Lynda McDaniel

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On the Crafts Trail

In North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, all roads lead to talented artisans and their      one-of-a-kind creations


And Heaven and Nature Sing

The Hills of North Carolina Are Alive with the Spirit of the Season


On the Verandah

The mythical one hundred bottles of beer on the wall are mere child’s play compared to the legendary thousand bottles of chile pepper sauce on the walls at On the Verandah, a popular restaurant in Highlands, North Carolina...


Epicurean Explorers

Wonderful hikes to equally wonderful meals

Walkers run the gamut from steamrollers to easy strollers, from backpackers with freeze-dried rations to mall marchers munching on cinnamon buns at the end of their hike. Somewhere between is a lesser-known breed: the epicurean explorers, avid walkers who are dead serious about the trek but dead set against pedestrian provisions...


On the Crafts Trail

In North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains,

all roads lead to talented artisans

and their one-of-a-kind creations

Like the explorers of old, Americans set out each spring in search of new discoveries.  These days, however, instead of crossing uncharted seas or trekking unmapped wildernesses, we hit highways and byways on a quest for all that’s nostalgic, handcrafted, and historic—from grand old ballparks and vintage cars to whirligigs and heirloom roses. And during our journeys, we discover a countryside we never really knew.

 Each year, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, thousands of travelers head out in search of the meticulously made crafts for which the region is well known.  En route they come across not only quilts and coverlets, baskets and vases, but lush mountain vistas, clear water cascading over cliffs, and thousands of acres of rich woodlands harboring hundreds of species great and small.

 They go together, crafts and nature, in this region especially, in part, because of the isolation the mountains once enforced.  Cut off by the steep terrain, settlers long ago learned to rely on nature for their needs, crafting river cane into baskets, clay into vessels, and native hardwoods into musical instruments and furniture.

 The Road to Crafts

 An invaluable little book, The Craft Heritage Trails of Western North Carolina, points the way along seven of this region’s crafts trails—some winding down sleepy hollow, others up wooded coves—across some 1,000 miles to more than 450 fascinating and historic studios (many just recently opened to the public), galleries, inns, and restaurants.  Consider the trail names—High Country Ramble, Circle the Mountain, Farm to Market, Mountain Cities, Cascades Trail, Shadow of the Smokies, and Lake Country—and the diversity of the region begins to unfold.  Each stop has been authenticated as featuring only that which is handmade in America.  The nation’s first recreational highway, the Blue Ridge Parkway, serves as the connecting link.

 Asheville is the ideal point of departure, for this city of some 65,000 not only sits in the heart of the crafts region, but also sponsors prestigious craft fairs—some permanent, some just passing through.  From downtown Asheville (with 20 galleries showcasing fine crafts and art), it’s only a two-mile drive south to the 8,000-acre Biltmore Estate.  Late in the 19th century, George Vanderbilt fell under the spell of these mountains and settled into his 250-room chateau, which remains the largest private residence in America.  Biltmore Village, the adjacent village designed to house the estate’s workers and suppliers, today hosts eclectic galleries and shops, including the popular New Morning Gallery, where 8,500 square feet are devoted to the display of meticulously fashioned crafts.

 Just north of town, explore the 1913 Grove Park Inn, an Arts and Crafts haven furnished with Stickley, Roycroft, and Limbert pieces.  Eight Presidents, starting with Woodrow Wilson, were frequent visitors; F. Scott Fitzgerald spent the summers of 1935 and 1936 at the inn.  The inn’s Gallery of the Mountains displays fine works in metal, glass, pottery, and fabric.  Next door, the Grovewood Gallery and Grovewood Café offer their own artful displays of fine traditional and contemporary American arts and crafts (with a concentration on Appalachian furniture) and historic Grove Park Inn memorabilia.

 Stops Along the Way

 Now it’s time to head for the hills.  Drive along the Circle the Mountain trail, past Mount Mitchell, which pokes above the clouds (at 6,684 feet its peak is the highest point east of the Mississippi), to the internationally celebrated Penland School of Craft and its community of artists.  Stop in at the Penland Gallery, which features top-quality crafts by the region’s artisans and teachers.  Dozens of area artists welcome visitors to their private studios.  Jane Peiser, for one, has gained national renown for her exquisitely detailed porcelain, and another, former nuclear engineer Jon Ellenboggen, of Barking Spider Pottery, creates festive Christmas tree ornaments and earth-toned vessels.

 The scenic trip back to Asheville winds by Craggy Gardens, where you’ll view a spectacular display of rhododendrons and mountain laurel, and past the 30,000-square-foot Folk Art Center, at once museum and monument to the art of crafting fine traditional and contemporary works in media ranging from clay to metal. American’s oldest continually operated craft shop, Allenstand, fills the center’s first floor with hundreds of handcrafted creations.  Upstairs, the Focus Gallery spotlights changing exhibitions of one or two artists, while the Main Gallery hosts more extensive exhibitions.

 After craft hunting and hill climbing in the crisp mountain air, you can replenish your energy and satisfy your appetite at any of some 50 historic countryside inns, ranging from stately Victorian gems to rambling log-and-boulder resorts.  Consider Crippen’s Country Inn and Restaurant in Blowing Rock, along the High Country Ramble trail.  Jimmy and Carolyn Crippen and Executive Chef James Welch moved north from Miami and Mark’s Place, Mark Militello’s highly acclaimed restaurant, which is often cited as one of the country’s best.  Only in their third season, the talented team at Crippen’s has already earned the coveted honor of preparing dinner at the prestigious James Beard House in New York City.

 Go South

 The trip south on the Blue ridge Parkway includes so many worthy stops that a written itinerary soon turns into scratch paper.  You’ll have no trouble spotting resident beavers, loons, and otters around Price Lake near the Moses Cone Estate, where you can devote hours to exploring 25 miles of carriage trails, a Victorian mansion, and more craft displays.

 Other craft heritage trails lead south and west from Asheville.  The Mountain Cities trail courses through Brevard, where Looking Glass Falls (one of some 150 to 200 local waterfalls) shows off a 60-foot-high, 30-foot-wide effervescent display in the heart of the Pisgah National Forest.  Hendersonville now features a revitalized Main Street thanks in no small part to Touchstone Gallery, a fine arts-and-crafts center that served as a catalyst in the town’s renaissance.  Follow Main Street south to more crafts in Flat Rock, where Carol Sandburg wrote his Lincoln biographies at his beloved home, Connemara, now a National Historic Site.

 Time again to rest?  Try the inviting Highland Lake Inn, a pastoral retreat offering fine dining and casual accommodations.  Take a break and feed the goats and geese, foals and fowl.

 Further south around Saluda and Tryon, the mountains begin to level off into the Piedmont, and the focus includes horses as well as handicrafts.  Welcoming equestrian-event visitors throughout the year, Mimosa Inn, a two-story Southern Colonial manse perched atop a rolling green lawn surprisingly recalls, in this mountainous setting, a graceful plantation.  Nearby, Pearson’s Falls, a 250-acre woodland designated a North Carolina Heritage Area, features a thundering falls of some 90 feet.  The lush, water-sprayed environment harbors more than 200 varieties of ferns, wildflowers, algae, and mosses.

 Opportunities for viewing and purchasing crafts are plentiful.  Try not to miss the Tryon House, where the town mascot, Morris the Horse, appears in every imaginable incarnation—wooden, stuffed, quilted, and painted.  Heartwood Contemporary Crafts Gallery, on Main Street in Saluda, has built a well-deserved reputation for its one-of-a-kind pottery, jewelry, and glass designs made by both regional and American craftspeople.  Saluda Mountain Craft Gallery spotlights wood, pottery, quilts, and jewelry from local and well as regional artists.

  Shadow of the Smokies travels to the Cherokee Indian Reservation, where the Qualla Arts & Crafts Gallery bills itself as “the most outstanding Indian-owned and operated cooperative in America.” And it is.  Exquisite river-cane baskets, satiny smooth woodcarvings, and traditional pottery continue the legacy of America’s first craft artists.  From here the trails continue past pristine mountain lakes, virgin forests with trees too big to hug, alluring sapphire and ruby mines, and old-timey country stores.  Given the natural beauty of the lush North Carolina landscape, travelers on a quest for crafts will discover along the way the native bounty of the magnificent Blue Ridge Mountains.

This article appeared in County Living.

And Heaven and Nature Sing

The Hills of North Carolina Are Alive

With the Spirit of the Season

Just inside Balsam Mountain Inn’s spacious, holiday-decked lobby, grinning camels stand watch as wise men dance to shepherds playing tambourines.

Whimsical pieces in a clay crèche, the tiny figures capture the seasonal spirit that flows throughout the 42,000-square-foot inn sequestered in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge mountains.

Long, ten-foot-wide hallways (built to accommodate steamer trunks of the turn-of-the-century traveler) lead to three airy dining rooms, a well-stocked library, and up one of four staircases to 34 cozy guest rooms.

Back-to-back fireplaces in the lobby crackle and pop with good cheer, helping spread the warmth and joy that reign here not just during the holidays but all year long.

Owner Merrily Teasley saw to that when she began the ambitious restoration of the inn, which is now on the National Historic Register. A pro who took on her first inn 18 years ago in Tennessee, she knew exactly what she wanted this time around. “Comfort, comfort and more comfort,” she says. “I want people to feel at home the very second they walk through the door."

The rambling weatherboard structure with a two-tiered porch takes in views of the surrounding mountains that soar to 6,000 feet. In its glory days, visitors came to the grand hotel for the nearby rejuvenating mineral springs and to escape the heat of the lowlands.

When Merrily renovated the building in 1991, she kept the atmosphere unpretentious and natural—original wicker, oak and locally crafted willow furniture preside alongside antique iron bedsteads with comforters that complement the bead-board walls. Bathrooms are outfitted with antique fixtures such as Victorian corner sinks and clawfoot tubs (some have showers, too).

Come December, the interior turns decidedly green and red when a bevy of live balsam trees—later planted on the inn’s 26 acres—are brought in and adorned with hundreds of handmade ornaments. Miles of evergreen garlands dotted with bows drift from newel posts, banisters, and tall windows that stop just short of 11-foot-high ceilings. Diminutive trees sit atop tables in the main dining room. Colonial-style apple and boxwood trees, knitted stockings, abundant poinsettias and flickering candles complete the Yuletide scene.

Once begun, the decorating never really stops until the new year as the staff is often changing and adding fresh greenery, making small wreaths for every guest-room door and trimming the trees. “There’s plenty to keep everyone busy,” says Merrily. “Many of our guests are eager to join in, especially those who live alone or whose family have grown and moved away and who still want to be part of an old-fashioned Christmas. It gives my staff and me a nice warm feeling to share all this with others—it’s really what the holiday is about.”

The tradition of making her own ornaments began 32 years ago. “It was the first year I was married,” says Merrily, “and I didn’t have a single thing of my own to remind me of Christmas, which is all about memories. So every year I made an ornament for each of my children so that would never happen to them.”

The inn is open on Christmas Day, and in keeping with the family-like atmosphere, serves bountiful holiday meals and treats guests to small gifts to give everyone that never-too-old-for pleasure of unwrapping packages on Christmas morning.

The ritual ham and turkey, a traditional family dressing, fresh vegetables and homemade pies are served in the main dining room. Merrily’s daughter Noell, a fine arts graduate and the inn’s chef, now uses dinner plates as her canvas to create colorful collages for each guest. One of her most popular breakfast dishes is an upside-down baked French toast with caramelized brown sugar garnished with fruit and sour cream.

The crisp mountain air, a forest of fragrant evergreens lightly dusted with snow (there’s rarely enough to make travel treacherous) and seasonal events add to the feel of a country Christmas. Some guests come for the many artists in the area—a picturesque drive north on the Blue ridge Parkway leads to Asheville’s Folk Art Center, which showcases fine regional crafts. And the Biltmore House, an architectural wonder spectacularly gift-wrapped for the season, is not to be missed. Others come for the Luminaire celebrations in nearby Dillsboro on the first and second weekends in December.

But the core of the season remains at Balsam Mountain Inn, where peace and joy abound—and heaven and nature sing.

This article appeared in Country Inns magazine.

On the Verandah

The mythical one hundred bottles of beer on the wall are mere child’s play compared to the legendary thousand bottles of chile pepper sauce on the walls at On the Verandah, a popular restaurant in Highlands, North Carolina.
Ironically, this fiery collection is kept in a most pastoral setting—high atop the Blue Ridge Mountains overlooking Lake Sequoyah, which is often enveloped in a cool mountain mist. But enter the front door (maybe only Dante’s Gates of Hell hold back more firepower) and sample until your taste buds cry for mercy.

Even the building itself has a reputation as somewhat of a hot spot: Built in 1923, it has been a speakeasy, a casino and the site of many arrests. The only thing arresting about it today is the bold and flavorful cuisine of chef and owner Alan Figel.

Figel and his wife and business partner, Marta, completed extensive renovations to the building in 1981 and have been serving their imaginative cuisine ever since. This family business expanded several years ago when Figel’s two sons, Andrew and Nicholas, joined the creative team. Standard fare includes an eclectic mix of American standards such as beef and chicken enlivened with chiles, salsas and spicy seasonings. Figel serves a filet mignon, for example, stuffed with a mixture of diced poblanos, garlic, onion and Monterey Jack cheese. The filet is broiled and served with succulent shiitake mushroom sauce.

This melding of cultures is not unlike their own lives; U.S.-born Figel and Cuban native Marta lived in Miami during the 1960s and ‘70s and spent most of their leisure time traveling the Caribbean. Eventually their travels expanded to Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa, inspiring new taste adventures for their patrons back home.

It is not surprising, then, that the menu at On the Verandah reads like a travelogue: New Orleans Red Bean Soup, Thai Coconut Ginger Shrimp, and North Carolina Quail with Wild Berry Barbecue Glaze and Dijon Cream Sauce, to name a few intriguing selections.

Other favorites include Grilled Fresh Tuna Loin with Pineapple-Papaya Spicy Salsa; Stir-fried Sea Scallops on Angel Hair Pasta with Peppered Ginger Scallion Sauce; Pan-Seared Duck Breast with Apricot Curry Sauce; Sautéed Lamb Chops with Georgia Honey-Roasted Pecan and Ancho Chile Crust; and Poached Eggs with Two Salsas, Tomatillo and Serrano.

Daily specials spice up the menu further: Sautéed Frog Legs with Fresh Tomato Garlic and Shallot Sauce; Double-Cut Pork Chops with Chipotle-Onion Compote; and Grilled Medallions of Lamb with Eggplant Chutney. Exotic and unusual wild game creations also appear from time to time, such as Medallions of Venison with Blueberry-Chipotle Sauce; Breast of Pheasant; and Rack of Wild Boar.

The couple’s worldly travels spawned the chile pepper sauce collection, which has grown from 415 bottles in 1990 to its current 1,000+ bottle mark. Friends, customers and family members all contribute to the collection that represents sauces from the United States (most from Louisiana), Mexico, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Guyana, Guatemala, Brazil, Colombia, Trinidad, Jamaica, Barbados, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, the Philippines, Morocco, Tunisia, Mozambique, Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain, West Germany and France.

Considering the size of his collection, it goes without saying that Figel considers the uses for hot pepper sauces virtually unlimited. “A few drops will not only pep up flavors, but bring out flavors that you didn’t even know were there. In any sauce that uses tomatoes—especially if the tomatoes are a little flat—a drop or two of one of the green jalapeno sauces we have performs miracles,” Figel adds.

Because the town of Highlands restricts the sale of liquor or beer, On the Verandah’s bar must be as inventive as the foods. The restaurant began winning awards for its wine collection in 1987 and has continued to do so each year. The staff is noted for its ability to discuss the wine list in simple, non-threatening terms. Daily specials are regularly paired with a suggested wine, and wine flights—a choice of three 3-ounce pours of any of the specials (four white and five red wines each week)—are offered.

Guests are welcome to linger on the 50-seat verandah and enjoy the lake view or relax in the wine bar and sample some of the 200 American wines, as well as port and Champagne, by the taste, glass or bottle.

While the menu changes often (this is, after all, a widely traveled and inventive family), one offering that remains on the menu year after year is their popular rendition of the time-honored dessert, crème brulée. It seems that after a night of spicy and flavorful food, guests enjoy ending the evening on a cooler note.

Recipes that accompanied this story: Poblano Chile Stuffed Filet Mignon; Double-Cut Pork Chops with Chipotle-Onion Compote; Sautéed Lamb Chops with Georgia Honey-Roasted Pecan and Ancho Chile Crust; Medallions of Venison with Blueberry Chipotle Sauce.

This article appeared in Chile Pepper.

Epicurean Explorers

Wonderful hikes to equally wonderful meals

Walkers run the gamut from steamrollers to easy strollers, from backpackers with freeze-dried rations to mall marchers munching on cinnamon buns at the end of their hike. Somewhere between is a lesser-known breed: the epicurean explorers, avid walkers who are dead serious about the trek but dead set against pedestrian provisions. They practice the carrot-soufflé-and stick method of hiking—the burn-it-and-earn-it approach to guiltless dining.

The mix of hikers, travelers, and retirees attracted to these mountains has fostered fine dining throughout the region, providing a fortifying complement to plentiful hiking opportunities. These double-duty destinations may be spawned by word of a new trail or the opening of a café.
Either way, proximity to one another is the one hard and fast rule—delayed gratification is acceptable only while still on the trail. And for those concerned about attire, the pervasion of travelers has made casual an accepted mode even at some of the most prestigious establishments.

The following four excursions combine mountain highs with haute cuisine over an area from Turnerville, Georgia north to Highlands, Balsam, and Flat Rock, North Carolina. The restaurant criteria vary. Some are strictly gourmet while others are simply gracious. Settings in a former summer camp or restored stagecoach hotel make the experience all the better.

Four of the trails include waterfalls, two panoramic summits, and one the remains of an old estate. All offer the solitude of the woods plus wildflowers, birds, and an abundance of trees. Even in late winter and early spring, native conifers, rhododendron and mountain laurel provide greenery, while the absence of foliage yields expansive vistas. In fact, late winter and early spring excursions offer other advantages. Hearty meals taste even better. Dogs can join the hike and stay comfortably in the car during dinner. And insects are still busy metamorphosing.

Panther Creek Trail, Glen-Ella Springs Inn, Ga.


Panther Creek Trail--eight miles north of Clarkesville, Georgia on Old U.S. 441. Moderate trail—7 miles round trip. Restrooms in parking area.

Don’t worry about the inauspicious beginning, it takes about ¼ mile to get away from the noise of old and new U.S. 441. The trail quickly enters the deep, lush scenery of mountain laurel, rhododendron and trees as it heads toward a 50-foot waterfall. The path travels up and down to the rhythm and roar of Panther Creek crashing across boulders below. After 1-1/2 miles the path flattens out, crosses a wooden bridge and meanders alongside Panther Creek. In less than a mile there are a series of cascades and rapids, a nice spot to break before heading toward the falls, another mile away. The path between the rapids and falls requires some caution as it makes its way up cliff faces and across a three-log bridge. The Forest Service has installed a wire band cable in areas with little or no shoulder. At the crest of the falls, a switchback trail heads down to the falls’ base.

Glen-Ella Springs Inn--From the parking area of Panther Creek Trail, drive south on Old U.S. 441 less than a mile to Orchard Road, turn right and follow the signs. 1-800-552-3479.

Heading down Bear Gap Road through the dense woods, it’s easy to imagine a time 100 years ago when stagecoaches took this same route to Asheville or Atlanta. And the inn that served weary travelers then is still making welcome. Glen-Ella Springs Inn may be listed on the National Register of Historical Places, but there’s nothing old-fashioned about its food. The menu is created daily and regular favorites include Trout Pecan, filet of mountain trout sautéed in butter with lime juice, fresh herbs and pecans; Charleston Low-Country Shrimp ‘N Gravy over fried Parmesan grits; and Honey Roasted Rack of Lamb served with horseradish and mint sauce.

The grounds at the inn include 17 acres along Panther Creek with perennial and herb gardens to explore. (The herbs are used liberally by the chef.) Long, white porches stretch across the entire length of the front and back of the inn, and a spacious sun deck provides a place to enjoy the panoramic mountains.

Glassy Mountain, Highland Lake Inn


Glassy Mountain Trail--Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site is 3 miles south of Hendersonville. Turn off U.S. 25 at Little River Road at the Flat Rock Playhouse and go to the Visitor Information Center.

Several easy and well-maintained trails course through Connemara, encircling the Front Lake and heading to the summits of Glassy Mountain and Little Glassy Mountain. From the parking area the trail meanders uphill to the Main House and barn area where the bleating kids and goats beckon even the most avid hikers for a short detour. The well-marked trails to Glassy Mountain (2,780’) and Little Glassy Mountain (2.420’) begin at the Main House and climb steadily but comfortably with benches along the way. While the view en route is best before foliage, the vista from the summit offers a spectacular year-round panorama. On the way down, turn right onto the trail to Little Glassy Mountain. Then follow the signs to the Front Lake and return to the parking lot.

Highland Lake Inn--Just around the corner from Connemara. Turn left out of the parking lot and follow the signs. 1-800-762-1376.

The rushing waters of Highland Lake are about the only thing in a hurry around this peaceful 180-acre inn and conference center. Just around the corner from Connemara, the center maintains an atmosphere of playfulness left over from its days as a boys camp. But there’s no sign of beans and franks in the new and expanded gourmet dining facilities featuring wraparound glass porches and a huge fieldstone fireplace. Executive Chef Lark Lindsey has earned a reputation for a broad range of innovative dishes such as Grilled Lamb Chops with Green Peppercorn Lime Sauce and Filet Mignon with Chanterelle Mushrooms and Sauce Merlot.

Glen Falls Scenic Area, On the Verandah


Glen Falls Scenic Area--From the corner of N.C. 106 and Main Street in Highlands, take N.C. 106 1.6 miles and look for USFS “Glen Falls Scenic Area” sign on left. Follow signs to parking area.

Just south of Highlands, N.C., the trail at Glen Falls Scenic Area offers three cascading waterfalls, a beautiful stream and lush vegetation. One of the advantages of this trail is that even if hikers decide to return after seeing the first or second waterfalls (especially considering the return is uphill most of the way), the trip is well worth it. The trail descends steeply towards the first waterfall, which is only 15 minutes into the walk. Spur trails lead to impressive views from the main trail.

For a longer outing, the trail to Chinquapin Mountain begins to the right of the trailhead. The trail crosses the East Fork several times and then a mile-long series of switchbacks lead to a spur trail for views of Blue Valley and the summit of Chinquapin Mountain (4,160’).

On the Verandah--On U.S. 64, 2 miles west of Highlands. From Glen Falls, take N.C. 106 back toward Highlands to the intersection with U.S. 64, turn left and go approximately 1.5 miles. 704-526-2338.

Overlooking scenic Lake Sequoyah, On the Verandah is the perfect place to unwind after a day of hiking. In addition to a palate-pleasing menu, guests at this charming rustic/ contemporary restaurant are invited to linger on the 50-seat verandah and enjoy the lake view or relax in the wine bar and sample some of the 200 American wines. Each year since 1987 their extensive wine list has won the Wine Spectator’s prestigious Award of Excellence.

Today it’s hard to imagine that the site of this casually elegant restaurant was once a notorious Depression-era speakeasy. Chef-owner Alan Figel and his wife and partner, Marta, completed extensive renovations in 1981 and ever since have been serving their imaginative dishes from all over the world.

Mountain-to-Sea Trail, Balsam Mountain Inn


Mountain-to-Sea Trail--located 13 miles from Exit 27 off I-40, ½ mile from the intersection of U.S. 23/74 and the Blue Ridge Parkway (milepost 443). Turn left at Balsam and follow the signs.

Just south of Waynesville, the tiny hamlet of Balsam straddles the railroad tracks that were once its lifeline to commerce and community. Sitting high above these tracks, the historic three-story Balsam Mountain Inn is a sight every bit as commanding as the view from its 100-foot, two-tiered porch. The inn welcomed its first guests in 1908, and owner Merrily Teasley continues the tradition today with unbridled hospitality.

The trailhead begins in her chintz and wicker-filled lobby with its double-sided rock fireplace. From here guests head to Teasley’s car or follow in their own for a guided tour of her favorite places along the nearby Mountain-to-Sea trail. Begun in the 1970s, this trail includes long sections along the Blue Ridge Parkway and will eventually extend from Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to Nags Head on the Outer Banks. A favorite trail runs along the highest ridges and offers excellent views with little change in elevation—a real plus for older hikers wishing to avoid the strain of steep up-and-down grades. They can follow Teasley’s car in their own and park at Grassy Ridge Mine (5,250’) between mileposts 436 and 437. She then chauffeurs to Licklog Gap or Double Top (5,365’) between mileposts 435 and 436 for a four-mile hike along rolling hills back to their cars. For a longer hike, start at Grassy Ridge Mine with a box lunch; it’s 12 miles to the inn.

Balsam Mountain Inn--The trailhead starts here thanks to innkeeper Merrily Teasley and her car. 704-456-9498.

Back at the inn, guests head down a long hallway lined with artwork to the refurbished dining room with its bead-board construction. Breakfast and lunch are prepared by Teasley’s daughter, Noell.

Sandwiches, quiche and homemade soups are adorned with fresh fruit, new potato and garden salads. Dinner entrees are equally well prepared by Chef Bill Devin, who specializes in broiled and grilled fresh seafood and chicken, accompanied by a variety of fresh vegetables, breads and luscious homemade desserts.

This article appeared in Blue Ridge Country magazine.

Copyright © 2006, Lynda McDaniel. All rights reserved.