New balusters for a very old railing

The 100-ft. railings on our front porches have been looking a little snaggle-toothed lately, with a baluster missing here and there. The hand-turned pieces aren’t easy to replace, so we had to search around, and fortunately we found Maik Fayad, an accomplished wood turner based in Hickory, NC. Here’s a look at one of the railings – which has propped up many feet and more than a few little girls over the past century – our fresh new balusters nestled in their box (with an original sample), and a view inside Mr. Fayad’s shop, courtesy of our friend Philip Buchanan, who will install the new...

2013 Fourth of July picnic!

Each year, the inn hosts a picnic for residents of Balsam and inn guests just after the annual Balsam community 4th of July parade. This year’s parade will begin between 11:30 and noon, with the picnic to follow. Tickets must be purchased in advance at the inn (no ticket sales on Thursday), and a $5 ticket covers a lunch of hot dogs, slaw, chips, drinks and dessert. Parking for residents is in the overflow area at the bottom of the hill below the inn. Call us for more information!...

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...