This past Friday was my 5th wedding anniversary. To celebrate my husband and I took a long weekend trip to Virginia. Obviously we chose Virginia because Virginia is for Lovers. In reality I wanted to go away somewhere in the mountains and stay in some sort of inn or lodge where we could have privacy but also not have to deal with things like making our own food and cleaning. I originally wanted to go to The Savage River Lodge in Western Maryland. We ate dinner there a few years ago when were staying elsewhere in that vicinity and it seemed like a lovely place for a weekend getaway. Sadly, by the time I started looking for places to stay back in August they had no availability. Ditto for a million other places in Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Note to self: if you want to go away for a weekend in the mountains in October you need to book way earlier. After many hours of scouring the internet I finally stumbled across the House Mountain Inn outside of Lexington, Virginia, which was just about exactly what I was looking for. It was with in a reasonable driving distance of Baltimore, it was in the mountains, and there was on-site dining. It seemed perfect, and it pretty much was.
The inn is located near the base of Big House Mountain on 100 acres of land. Sadly we were just a little too early for peak leaf season. They were just ever so slightly starting to change colors while we were there.
House Mountain Inn
View from the front porch of the House Mountain Inn
There are nine guest rooms each equipped with either an in-room jacuzzi tub or a private hot tub on the balcony. I opted for a room with a hot tub, which was lovely to sit in each night outside in the brisk fall air.
Our hot tub
Our room also had an in-room fireplace, which another great amenity that I loved. Though it mostly wasn’t cold enough for us to have it on during our stay. I did put it on for a little bit though because I love fireplaces and am always sad that we don’t have one in our house.
In addition to the guest rooms there is a great room on the main level of the lodge with a large fireplace and a kitchen area where you can help yourself to tea, coffee, and snacks throughout the day. There are also some board games available to play. Both breakfast and dinner are included in the price of your stay. The selections for breakfast changed each morning, but the dinner menu stayed the same. The portions for both were ridiculously huge. The fettucini Paul had came in a bowl so large it could have served at least 3 people. Even after he finished eating from it they could have served it to another table and whoever got it would have been none the wiser (not that I think they did that). I ordered the steak the first night, which itself was huge at 14 oz. Needless to say I barely put a dent in it. The second night I had stuffed shrimp, which was a much more reasonable portion. Each dinner also included an appetizer and dessert. The food was all good, so no complaints there. They also have a complimentary wine and cheese hour from 4-5 in the bar area each afternoon. We were out hiking the first day so didn’t take advantage then, but did stop in on Saturday. They had an nice selection cheeses and some sausage.
Speaking of hiking there is a 6 mile loop trail that goes around the property. We hiked a portion of it after we arrived on Friday afternoon. I was told that there was a scenic overlook around the 2 mile point. We hiked up past the 2 mile marker to what was obviously the height elevation wise of the trail, but never encountered any scenic overlook as we were still under the treeline. I don’t know if there was actually no scenic overlook or if we didn’t go far enough, but we never found it. In addition to hiking there are some other activities you can book, which we did not partake in like massages and horse back riding.
It also seemed like a lovely place to have a small wedding if you ever know anyone who is looking for a wedding venue around those parts. There was a banquet room as well as a covered area with a big fireplace outside for warmer times of year.
We drove down on Friday morning. We went the long way distance-wise at least. It’s slightly shorter to go around the DC beltway, then take 66 to 81, but as anyone who has any familiarity with traffic on the DC beltway knows you can get stuck in awful traffic there. Thus we took the far less trafficked way out on 70 to Western Maryland and then south on 81 from there. Google maps estimated that had we gone through DC it would have been 25 minutes faster, but Google maps doesn’t know about DC traffic so we very well might have chosen the faster route. It took us about 4 and half hours including a stop for lunch and a run into Target to get me cough drops as I sadly took a cough on vacation with me. We drove by a truck transporting these bells somewhere. We were going too fast for me to catch what the inscription on them said, so I’m not sure what they are for. I thought they were interesting though, so I snapped a pic as we went by.
After we arrived at the inn, as I mentioned previously, we went for a hike. Then enjoyed our dinner and relaxed in our hot tub.
Saturday we headed into downtown Lexington. We went on a tour of the Stonewall Jackson house there, which Stonewall Jackson lived in only for a few short years before heading off to fight in the Civil War from which he would never return. It was Apple Day at the Stonewall Jackson house so there were lots of activities going on in the garden, which would have been fun for people with kids but were not really aimed at adults, so we took a tour of the house and moved on.
Making fresh apple cider
Lexington is the home of both Washington and Lee University and the Virginia Military Institute, whose campuses are right next to each other. We walked along the outskirts of Washington and Lee, which was quite beautiful, on our way to VMI to go to the George C. Marshall museum there. VMI is not very picturesque. After that we headed back out of town to a place about halfway between Lexington and Staunton. In looking up what there was to do in Lexington I had come across this place called Wade’s Mill that was having an Apple Butter festival while we were in the area. It sounded like a good fall activity to me. We managed to get there at a pretty good time as the apple butter which they had been cooking in a big copper pot over a fire since 6 am was just about ready to be poured into jars. We got to watch them jar the apple butter, sample some of it straight out of the kettle, and then obviously leave with a still warm jar of it that we purchased. There were some other vendors selling other food and wares set up around the field as well as live music. I liked the bluegrass band that was playing when we first arrived more than the band that took over shortly after that and played for most of the time that we were hanging around. I didn’t buy any of the grains that were actually milled there, but I did also buy a jar of apple pecan butter and a jar of fig preserves. I think I need to make some biscuits to enjoy all this deliciousness on.
Top of grist mill
Cooking apple butter
Jarring the apple butter
Forging something out of metal
Sunday after checking out of our inn we headed about 20 miles south to the Natural Bridge. I had heard of the Natural Bridge any number of times, and figured since we were so close we should check it out. Now I am here to tell you to save your money. It costs just over $20 to get access to the short trail where you can see the Natural Bridge. If it had been something that I was able to just encounter in nature it would have been lovely, but it was definitely not worth the over $40 we paid for us both to see it. Especially comparing it to what I’ve seen in many National Parks for $25 a carload. We saw the bridge, walked the rest of the mile long trail to the little waterfall at the end and came back. The whole thing feels like a tourist trap taking over nature. That’s not to mention all the real tourist trap stuff built around it that we wisely did not spend our time or money on including a wax museum and Foamhenge (which if you can’t guess is a styrofoam version of Stonehenge).
The Natural Bridge
The Natural Bridge
The Natural Bridge
After that we headed home. It was a lovely fall weekend away.