Would you like to go back to yesteryear---where everything is slower and quieter? That's what you get when you travel to The Big Meadow Lodge (http://www.visitshenandoah.com/) in the mountains of Virginia. Big Meadows and it's sister lodge, Skyland, are located on the Skyline Drive, north of Charlottesville, Virginia. People have been "sittin' and rockin' " in the Big Meadows great room and enjoying the view of the Shenandoah Mountains and Valley since 1939. The rooms are basic and clean. There is not any air conditioning in the lodge rooms but it is not missed when you are on the top of the world. We visited in July and it was cool in the evenings. The food is great and you actually have to look to find a television. All that being said, we didn't go for the atmosphere even though it was a bonus. We went to take a Colonial White Oak Basket Class. Clyde Jenkins, the Colonial basket artisan for Colonial Williamsburg and a stonemason by trade, was our instructor. Clyde does things the old fashioned way; he begins by picking out a tree. Everything is done by hand with hand tools. He lets the tree decide what should be made from which part. Some trees or parts of trees should be the rim or the handle and some should be the weavers or the spokes. The splits for the different parts of the basket are accomplished by using a pocket knife and the natural grain of the tree. Other than using materials that are still fresh and green, making the white oak basket is very much like making the usual reed baskets until you get to the "trim and tuck" time. According to Clyde, the Colonials tucked their baskets to the outside. You can tell if a basket is an old one by checking which way the basket is tucked.
Our class had just four people (3 adults, 1 teen) and we were all able to finish our baskets. We sat around outside, enjoyed the weather and talked to visitors that wandered by and asked what we were doing with the logs all around us. We did try and use our own knife and split down the weavers ourselves but we were really slow and Clyde had to furnish some of them to us. We tucked our baskets to the outside to keep them Colonial. The day was very enjoyable and relaxing and we would highly recommend it.
The class is $40.00 and begins on June 5th and goes through Oct. 16th. They are from 10-3pm with a break for lunch. All we needed to bring was a lawn chair, a piece of canvas or leather for our lap and a sharp pocket knife ( Ann recommends a few band aids as a preventive measure). Most of the basket classes are held at the Big Meadow Lodge but a few are at the Skyland Lodge. While we were at the Lodge, other activities were also available. Check out the website mentioned earlier and go to "Activities and Events" for a list of everything going on during your stay. By the way, Skyland Lodge does have air conditioned rooms available and is only around 30 minutes away.
Go and enjoy, you'll be glad you did!!!