From the BlogSubscribe Now

A Good Man

As you probably know, Dean Smith recently passed away.  He was part of my childhood.  Being raised in and around North Carolina in the 60’s & 70’s, I was an avid fan of the UNC Tarheels.  I started following them when Charlie Scott was a player and continued to follow them for many years with many stars.  The stars were fun to watch, but it was the team concept that was most intriguing.  Sometimes, it didn’t seem to matter who was playing, they still won.  Some of my favorite years were those when most of the “good players” left and they were picked to finish way down in the conference.  More often that not, they still won.

I fully realize many of you may be “ABC” fans…Anyone But Carolina…, but it is not my intention to talk Coach Dean Smith. However, I do want to say just a few words about Dean Smith, the man.

Dean Smith’s qualities has been well documented over recent days.  He was a caring man, who had an extraordinary memory for names and faces, who kept up with all his players, not just the stars even after they had graduated.  He was a humble man who left the basketball court quickly on the night he became the all-time leader in wins because he didn’t want the attention.  He was a kind and considerate man who stopped fans behind the goals from screaming and shouting when and opposing player was shooting a foul shot because he considered it unsportsmanlike.  He was a man of equality and justice when he was the first in the entire state to integrate not only his team, but other establishments in the area as well.  In short, he was a man of integrity.  He was not perfect and I don’t agree with all he believed, but I respected him.  You may not like his teams, but in truth, we all had to respect him.

 I read a book this winter that has caused me to reevaluate what should be important in our lives.  In an age of narcissism, chest pumping, selfies, “see what I have done” mentality, this book drew me to a simple verse in Galatians 5:22-23.  “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance…..”  It reminded me that our lives should not be about us and how great we are. In very simple terms it calls us to be a good person.  In our hearts, we all know what that means.

I believe Dean Smith was a good man and that is my goal as well.  Instead of judging others, I need to be loving;    instead of looking for power, I should be seeking gentleness;    instead of worry, I need to show joy;    instead of impatience, I need to be more longsuffering;   Instead of thinking of myself, I just need to be a good man and recognize that means thinking of others first.

I hope this translates into Hemlock Inn as well in the way we welcome and serve our guests.  We want to provide peace and comfort to all who visit here.  It starts with me but it is about how we treat you.

We hope to see you this season.



Dawn of the New Year -2015 


I actually took this picture a few mornings ago just as the sun was coming up over Hemlock Inn, but I think it symbolizes our hopes for 2015. A new year brings new opportunities and horizons.  We start new and fresh with renewed dreams and determination.

2014 was a good year, especially for our family…We enjoyed graduations, a wedding, and the birth of a new granddaughter.  The year at the inn was also encouraging and set the stage for 2015.

Lainey and I will be here for our 28th year as your Innkeepers.  Our goal will be the same as always… to serve you and give you a get away from whatever brings you stress by providing a restful and peaceful setting, home cooked meals and heartfelt hospitality.

We hope to see you this year.  Happy New Year



Christmas 2014

It is the Christmas season, the most joyous time of the year.  A time that we celebrate our Savior’s birth and talk of peace on earth and goodwill towards  men.

But that seems like unrealistic hope these days.  International terrorism is rampant and  innocent victims, both young and old,  are lose their lives daily in the name of a radical faith or for some other agenda.   Here in the states,  recent events has ignited a racial divide  resulting in riots and protests across the country.  Regrettably, retaliation now has occurred.  Life is too precious to be so casually tossed aside.

“Ethics..are nothing but reverence for life.  This is what gives me the fundamental principle of morality, namely, that good consist in maintaining, promoting, and enhancing life, and that destroying, injuring, and limiting life are evil”      Albert Schweitzer       

I’m afraid too many of us are so caught up in our own point of view and “rights” that we cannot even consider the opinion  of others.  Is it my imagination  that the TV commentators and even our elected leaders seem to  argue over everything?  There is definitely  too much blaming and not enough listening.  Perhaps all of us could use a healthy dose of humility to take away some our stubborn pride.

I am certainly not smart enough to have the answers to these issues, but I do know that each of us can only fully control one person…ourself.  Each of us is a full time job.   Perhaps if we individually practice the qualities we extoll at Christmas; love, peace, good will, joy, understanding, empathy, and so much more,  then we can make our little world a much nicer place.   Perhaps we need to be less concerned about our rights and just do what is right. If enough people follow that simple path, imagine how much nicer our world can become.

“Everything you do matters.  Every move you make, every action you take…matters. Not just to you, or your family, or your business or hometown.  Everything you do matters to all of us forever” 

Andy Andrews, The Butterfly Effect

 Rejoice!  It is Christmas.  Share your joy and love to everyone you meet.  Practice good will to ALL men.  Live in peace within your world.  And do it all year long.  Wow! Now that’s what I would call a great Christmas present for all of us.

 Merry Christmas everyone and a Happy New Year too.



Four Seasons

One of the most enjoyable perks of living in Western North Carolina is  getting to enjoy all four seasons.  Our spring this year was as beautiful as ever with emerging “spring green” spreading over the mountains like icing on a hot cake.  The spring flowers captured us all with their majesty.  Summer followed with warmer temperatures which lends itself to numerous outdoor activities such as hiking, whitewater rafting, tubing, zip lining, mountain biking and so much more.  It is a time of pure joy and fun in a magical setting of the Smokies.

We are now beginning to enter our fall season.  In many ways, it is the most glorious as the mountains take on the look of a spilled package of M ‘& Ms.  We are already noticing cooler temps and clearer skies.  The dogwoods and some sourwoods are beginning to show their early color.  Winter will soon follow with cold weather and some snow for sure.  But it is a great time for roaring fires and hot coffee.  Winter hiking is also some of the best.  Since the trees have lost their leaves, some wonderful mountain views become more visible.

Here are some things you need to remember as we approach fall and winter months at Hemlock Inn:

October is prime leaf season.  Color is noticeable all month, but usually at peak later into the month.  It is not unusual to see color even  into early November. While most weekends are very busy, we still have some rooms available during the week and near the end of the month.  If you can only come on a weekend, keep checking with us.  Cancellations and changes happen and we could have some last minute openings

Thanksgiving weekend, November 26-29, is a great time to be at Hemlock Inn.  This is usually a very popular weekend and is highlighted by our “Thanksgiving Feast” on Thursday evening.  Our usual Hemlock meal is replaced by the turkey and dressing, ham, sweet potato casserole, cranberry casserole, and all the other traditional Thanksgiving dishes (that includes pumpkin and pecan pies for dessert).  This is sure to fill up, so call soon.

Polar Express excursion train ride is the most popular event of the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad.  It starts in early November and will run through New Year’s Eve.  This magical ride to the North Pole is loved by kids of all ages and will sell out.  Each year, folks make their reservations earlier and earlier to assure themselves a place on the train.  We encourage you to call and make your reservations as early as you can.  We have packages available including breakfast and dinner or breakfast only.  CALL SOON!

It is impossible to say which season is our favorite, because we love them all! But it is hard to beat the fall colors and the fun of the Polar Express.  We hope your plans this fall and/or winter include a trip to the mountains and Hemlock Inn.

Hope to see you soon.



Through Children’s Eyes

It is July, near the middle of our season, and it has been an interesting year already.


Harper Davison is our summer intern from Arkansas Tech and she has been learning all the adventures and challenges of a family business and inn.  She has spring cleaned rooms, waited tables, washed dishes, worked in our office, and helped with two weddings at the inn.  She is seeing it all.  Who knows, she may still end up in the kitchen some time.


Ashley Hackshaw, along with her husband Brett and daughter Sienna, arrived a month ago.  We have enjoyed watching them adapt to a whole new environment.  We hope you have been following them on Ashley’s blogs; www.yearatthehemlock or as they find their way around town and the area, discover their favorite places for lunch, take beautiful hikes, all the while fixing up their cottage.  Ashley’s passion is writing and she is now able to do just that more and more everyday; not only on her blogs, but also on a book she is authoring.  Brett has taken up mountain biking with a vengeance.  He rides whenever he can and can be often found down at the Bike Shop in Bryson City or at the Tsali Campground, where there are wonderful mountain bike trails.  Then there’s Sienna, some of us call her Boo.   She is full of enthusiasm and just loves being at Hemlock Inn, exploring and playing, meeting new friends, playing board games with Miss Lainey, and just generally having fun.  She even likes to help setting and clearing the tables.


And that brings us to the point of this post. Children, like Boo, have the unique ability to see things that we as adults sometimes miss.  It is pure exuberance for life and simple pleasures.  Those of us who are parents remember the time in our children’s early lives when everything was a wonder.  They would walk (and run) around with wide eyes exploring all that was around them.  A bug could fascinate them for an hour.  They took nothing for granted.  That is why we love this time of the year at Hemlock Inn.  We enjoy watching the children and the sheer joy they have exploring and playing outside, meeting new friends.


There have been times when parents expressed concern about what their children would do here.  After all, we have no TV in the rooms, no swimming pool, and just a limited area for WiFi.  They are nervous their kids will be bored and their vacation ruined.  Several years ago, we had such a set of concerned parents. Upon finding out there was no TV, they immediately began calling around to locate local movie theaters.  When they found a movie of interest, they went looking for their teenage boys who had made their way to our patio, met some other kids, and were involved in a hot game of ping pong.  When they announced they were leaving to go to the movies, the boys said they didn’t want to go.  They were having too much fun right here.


We regularly ask our guests what attracted them to Hemlock Inn.  For returning families, the answer is very often that the children wanted to come back.  We believe that “….children bring the parents back” and it is so true.


Sometimes, I wish all of us adults could just sit back and look through the eyes of our children at all the wonder around us…the simple joys, the delight at little things, no agenda or worries, just plain fun.  Life is real, often complicated and filled with obstacles.  We cannot avoid that reality but it is nice to escape it just for a little while, look at things differently, and spend our time on what and who is really important.


When that happens,  it is an added bonus because families will spend more time together and that is really what the kids really want.   We often quote a note written by a nine year old girl a few years ago.  She and her family were here to ride the Polar Express Train.  While that was great fun, what was really important to her was that  “…my dad finally had time to play a game with me”



Summer is here.  It is a chance to get away from whatever consumes us.  May we suggest that this summer you consider what is really is important.  Rather than look for a place that will entertain your children, find a place without distraction so you can interact with them.


We have the place for you.  Boo will be waiting.


                 Someone recently asked me if I had given much thought of my legacy at Hemlock Inn.  Lainey and I are second generation innkeepers.  We have run this family owned inn for 27 years, an usually long time as innkeeping goes.  And we plan to be here for the foreseeable future, simply because we love it.  We love the heritage it has, and the values it shares, and the focus it embodies.  Hemlock Inn is a good, old fashioned get-away…genuine…unpretentious…full of simple pleasures, homecooked meals, and real southern hospitality.  We are nothing like many of today’s high paced, high speed, glitzy, amenity filled locations.  Conversely, we are slow paced, interested in personal attention, beautiful scenery, soft breezes, and warm conversation.  Out of date?  I guess so, but that is the way we like it.

            But I have never thought of my years here in terms of my personal legacy.  There are several definitions of the word, but I like to think of it as “what defines you”.  I am proud of what we have done over the years here, but it is not necessarily how I want to be remembered.

            Interestingly, I did have the opportunity to give some thought to this subject a couple of years ago.  Lainey and I were in Boston to visit Steven, and I woke up  early one morning and couldn’t go back to sleep.  I got up, took a walk, and came upon one of the many old cemeteries in the area.  As I walked through the sacred ground, I started reading the markers.  It gave me a glimpse into the lives of those who rested there.  In just a few words, the markers revealed what was really important to them…“what defined them” .  Many were veterans of the many wars from 1812 through the present.  Their rank and perhaps their regiment were listed.  Too many had given their lives to the cause of this country and that was important for everyone to remember.  Other markers defined some in other ways; as a minister, mayor, doctor, or industrialist.  As you can guess, most were defined in one other way…their family.  Beloved wife or husband, mother or father.

            In reality, is there any other better way to be remembered?  I can list all the accomplishments of my life.  You may be impressed or you may yawn (which is more likely).  It doesn’t really matter, because what is really important to me is less about what I have done, and more about what I am leaving behind…my legacy for future generations.   For me that is easy to define… it is three outstanding men.  If you know me well, you know them too…Andrew, Steven, John Thomas. 

            This weekend is Father’s Day.  I can think of no better time to acknowledge them.  I have been proud of them from day one.  This has been reinforced over and over by the caliber of men they have become and the choices they have made.  This includes their choice of spouses.  Like me, they have chosen well, so special recognition is also given to Jeanette, Sarah, and Alli.  And now, I have a grandchild on the way, the first of many I trust.  So my legacy continues and my sons’ begins.

            HAPPY FATHER’S DAY! 


News From the White House…and some from the Inn

Thought the headline might capture your attention, but I wanted to take the liberty of sharing the latest news from our house…the White’s house.

This is a big weekend for Lainey and me because we get to celebrate two graduations.

First we go to Knoxville to be with John Thomas as he gradates from UT.  There seems to be extra emotions involved when your youngest graduates from college.  As you probably already know, he is getting married in September to Alli Cochran here at the inn and they plan to live in Knoxville for the immediate future.

After JTs ceremony, we fly immediately to Boston to participate in Steven’s graduation from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary.  Steven and his wife, Sarah, leave for Germany in August where he will teach at the Black Forest Academy for the next two years.  Did I tell you that Steven was selected by the faculty of Gordon Conwell to speak at the Baccalaureate service?  What an honor.

There is big news from East Asia too!  Andrew and his wife Jeanette will return to the states in July and...are expecting their first child in October….We are thrilled.  They will live in the Chapel Hill/ Durham area and resume their ministry on the UNC campus.


OK, news from the inn…..Harper Davison is our intern from Arkansas Tech University and is proving to be at big help.   She is full of energy and always has the biggest smile on her face.  You will absolutely love her.

Ashley Hackshaw and her family will arrive at Hemlock Inn in early June.  They are closing their house in California soon and making their way here.  You may remember they will be living at the inn for at least a full year and Ashley will be writing at blog based on her experiences here.  She has already set up a website with the blogs she has already written about her earlier visits and her decision to move here.  This is going to be such a wonderful experience and we cannot tell you how excited we are.

This is going to be a great year both personally and at the inn.  Thank all of you who have been such an important part of our lives.  We look forward to sharing all this adventure with you!





There is nothing like the Great Smoky Mountains!


Now that spring is upon us, I have had the opportunity to do get out and do a little hiking.   Over the last two weeks, I have been to the far western and far eastern parts of the park.  Last weekend, I hiked the seven mile Twenty Mile Loop.  This is located about 20 minutes west of Fontana Dam.  It was a wonderful trail with early spring trilliums everywhere and one of the most beautiful cascades I have seen.  I didn’t take my camera, but I will return there later this spring to take some pictures when it has fully “greened up”.  Yesterday, I went to the other extreme section of the park to Cataloochee Valley.  I intended to walk another loop trial up Caldwell Fork Trail and around Boogerman Trail.  Unfortunately, the foot bridge at the start of the trail was washed out and the stream was running too full and rapid to ford.  So I spent the next few hours just exploring Cataloochee.  I toured some of the turn of the century homes, walked a few miles up the Rough Fork Trail and Pretty Hollow Gap Trail, and saw a bunch of elk.  It was a great afternoon.

I was not surprised!  I have had the great opportunity to walk many of the trails primarily in the NC section of the park.  All of them are wonderful.  There is something about getting away from whatever consumes your time, and escape for a while in the beauty of the Smokies.  Some of them have breathtaking views, many of them follow captivating creeks, all of them offer a solitude and peace that is hard to find.  As I walk, I find that tensions decrease and stress melts away.

Many of our guests at Hemlock Inn come to experience the joy of hiking in this spectacular paradise.  Hiking not your thing, there are scenic drives that are unequaled anywhere.  The drive through the park on Hwy441 is just one; there is also the Blue Ridge Parkway that starts in Cherokee and the Cherohala Skyway that goes from the Fontana Dam area to Telico Plains, TN.  There is also the popular excursion train ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad.  Not adventurous enough? Try white water rafting, mountain biking, or zip lining.  Like to fish?  There is wonderful flyfishing available everywhere you look.

Too much to do, too little time………..

At Hemlock Inn, we offer one other activity…NOTHING.  Rocking chairs are available to just sit and relax and take in our view; followed by our delicious home cooked meals.  Sit around our lazy susan tables with your family, both old and new friends.  Meet Ashley and her family.  Take in the peace and comfort of old style southern hospitality.

There is nothing like the Great Smoky Mountains…and no place quite like Hemlock Inn.  We open for the new season in just three weeks…April 23.

Hope to see you.



Ashley’s Big Announcement

Last night, our friend, Ashley Hackshaw, announced on her blog, lil blue boo, that she and her family will be moving to Hemlock Inn this summer.  I encourage all of you to read not only this particular blog, but the others she has written over the past several months that led to this decision.  Here is a link:

Lil Blue Boo at The Hemlock Inn


Our story:

All this transpired over a relatively short period of time.  Last summer, Lainey got an email from our daughter-in-law telling us we needed check out a blog that someone had written about our Hemlock Inn.  We read with fascination about as Ashley recounted her childhood memories of visiting the inn.  Chad told us that Ashley had sent the blog to the inn as well.  Lainey entered a comment introducing herself and Ashley quickly replied.  A connection was born.  A short time later, we were delighted when Ashley called and made reservations to visit the inn with her family in August. 

Ashley tells about some apprehension she was having as she approached the inn.  We were downright nervous because we didn’t want to disappoint her.  I had visited my childhood home several years earlier and found everything so different and small.  But we treated her family as we would any other.  We are who we are.  We want all our guests to enjoy our simple pleasures, genuine southern hospitality, and our homecooked  meals.  But this was special.  Ashley was special.  She was a magnet.  Everyone she met was drawn immediately to her.  Conversations around the table lasted well after dinner was over, she organized games for the kids at night, she would take pictures of everything, and she would write…and write…and write.

When we discovered she was writing a book, we did joke about her coming back to finish it here.  It had happened before. A friend of ours finished his doctorial dissertation here, and Walt Larimore visited here several times as he wrote his trilogy on Bryson City.  But when she left, we never dreamed it would become reality.  At best, we hoped she would write another blog about her visit to the inn…hopefully complimentary.

Over the next few months, we kept in touch and the possibility that she might actually come to the inn became more of a reality.  She told us in late December they had made the decision to move.  It has been a hard secret to keep since then.

So how will this work?  I joked that she will be our “writer in residence”, but that is not far off the truth.  We want her to finish her book, about which she can share with you later.  But, she will also continue to write her highly successful blog..lil blue boo.  Again, please link to this site and read not only about her announcement and other blogs about Hemlock Inn, but also more about Ashley, her father’s death, and her battle with cancer.  It is fascinating story.  Her new blogs will tell a different story.  One about living at Hemlock Inn and in Bryson City.  She will definitely immerse herself our operation and share her experiences with her 1 million plus readers

Now, let’s not forget about two other very important people.  Ashley’s husband is Brett and he is a remarkable person as well. Like his wife, he is a graduate from Wake Forest and a former investment banker.  He is also successful businessman with his own company.  He is an avid outdoorsman and mountain biker, but he will also be of so much help as we deal with the challenges of a 60 year old facility.

Then there is the indomitable Boo, age 7 and aspiring blogger.  I suggested to Ashley that we make her the manager of “play” at Hemlock Inn.  Boo always has something special to share with her booisms and unique perspective on life in general.  She will keep us all on our toes, laughing all the way.

We are so excited to welcome Ashley, Brett, and Boo.  We can’t wait for them to get here. And we look forward to sharing them with you.  It is going to be a special year at Hemlock Inn.

Never Say Never

When Lainey and I were young newlyweds,  we were having dinner with a group of friends.  One of the couples starting sharing about how their child had scratched up the walls in their hallway riding his tricycle.  Lainey and I gave each other “the l0ok” as if to say “Why would they let their child ride a tricycle in the house?” On our ride home, we laughed and agreed…no child of ours would ever be allowed to ride in our house.  Well, you know where this is going.  Not only did our children ride their bikes in the house, they played baseball, breaking a window, practiced their swing, breaking  a ceiling fan, as well as a few other adventures.  Never say never!

Yesterday, I bought an IPhone!  I have to admit this to everyone, because anyone who knows me well, knows that I have often adamantly said I did not want an IPhone and would not use an IPhone.  I believed they were too large to comfortably carry in my pocket (don’t like much in my pockets),  did not feel I would use all or even most of the features (not a web surfer much)and did not want to be drawn into the temptation of concentrating on my phone more than my surroundings.  But,  my beloved flip phone was having issues.  The keys did not work well and texting was a constant lesson in patience.  I knew the time had come to retire it and I fully planned to get another flip phone….But there was this promotion, and I could get this IPhone cheaper and because of our family plan the monthly charge was not much…So I bit the bullet and took the plunge into the 20th century (or is it now the 21st).

Now, just because I got an IPhone, don’t expect me to start tweeting or instagraming, or whatever.  I will never do that…..then again……

I announce this openly because after all my public objections I have made over the years, I fully expect to receive some grief and ribbing.  Go ahead, I deserve it.  Send all your comments to me….I’ll read them on my new phone.