Hikes we like: Waterrock Knob

Located a short nine miles south of the inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Waterrock Knob is the highest peak in the Plott Balsam mountain range. Popular for the dramatic views from its parking lot – it’s a great, driveable place to see sunsets and shooting stars – Waterrock Knob also offers a nice hike. It’s a moderately difficult 2.4 mile round trip to an elevation of 6,292...

Hikes we like: Pinnacle Park

Congratulations to the town of Sylva for its Pinnacle Park, which was named one of 12 “Hidden Mountain Gems” by AAA Go Magazine. Located in the former town of Sylva watershed, Pinnacle Park is laced with whitewater and trails and wildflowers. The strenuous hike to Blackrock (shown in the photograph) includes an elevation gain of a couple of thousand feet, and plays host each March to the “Assault on Blackrock” trail race. The park parking lot is a short 15 minute drive from the inn. Read more...

Historic Balsam: Musings on an old bottle of shoe cleaner

There’s a third floor storage room in the inn that has gone mostly unused for many decades. It’s ringed with dormer windows, has a dusty charm of its own, and there is a little graffiti there from the young men who built the inn a century ago. Most of the marks are simple initials, but not long ago we noticed a pair of initials with a “+” between them, outlined by a heart. Nearby, tucked behind a rafter, we found this empty bottle of “S.M. Bixby’s Oxblood Shoe Cleaner”, from the same era. Because we’re easily distracted, we couldn’t help but wonder if there was a connection. Maybe, we thought, some young tradesman was distracted, too, and knocked off a little early to spiff up his shoes, and to scratch his sweetheart’s initials in this remote wall of a brand new hotel. Here’s a picture of the bottle, the room, and a likely candidate, from one of the inn’s construction...

Richey, Kelley and Jutz bring adventurous spirit and broad experience to June 15 Songwriters

Kim Richey has won acclaim as an alt-country performer and writer; stellar songwriter Irene Kelley “sings with a hillbilly heart”, and Thomm Jutz wrote and produced the “The 1861 Project” of new songs about the Civil War The Balsam Mountain Inn began its Songwriters in the Round series fifteen years ago, and modeled it after similar performances at Nashville’s Bluebird Café. Balsam’s performers are most often the Nashville-area songwriters who pen lyrics performed by country and western stars. Many performances feature Grammy and CMA award winners, and all include writers of many top-ranked songs. A buffet dinner is included in the $45 ticket price, and seating begins at 6pm.  Kim Richey Kim Richey’s 15-year musical journey has been a dream run. In addition to two Grammy nominations, she has released five critically acclaimed albums; been listed in the Top 10 Albums of 1999 in US Time Magazine for her album “Glimmer”, been given 4 stars in Rolling Stone and named Alt-Country Album Of The Year in People Magazine for her album “Rise”. She has written two number one songs, four top ten hits and many singles in the top 50. She has had her songs recorded by Trisha Yearwood and James Morrisson; sung on albums by Ryan Adams, Shawn Colvin and Mary Chapin Carpenter and even appeared on a William Shatner record produced by Ben Folds. She’s worked with producer legends such as Bill Bottrell (Sheryl Crow, Michael Jackson, Tom Petty) and Hugh Padgham (The Police, XTC, Peter Gabriel, David Bowie) as well as Giles Martin (The Beatles “Love”) and Steve Earle collaborator Richard Bennett, plus she’s had her...