Starting when my 41 year old son was still a baby we used to travel from NJ to VA every year to celebrate Thanksgiving at a very special place called “Skyland Resort.” It’s a rustic destination spot located on the highest point of the Skyline Drive. (Shenandoah National Park.)
We discovered this treasure when we’d been to Virginia during the summer and traveled down the Skyline Drive just to see what we could see. There are many wonderful overlooks along the Drive that give a marvelous view of valleys and ridges, covered with trees. We also loved seeing the wildlife along the Drive; deer, skunks, foxes, chipmunks and even an occasional bear!
When we stopped at Skyland the summer in 1983, we saw the notice for a Thanksgiving Special; 2 nights, breakfasts and dinners for a very reasonable price, so we made our reservations and wrote it on our calendar.
Skyland has a main building that houses the dining room, bar, sitting area and gift shop. We would hang out in the sitting area on rainy days reading, playing games, just being together.
On beautiful autumn days we would visit some of the nearby hiking trails and march off to see the overlook at the top of the Stony Man trail, or hike the White Oak Falls trail which offers several levels of water falls to visit. There is also a beautiful “all access” trail called the Limberlost Trail. The path has been laid with hard packed cinders so that wheel chairs and other mobility helps can use it.
Once, when our children were older, we took a trail ride. My son had the spirited horse that kept kicking up his heels and trying to bite the butt of the horse in front of him.
On Saturday afternoons we’d drive down to Big Meadow and sit in the rocking chairs in the visitor center. We’d watch the sun go down as the deer browsed in the low bush blueberries that are allowed to grow in the maintained meadow. Every year 1/4 of the meadow is mowed. That way it stays the same as when the Native Americans used it centuries ago. The meadow is so big, that when you view it, it’s a panoramic view.
In the evenings there was live music in the bar and sometimes I would play a song or two while the main act took a 15 minute break.
Weather was always an issue when traveling to Skyland. If the weather was bad, If there was snow on the Skyline Drive, the Drive might be closed and we would not be able to get to Skyland. That never happened, thank you Jesus, but there was a time or two when we were not allowed to leave on Sunday because of conditions on the Drive. After the sun rose high enough to melt the snow and ice we would be told it was safe to travel.
The very first time we stayed at Skyland, we woke up to a world coated in rime ice. Every branch on every tree, even the very littlest ones were coated in ice and, because the wind was blowing, even the little blades of grass had prism bright flags that all blew the same direction!
You know, the mountains have a smell all their own. In the autumn the mountains smell of leaves that have dropped and lay together in a carpet, and the fresh wind that blows off the higher peaks. It smells of wood smoke and woolen hats.
What an incredible blessing Skyland has been to our family! Now that our children are grown and on their own, we haven’t been back. But we pray that we may bring them and their children to spend a Thanksgiving weekend. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful answered prayer?