Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2018 - 49
Left: Draper Mercantile makes for a great stop along the New
Below left: The Dora Trail connects to the New River Trail State
Park in Pulaski.
Below center: Wanda Rodgers runs Skeeter's in Wytheville.
COURTESY DRAPER MERCANTILE
River Trail. Keep going, and you'll
reach Foster Falls, the linear state
park's most popular access area,
which was just being developed at
the time I first visited in 1997.
New River Trail State Park lost its
longtime leader, Mark Hufeisen, in
2011 when the park manager died
of cancer. It was Hufeisen who told
of the park's plan in 1997 for Foster Falls-to restore the historic village, develop campsites and build a
river access site. Today, that's what
you'll find. And, nearby, the late
Hufeisen's memory lives on at an
equestrian area alongside the trail.
"Mark was a big horse enthusiast," says the park's current manager, Sam Sweeney, 49. "The guided
horse rides and all that is out at Foster Falls."
Getting back to Bill Smith: I first
met this lively businessman in Wytheville when I was roaming the
region in search of those "Sweet Virginia Breezes" in 1997. That's when
Smith showed me Skeeter's, a 1920sera hot dog business. Smith bought
Skeeter's in 1989, along with the
building where President Woodrow
Wilson's second wife, Edith Bolling
Wilson, was born.
These days, Smith and his wife,
Farron, operate a history museum in
Edith's honor along with the Bolling
Wilson Hotel on Wytheville's Main
Street. My wife and I made ourselves
at home in the Smiths' boutique
hotel with a third-floor view overlooking the "Bolling Building" that
houses Skeeter's. There earlier, for
lunch, we had met Wanda Rodgers, who leases the Skeeter's business
and continues to serve red hot dogs,
due to popular demand.
For Saturday night supper, I savored the house specialties at the
Log House 1776 Restaurant in Wytheville: Chicken Verde Pecan,
Stuffed Yellow Crookneck Squash
and Fancy Fried Grits. I also once
again met James Green, the owner who labored to restore the Log
House with his own two hands in
At 73, Green remains the operation's overseer. "All of the recipes,
just about all of them, I came up
with," Green says. "And I wanted
something different than other restaurants."
Year after year, Green continues
to expand his gift shop behind the
restaurant. "And people just love
coming here," Green says. "They
feel very comfortable here."
Walking the sidewalk from the
Log House to the Bolling Wilson
Hotel, I contemplated never wanting to leave Wytheville.
"It is one of the most attractive,
well laid-out communities that
you'll ever see," Bill Smith says.
"The town is just a beautiful place
Credit a chunk of that charm to
Wytheville's five museums, especially the Rock House, an 1820s-era
home where my wife and I reunited
with Frances Emerson, the museum
director whom we had met in 1997.
Here, again, we toured the historic
home, marveling at its limestone
architecture and how the house survived a torch and a bullet during the
Civil War's Battle of Wytheville.
"We've done a lot since you have
been here," Emerson says as we walk
the stairs. "We've changed the wallpaper. And we tell more about the
family and what their life was like.
One of the things that is significant
about the house is that it's stayed
in the same family-from 1823 to
1967. Nobody else had ever lived
here, just the family members."
The Haller-Gibboney families at
the Rock House included medical
professionals, living at the heart of
Wythe County's courthouse town.
"And it was not a little, backwoods
town. It was a cultural center," says
IF YOU GO
Bolling Wilson Hotel, Wytheville: 276-223-2333
Draper Mercantile, Draper: 888-399-1210
Homestead Inn, Draper: 540-980-6777
Log House 1776 Restaurant,
New River Trail State Park, Max Meadows:
Skeeter's, Wytheville: 276-228-2611
May/June 2018 49