Mountain Lake Lodge ( www.mtnlakelodge.com ), near Pembroke, Virginia, is a historic resort property within the Appalachian Mountain Range of the eastern United States of America. Besides the typical resort amenities of tennis courts, swimming pool, archery, and hiking trails, it also has this gigantic chess game area on the front lawn!
The reason I was at the resort was to attend a Road Scholar ( www.roadscholar.org ) Program #9482, entitled "Appalachian Experience". If this exterior looks a little bit familiar, it is probably because the property was the setting for an extremely popular movie of the 1980's, that was filmed here .
This cozy public space near the entrance was an open veranda when the movie was filmed, but has now been enclosed to allow for comfortable relaxing all year long.
This impressive carving near the entrance was made from a hemlock tree stump that was submerged under the deep waters of adjacent Mountain Lake for hundreds of years. During a time when the lake was at a low cycle of its natural "up and down" lake level, it was pulled from its watery grave, and turned into a very eye-catching sculpture. The carver who worked on it calls it "The King in Waiting".
Notice the carved inscription "THE HOUSE OF MOODY" above the fireplace. It is a reference to Mary Moody Northen who was the owner of the resort. This is the same family that is prominent in Galveston, Texas. Perhaps you have visited the Moody Mansion in Galveston---same Moody family! If it had not been for the decision to include the resort as a part of the non-profit "Mountain Lake Conservancy", it is doubtful that Mountain Lake Lodge could have survived in its present form. The mission of the Mountain Lake Conservancy is to further Mary Moody Northen's desire to forge bonds between people and nature in Mountain Lake's unique environment.
One way to encourage guests to get out of their rooms, and out on to the nature trails, is to not have televisions, radios, or phones in the guest rooms. I have included this photo that shows the lounge, because it was the location of the only television in the lodge. Folks could hang out in the lounge and see the "talking heads" on television telling about all the problems going on in the rest of the world. Lest you think that staying there might give you an anxiety attack because of not being around a 24-hour-a-day news channel, there is free WIFI throughout the lodge, so one can check on the Internet for prn "doses" of the status of the outside world.
This photo shows our Road Scholar group in the Harvest Dining Room of the lodge. We had all of our meals there, and were allowed to order off their regular menu at lunch and supper. There were ample choices of beef, pork, chicken, seafood, pasta, or vegetarian entrees. At breakfast, we had a magnificent buffet each morning, which allowed the group to choose how early, or late, they wanted to "break their fast"!
This photo of me is a reminder to say that no event calling itself an "Appalachian Experience", is complete without a "shout out" to the Appalachian Trail ( www.appalachiantrail.org ), commonly abbreviated as AT. Although the AT does not run directly through the resort property, it is just a "hop-skip-and a jump" to get to a section of it that runs through western Virginia.
One of the things you will pass on the road from the resort to the Appalachian Trail is a Civil War Memorial at "Minnie Ball Hill". The memorial tells about a group of soldiers who had to leave a large cache of ammunition (called minnie balls), along with many other accouterments of war, behind at this location, because it became too much for them to transport across the steep mountains and deep valleys of this section of Appalachia. When I first saw the metal soldier silhouettes, with the setting sun reflecting off of them, they seemed to glow and come alive! I could almost feel their exertion, because I had felt that same exertion traversing those trails---and I was not carrying heavy artillery or being shot at! What a sad time the Civil War was in the history of our country---a time when brother fought against brother, and love was in short supply.
Fortunately, unlike the North vs. the South of the Civil War, there was no fighting amongst our Road Scholar group during this week of togetherness! In fact, our leader, Rachel, told the group on several occasions how remarkable it was to be around a group of people who seemed to be so cordial and kind to one another! It reminded me of one of my First Place 4 Health ( www.FirstPlace4Health.com ) memory verses from I John 4:21 that says, "He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister." This photo shows our group at a popular overlook on the Appalachian Trail that we hiked to, called Wind Rock.
An integral part of the Appalachia Experience is folk dancing. Our group was able to learn a few of the traditional movements, while listening to live music being played by a local fiddler, while his wife called out the names of the square dance moves. It made for a lot of laughs , as we twisted and twirled and got dizzier by the minute! (p.s. If I told you that we were wearing our DIRTY hiking clothes when we were doing the old fashioned square DANCING, you could say it is a clue to the name of the movie that was filmed here!)
As mentioned earlier, archery is one of the classes taught at the resort, and our leader Rachel gave us a few tips on how to hold the bow, place our arrow, then shoot at the target. Also located near this archery range, is a ropes course and zip line.
Appalachia is famous for its musicians, and this photo shows The McKenzies ( www.mckenziemusic.com ), who have been popular performers in this area for decades. Besides demonstrating a variety of stringed instruments, they taught us history about music in the area, and were the couple that got the group off their seats, up on their feet, and out on the barn dance floor!
This photo shows the reader the movie that was filmed at Mountain Lake Lodge---Dirty Dancing---starring Jennifer Gray and Patrick Swayze. The building is a small museum full of memorabilia from the filming, including a constantly-running video available of the movie. There is also a map of the resort property that shows where famous scenes from the story were shot. One of our group's night-time activities was to watch the movie together, and enjoy some popcorn to make the experience complete!
There is a large memorial stone to Patrick Swayze, who died in 2009 from pancreatic cancer. When I signed up for Road Scholar Program #9482, my choice was based solely on the fact that it was a week I had free in my schedule, and it was within a 24 hour day's drive. Before that time, I had given little thought to learning about Appalachian Culture. However, one thing I had given thought to, was the scenic location of the movie, "Dirty Dancing". I had always assumed ( as was implied during the movie) that it was filmed in upstate New York. It made me want to travel to upstate New York, and stay in a resort like the one in the movie. Imagine my delight to find out that a Road Scholar program I had randomly selected, was going to have me staying in the very resort that had been in my mind's eye for three decades----that gives me "MILES OF SMILES"!!