Editor's note: As our lodging experts, David and Kay Scott, continue on their 2010 odyssey across the National Park System, they get to sample some of the best lodging, food, and coffee there is to be had. This dispatch came from the Bluffs Lodge along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Tuesday we drove the Blue Ridge Parkway from about 50 miles north of Asheville to Doughton Park, site of Bluffs Lodge where we spent the night. Many miles of the parkway were lined with fallen trees and dangling limbs, the result of a December ice storm followed by a substantial snowfall. Several crews were working on the damaged trees.
Most of the flowering shrubs are well past their peak. Mountain laurel is still in bloom, but only a few azaleas and rhododendrons remain. In previous years we traveled earlier in the season when the parkway was surrounded with color.
Traffic on the parkway is light except for a plethora of motorcycles and a lesser number of bicycles. This isn’t unusual since the parkway is a favorite of motorcyclists. We met nearly 70 motorcycles in not much more than 100 miles of driving. Many were traveling alone, probably middle-age men beginning their mid-life crisis.
Midway on the parkway, at mile marker 241, Bluffs Lodge is a small, quiet, and fun place to stay the night. Rooms rent for $85 to $95 per night, with $10 extra charged on holidays and during October. With only 24 rooms, the lodge is small enough to encourage guests to become acquainted with one another.
Gaining new friends here is easy because the majority of guests spend time sitting on the balcony or walkway outside their rooms. Last night after supper we gathered with eight or ten other guests in front of a large outdoor fireplace on the patio that separates the two buildings. We talked about other parks, other lodges, and other travels. In celebrating the 75th anniversary of the parkway, the lodge is providing the ingredients for evening s’mores.
Rooms at Bluffs Lodge are small, simple, clean, and comfortable. Each of the two buildings has eight rooms on the backside and four rooms on the front. Rooms have either a king, a queen, or two full beds. Although the rooms are small, the large walk-in closet will hold more luggage than you will likely be hauling.
The real gem at Bluffs Lodge is the coffee shop that opened in 1949. It is located directly on the parkway, about a quarter-mile from the lodge. The walls are lined with old photos of the parkway and the menu is what you might expect, plus regional items such as country ham, fried chicken, and, for breakfast, buckwheat pancakes. Of special interest is the recommended dish of southern BBQ pork. This consists of BBQ pork with melted cheese between two corncakes. It is recommended that you cover all this with the side dish of coleslaw. Try to sleep this one off.
Our waitress, Kathryn Joines, has worked at the coffee shop for 59 years. That’s right, 59 years. Another waitress who wasn’t working that evening has two years seniority on Katheryn.
There is certainly no lack of employee loyalty at the Bluffs Coffee Shop. General Manager Bill Harrison related a story of a couple who returned to Bluffs Lodge to celebrate their 55th anniversary at the place where they had honeymooned. The desk manager was able to get them into the same room where they had stayed 55 years prior. During dinner at the coffee shop they were served by the same waitress who had brought their dinner 55 years earlier. Folks, you don’t get that kind of experience at a Ritz Carlton.
David and Kay Scott are regular contributors to the Traveler. Their book, The Complete Guide to the National Park Lodges was first published by the Globe Pequot Press in 1997 and is now in its sixth edition.