Ageless Smoky Mountain Tradition!

Folklore and whispering stories of adventure and mystery are as deep as the hills around the small Smoky Mountain towns. There have been legends born and heroes die, all carried by word of mouth and each telling, grander and larger than life tales, such as the story of Fines Creek.

A man by the name of Fines, not told to me as his first or last name, simply by Fines, traveled the Smokies of North Carolina and Tennessee several times during the1800s. During one of his journeys, Fines was robbed of his horses by a local band of indians.

Fines, along with his group of men, forcefully retrieved their horses and set up camp along a creek deep in the mountains. The threat of raids was ever present and resulted in ambushes in which Fines was mortally wounded. His men were not able to carry Fines back home and decided to bury him under the frozen creek until they could return to retrieve him.

Upon their return, they discovered Fines' body missing and so named the creek, Fines Creek.

Now the creek lazily rakes along side I-40, some of the best road travel in the South. Large hardwoods infest the roadside and you feel as if the next 30 miles was taken up like a rug and shaken.

The WindDancer Llama Lodge in
North Carolina is surrounded by lush
Smoky Mountain hardwoods.

Our exit was a few miles inside North Carolina, and after traveling a windy dirt road a short stretch, we came into view of a now-a-day Xanadu. The sight was extraordinary. Soft outside colors blended with the mountains and the four large buildings framed the portrait of a great getaway that was much needed.

Llamas grazed in fields on both sides of the road as we trekked up the hill. The idea of using Llamas for hiking was a foreign idea to me, but not one for history.

Known as probably one of the first domesticated animals, early fossils have been found of these docile creatures in America dating back 5000 years. A member of the Camelid family, llamas are considered a burden bearing creature, meaning they are work animals.

The Livengood family, owners of WindDancers, have been breading llamas for decades and love the gentleness of the animals.

The sight of the surprisingly tall animals, made the lodge feel comfortable and laid back, much as their demeanor.

Wonderful Appalachian breakfasts
await you after a comfortable
night at WindDancer.

We first meet some of the Livengoods when settling into our room and they told us about the llamas and the lodge. There are hundreds of acres of wooded hillside that the family takes visitors on their hikes. We were not able to hike with the llamas due to weather conditions but we walked a small trail leading to a lunch deck.

The beginning of the hike was tedious. The trail snaked up a hill and was I was impressed to learn the hills reach as high as 3000 feet. On another small hump, encased in tree tops and trickling brooks that poured themselves over small multi-colored stones, we found ourselves surrounded by lush green groves, perfect for a picnic and bird watching. The trail widened and we found ourselves at a larger, swifter creek where the Livengoods built a lunch deck over the top of the creek so you could sit above the water as they cooked lunch.

Ours was a small journey, but WindDancers provides a variety of different hikes, such as an overnight camping trip, where Gale Livengood makes S'mores and tells ghost stories over a campfire.

The rooms are possibly as appealing as the hikes. The women of the family, Donna and Susan, took on a colossal task when deciding to decorate the lodges. Each room was a different motif, such as the Kenya room, consisting of ritual masks, instruments played by tribe members and real bamboo paneling.

The room we stayed in was the Appalachian room. Ours, like all the other rooms, was equipped with a T.V., fireplace, queen-sized bed, and two person tub.

In the main Llama Lodge, there were four rooms, the Bali, Kenya, Peru, and Appalachia. The Llama Lodge also held a large game room upstairs and massive video library for those quiet nights inside your room.

Two other large buildings, the Hickory and Maple Lodge, were suited more toward larger family groups, some with full-sized kitchens and decks with grills. The Hickory Lodge had the Africa and Indonesia genres, while the Maple Lodge housed the Casa Santa Fe, Casa Mexico, and Camp Kodiak themes.

We traveled to a small town 15 miles from the lodge where we ate dinner. The town, Waynesville, was wrapped with art and fine dining and hugged tightly by the mountains.

Waynesville is Haywood County's oldest town and is considered a mountain retreat. The downtown area was lined by old brick buildings and sidewalks. Art Galleries depicting anything from modern art to the more classical and romantic style filled the downtown area. There was also one of the best mountain golf courses in the state minutes from town.

But it was the lodge that held our attention the next day as we woke up to powdered grounds and snow still falling. The sight was majestic to say the least: llamas in the field playing in the snow, fireplaces crackling, and the Livengoods serving the best breakfast I had personally ever tasted.

NGS Gear Online
Our second day was uneventful due to the snow, but it was the point of our retreat to be mellow for a fe w days and relieve ourselves of everyday hustle and bustle. We sat on the large wooden porch and watched nature's peaceful offerings deep in the mountains, filled with tradition, folklore, and terrific lodges with terrific and a few unusually typical animals.

WindDancers rates vary depending upon the seasons, but it can accommodate families of any size. The lodge is placed on 254 acres of forest with 230 placed on the Nature Conservancy register to preserve the land and animals that consist of wild turkeys, grouse and bears.

Their hikes are geared toward group hiking. They allow small children and elderly people on any of the hikes and go at the pace of the visitors. For more information or bookings, WindDancers can be contacted through their website, or toll free, 877/627-3330.

— Feature and photos by John Ross, Jetsetters Magazine Tennessee Correspondent.

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