The Swag

May 31, 2012

Details From Deener

Filed under: Uncategorized — The Swag @ 3:57 pm
Wow! What a weekend! 
Dan and I have been here @ The Swag over holiday times since 1969.  We genuinely think these were the most perfect days we have ever experienced.  There was a gentle breeze and the view went forever.  We could even see Mt. Mitchell.  There were a lot of mellow weekenders who checked out on Monday and Tuesday.
Family Fun
The Foster family returned for their twice-seasonal visit — all 10 of them.  This was a magical time for the grandchildren.  They got to  enjoy Donald Davis’s after-dinner stories and went white-water rafting at the Nantahala Outdoor Center on Sunday afternoon.

On Sunday four campers from Campsite 41 down by the Big Trees appeared at the Dogtrot.  They ended up staying for brunch.  I had a chance to visit with one.  He said they came up the Hemphill Bald Trail and had intended to go to Hemphill Bald, but decided to take the Park’s Asbury Trail to the left for a bit when a scarecrow appeared in the field across from the Park Fence.  Then they saw a man with a Navy blazer on and a Sunday NYTimes in his hands.  Dan greeted them and that is how they ended up having brunch with us.
New Trail Signs
Dan and I spent quite a bit of time — last week and this week — working on signs for the trails.  Dan had a man rout some really big heavy oak boards with trail signs.  We have been filling in the routing with white paint.  (Sometimes I wonder if there was someone in Dan’s family’s past who was involved with making those highway Burma Shave signs!)  I promise you that you will never have to wonder if you are taking the right direction when you get off of the Nature Trail.
On Monday two couples took the “Round the Block” all-day hike down to Caldwell Fork, via McKee’s Branch or Double Gap Trail (recently renamed by the Park as Hemphill Bald Trail).  They left @ 10:30 and got back @ 4:30 — just in time for cookies and a dip in the Hot Tub.
Birmingham, Alabama Guests
We had a coincidence earlier this week — two separate couples arrived within hours of one another, each after taking their child to Greystone Camp.    They are both from Birmingham and were familiar with one another but had not known of each others’ plans to visit The Swag!  Tuesday morning at breakfast, just about everyone decided to sit at “The Grownup Table”  to visit and talk about favorite hikes.
“The Chestnut Grove”
Mac and Margaret Foster have been working for some time on what they call “The Chestnut Grove” in the land below our Cottage.  They have been collecting chestnuts from our land, nurturing them over the winter, and then planting them back @ The Swag.  McRae, our gardener, has put some fencing around the smaller ones, but there are some that are quite tall and the trunks are thickening.  We plan to put up some signs, when we have a good trail marked around them so that folks may take a look at them in the fall.
Jumping Rocks Photography
Yesterday,  Matthew and Mark, our web site photographers, arrived to photograph for you
 the spruced-up rooms with their new quilts, window treatments, and meals, etc.
They will be here for a couple of days.

May 25, 2012

Details From Deener

Filed under: Uncategorized — The Swag @ 8:21 pm

The Swag – A Family Business Retreat For The Weekend

On Sunday, the four-generation family that spent three days with us over the weekend — looking at ways in which they can serve others and relate to one another — departed after brunch. Just before they left, their leader for this weekend came to me and said “We want to come back here next year!” They can go anywhere their hearts want to take them and their hearts said “The Swag.” We knew they had on their agenda where they would go next year and were keen to find out where they would go. Wow!

What a thrill!






Yesterday was one of those top-notch events for the Smokies! Because Dan chairs Friends of the Smokies, Dan and I went over to Clingman’s Dome (just about at the spot where Tennessee and North Carolina meet in Great Smoky Mountains National Park) to celebrate the success of Trails Forever. Several years ago, the Aslan Foundation gave $2 million dollars to the Park in memory of Lindsay Young to fund the perpetual maintenance of the Park’s trails. Lindsay loved the Park and was at two of our benefit weekends @ The Swag for Friends of the Smokies. The goal was to have others match the $2 million. Well, the others did! So, yesterday, with the van that has the Trails Forever logo on it and the contents ready to go where needed to maintain the trails, the RIBBON was CUT to perpetually fund our trails! Present were many of those people who dedicate time to lead hikes and maintain the trails; Frank and Whit Addicks, Danny Bernstein, Joan Cronan, Stan & Sam McGroom, Richard and Debbie Way, Jack E. Williams, Sam and Jody Curtis, Janice and Bill Shepherd and Missy Kane.

Storyteller Donald Davis Returns To The Swag

Wow! What a week we have had with Donald.  Wednesday night we had several couples who — for very understandable reasons — opted to go back to their rooms.  So, Donald and Merle sat with us and Donald around the three sofas and he told us how he became a story-teller.  If you plan to be  here when Donald returns, be sure to ask him to tell you about this.  Thursday night we learned why he is not named Joe.  (His father was a Joe and his brother is a Joe.)  I have always wondered, but never got around to asking him.

We have a full house this weekend — with lots of returning Swaggers.  On Sunday night (a first for Memorial Day     weekend)  we are having a cook-out and the Hill Country Band.  It doesn’t get any better than that.  And, of course, we will have one last night of Donald’s fabulous stories.

           Good news for me is that Dan returns for the weekend.  I imagine that means that we will have some
           sing-alonging around his grandfather’s player piano before Donald’s stories.




May 18, 2012

Details from Deener

Filed under: Uncategorized — The Swag @ 2:54 pm

Food and Fellowship at The Swag
What a treat to have a New York friend and her siblings (brother from Highlands Falls, NC, and sister from Seattle, WA) here for our Wednesday picnic at Gooseberry Knob. It was their first visit to The Swag, and I so enjoyed showing them some of the rooms and the Chestnut Lodge. What a glorious day we Swaggers had eating the delectable burgers, salads, desserts and sipping our root beer floats in the spring air.

This was only our second Wednesday picnic of the season. It has been too cold or too rainy. So it was a treat for all of the staff and guests to be able to see the brand new greens of leaves and grass in the valley below.

Exploring the Trails
We had a number of first time guests this week who loved walking the trails with Michael Pelton and Tamra Willis and gleaning their depth of knowledge. Using a plethora of pelts and skulls from furry mammals, Michael gave us a treasure trove of information about the black bear (and all the bears of the world).

What’s Blooming at The Swag
Spring is definitely here. The flame azaleas are budded and hinting at what colors they will be when they bloom in a the coming weeks. Blueberries are blooming. The new galax leaves are waxy and glorious — so, of course, they are gracing the soap dishes of Swag guest lavatories. The mountain laurels, like the flame azaleas, are ready to bloom when the time is right. Hybrid rhododendrons are aglow around all of our buildings. Their native cousins will grace the woodlands in a few weeks. The greenbrier tips are tender and tasty. The squaw root is tall and budded.

Celebrations at The Swag
We had a couple drive over from Asheville this week — just for one night — to celebrate their 37th wedding anniversary. They called it an “in town vacation.” They were delighted to enjoy Gail’s Room, and we were so pleased to be a part of their celebration.

This weekend we are hosting a three-day family gathering which brings together four generations (the youngest is just months old) for reflection, business, hiking, yoga and dining. Dan officiated at the weddings of three couples in this family, so it is very much a treat to have them with us. The van arrived at noon on Thursday with cribs and bouncy seats, along with all manner of new and colorful things that the baby industry has come up with since our kids were born. We are so complimented that they chose The Swag as the place where their family would spend time together.

It doesn’t get any better than today at The Swag!

May 10, 2012

Details from Deener

Filed under: Happenings at The Swag — The Swag @ 4:03 pm

A late April cold snap hit the apple trees hard, but McRae (our resident horticulturalist) and Bob Collier (our birder) think they will yield apples in the fall. The Swag is the highest inn east of the Mississippi. Spring can be fickle.

Gourmet Picnics at Gooseberry Knob
We kicked off our first Wednesday gourmet picnic on May 2 with bison and fine beef burgers, macaroni and cheese, slaw, potato salad and the ever-popular old-fashioned root beer float. The staff joined us for their monthly inclusion at the picnic. It is always a treat to have them share The Swag experience with our guests.

Exploring Nature at The Swag


Rhododendron and trillium are blooming, and down by the pond, bluettes have turned the ground a light shade of blue (some might even say Carolina Blue). It is a beautiful time to be at The Swag.

Doug and Kathy Peters were joined recently by guests from Denmark for a hike to Little Cataloochee where they visited historic log cabins and enjoyed their Swag backpack lunch in the church.In the cemetery they found tombstones dating to the early 20th century documenting young lives lost to cholera, pneumonia and inaccessibility to medicine. These are reminders of the trials and tribulations faced by early settlers who made what is now the Great Smoky Mountains National Park their home.By the way, Doug, who is a criminal defense attorney in Atlanta, received quite a bit of attention recently. He represented a man who murdered his lover’s husband in a case that generated considerable media attention in Atlanta and nationally. We are told we will see more about this towards the end of the year.

Malcolm the Cat
Malcolm is hard at work greeting guests and waddling across the yard in search of a welcoming lap or a chipmunk. He doesn’t hesitate to offer a few choice words to anyone who shows him the least bit of attention. Don’t be surprised when you see him. He gained a few pounds over the winter. The vet has him on a diet.

The Art of Conversation is Alive and Well at The Swag
A departing guest recently described the Inn as “a salon,” because of the exchange of ideas, thoughts and experiences that happen daily during meals. Dan and I were thrilled with this compliment because, for us, stimulating conversation with guests is an essential part of The Swag experience.

A good example happened during Sunday brunch when one guest, a philosophy professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, shared details of an upcoming speaking engagement in China. He said that China has grown more rapidly in culture and economy than any country in the history of civilization.

I was intrigued by a recent opinion column in the April 22 Sunday New York Times on the disappearance of conversation by Andrew F. March, associate professor of political science at Yale, entitled “The Flight of Conversation.”

Rest assured that the art of conversation is alive and well at The Swag, and the only things in flight are the birds.