are well and safe for the time being

             Since the inn is seasonal, we are fortunate that our facilities have not been subjected to any infection. But we know that can all change in a heartbeat.  So, we will continue to be vigilant!  WE HAVE TO BE VIGILANT!

            We are scheduled to open April 22.  While this is still over a month away, we are fully aware that may change.  We are not going to take any risks; we are not going to put anyone in danger of infection, and we are going to voluntarily follow the guidelines and restrictions placed on us by the federal, state, or local authorities.  We will keep you advised as things develop. 

            Charles Dickens began his book “A Tale of Two Cities” with these well-known words:

            “It was the best of times, the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was a season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair”

This is a time of trial, no doubt.  We have a serious situation that needs serious attention.  It is going to take all of us to make sacrifices and adhere to advice of medical authorities.  But this will pass.  Our lives will eventually return to a sense of normality.  The issue is the interim and how we approach it not only physically, but emotionally as well.

            Can we find good in this “worse of times”?  Where is the best during this uncertain period of time? We can certainly use this time to reconnect with our families; spending time with our kids, playing games, doing puzzles, and just talking. If they are older and not in our home, we can use FaceTime, email and even old-fashioned telephones to keep in touch and encourage each other.

 I think it would be helpful if we turned the TV news off for a while.  That includes the financial networks reporting every little detail of the stock market turmoil.  The news will always be there if you feel the need to catch up. The drone of bad news is discouraging. 

Instead, how about reading a good book, catching up on long put off tasks.  How about finding a good movie on TV instead?   There are some old jewels on AMC or TCM.  The selection is even larger if you have HBO etc. My family watched Secondhand Lion, a fun uplifting movie two nights ago.  The point is to do something useful and productive.

I pray we can make this season a time of wisdom, belief, light, and a spring of hope instead of foolishness, incredulity, darkness, and despair. It’s up to each of us

When the time is right, Hemlock Inn will open this year, and we will be ready for you. We can share details of his turbulent time and we can celebrate our new opportunity to embrace life in a different and enlightened way.

We’ll be waiting….




                 Lainey and I made a hasty trip to Knoxville last week for the birth of our 6th grandchild and first grandson.  Hudson Scott White joined our growing family on Tuesday evening, January 14.  Mom Alli, Dad John Thomas (JT), and baby are all fine.  Lainey and I are just thrilled. 

            We have come a long way since that evening in 1982 when I nervously proposed to Lainey under trees at Hendersonville Country Club.  We have three sons, Andrew, Steven, and John Thomas who married three extraordinary ladies, Jeanette, Sarah, and Alli.  We now beam with pride over our 6 grandchildren, Madelyn, Nora, Clara, Anna Lewis, Olivia, and now Hudson.  We are so blessed.

            We visit each individual family whenever we can, but we always gather at least once a year, either at Thanksgiving or Christmas.  This year, it was at Christmas and our table of 14 was filled with laughter, joy, and love.  Lainey’s dad, John, was there too, which meant we had 4 generations all together.  It was a special time.

            Several years ago, we planned a reunion for my family.  We needed to get together and chose a special occasion. Both my parents are deceased, but we decided to celebrate what would have been their 100th birthday (they were born within weeks of each other in 1916).  Most of the family made it and many brought old photos and memorabilia.  We had an ancestry chart which took us back several generations.  We wanted our children and their children to know the history of the family and their heritage.

            While we were planning , I came across a magazine article about family reunions.  One of the topics discussed was the decline in family gatherings.  The article pointed out that some considered technology was replacing the need for get togethers.  The authors suggested that folks can obtain any information about their family with an ancestry App.  FaceBook, Instagam, photo sharing, and face time can provide all the access necessary. But I’m old fashioned and have to believe those programs, as convenient and helpful as they are, can never replace getting together, sharing a quiet conversation, laughter around a table, and most importantly, a hug.

            Being a member of a family keeps us connected and grounded that no remote device can provide.

            Hemlock Inn is a family business, operated by our family for 50 years.  Our meals are served family style, which means they are communal meals around large round lazy susan tables.  The table is filled with home cooked food evoking memories of grandmother’s house. Some call it comfort food.  Experts tell us that the mealtime is the primary time family members communicate. Our tables provide that time not only for families, but also friends, old and new.

Family Reunions are also a big part of our operation.  Every year, we host numerous reunions of all sizes.  For some, it is a yearly tradition and we love hosting them.  In fact, we look forward to them. Catching up with our Hemlock families is fun. And it goes both ways as we share our stories as well. 

            It’s all about relationships.  With us, it’s more personal relationships than business.  We eagerly share stories, news of graduations, marriages, births, children’s achievements, retirements, and even passings. 

            Many years ago, one of our boys came into the house after playing with some of the kids staying here. He asked Lainey, “Are they our cousins?” We get to know guest so well, that it became confusing to him.  But in reality, you are part of our family. We have a bond deeper than just innkeeper/guest.  We love to see you arrive and hate it when you leave. 

            We open April 22. We hope to see you. Bring your family. We’ll be around to show you pictures of Hudson….and Olivia….and Anna Lewis….and Clara…and well you get the point.  We are proud grandparents after all


Feet in the Sand

                The 75th Anniversary of the D-Day landings will be celebrated this week in Normandy, France, and all over the free world.  I have always been fascinated by significant events of history and, in my opinion, there are few that rival what happened June 6, 1944. 

                I have had the privilege to visit France on several occasions and once, on our return flight out of Paris, we flew over the beaches of Normandy.  When the captain announced the beaches could be seen from the right side of the plane, I quickly jumped up from by seat on the left side of the aircraft, hobbled through a set of empty seats reserved for the flight attendants, just to grab a glance of them.  I apparently caused some commotion because I was chastised by the attendants and asked to return to my seat, where I was banished for the remainder of the six-hour flight.

                I told Lainey at the time that I would love to visit those beaches someday.  If I have learned anything in my 36 years of marriage to my wife is that she does not forget anything.  I have also learned that she likes to celebrate “special” birthdays.  For my 60th birthday, she hosted a dinner for family and friends and the Grove Park Inn.  As my next big birthday approached, I warned her I didn’t want a special party.  I didn’t get one.  What I got instead a dream trip to Normandy with my three sons, Andrew, Steven, and John Thomas. 

                This past March, we flew to Paris, rented a car, drove three hours to Normandy and spent two very full days visiting the 6 landing sites of June 6, 1944

                It was both a wonderful and educational yet sobering and emotional experience.  It was wonderful because it is a beautiful rural area of France with spectacular view of the English Channel with beaches and steep cliffs merging with the sea.  It was educational because of the many museums and displays that informed us of the size, scope and complicated logistics of the landings.  It was also wonderful because my sons were there to experience it with me.

                It was sobering due to the tremendous sacrifice of life that took place that day.  Thousands of young men died just on Omaha Beach that morning.  The beach is wide and deep and there was no protection from the relentless gunfire of the well-fortified German bunkers lining the shoreline.  It was sheer carnage. Yet they persevered and ultimately captured it.  As I walked on Omaha Beach, my sons backed off a bit and let me take it all in quietly and alone.   I was suddenly swept with emotion.  I couldn’t help wondering if I would have had the courage those young men exhibited that day.  I looked up and down the beach almost as far as I could see, visualizing that morning and wept.

                Later that day, we visited Pointe Du Hoc where the US 2nd and 5th Rangers climbed 100 foot cliffs to capture crucial gun emplacements.  60% of them did not survive the day.  Honor, duty, commitment ruled the day as they succeeded. 

                We visited St Mere Eglise,  the small inland town emblematic of the paratroopers that were dropped behind enemy lines overnight to disrupt communications and prevent enemy reinforcements.  Again, there were heavy losses as the paratroopers missed landing zones and were met by heavy resistance and losses. 

                The same could be said of Utah Beach, Gold Beach, Juno Beach, and Sword Beach where American, British, Canadian and some French forces landed.

                The significance of D Day is enormous.  In 1944, Germany ruled Europe and had its sights on Britain and beyond.  The world was in turmoil and serious danger.  The only option was to physically invade Europe, drive into the heart of Germany and defeat Hitler’s regime.  It was not going to be easy, it was going to require serious commitment and planning, and it was going to cost many lives.  But there was no other way. 

                The events of that day changed the course of history. We enjoy the many freedoms we too often take for granted because thousands upon thousands of young men and women from all over the globe were willing to take a stand.   

                Most of you probably familiar with the quote from philosopher George Santayana “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it” and I believe it is true.  We must always be mindful of our history, even our past failures, as we look to the future.  We must remember to value good over evil and to stand with our allies over anyone who seek absolute power and domination.   Hitler, Mussolini, and the Japanese went unchecked far too long and it almost cost us everything dear to us. 

                David Burnett is a photographer for National Geographic.  He has been going to Normandy since 1974 capturing moments of D Day Celebrations and remembrances.  He wrote a piece in this month’s issue.  He closes with these words:

                “History has a way of receding. Our recollections become secondhand, then thirdhand, and eventually just words in a history book. But I’m not sure the same fate awaits Normandy. I’ve never met anybody, young or old, who walked on Omaha Beach and didn’t feel the history of that place. There’s something very powerful about putting your feet on the sand”

                This March, I put my feet in that sand.  I have also “put my feet in the sand” at battlegrounds of Gettysburg, Appomattox, Pearl Harbor, and even Cowpens in South Carolina.  It is not just emotional; it is a reminder that we never forget what history has taught us.

 I pray we never have to make such sacrifices again.

It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This……

It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This…………..

It was the perfect afternoon.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, the temperature was in the low 70’s, and there was a slight breeze blowing across our face. Lainey, her Dad John, and I sat on Hemlock Inn front porch early yesterday afternoon admiring the successful planting of a few new trees in the inn’s front yard, replacing aged one we had taken down over the winter.  We were satisfied with our selection of the trees, Autumn Flame Maples,  and the location we had them placed.  They promised to be great shade trees in just a few years and would provide vibrant fall colors.

As we sat in the rocking chairs admiring our work, the birds were chirping and singing from the surrounding trees. We were particularly taken by a pair of blue birds, actively circling the area, only landing to rest occasionally on the lamp posts overlooking a birdhouse filled with their family of young newborns.  The newly hung hummingbird feeder was an active spot for one particularly hungry hummingbird, obviously grateful we finally put up his refueling station.

From the porch, we looked across the freshly mowed lawn, happy we had finally found the right yard service to keep our place neat.  The freshly planted flowers and hanging baskets were the finishing touches to adorn our outdoor area, but they could not match magnificent views afforded us by the surrounding mountains.  The recent cool front had cleared the sky of any clouds and haze leaving only breathtakingly clear views of the mountain ranges to the east and south.

We were given a final surprise when a fully-grown ground hog nonchalantly ambled directly in front of us heading to the safety of our pasture below.  He seemed comfortable as he passed and we sat in amusement.  The whole afternoon was one of peace and contentment.  The world seemed so far away and we were not eager to search for it.  News of the day was of no interest.

Eventually friends and guests joined us on the front porch to add a new dimension to an already perfect day.  The porch was suddenly filled with soft gentle voices sharing stories and laughter.  I thought to myself…It doesn’t get any better than this.

I admit that all days are not  perfect at Hemlock Inn.  We do get rain, a necessity if we want to keep green grass, beautiful flowers, and healthy trees.  Things break and malfunction and need repair.  Unwanted events may mar a day.  Those things are normal wherever we are. But Hemlock Inn also offers an escape from stress, relief from a tiring routine, comfort food, and a beautiful setting. It may not always be perfect but sometimes, maybe even many times, its good….very good.  You may agree, “ It doesn’t get any better than this”

                We still have some rooms available Memorable Day weekend.  Come join us.


Spring Brings Surprises

                When you first drive up the hill and arrive at Hemlock Inn, you park next to our lamppost and lantern.  This is an appropriate location to welcome guests because the lantern has often been associated with Innkeeping.  As I wrote in a blog 10 years ago  ”…. From early in the 18th century, the lantern has been the symbol of innkeeping.  Visualize the innkeeper standing outside his inn at night with a lighted lantern welcoming weary guests to his establishment”

                But it is not the lamppost or lantern I want write about. It is the flower garden at its base.  Years ago, we planted some tulips in that area and enjoyed watching them emerge early every spring.  We abandoned that practice because the tulips usually came and left before we opened.  Every now and then, a single or just a few yellow tulips still bloom in the early spring for us to enjoy for short while.  Then, around Mother’s Day, when we are comfortable that the lasts frost of the season has come and gone, we dig up and till the ground and plant new flowers for the season.  

                This spring, another single yellow tulip came up and was joined by four bright red tulips.  We were stunned.  We have no idea how long those bulbs had been in the ground and certainly couldn’t remember when they last bloomed.  Somehow, they survived all the years of tilling and working the ground in that small garden area.  But there they were, standing tall and proud.  Spring brings surprises.

                Isn’t that just like spring?   New life appears and overtake the dark and drab coat  of winter. It’s like screaming  “A new day is here…come marvel and enjoy”.

                But isn’t that life also?  Sometimes wonderful and beautiful things hide just out of sight, waiting for the right time to make its appearance.  It may be quickly, or it may take years, like our red tulips.

                Granted, sometimes these surprises may not be welcome.  The news may be an unexpected set back or perhaps a medical issue.  But even those times can be a wakeup call for us to change direction or to modify our lifestyle or behavior.

                Maybe our real lesson is to be aware of what is around us and to realize that changes and surprises that  may suddenly appear.    Perhaps we should even be looking for those new and exciting things hidden from view under a thin layer of soil, just waiting.  We may be surprised when we really open our eyes as well as our hearts and minds to the possibilities.

                I can’t close without a thinly vailed attempt at marketing.  Most of you reading this have been to Hemlock Inn.  If so, you can stop reading now.  BUT if you haven’t, Hemlock Inn can be one of those hidden gems.  We sit off the beaten path, away from traffic, crowds, on 57 wooden acres.  We have spectacular mountain views and provide wonderful home cooked meals along with a healthy dose of peace, quiet, and friendly folks.  You may come not knowing what to expect and discover a bright red tulip.

                We’ll be waiting!

                We open in two weeks…..Monday, April 22

Country Inn

This winter has been a season of learning for me.  It has also been a lesson in patience, perseverance, and frustration.

 Late last year, I was notified that the only on-line reservation system we have used had been sold to a large international company. We had to either convert over to the new company or set up with a completely different company over the winter.  I must first explain that our old system was not a “real time” reservation system.  It was merely a way folks could request a reservation.  We could accept or deny the request, but we had complete control over the process and some discretion on how we would handle the request.  I quickly discovered all this was going to change. The new on line procedure makes and confirms reservations, based on availability we provided, in real time and without any consultation from us. 

Now, for many of you, this is completely understandable and expected in today’s online process.  This is standard operating procedure.  But we always liked to be in touch with potential guests, find what they wanted, make suggestions, and help them complete the reservation.   Now, travelers seek and find their destinations on line, pick out a room, enter their credit card information, and the reservation is confirmed….instantly.

So, I started the conversation process and immediately ran into problems.  I could not find a way to describe our inn. Instead, I was given a list of options and asked to click on the one that best described the type us.   I could choose from B&B, resort, hotel, cabin, yurt, beach house, lakeside home, elegant townhouse and so many more.  But there was no option for what we have called ourselves for 67 years, a COUNTRY INN . There was no option to indicate that our room rate includes full country family style breakfast (not buffet, not continental, not a la carte) or our hearty southern family style dinner. 

In short there was no flexibility on many items.  I had to choose and describe our inn by selecting cookie cutter options.  The company wasn’t very helpful or available to help either. I decided to select another online system that was a little less stringent.  They were more helpful, but I still had to invent ways to fully describe our operation.

But my task was not complete.  I also decided to add three On Line Travel Agencies (OTAs).  You know them.  They advertise all day long on TV.  That’s right, I am moving into the 21st century.  I have finally understood that these platforms are the ones constantly used by all travelers, not just the young ones.  In my heart I knew this would have to happen and that it will increase our visibility and attract more guests.  It is a new world where we will have less and less contact with potential guests until their actual arrival.    

This process has taught me two important lessons.  Number one, I am old and out of touch.  Number two, we need to address the question of who we are in today’s terms.  If folks don’t know about Country Inns, we need to figure out what they recognize and how to adapt.

It is sad to me that folks don’t seem to know about country inns.  For a while now, I have noticed that many newer guests refer to us as a B&B.  Country Inns have been around almost as long as our country.  They were prominent in New England in the 1700s as a place for travelers to stop. The main feature that distinguished them was the food.  Country Inns served big breakfast and bountiful dinners.  Some served a lunch as well.  It was a one stop destination for tired travelers.  Norman Simpson formed an association of his favorite inns and wrote a travel book entitled “Country Inns and Backroads” that was published for many years.  He loved to tell of the unique inns that were located off the main roads, usually in somewhat remote areas.  Upon his death, his association of Innkeepers stayed together, but slowly was overtaken by a new breed of lodging; the Bed and Breakfast. The B&Bs were usually much smaller, only offered breakfast, and many times were quite elegant.  This was a far cry from the Country Inn. 

There is a place for all types of lodging from the B&Bs to the Boutique Inns, to the traditional hotels and motels, and even to the country inn.  Travelers have different tastes and requirements.  There are places that are luxurious with all the perks such pools, hot tubs, and spas, and fine dining.  And there are places that offer a slower pace, beautiful scenery, and home cooked food.   Today’s traveler has many choices…

Hemlock Inn sits on 57 wooded acres near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park atop a peaceful mountain. We have beautiful mountain views, southern style meals, and quiet nights filled with gentle voices and the sound of crickets.  We are a Country Inn….

We open Monday, April 22 for our 68th year.  We invite you to join us.  We’ll be waiting for you

Exhausted Nature Displacement Engineer


For the past several years, I have employed a local gentleman to keep up our yard. In the Spring and Summer, he mows the grass and weed eats down the banks and along the edges. As fall approaches, his attention turns to blowing and raking leaves. Since we are located on 57 wooded acres, we have a lot of leaves falling. This is a never ending, thankless task for often they fall faster than we can collect them. I have a picture in my mind of a former employee going down the driveway blowing the leaves as fast as he could. The immediate area he was blowing was clean and neat; in front of him the driveway was covered with leaves, and behind him they were falling heavily, covering what he had just blown. I asked him if that was frustrating for him to work so hard only to have his work covered backup with leaves so quickly. He just laughed and that was his “job security”.

My yard worker and friend was suddenly and unexpectedly diagnosed with a rare cancer that incapacitated hem quickly and took his life in just a few short months. It shook up all of us. His son graciously offered to continue his work for the rest of the year. The only drawback was he already had a full-time job, so it was going to be bit more complicated than before. But we greatly appreciated his offer and quickly accepted.
As you may have also experienced, our fall was slow coming and slow to end. Usually, all, or at least most, of the leaves have fallen by the end of October or early November. Our peak weekend this fall was not even until the first weekend of November and the leaves lingered on the trees for a long time afterward. I wanted to make sure the last of the leaves had fallen before he came do a final cleanup so I asked him not to come for a while. I finally called him in mid-December and told him to come do a final cleanup. But his job interfered and he had problems getting here. After the holidays, I contacted him again and told him that since the inn was closed, I had time to do it. I was not disgruntled with him (it was not his fault). I just like to get out and do tasks like this. It keeps me active and clears my mind. I have made many business decisions and written several blogs (including this one) while outside doing jobs or hiking.

After the rains and snows finally slowed down, I began my task. I planned to work just a few hours at a time. I was in no hurry, but I wanted the place nice and clean. My goal was the blow and rake up around the inn the first week. Blowing out the gutters, the parking lot, and around the Innkeepers, Rondette, and Woody Cottage. I found that over the year, many leaves had simply found there way under all those boxwoods and settled into low areas. While the top layer was dry and easy to move, the layers underneath were still wet from all the rain ad snow we had in December. The leaves were ankle deep around the Woody Cottage and in front of the Rondette. They could not be blown easily. The only way I found to move them was to rake them onto a canvas tarp and physically drag them somewhere out of the way. Which brought up another issue. Where do you put all the leaves you collect? Years ago, we had a guest ask that very question. We laughed and thought that was a dumb question. But I found it was a real issue. I blew and raked leave over the many banks we have as much as possible. But at some point, I had more leaves than I had places to put them. My mind started wondering just how many leaves I was moving. When I first began, I thought how many thousands were there? It didn’t take me long to figure it wasn’t thousands, it was millions, billions, even trillions of leaves. In retrospect, I guess I should have just piled them up and burned them all, but that thought came long after I had already pushed most over a hillside.

Anyway, my wondering mind came up with another question…. how I should classify this job. This is an important task that deserved a better title than leaf raker or blower. I settled on Exhausted Nature Displacement Engineer. Exhausted (used up, worn out) Nature, (leaves) Displacement (relocated, moved), Engineer (worker) . I thought that sounded better. I may even advertise for that sometime…..Hemlock Inn now hiring an Exhausted Nature Displacement Engineer. Nah, that sounds too expensive. I think I’ll just find some teenager to rake my leaves

I still have to finish down our quarter mile driveway. Probably a few more trillion leaves to move. My plan is to get it done before we open for President’s Day weekend. That’s only a month away. I guess I’d better stop writing and start blowing


PS If you are looking for a winter get away, come join us for Valentine’s /President’s Day weekend, February 14, 15, 16, 17. We’ll have a fire in the fireplace, good food and fellowship and a bunch of chocolates from the Chocolate Shop in Bryson City. . . . You can also inspect my leaf cleanup job