The Road to Buck’s Peak
By R.W. Tagert
Last month we took a trip across Thornton Gap on Skyline Drive to a beautiful cabin three miles down the mountain toward the town of Luray. A Bucks Peak is a beautiful four bedroom frame house with massive vaulted ceilings that is halfway back up the mountainside. Sitting in a clearing at the end of a winding mountain road, the wrap around porch has views up the mountainside as it climbs skyward and back to the northeast towards the valley.
With four bedrooms, two bunk beds in the downstairs area and four baths, there is plenty of room for a small group. There were five in our group and just about the only time we saw each other was at meals or on the deck enjoying the hot tub. When we were there in early August the foliage was still green with one small patch of yellow near the top of the mountain. This could either be hickories or birches that are a light, golden yellow, as are milkweeds’ leaves. By September the changes are certainly taking place just like the trees in town. The interesting thing about this patch of yellow is that we could see it get larger over a three-day period.
This time of year the changes can literally appear before your eyes day to day. Because of this, it makes sense to just stay in one place, enjoy everyone’s’ company, and watch the leaves change. This idea is particularly good for whoever drives the car because he or she has to keep their eyes on the road. Speaking of the road, this property is on a REAL mountain road and you are best served to take a 4 wheel drive vehicle. They do have a sense of humor in that the speed limit is posted at 85!
Another advantage of a place like A Bucks Peak is the gourmet kitchen, the hot tub and the great fire pit out back. For those who love to grill out, there is a gas grill as well as a charcoal grill. These are the amenities we found at A Bucks Peak, but I am sure that most rental properties have them as well.
What I liked about the retreat is that it was big enough that there was really no need to get away…we already were. But then again, we were all 60 something’s and the 90-minute drive out there was enough. However, if you are looking for some adventure, you can find it on either side of the mountain. The town of Luray is only about another 6 miles west. Here you can find inexpensive gasoline, shops and a number of nice restaurants and bars. Even though Luray is a small town, it is very vibrant and the main street of town is exactly that.
The spectacular Luray Caverns are open year round and if you have never been, you must go. The temperature inside the caverns is a uniform 54 degrees year round. Discovered in 1878 and developed over the next few decades (the maintenance is never done), the caverns have drawn millions from around the world. Two years ago we visited and wrote about Luray Caverns and had Dream Lake on our cover that has an almost mirror-like appearance. Stalactites are reflected in the water making them appear to be stalagmites. This illusion is often so convincing that people are unable to see the real bottom. It looks quite deep, as the stalactites are higher above the water, but at its deepest point the water is only about 20 inches.
If going to the mountains to watch the fall color and making your own bed and making your own meals isn’t your cup of tea, never fear. You can stay in the historic Mimslyn Inn in Luray. As they say at the Inn, Begin with classic, add a hint of charm, mix in some character (tradition and history) and you have “Vintage Southern Hospitality.” The kind only The Mimslyn Inn serves-comfortable, inviting, and ready for you to experience. The Inn has recently added new cottages, so if you want privacy, you got it. The cottages also let you use the Inns services and the dining room is fabulous as is the brunch.
If you drove from northern Virginia you probably came down Route 211 out of Warrenton. On the way you would have passed Washington, Virginia and then Sperryville before taking on the mountain. If you were driving from Fredericksburg you would pass through Culpeper. Check out our Destination Dining page this month for our picks this fall.
If you are looking for a really relaxing weekend check out the Little Washington Spa and Loft. A newly built and furnished one-bedroom loft is available which also has the soothing features of the Spa at your disposal.
Before heading over the mountain stop in Sperryville and visit Copper Fox Distillery. This is one of my favorites and it is not just for the spirits…it’s the people. Take a tour and buy a bottle for your mountain getaway (just happen to be sipping on a Wasmund’s Single Malt Whiskey from Copper Fox as I write this). There are also great country stores to visit and shop. The Heritage Hollow Farms and Farm Store raise their own livestock and sell it at their store. Heritage Hollow pride themselves on their grass fed beef and pasture, orchard and wooded lot raised pigs.
You can find inexpensive fare at the Headmasters Pub or dine at the Thornton River Grill for an evening out. A nine-hole golf course opened this past July at the Headmasters Pub and is open to the public. You can also find accommodations in Sperryville at Hopkins Ordinary, a Bed and Breakfast that also has its’ own Ale House. The three brothers who make up the band PONTIAK have recently returned to their roots and have opened the Pen Druid Brewery in Sperryville.
Since I started writing this yesterday I am sure that a few more leaves have turned a yellow orange or red. The mountains are waiting. In addition to the aforementioned roads to get to Thornton Gap, you can certainly take the majestic Skyline Drive, although this time of year it will be crowded. It is best to go during the week. When we returned in August we drove Skyline drive from Thornton Gap to Front Royal and there was very little traffic. Not so now but still worth the drive!