Escape for a Date to Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Buckberry Creek in Gatlinburg TN
The Lodge at Buckberry Creek
By Linda Holloway
Photography by www.larryhollowayphotography.com
Valentine’s Day is almost here, and your anniversary is a great time to “Escape for a Date.” From experience, I can promise your children will survive a long weekend without you. Remember your family began as a dynamic duo with an adventuresome spirit. An escape is a great way to rekindle romance and teach your children your marriage is important and worthy of a private celebration.
One of my favorite quotes is from the film, “Shall We Dance,” when Beverly Clark (Susan Sarandon) says, “In a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. You are saying ‘your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness.’’’ At least twice a year, practice the art of “noticing” and “witnessing” alone with your spouse. My husband and I found the perfect romantic escape near a unique town shadowed by ancient mountains.
The Lodge at Buckberry Creek
As Larry slowly navigated the twists and turns of the rural mountain road, we felt the daily stresses of life disappear with each breath of clean crisp air. Winter has arrived and the leaves have said goodbye for a season—revealing majestic mountains. Be careful! White tail deer are sure that they own the road, but don’t tell that to the procession of meandering wild turkey. You could be perfectly content to just enjoy the mountain scenery, but ascending to a higher altitude is only the beginning. There, perched along Harrison Mountain and high above Gatlinburg, Tennessee, lies a destination that combines romantic mountain charm and rustic luxury, The Lodge at Buckberry Creek.
For three generations, the McLean family kept their pristine mountainside property located on the edge of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park their secret. Today, the McLean family and partners welcome guests to the upscale lodge to “rough it” in style, reflecting the “Great Camps” of the Adirondacks Mountains which were built over 100 years ago. The Lodge was constructed with logs and other structural components that have been transported from New York, North Carolina and Tennessee.
You can choose from 46 suites ranging from 600 square feet to 950 square feet in three buildings. The Cherokee Gallery Suite allowed us an unspoiled view of Mount Le Conte—the sixth highest peak in the Eastern United States. Yes, the must-have amenity was awaiting us as we opened the door, a stone fireplace. A few steps from the fireplace, we enjoyed the view from the private balcony where the sinking sun cast shadows along the mountainside until darkness covered Mother Nature’s showcase.
This is not your grandparents’ camp house and there is not a bunk bed in site. Instead, in this four diamond property we slept between fine Frette Italian linens on a king-size bed. The baths are spacious with separate showers and soaking tubs. I flung open a window compartment that is cleverly situated between the wall of the bedroom and bath. Here, I enjoyed the soaking in the tub while viewing the majestic mountains from the bedroom window. We took advantage of the second fireplace located in the bedroom where we spent time relaxing inches from the dancing flames.
The half-mile walking trail leads to Buckberry Creek, where you will find romance in the great outdoors. The creek-side pavilion is lined with rocking chairs, a huge wood-burning fireplace, and a hammock for two. Request a romantic CD and a blanket just before dusk and linger along the large boulders listening to nature’s music, the rushing waters of Buckberry Creek. We returned the next day and experienced catch and release fly-fishing for trout…a mountain tradition.
The main Lodge houses the Gathering Room and dining room. Exit the double doors and enjoy the expansive deck where you view the famous Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tram slowly gliding in the distance. Come dark, request a table near the outdoor chimnea for a romantic outdoor dinner, or ask for a private table in the dining room near the fireplace. The exquisite regional cuisine is amazing where the Beef Tenderloin is clearly the signature dish, and be sure to save room for dessert. The bread pudding was the best I have ever eaten (sorry New Orleans)! The good news is a continental breakfast comes with the room. Dining in your room or other numerous romantic spots on property can also be arranged.
Hogs & Honeys Weekend & Valentine’s Weekend
Just in time for your “escape,” The Lodge at Buckberry Creek is featuring special packages such as “Hogs & Honey’s Weekend”, February 4-5, 2012, and “Valentine’s Weekend,” February 12-14, 2012. The Hogs & Honey’s celebrates Groundhogs Day and includes a scavenger hunt with prizes. Be sure to book early for the popular “Valentine’s Weekend” package which includes accommodations in an upscale suite, dinner for two with a bottle of wine and breakfast.
We had the pleasure of meeting Buddy McLean, part owner of The Lodge who we appropriately tagged, “Mr. Southern Hospitality.” Buddy said, “We can arrange couples’ massages in your room for romance or if couples are seeking adventure, we have access to expert guides for exploration of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. They can choose from hiking, fly-fishing, whitewater rafting, horseback riding and biking. Our chef can even prepare a dinner with the white table treatment along the river in the Elkmont area of the Park.” If you cannot travel this winter, there is simply not a bad season to visit the Lodge. If you are celebrating your anniversary in the fall, your balcony becomes a seat to the real greatest show on earth…a fiery explosion of foliage.
Romance and Adventure - Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Less than two miles from The Lodge at Buckberry Creek, you will find the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. At the Sugarland Visitors Center, view a film, select maps and enjoy the gift shop. Informative park rangers can help plan a quiet walk, scenic drive or challenging hike. We found “our romantic spot near the Visitors Center at Cascade Falls and another favorite was Laurel Falls.
A must-see in the Park is a drive to Cades Cove, where an 11-mile, one-way loop yields views of numerous restored 18th- and 19th- century structures, including the Methodist Church that was used in filming the classic film, “A Walk in the Spring Rain” featuring Ingrid Bergman and Anthony Quinn. We began our journey at dawn where the valley was blanketed with a very heavy frost that resembled snow. Wildlife paid little attention to us as we stopped to snap close-up photos of a doe that did not seem to mind that we were four feet from her. On a previous visit we spotted a bear and her two cubs, raccoons and a fox. You will also want to explore the historic Elkmont area of the Park also.
Gatlinburg maintains the perfect mix of mountain charm and modern attractions. Larry and I held hands while roaming the streets of downtown Gatlinburg where we found candy store employees stretching taffy, slicing mounds of homemade fudge and dipping caramel apples. We explored cobblestone lanes and discovered dozens of specialty shops, boutiques and galleries. Crowds gathered on sidewalks anticipating the sounds of the region. Music groups—accompanied by banjos and fiddles—entertained with melodies from the past.
We boarded America’s largest tramway to Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort & Amusement Park where we found a variety of attractions including indoor ice skating. Catch a bird’s eye view of the town via the Gatlinburg Sky Lift that climbs to the overlook at an elevation of 1,800 feet. We stopped touring long enough to dine at Cherokee Grill and Steakhouse where the food was delicious. I had a filet mignon--cooked to perfection while Larry enjoyed the smoked pork loin over mashed potatoes with butternut squash. Yum!
There were two interesting additions to Gatlinburg since our last visit. Right in the middle of downtown Gatlinburg, we found a whiskey still…well almost.
The Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine is a family business that uses a century-old recipe that has been passed down through the generations. Tennessee state law recently changed to allow the distillation of spirits and visitors can tour the facility. The spirits are bottled in what else but…quart glass jars, and visitors can watch the process at the distillery. The “Today Show” featured the distillery on their television show. One of our favorite places to visit in Gatlinburg is the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. The latest addition is the “Penguin Playhouse” where a playful colony of African Black-footed Penguins is enjoying their new state-of-the-art indoor/outdoor habitat.
For unique decor, enjoy exploring the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community, an eight-mile loop where 100 artists are located. These artists comprise the largest group of independent artists and crafts people in North America. Bring your dried roses to the Rose Pedaler where scented, hand-formed rose-bead jewelry is made from your special occasion bouquet your husband has given you.
On our last morning at the Lodge at Buckberry Creek, we spent time on the balcony where the fog (smoke) lifted upwards in layers. When one layer reached a mountain peak, another layer followed. The repetitive process was mesmerizing in a place where romance thrives. It was sad leaving the Lodge at Buckberry Creek, but the McLeans are like family and you are always welcome back “home.”
Fast Facts: The Lodge at Buckberry Creek, 1-866-30-Lodge, www.buckberrylodge.com
For Gatlinburg tourist information, 1-800-568-4748, www.gatlinburg.com