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The name Snowbird Mountain Lodge remained in my husband’s memory since he was about 6 or 7 years old. It was the destination of a family vacation he had never forgotten.

The family drove south from their home in Logan, West Virginia, on the hunt for a great fishing location. With no reservations and a late start after Sunday church service, it was not easy finding a place to stay and it was starting to get dark. A kind soul at a gas station said there no motels in the area but directed them to a “place on the mountain."

The lodge high up on the mountain from the gas station just happened to have one room left. That first night turned into a weeklong vacation on the top of a Great Smoky Mountain in North Carolina.

My husband is not especially sentimental, but he never forgot one of the rare vacations his family of three (he was an only child) took. His father’s plumbing business did not lend itself to many days off, so a vacation was a very special coveted time.

He had mentioned it over the years, wondering if the lodge still existed and exactly where it was. His parents are deceased, so there was no way to ask them any particulars. He made no attempt to try to find out about it until about 10 years ago. With only a name to go on and a general location there wasn’t much hope of finding it, but access to the Internet made the search so much easier than it would have been decades ago. After a few searches, the homepage for the lodge popped up with a photo — he remembered what it looked like, so he was sure that was it.

Evidently it had stayed in business those 60-some years since their visit. For years it was on our list of places to visit, but it never quite fit into our plans. Even though we both grew up in the mountains, we head to the beach for many family outings. But it stayed in the back of his mind as something he wanted to do.

We head to our son's about once a month to baby-sit the grandkids or just to visit. The first of June was on the calendar to head to his home near Charlotte, North Carolina. Since we are both retired we often take a short vacation after baby-sitting, usually to the beach. But this time he suggested we head to Snowbird Mountain Lodge. We were finally headed on his sentimental journey.

After fulfilling our baby-sitting duties we headed to the mountains, climbing more than 3,000 feet to our destination on a two-lane highway near Robbinsville, North Carolina.

The lodge, nestled high in the hills with amazing views of the Great Smoky Mountains, did not disappoint. All meals are included, the service is impressive, and the present owner makes sure everything stays ship-shape. While many things had changed since the 1950s, some had remained the same  rustic wood paneling in the rooms, walkways to view sunrises and sunsets, and no television. The addition of Wi-Fi, an extensive wine list, and modern amenities such as air conditioning were very welcome. But a real room key hanging from a wooden board was charming and added to the back-to-the-past feeling.

My husband was especially talkative to anyone who would listen about visiting the lodge 60-some years ago. He missed his parents on the return trip but knew they were smiling down as he made this journey of rediscovery.

In addition, the surrounding area provided great adventures. As hikers we had many choices, including an amazing walk in the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest  one of the few remaining tracts of virgin hardwood in the Appalachians. Kilmer is the author of the famous poem “Trees,” which most of us remember memorizing many years ago for a school assignment. The forest is a very fitting tribute to the poet and preserves the amazing natural environment for all of us to enjoy.

A drive on the Cherohala Skyway also took us on a great hike to view a “bald,” an area that crests a mountain. This hike had two balds that contained fields of yellow buttercups with the highest at 5,600 feet.

Hiking, great food and gorgeous views made it all worthwhile, and my husband found out that you can go back and not be disappointed.

Frances Lowe

Frances Lowe is a retired journalist and educator, most recently serving as lifestyles editor at a local newspaper.

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