Would your family enjoy a weekend trip to the mountains for a chance to hike with llamas? Kidding Around Greenville contributor Liene visited a retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains with her family, and found the llama hike to be an enthralling experience – one of many Earthshine Lodge has to offer! Find out about the llamas, the Earthshine lodge property and their upcoming holiday event that includes brunch with Santa!
Media tickets were provided for this review, but opinions are solely those of the author.
I knew we were in for an adventure as soon as Mark, our llama guide and self-proclaimed “all things llama dude,” asked my husband if he would watch the llamas….
We had driven 1.5 hours from Greenville into the Blue Ridge Mountains to Earthshine Lodge, our basecamp for adventure for the weekend, with the express objective of participating in a llama hike. Mark met us with exciting news – one of the Earthshine llamas had given birth a few days ago!
Earthshine Llama Hike
Earthshine Lodge is home to four female llamas, who can be seen grazing in their pasture as visitors drive the winding road that leads up to the Lodge. We admired the llamas and the four-day-old cria (baby llama) with their colorful autumn backdrop, and then headed back up the hill to relieve my husband of his llama-care duties – of course all the hiking llamas were still happily grazing with our infant son contentedly watching the show.
After a quick orientation, my three older children had a rope in hand and were each leading a llama off across the meadow. The 76-acre Earthshine property has multiple trails for exploration, and we had a mile-long loop planned. As we hiked across the meadow and into the autumn-cloaked forest, we learned more about the llamas; not just what they can and can’t eat and how to properly guide them, but also about their individual personalities. My 8 year-old led “Vision,” a gentle but very alert llama who evidently has the best eyes of the group, while the 6 year-old and 10 year-old followed with “P Diddy Peaches” and “Legend.” All the llamas were well-behaved, responded to the guidance of their novice guides, and provided the boys with an extraordinary experience that they are already asking to repeat!
When not out on Earthshine hikes, the llamas offer wilderness therapy to special needs kids through the S.O.A.R. 3-day, 2-night Llama Trek Expedition in Panthertown Wilderness area, act as ringbearers at weddings, or surprise guests at birthday parties. Think of an occasion that wouldn’t be livened up by a llama… these are some exceptional llamas!
Earthshine Lodge Property
As we descended into the valley’s magical mist, I marveled at the scene before us; the wooden Earthshine Lodge rising stately on the ridge overlooking the surrounding valleys, reminiscent of the great lodges of our national parks. The views from the lodge stretch into the distance on a clear day, and on this autumn afternoon the sight of my boys traversing the meadow was storybook-perfect.
Having returned to the lodge and each hugged our llama a couple of times goodbye, we sat down for a delicious dinner prepared by Earthshine Lodge chef, Shelley. A perfect end to the day included warming up from the chill of the evening with a cup of hot chocolate – all the while soaking in the magic from the mountain view. Once darkness fell, we tucked in the boys in their loft nook and snuck away to one of the several chairs on the outdoor terrace for a minute. However, the lure of a warm bed proved to be too hard to resist, and soon we too were dreaming llama dreams…
About Earthshine Lodge
There is a good reason for their slogan “Your Basecamp for Adventure”; Earthshine is located right in the middle of some of the most breathtaking public lands in the Carolinas. Sandwiched by the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests, the Lodge provides access to popular Gorges State Park, DuPont State Recreational Forest and Panthertown Valley. The proximity allowed us to reach popular trailheads before they got too crowded, although it was hard to leave the property because there was more to do on site – an example being the hammocks in the trees just calling for a daytime nap.
Earthshine started thirty years ago with a mission to provide environmental education and family vacations, and then in 2018 new owners stepped forward to continue the legacy as well as add to it; all that time the natural beauty of the Lake Toxaway region has nourished and grown the experience to what is today. Earthshine Lodge is not just a place to stay – it is full immersion into a Blue Ridge adventure! Whether you choose to book a family vacation and take a wilderness skills workshop, or want to celebrate an anniversary with a romantic weekend away, the mountain oasis is a retreat from the chaos of the year.
Health Precautions and Learning Opportunities at Earthshine
Speaking of the chaos of recent years… Earthshine is taking all precautions to keep visitors safe, including even small details like disinfecting the llama lead lines.
For those e-learning, homeschooling and learning remotely, Earthshine Lodge has wi-fi, and offers multiple programs to incorporate into your curriculum such as Cherokee Village (pottery making), Pioneer village (where guests can try their hand at blacksmithing, wool felting and candlemaking), art-based activities (nature art and seasonal crafts), the before-mentioned wilderness skills classes (including shelter construction and fire-starting), geology and hydrology (creek hikes with gem mining), and more! During the week the Lodge caters to school groups with programs that have been updated to support state standards, while on weekends various retreats are held, with workshops on everything from mindfulness to fly-fishing. On our visit we had the option to join in outdoor yoga, archery/tomahawk throwing, and a “paint & wine” – check the calendar on their website to see what fun opportunities are available during your stay.
Spend the Holidays at Earthshine Lodge and Brunch With Santa
The llama hikes continue through the year, occurring two or three days a week at several different times. For three weekends in December they will take a backseat as an add-on to Earthshine’s Appalachian Christmas, an all-inclusive holiday package featuring meals, caroling, pioneer village activities, crafts, a movie and the highlight – brunch with Santa! For rates and times, please visit the Earthshine website.
Don’t miss our review of Earthshine’s Appalachian Christmas.
See the Llamas
We thought we had signed up for a hike with a llama. What we didn’t realize was that we would return from our weekend feeling so well-rested and healthy after a peaceful yet high-adventure weekend in the Blue Ridge Mountains. And we certainly didn’t imagine we would be among the first to greet an hours-old llama to the world! As we were leaving, we stopped by the llama barn where the tiny cria was shakily standing on four legs, marveling at the world from under the gaze of her protective mama. Unforgettable moments for the kids, thanks to the Earthshine family!
1600 Golden Road Lake Toxaway, NC 28747 | 828.862.4207