But that’s all you need.
A clean bathhouse at this Gold LEED Certified lodge provides hot showers. Composting toilets are truly odor free and save 150,000 gallons of water a year. Plenty of electricity and hot water are provided by solar panels and cells. And before dinner, you can take a staff-led tour of the inn’s many green features including red worm composting bins.
The dining hall is a gathering place with its long wooden tables and benches. In the afternoon it’s the place for a glass of sweet tea or lemonade or a piece of peach crumble set out in a cast iron skillet.
Meals are simple, healthful and enjoyed with fellow hikers. The nicely spiced roast turkey breast, carrots, au gratin potatoes and homemade herb rolls we had for dinner were satisfying after a day on the trail. At breakfast and dinner, the lodge serves family-style meals; you can purchase a lunch to take on the trail.
After dinner, enjoy a nature talk, then play a round of Sorry or Yahtzee or put together a jigsaw puzzle in the Sunrise Room. If you prefer, you can relax in a rocker on the wraparound porch with mountain views. But be sure to get to sleep early because you have to walk home tomorrow.
On our way back to Florida, we stop at Lake Blackshear Resort & Golf Club in the Veteran’s Memorial State Park at Cordele, which is about 140 miles south of Atlanta. This resort, which opened in 2002, is run by Coral Hospitality instead of the park service. As a result, it has a very different atmosphere than the other lodges we visit.
Coral currently manages South Beach properties including The Perry, The Angler’s Boutique Resort and The Savoy, and it’s slated to run Margaritaville when it opens on Hollywood Beach in 2014.
The three-story lodge and conference center offers modern rooms with updated bathroom fixtures and granite counters. Most rooms have balconies or screened porches.
You can enjoy a drink in the 88 Lakeside Bar, then sit down to dinner at Cordelia’s. This full-service restaurant offers a 10-ounce ribeye, three-mushroom chicken Marsala, seared scallops, pastas, salads, burgers and wraps. Breakfast is also served from the menu unless there’s a convention crowd in residence. Then you help yourself to the buffet.
Although we’ve been talking about lodges, we couldn’t help mentioning the cottages at Smithgall Woods State Park. Although many of Georgia’s state parks provide housekeeping cottages, these are exceptional.
The first thing you notice is how deep into the woods you have to drive to find your lodgings. You even have to pass through a stream. But don’t worry — it’s pretty tame and you ride on pavement.
There are five cottages with one to five bedrooms, all well maintained and nicely furnished. They were part of the private estate of Charles A. Smithgall, Jr., a noted conservationist and businessman. His private cottages were opened to the public after his land was acquired by the state in 1994.
We stay in Laurel Cottage, which even has its own hot tub. All the cottages are near Dukes Creek, where you can enjoy catch-and-release trout fishing. For those who don’t fish, there are plenty of trails to all sorts of natural attractions including a cascading waterfall.
But the biggest treat is relaxing in a rocking chair on your front porch after dark. You won’t believe the cacophony frogs and insects can make.
Deborah S. Hartz-Seeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.