Ageless Smoky Mountain Tradition!
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.
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.
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, www.winddancersnc.com or toll free, 877/627-3330.
Feature and photos by John Ross, Jetsetters Magazine Tennessee Correspondent.