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SAM DEAN | The Roanoke Times 4/3/12--The sun rises over the Peaks of Otter and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Sunday, July 28, 2013
The news of the reopening of the Peaks of Otter Lodge was good news indeed. It is encouraging that the Peaks managed to escape the sequestration fate suffered by many National Park Service facilities. The Peaks is now in the hands of a progressive concessionaire to operate for the next decade. I wish it much success in this endeavor.
The Peaks of Otter Lodge is an unpolished gem neatly tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains. There is absolutely nothing glitzy and glamorous about the facility to attract the what’s-happening crowd, unless you are into the nature that abounds all around it.
When you were at the Peaks, unbeknownst to you, you traveled through a time warp somewhere along the Blue Ridge Parkway, back to a much slower pace of life, before the pulsating, electronic Wi-Fi Internet gadgetry existed, before the must-stay-connected via high-tech smart phones mentality consumed us, and before the proliferation of the Kardashian empire or Duck Dynasty. You needed to know only a couple things: your room number (etched on the plastic key chain in case you forgot) and the time of sunset and sunrise. Anything more than that wasn’t really relevant.
The understated charm of lodge rooms’ less-is-more decor was certainly a relic of a bygone era, with its neutral-colored cinder block walls (no, the lodge never operated as a prison) adorned with modest artwork to the comfortable beds wrapped in clean, 200 or less thread count bed sheets, to the blue ceramic (circa late ’60s) tiled bathrooms ventilated by crank-open windows, if you so desired.
And, the real charmer: no television or radio. ’Tis true, and it was peace on Earth. It made perfect sense to me. Why would anyone choose to stay at the Peaks of Otter Lodge to watch television or fiddle with a lap-top computer unless you were a writer in search of a quiet place to inspire your talent?
One could sit outside anywhere at any time, day or night, and never be disturbed by a blaring television or radio. The only sounds you would hear were the occasional whispering voices of passersby strolling along the path around the lake, soon to be drowned out by nature’s melodic symphony. Over-nighters at the lodge possessed a reverence for the place and its visitors.
Delaware North, the hip concessionaire, has heard the cries of those who find television or Wi-Fi connections to be sacrosanct and has responded. Make way for a modern Peaks of Otter Lodge, complete with television and wireless Internet. Bazinga!
I guess this is smart marketing, because now there is something there for everyone, including the what’s-happening, younger generation, aka the future lodge guests. Regardless, fogies like me can continue to enjoy the charm and tranquility of the place by turning off, tuning out and disconnecting while there. In the long run, this modernization represents progress, and I do believe in progress. I get it.
The former Peaks of Otter Lodge experience provided a Waldenesque escape, wrapped up neatly into a therapeutic/spiritual package and topped with a bow. It was one of those MasterCard “priceless” experiences that money cannot buy. I plan to return to the Peaks in search of a similar experience, fully aware that what was is history and what is will be the future and that, in the end, all will be well.
Just in case you are thinking that I certainly must be a dusty old octogenarian who has been around since Hoover was president, you would be wrong. Kennedy was president when I was born. I will confess, however, to being a vegetarian. Just don’t call me an octogenarian — not yet, as I have not earned that privilege.
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