Orchard Inn Back to field trips Sue and I slipped out of town on a Thursday for a couple of nights at the Orchard Inn in Saluda, North Carolina (www.orchardinn.com). The Inn was built in 1926 as a summer getaway for the employees and families of Southern Railway. The front porch is wide and deep and used to go around the building until previous owners closed in the sides and back. Walk in the front door and you are in the main room, a very large room with a fireplace and several seating areas and scattered tables. The room is inviting to the eye and is comfortable for reading, visiting, iPad-ing, and pondering. There are nine guest rooms in the inn plus several cottages for rent around the grounds. Do you often drive up the Saluda Grade on I-26? Well, I do not like it and for one thing, embarrassingly, it scares me. Going up is less stressful than going down but I had forgotten there is an alternative until friends drove us from Landrum, SC to Saluda on Highway 176. As soon as we started winding up the hill, I had flashbacks of being a child, sitting in the back of my parent’s car as, inexplicably, we took day trips from Columbia to the mountains to see the leaves in the fall. Highway 176 is a great road. The section from Hendersonville, NC to Spartanburg, SC runs through Saluda, NC to Tryon, NC to Landrum, SC and to Campobello, SC. All of these towns have evolved into interesting places to stop and shop and eat. Go to Spartanburg, by interstate if you must, and then turn onto 176 for the rest of the trip. The railroad tracks run roughly parallel to Highway 176 from Landrum to Saluda. That section of track is referred to as the Saluda Grade, once the steepest standard gauge Class I railroad grade in the country. The grade rises 885 feet in only three miles. I understand the train would stop in Landrum to be fitted for special brakes and in Saluda the brakes would be removed until the return trip. We saw the track from time to time from Highway 176. About a mile before arriving in Saluda on Highway 176, is a driveway to the Orchard Inn, a 26-acre property, which is in the sixth year of ownership of Marc and Marianne Blazar. The Blazars have had a fascinating series of careers around the world and are well worth the time to get to know. Also living on the Orchard Inn property are two magnificent boxers, 14-year old Rocco and 7-year old Murray. The view is nice from the dining room along the back of the Inn and the bird feeders are in a great location for watching an amazing variety of birds during breakfast and dinner. A full breakfast is included in the room rate and a fixed price dinner is served every night to guests who want to eat in the Inn and to residents of Saluda. We went to The Purple Onion in Saluda for dinner Thursday night and had dinner in the Inn on Friday night. It was a great trip.