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December 16, 2013

Guests Recall The Blizzard of ’93 at Buckhorn Inn

In some 27 years of visiting the Buckhorn, our most treasured memory is of enduring the natural disaster that was the Blizzard of 1993, a.k.a. “The Storm of the Century.” The storm was a bona fide natural disaster, starting in Florida with deadly rain, wind and flooding, and morphed into a mid-March snowstorm that buried the southeast and eastern seaboard. It is recognized by NOAA as one of the five worst storms of the twentieth century.

We arrived at the Buckhorn on Thursday evening for a long weekend “spring break” of hiking and relaxing, and within 24 hours knew that we were in for much more of an adventure than we ever dreamed. Also with us as guests of the Inn that weekend were the four delightful couples from Oak Ridge that were here for a weekend of bridge – Gordon and Jean Jones, Norman and Louise Hildreth, Ervin and Sarah Kiser, and Clyde and Ada Hopkins. Martin Rosenberg and Liz Morgan, college professors from Kentucky were staying in one of the cabins, as were Riaz and Behroz Padamsee, business owners from Raleigh, N.C. The Inn was substantially full for its capacity at that time.

On Friday the weather forecasts were generally predicting 12 – 18 inches of snow. On our Friday morning hike to Alum Cave a light snow started by mid to late morning, and when we reached the parking lot it had turned to rain. After some shopping in

The blizzard of '93 began during Friday night.

The blizzard of ’93 began during Friday night.

Gatlinburg, we headed back to  Buckhorn, making a strategic stop at Park Liquor, just in case. On Friday night we watched a steady snowfall start to accumulate on the front porch hedgerow, and even as we went up to the Tower Room at bedtime that 12 – 18 inches seemed pretty accurate. But then during the night we woke up to hear noise in the parking lot, and looked out to see Rick Willard, one of the inn employees, and John Burns, innkeeper at the time trying to grade snow off of the parking lot with a tractor. Then we realized the electricity was off, and it was game on.

On Saturday morning we came downstairs to join everyone huddled in front of the fireplace listening to a battery operated radio, and watching it continue to snow. The inn had a generator large enough to run electricity for parts of the inn, but not all at the same time, so there was strategic switching between running heat, lights, coffee makers, and the water pump in the main inn. Jo Ann Preske was the only staff member that could get to the inn, walking from her house up on Buckhorn Road. Jo Ann and Connie Burns had to handle the cooking and strategically planning the use of food on hand to feed guests three meals a day instead of just two. Then there was the concern of keeping gas for the generator. We all actually volunteered to let the staff try to siphon gas out of the cars, but discovered that cars had baffles installed on the gas tanks to prevent gas theft! Luckily, John and Rick managed to get to a gas station at some point to replenish the supply. So looking back on it from today’s vantage point the whole situation had lots of potentially scary pitfalls, not the least of which was the fact that the temperatures were frigid – near zero. Yet everyone kept their composure and just adapted to the situation as best possible. We washed dishes, helped take firewood to the cabins, read books, talked, the bridge players played bridge, and we chilled wine in the snow. The fireplace area looked like a refugee camp with coats and gloves and boots strewn about to dry at least a bit.

The snow continued on Sunday. Everyone boiled water in the kitchen to take up to the rooms to sponge off, wash hair, etc. At some point later in the day Sunday the snow stopped, and the men went outside

Snow filled the entire veranda space and the hill beyond which became an ideal sledding venue.

Snow filled the entire veranda space and the hill beyond which became an ideal sledding venue.

to tackle the job of cleaning snow off of the cars. That is when we got the official snowfall measurement of 34 inches. At the time Eddie and I had a Pontiac Transport minivan that was almost entirely covered. One of the most interesting differences between then and now is that none of us had cell phones in 1993. Fortunately, one of the folks from Oak Ridge had a car phone, which was the predecessor of the cell phone, and he was very kind to let those of us who needed to call family, work, dog sitters, and others to let them know we were safe and coming home as soon as possible. The main issue we had with getting home was the road condition for access roads from the Buckhorn to the main highways. There was not only ice but also downed trees and limbs. By Monday, many were able to begin leaving, but we waited until Tuesday morning because of the 7 or 8 hour drive back to Memphis and still allowing for some icy spots on I-40. On Monday afternoon many from the neighborhood came and sledded down the hill in front of the Inn, then on Monday evening a whole group from the neighborhood, including the G. Webb family and the Preske’s all pitched in to cook a great meal of what probably was some of the last food left. On Tuesday morning we threw dirty clothes in the minivan and took off for home!

Of all these memories, there is one that remains with me vividly, and that is the feeling I had when I went out late on Sunday afternoon and took a walk up Tudor Mountain Road. There was absolutely no sound – total stillness, total quiet. The awesome power of nature had brought our busy human activity and our all-important control, to a halt. In that moment it was very clear that something bigger than us was in charge. I’m not sure if that is how you know you’ve been through a natural disaster, but at that time it sure seemed that way to me.  

Eddie and Virginia Wilson, 1993

Eddie and Virginia Wilson, 1993


December 11, 2013

Buckhorn Inn and Roast Beef Hash

Roast Beef HashMy first memory of Buckhorn is from 1952 when I was six years old–61 years ago.  We were staying on the second floor in rooms looking over my beloved Mt Le Conte–my parents, a mother’s helper and me.  There were many trips after that, originally with then innkeeper Doub Bebb fixing a fine breakfast, a tradition I am grateful has continued and expanded under Lee and John’s gracious stewardship.  I came to the Inn over the years with my parents, my great friends Judge Macauley Smith and his wife Emmy, with other friends and hikers and for the past 15 years with my husband Boyce Martin.

This Thanksgiving (2013) is our fifth with Lee and John and what a feast it has been.  It wasn’t always this way.  One memorable Thanksgiving in the mid-1970s I was with the Smiths in the only heated building at the time–either Cottage 3 or 4.  The Inn itself was closed for the winter, but Doug agreed to let us stay in the cabin.  I slept on the living room couch.  Judge Smith and I wore matching fire engine red pajamas from LLBean.  Most memorable was our Thanksgiving dinner, cooked in the cabin in a cast iron skillet supplied by Emmy.  It was canned roast beef hash to which she added onions and green peppers–and lots of sour cream. It was delicious, enhanced no doubt by the invigorating mountain air and a generous amount of cheering libations.  The Judge was a bourbon man and supplied me with Boisiere dry vermouth.

Tonight’s 75th Thanksgiving feast is a far cry from canned roast beef hash.  But never changing is the majesty and magical beauty of my beloved Mt. Le Conte seen from the porch, rooms and cottages of Buckhorn Inn.  Anne Ogden, Treasured Guest, Louisville KY

Daddies Know Best

Carroll and I have been coming to Buckhorn Inn for about 10 years, and we have stayed here 20 -plus wonderful times.  I have always said I would like to come once a month, but Carroll says I would tire of this beautiful gem of nature.  We have celebrated birthdays, an anniversary, Valentine’s Day, two Thanksgivings, pre-Christmas time here at the inn–and they have all been memoable.  The service is excellent, the food is fantastic and the natural beauty of the place is great all seasons of the year.  John and Lee put it all together to make it a time to never forget.  My Daddy told me about Buckhorn Inn many years before we decided to stay here.  I guess daddies know best and I wish I had listened and maybe we would have stayed here 40 plus times by now! Buckhorn is in my DNA now, and I just cannot go too long without a dose of the many wonderful flavors of this fabulous place.  If you want serenity, time out from the race of one’s busy life, a breath of fresh air, and some romance, I bet a buck Buckhorn Inn is the answer.  Judy Joacchimi, Murfreesboro, TN

Winter Wonder

This was a trip for my husband and myself for a getaway celebrating our 32nd anniversary. This visit was a 3 night stay.  The weather and mountain views spectacular, the swans were swimming on the pond entertaining us. Dinner and breakfasts were tastefully prepared, portions large and  service was attentive. Our room was in the Inn was small and cozy.  (There are larger rooms and cottages to stay in as well).  If you desire beauty of nature this is the place. It is secluded, off the tourist route. The staff and owners are there to see your stay is comfortable.  Glenda W.  Waynesboro Ky via Trip Advisor

December 9, 2013

Buckhorn Inn Hosts Famous Guest

The Red Chair

These last few days It has been our pleasure to host a visit from the official symbol of the Professional Association of International Innkeepers–The Red Chair.  The Red Chair is on a nine-month journey that started in Maine and will finish in California in 2014. Red, as we familiarly refer to him, confided confidentially to me that the Smokies has been his favorite destination so far.  We have a story for you about his visit to Buckhorn. 

The Red Chair Gets a Paint Job  The Red Chair arrived tired at Buckhorn Inn after his weeks of traveling and longing for the Orange Chair that had kept him company at his previous stop at Creekwalk Inn. 

The Red Chair Gets a Paint Job

The Red Chair Gets a Paint Job

We offered him a Blue Chair who was visiting but he said “My heart belongs to Orange.”  He was slightly unkempt and grouchy, so we decided a day in our workshop would do him good.  (I know I always feel better after a day getting “fixed-up” at the beauty salon.)  Hugo tightened up his loose bits and gave him a coat of matching red paint and he professed himself ready to face the world again after a quick look in the mirror. 

The Red Chair Arrives

The Red Chair Arrives

The Red Chair Officially Arrives  Red had been admitted to the Inn via the back entrance when he arrived  because he said “I don’t want anyone looking at me until I get a paint job.”  So, we asked him nicely to make his entrance official by coming in the front door, which is the most popular place among our guests for picture taking because of the sign that says “Buckhorn Inn.”  A bit vain, Red preened for the photo and we had to show him several versions before he was satisfied with this photo shown here.  Doesn’t he look great?  Well, at least that was Red’s opinion.

The Red Chair Dines with Company The Red Chair Dines with Friends  “What I want is a good dinner with great service and ambience.  An excellent wine list would also be welcome,”  Red demanded (or asked politely depending on who is telling the story.)  Innkeeper John Mellor told Red he had come to the right place as Buckhorn is the only inn in the area that serves dinner nightly.  He gave Red the best seat in the house and comped him for this fine dinner, Red having pointed out that he is, after all, the Official Ambassador of our national Bed and Breakfast association.  As all of us who have been lucky enough to know, Red makes friends wherever he goes and here at Buckhorn he soon became the center of attention.  Crowds got a little too friendly at times with some of our guests actually wanting to sit on him!  Red did invite the Buckhorn Bears One and Two to have dinner with him because they just adored him.  Buckhorn Bear One said of him “Red is so tall and handsome—I just can’t take my eyes off him.”  Buckhorn Bear Two had tears in her eyes when Red had to leave the next morning.

The Red Chair Meditates 015The Red Chair Meditates  After a hearty breakfast with a menu just chocked full of delicious choices, Red said he wanted a little time to himself to unwind before going on to his next stop.  Innkeeper Lee Mellor suggested that a visit to Rachael’s Labyrinth for a little meditation and a walk through the Inn’s gardens would be just the ticket.  “The gardens aren’t the best during the winter season but our three perennial gardens really show their stuff in the spring, summer and fall.  Of course, we have so many evergreen bushes—like native rhododendrons and azaleas—that the walk around the property and through our own nature trail is a visual pleasure year round.”  (Lee likes to brag.)

The Red Chair Feeds the Swans 010Red Feeds the Swans  Red’s favorite stop on his walk (I use this term “walk” figuratively as he was actually transported about on one of our golf carts) was Buckhorn Pond.  Why?  “Well,” he said, this is a beautiful, peaceful pond where I could spend several hours just sitting on the bench but the sight of two beautiful swans swanning about came as a big surprise.  Fortunately, my driver had brought a good supply of lettuce for Swans Pentu and Teller (get the joke?—they are mute swans). “  As pointed out previously, Red makes friends wherever he goes and he and Pentu and Teller were soon trading stories and cracking jokes.

Red Says Goodbye  It was hard to say “tata” to Red, but we understood he had his work to think of, pleasurable as it is, and we couldn’t be selfish with his company.  After all, he had given up his love for The Orange Chair because of his responsibilities.  Like Buckhorn Bear 2, we had a tear or two our eyes as Red made his departure but we comforted ourselves with the knowledge that he was being delivered into the warmth, comfort and charm of our neighbors at Foxtrot Bed and Breakfast.

December 5, 2013

Best Anniversary Dinner

I made reservations at Buckhorn Inn to celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary after it was recommended by several from Tripadvisor Forum. I am so glad that we did. It was such a quaint romantic evening. The staff was so hospitable and made our dinner special by seating us next to the roaring fireplace, and had decorated our table with cupid confetti and a happy anniversary table tent. The 4 course meal was delicious, and what an awesome value for only $35 each. Even the other dining guests were true examples of southern hospitality. One lady stopped by for casual talk and when we told her that it was our anniversary a few others must have heard, because several stopped by to chat and congratulate us. I liked the preset menu, and the spiced tea is absolutely delicious. It was dark when we arrived but one of the guests told us to come back during daylight because the views are magnificent of the highest point in the great smokey Mountains. We hope to come back again and actually stay at the inn. If you are planning a trip to Gatlinburg, don’t miss this place as a “Must” for your fine dining option.  Trip Advisor Review November 2013, kytraveler307, Georgetown, Kentucky

A Unique Guest Memory


From left, Bill and Gwen Baddley and Lee and John Mellor

From left, Buckhorn Guests Bill and Gwen Baddley and Innkeepers Lee and John Mellor

We recently had the pleasure of hosting Bill and Gwen Baddley from Baton Rouge–after an absence of five long years.  It was great to renew our relationship and to see them so healthy and happy.  They have been traveling the world these last few years and we have missed them.  They did a first for Buckhorn–producing a three minute video which shows them during a visit that had snow, Christmas decorations, and sunshine.  If you have the three minutes, click here to see the video.