A River Runs Through It

Hayden Hollingsworth
Hayden Hollingsworth

In 1992 Norman MacClean’s autobiography of growing up in Montana in the 1920’s was made into a movie directed by Robert Redford.  It won the Academy Award for Best Picture that year.  You will be pleased to know that we have found the eastern counterpart; The Cowpasture River runs through it.  All the drama and tragedy of the original story did not make transcontinental journey but the same bucolic atmosphere can be found a mere 83 miles from Roanoke.

This spring many of our acquaintances are plying the rivers of Europe on luxurious boats.  They return with two tales.  The first is about the wonders of the cruise; the second, the story of the harrowing travel to reach the boat.  Here is a suggestion that will surely eliminate the second problem and provide a trip that will be as memorable as a river cruise.

In Bath County you will find The Fort Lewis Lodge located in a broad valley bordered on the north by the Allegheny Mountains and on the south by the Cowpasture River.  The establishment is owned by Caryl and John Cowden and nowhere will you find two more accommodating hosts. They are never seen without a smile on their faces.

In addition to the main lodge which has a number of nicely appointed rooms and an accommodating Gathering Room, there are four individual cabins, rustic in outward appearance but quite comfortable in their interior.  There is even a silo suite for those hardy enough to climb the stairs.  The Lewis Mill Restaurant and cozy Buck’s Bar complete the grounds.

Breakfast and supper are served in the restaurant and all meals are prepared by Caryl.  No one ever left the restaurant with anything other than a feeling of complete satisfaction.  Country home cooking is having its finest hour. The guests frequently ask for recipes which Caryl supplies, but she is too busy to produce the cookbook that everyone requests.

What does one do in such a serene place?  The peacefulness is reason enough to go for a stay but adventures abound.  A walk to the river is worth the trip alone.  A comfortable sitting area allows a view of the cliff across the river where bald eagles nest.  The rippling rapids abound with trout, especially in the spring.  In warmer weather, canoeing and kayaking are available, as are tubing and swimming.  Be forewarned:  the water is bracing even in the summer.

There is a disc golf course, a horseshoe pit, and a pavilion (with ping pong and other games) where weddings and other functions can be held.  What do guests do at night?  Mercifully, there is no TV in the rooms. After dinner John has a bonfire to sit around on the surprisingly cool summer nights.  With no city within 20 miles the stars appear in breathtaking brilliance.  There’s even a telescope from a hilltop observation station.

A half mile or so from the lodge is an old country home, Lewis Manor House, which is ideal for family reunions.  A number of bedrooms are available as well as a large kitchen, although meals are available in the restaurant.

And that’s just the headlines.  Multiple hiking trails are nearby with maps to follow.  The valley is laced with hard surface (but narrow) roads wonderful for biking.  There are bikes available, or bring your own.  A fish hatchery is nearby, and no, you cannot fish in their tanks.

If the weather is poor, there is a library for reading.  The hot tub and the spacious decks around the lodge provide space for just peaceful pondering and relaxing.  Caryl will supply a box lunch for your convenience.

There’s more to say, but you get the idea.  Just go to www.fortlewislodge.com or [email protected].  A few days there and your soul will be refreshed.  And, of course, there are no canceled flights, TSA, or dogs that sniff your luggage. It is an unexpected jewel in the crown of our beautiful state.

Tell John and Caryl that Johanna and Hayden sent you.  We can’t wait until our next visit in the fall.

Hayden Hollingsworth