In 3 photos: The Balsam Mountain Inn

After being on the road, checking into the inn, and heading up to our room, the biologically necessary thing for everyone in my family to do was use the bathroom.

I went after my sister and was followed by my mom. Finally, it was my dad’s turn. I guess we should have let him go earlier, since it was Father’s Day after all. Well, there was not too much time to dwell on our oversight, since he came out of the bathroom with the unfortunate news that the toilet was overflowing.

Bad timing for this incident, since we were past-due in the downstairs dining room for our dinner reservation. My mom grabbed the trash can to hold under the toilet to collect the water, while my dad rushed downstairs to alert the front desk staff. I grabbed some towels to try mopping up the water already on the floor, while also lifting the lid off from the back of the toilet to try to see if I could fix the plumbing issue. I actually made it worse as more water started rushing out.

After a short while, the lady at the front desk and an older man came in, presumably the manager. They told us to head down to dinner, and they would take care of unclogging the toilet.

We washed our hands very well and resumed our evening. While getting ready to order dinner, I noticed the manager come into the dining room and sit down with his family, who were already eating dinner. Oh no, we’ve interrupted his Father’s Day dinner to unclog a toilet.

Dinner proceeds, and, as we are mid-way through our meal, a waitress comes out with a birthday cake for the manager. Oh no, we’ve also ruined his birthday!

Later on in the evening, when seeing him on the hotel’s front lawn, we apologized for interrupting his special day with our toilet problem. He was very kind about it and attributed the event as “an occupational hazard.”

This kind of friendliness epitomizes the Balsam Mountain Inn, a historic old railroad hotel, in Balsam, NC, population 49. Tucked away in the mountains, this inn is respite from the bustle of these fast-paced times.

Here are three photos that illustrate why this special place may be worth a visit for the traveler who just needs to push pause on the real-world! And, rest assured, we had no other toilet problems during our stay.

Photo #1 – the mountain view: This photo was taken from the upstairs porch of the inn. I took this image shortly after sunrise, since I was trying to capture the fog lifting from the mountains. Unfortunately I was not very successful at doing that, but the green hilltops and a single house in the distance are still evidence enough of a lovely view.

Balsam view
View after sunrise from the upstairs porch

Photo #2 – the porches: The rocking chairs on the upstairs and downstairs porches are perfect for enjoying that mountain view, reading a book, and drinking a glass of wine. I took this photo from the edge of the inn’s front lawn.

Balsam Mountain Inn
Porches on the first and second floors of the inn

Photo #3 – the peace of nature: With no televisions and poorly-working Wifi at the inn, there are few distractions from the natural world. I snapped this photo of a daylily in the front lawn after a short morning rainstorm. The inn is also quite close to the Great Smoky Mountains, so there is plenty of nearby hiking to do.

Daylily after rainstorm

I certainly am not holding the overflowing toilet as a mark against this place – I will happily return again if I ever need a getaway with a good porch and mountain views.

Any other historic, tucked-away inns out there?

In 5 photos: The North Carolina Arboretum

About a week ago, I visited the North Carolina Arboretum as a day trip from Asheville. Despite it being a weekend and holiday (Father’s Day), there were not many people visiting. I guess the average father does not spend his special day surrounded by flowers.

The arboretum had a relatively-small, formal garden section. Coneflowers were some of the most abundant species. This particular, eye-catching variation shown below was called “raspberry”. Aptly named, I think.

Raspberry coneflowers
Raspberry coneflowers

The arboretum also had a single-room butterfly greenhouse near the formal gardens, where I found this miniature house. Hidden, whimsical treasures like these can be found all over the arboretum. Also found, but not pictured, were a chandelier and owl sculpture.

Miniature house
Miniature house and chair

The most extensive part of the arboretum is the miles of trails surrounding the gardens. These are maintained superbly, and I got a few miles of hiking in. Most of the trails are forested, and paths can be pretty wide in certain places, such as the walkway below.

Arboretum pathway
Wide trail in the arboretum

You may notice the rhododendrons in bloom here, giving the mostly green and brown landscape a pop of color. I decided to try to take a close-up photograph of the rhododendron flowers once they have fallen to the ground. Below is my best effort, although I wish I had spent a little more time experimenting with different settings and angles.

Rhododendron buds
Rhododendron buds on the ground

As I was looking around on the ground, I also saw this bright red mushroom. What a stand-out object in the forest.

Bright red mushroom on the path

Well, those are the photos that I’ve chosen to highlight of the North Carolina Arboretum.

What are some of the other best arboretums in the country? I sure would like to visit some others in the future!