Red River gorge adventure wedding inspiration


“Our love is the thrill of adventurous exploration with no fear of being lost because I will always have your hand to hold.” ~ Leo Christopher

Cherish Each Moment

Love is an adventure in the red river gorge

Kentucky’s own Red River Gorge is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts from around the world who venture into the Appalachian backcountry for hiking, camping, rock climbing, kayaking, and canoeing just to name a few. For many couples, their adventures brought them together and play an integral part in their relationship. The “thrill of adventurous exploration” bonds them in a very special way…trust me on this one, I know from experience. Skip and I met while rock climbing in the Red River Gorge and adventuring together in the outdoors is something we regularly enjoy.

With this thought in mind, we wondered what inspiration might be created for outdoorsy couples to incorporate their love of the outdoors and thirst for adventure in their wedding at our venue, while still keeping things luxurious and inviting for guests that may not be quite as adventurous.

Creating the vision

We teamed up with Kevin And Anna Weddings, who just so happen to be some of our favorite people, amazing photographers and fellow rock climbers, to build a group of creatives to turn this idea into a reality. We designed unique elements with bold and bright colors and blended in touches of outdoor gear to reflect the interests of so many couples who live for adventure and love the outdoors. We are excited to share with you this wedding inspiration and hope you find it helpful.

 

Danielle Braden created a flawless look with makeup and hair that perfectly complimented our theme. A whimsical boho hairstyle set the perfect stage for peacock feather earrings to make a statement, and the gold toned and sparkly eyeshadow reflected the gold shimmer in the dress.

 

Simply Done Invites carried the bold color theme through in every aspect of the stationary from the floral envelope to the RSVP card and laser engraved menu disks. With a nod to climbing gear on the invitation, we couldn’t think of a better way for a climbing couple to include their favorite pastime to personalize their invitations and pay homage to the Red River Gorge.

 

We fell in love with the stunningly crafted wooden names from The Crazy Bunny Lady that serve a double purpose as both a name card and a personalized gift for your guests! What a fantastic way to incorporate an organic element of the outdoors that your guests can truly enjoy.

For the florals, we partnered with Three Toads Farm for bright, bold and over-the-top creations that lend a luxurious touch to the tablespace without being overwhelming. The greenery over the chairs and on the cake table, were just enough to dress things up and give you a bit more color. Anna and Kalyn styled the table with vintage china, antique blue goblets, and gold candlesticks to reflect the look of the high-end flowers. The bridal bouquet and boutonniere provided gorgeous pops of color amidst the neon green of the newly budded leaves on the trees.

A geode cake is a great way to make a statement while at the same time incorporating a love of nature and the outdoors. Batter And Buttercream created a work of art with this stunning cake and whether you’re a rock climber, a nature lover or a spelunker, you’ll appreciate the look (and taste) of this masterpiece!

 

One of our models was none other than Jared Ravenscraft with New Frontier Outfitters. Jared is the ultimate outdoorsy dude and was gracious enough to not only model for us, but to bring along some of his clothing line for us to style as wedding favors for guests. To add a little pizazz to the bar, we used a bit of climbing gear that not only looks fun but serves a double purpose to allow for hanging items your guests can take with them.

Adventurous couples shouldn’t feel that their wedding day is a juxtaposition with their interests. You can tastefully incorporate your outdoor activities to personalize your wedding and have fun in the process. Feel free to pose with your gear on, use a canoe or kayak for drinks, a basket of tissues, or to store your wedding favors. Here at Hemlock Springs, we encourage you to be yourselves, have fun, and express your sense of adventure. After all, isn’t adventure the spice of life?

A John Muir Inspired Forest wedding Venue

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.” -John Muir

 

If there was just one person who could capture our sentiments and speak to the heart of our feelings towards nature and the Red River Gorge, that person would be John Muir. His words were the inspiration for our Hemlock Grove ceremony site, and his comparisons of the outdoors to celestial firmaments, great temples and perfect cathedrals, could not be more accurate. In fact, he said of his travels through Kentucky,

I have enjoyed the trees and scenery of Kentucky exceedingly.

How shall I ever tell of the miles and miles of beauty that have been flowing

into me in such measure? These lofty curving ranks of lobing, swelling hills, these

concealed valleys of fathomless verdure, and these lordly trees with the nursing

sunlight glancing in their leaves upon the outlines of the magnificent masses of

shade embosomed among their wide branches—these are cut into my memory to

go with me forever.

 Skip and I have long been outdoor enthusiasts, and as our regular readers know, the Red River Gorge is a place that has beckoned to us throughout the years. Escaping into the cool, deep green forests has always been a necessity and a balancing force in our lives. Exploring cliff line, climbing to ridge tops, and wading in creeks and streams is physically therapeutic and spiritually renewing. This is a common theme we find with couples who tour our wedding venue. We all belong to a tribe that feels an unnameable connection with the Red River Gorge. We feel more at home and alive among the rugged cliffs and verdant old mountains. It’s an innate longing for a place; an unbreakable bond that deepens with time.

There’s adventure to be had satisfying our primal hunger for adrenaline. There’s quiet, reflective repose to stare off in the distance atop a high ridge and recharge both body and mind. There’s places for celebration for milestones accomplished, and places for intimate and serene moments that begin new journeys in life.

When it came time to search for our perfect place to say “I do” in our forest wedding, we knew immediately nothing else would do, than to celebrate in nature’s own perfect temple.

We considered several different locations on the property, but late one evening while strolling hand-in-hand, we happened upon an area of the woods that was so beautiful and perfectly situated with stately Hemlocks naturally distilling the sunlight; casting an ethereal glow over us as we marveled at the near perfect symmetry of the natural aisle, the gently sloped grade of the ground, and the big leaf magnolias creating a protective canopy overhead. This was it. The place spoke to us and we were compelled to listen.

 

We added a gazebo between two perfectly positioned magnolias, and antique doors lead you into the natural cathedral. Simple benches were tucked between trees for seating, and gravel was laid to brighten the space a bit and for function. Only one portion of a tree was cut to allow for the aisle, and everything else was left as we found it. We wanted to honor the organic feel of the space while at the same time, creating a place for couples drawn to the Red River Gorge, to begin their journey together in marriage.

We are humbled at the number of people who appreciate, and feel a connection with the space we were honored to be stewards of, and we are excited to celebrate together with those of our tribe who are healed and strengthened by time spent in nature. For those in need of a space to play in, pray in, celebrate in, or begin a new journey in, we would love to welcome you to our place. Come tour our wedding venue, and experience the serenity for yourself.

 

Peña de Bernal


A Mexican Adventure

If you posses a sense of wanderlust or you’re looking for a unique honeymoon experience, you’ll want to read this post and take notes! We are back from our travels and have compiled all of our favorites from this trip in this handy guide just for you. Welcome to Bernal, Querétaro, Mexico.

Where To Stay

We have to give credit for our introduction to this sleepy little Mexican town to our good friend Jim Taylor with Appalachian Mountain Guides. He is a world-traveler and a first-class climber, developer and guide. He knew we were looking for a unique and epic place to climb for Skip’s birthday celebration and suggested we check out Bernal. The minute we started our research, we knew we HAD to see this place!

Designated as a Pueblo Mágico by the Mexican government, Bernal is purported to have healing energy and supernatural qualities that radiate from the unique rock formation commonly called La Peña. It’s located in one of the safest states in Mexico, Querétaro, and not once did we ever feel unsafe or in danger.

We flew into the Querétaro Intercontinental Airport which was a short 30 minute drive just south of Bernal. Ana, the owner of Hotel Ra’ngu where we were staying, graciously met us at the airport and drove us back to the hotel.

When we arrived in Bernal, it was late and dark, but the warmth of our hostess and the comfort of our immediate surroundings for the week were brilliant and a delightful surprise! Ana and Raquel made sure we were comfortable, offered to get us something to eat and settled us in our room to welcome us home…which as we learned, Ra’ngu is the Otomi Indian word for home.

As Ana left us in our new home for the week, we began to take in our surroundings. There were cool tile floors, a stone accent wall behind the bed, warm wood tones in what was obviously custom-made furniture, a comfortable bed

with a locally crafted wool blanket with several layers of snuggly blankets and flannel sheets beneath. There were high ceilings with a wall of windows and a sliding door that opened out onto a private balcony with, what we would wake up to find, was an impressive view of La Peña.

The bathroom featured custom tile work, a beautiful stone sink basin, and a large walk-in shower with the strongest and hottest, most glorious shower in all of Central America…(if you’ve traveled much, you know what a ginormous compliment this is).

The next morning, we awoke to a stunning sunrise that painted the landscape in front of our bed spectacular desert shades. We met the rest of our group of friends and climbing partners on the third floor of the hotel in the open-air restaurant. Carmen, the chef at Ra’ngu is simply amazing and Fernanda, was truly delightful and insanely attentive. In fact, the best food and kindest staff we encountered were at this amazing hotel.

Each morning we all sat together watching the town wake up with a view of La Peña and discussed where we would climb for the day as we sipped coffee and ate a traditional Mexican breakfast. One morning, we even convinced Ana to go climbing with us! Her first ever time climbing and she did amazing!

I could go on for days about all of the amazing things each of them did for us while we were there, but I think I’ll let you, Dear Reader, be pleasantly surprised.


Designated as a Pueblo Mágico by the Mexican government, Bernal is purported to have healing energy and supernatural qualities that radiate from the unique rock formation commonly called La Peña.

 

Where To Eat

Besides dining at Hotel Ra’ngu, there are some delicious places to check out on your visit to Bernal. If you’re staying during the week, you may find many of these places are closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Ana made arrangements for Carmen to make us all dinner at the hotel, so if you find yourself in the same situation, just trust Ana and Carmen. You’ll be taken care of.

If you’re venturing out for lunch, you absolutely must try one of the locations for Gorditas Doña Coco. My favorite was the adobo beef. Get plenty of napkins and be prepared for a party in your mouth! Skip and I both ate lunch here for roughly $5 USD TOTAL. The affordability of Bernal is shocking. The exchange rate was around $18 pesos to $1 US Dollar, so you can imagine how far your dollar will go.

Also, you MUST try Arrayán Cocina Mexicana. The restaurant overlooks the fountain in the square with historic buildings and wide open windows looking onto the cobblestone street. We sat near one such window (floor to ceiling) where a wandering Mariachi band came through to serenade us. For $50 pesos ($2.77USD) we were treated to a fun and lighthearted version of Cielito Lindo.

Our dinner entrees were not only delicious and perfectly cooked, each plate looked like a piece of art (pictured in this section). Skip and I enjoyed dinner here for roughly $26 USD.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can purchase delicious smelling food in stalls and stands just about anywhere in Bernal, (including buckets full of crickets) but for the best Pan de Queso, you need to find the restaurant Arrayán and look across the street. There’s a covered shopping area with giant open arches and several clothing stores. The Pan de Queso stand is tucked back among these stores and if you follow your nose (it smells divine) you’ll find it. There’s typically a long line, which should tell you you’re in the right place. You can’t go wrong with any of the flavors but the chocolate & cinnamon one is next-level, enlightenment good 🙂

Restaurante Mesón de la Roca has amazing mole, and Restaurante Las Cazuelas has the best damn coffee in town. Wherever you go, your belly will be full and happy!

 


The affordability of Bernal is shocking. The exchange rate was around $18 pesos to $1 US Dollar, so you can imagine how far your dollar will go.

What To See & Do

We were drawn to Bernal primarily for the rock climbing, but there truly is something for everyone there. If you’re a climber, you HAVE to top out on La Peña. Most routes are sport and we did La Bernalina. The climbs are well bolted multi-pitch, the friction is fabulous and the views are amazing. For more great climbing, check out Chichidho Ecopark. For 60 pesos, you have access to the “Muir Valley” of Bernal with well-bolted climbs, marked trails and even ancient Indian artifacts and paintings you can see.

Head into the downtown area of Bernal for some shopping. Bernal is known for its candy, cheese, local wine, and wool and textiles. I snagged a handmade sweater for 100 pesos ($5.50) and there were stalls upon stalls selling beautiful handmade scarves, sweaters, coats and dresses. Find La Aurora Centro Artesanal and head all the way to the back of the store. Here you’ll find mountains of yarn and bags of wool where they are washing, drying and spinning the wool into yarn. You’ll also see giant hundred year old looms with men weaving blankets, rugs, scarves and more. If you ask, they’ll happily show you around and teach you their craft. It’s totally worth an hour or so of your time.

 

 

 

Head over to the oldest part of town and find the aqueducts. These were the water catchment and transfer systems for the town. The architecture is impressive and there are some great photo opportunities here.

Go see the cathedral San Sebastian. They still hold mass in this building and if you like history and architecture, you’ll be intrigued.

Take a moto taxi for 35 pesos to see La Peña. There’s a trail that goes up to the base and even if you don’t climb, you’ll enjoy the views. Be prepared for a strenuous hike though. Bernal also sits at around 9,000 feet in elevation, so give yourself a few days to acclimate before you try this.

Ask Ana to help you schedule a visit to the tezmacal for a pre-Columbian cleansing ritual and experience some amazing culture. You can also schedule a massage ritual in your hotel room for about 40 pesos.

While we didn’t get a chance to tour vineyards on this trip, Bernal sits in a region known for its wine and local goat cheeses. There are numerous tours available where you can experience the Mexican wine culture and sample the area’s best.

There’s also a fair amount of mountain biking in the area from what we were told. If you’re into mountain biking, this would definitely be worth looking into.

 


Ask Ana to help you schedule a visit to the tezmacal for a pre-Columbian cleansing ritual and experience some amazing culture.

Things To Keep In Mind

Spanish is the primary language spoken in Bernal. Besides Ana, we found very few people who spoke English. You’ll get more out of your trip if you, or someone in your group can speak Spanish. I actually think I spoke more Spanish on this trip than English and it was wonderful!

Be sure to only drink bottled and/or purified water, order drinks without ice and beware of under cooked meat…the typical advice when traveling abroad.

Drink plenty of water. Bernal is at elevation and in the high desert, so it’s very easy to become dehydrated, especially if you’re hiking or climbing.

If you top out on La Peña, be sure to keep an eye out for Suirt, a cute and friendly little squirrel.

Be mindful of your surroundings. Even though we always felt completely safe in Bernal, its always a good idea to have good situational awareness and stay in groups when traveling.

Most of all though, soak in some of the local flavor and culture. This is truly an amazing place that has not been ‘Americanized’ and retains the charm of a traditional Spanish influenced Mexican town. Talk with the locals, and learn a few words of Otomi, which is still widely spoken in the area. Drink in the high desert air, go to a festival (there’s typically one every weekend) and experience all Bernal has to offer. Skip and I fell in love with the town and can’t wait to return and we hope you give it a try too.

Lodging: Where your wedding guests can Stay

One of the first questions we get from our couples is, “Where can my wedding guests stay?”. The answer is, there’s lots of Red River Gorge lodging options for wedding guests, but we wanted to go a step further and provide an in-depth look at some of those options, which brings us to our first lodging feature.

 

Be sure to follow our page for continued highlights of local  Small businesses your guests will love including attractions, places to stay and restaurants!

Shopping local and supporting small businesses is something Skip and I have been passionate about for quite some time. In fact, I made it my mission several years ago to only purchase Christmas gifts from local stores, cafes and coffee shops. Not only did it connect me to my community in a deeper and more meaningful way, but it allowed me to share all of my favorite things with the people I love…many of whom lived out of town or out of state.

One of the most exciting things for Skip and I is discovering a fantastic new restaurant or B&B that’s off the beaten path, with its own unique flavor and atmosphere. It’s like a treasure hunt for us when we go on trips. We scour Yelp as we drive along, looking for our next favorite place. When we find something super cool, we can’t wait to share our discovery because we know how small businesses pour themselves into their specialty and that hard work, passion, and dedication deserves some recognition. Which is why we are so excited to share with you today, Chocolat Inn & Café!

Chocolat Inn & Café is owned and operated by Dustin and his wife Mai and is located in the quaint town of Beatyville, KY approximately 25 minutes from our wedding venue. Dustin hails from Beatyville, but spent much of his time travelling the world. When he decided to return home and open a business, he knew he had to incorporate flavor from his global wanderings. That’s why each of the 8 rooms at Chocolat feature custom designs, each with its own international theme.

The spacious rooms feature spectacularly appointed and bubble bath worthy bathrooms, inviting beds with luxurious linens with a modern and trendy vibe. Your wedding guests will also enjoy locally made soaps in the rooms, as well as soaps and other locally made items for sale in the café.

Why the name Chocolat you may ask? This B&B gets its name from their very own gourmet chocolates made right on site and directly from the beans. They also roast their own coffee and offer a mouthwatering array of pastries and quiche that are included in your room rate. The café is also open for non-guests and has become a favorite with many visitors to the area already.

Dustin and Mai are considering how they can grow to enhance the experience for your guests including offering catering for small events and even chocolate making classes! They’re currently renovating the last two of their rooms as well as incorporating a relaxing and welcoming deck and recreation area behind the property.  There’s no doubt your guests will enjoy their stay here, and hopefully they’ll decide to return and tell others about the gem your found for them by encouraging them to support a small business. You can find out more about Chocolat or book your room directly at Chocolat Inn  Be sure to find them on facebook and follow them on Instagram as well!  

Be sure to follow our page for continued highlights of local businesses your guests will love including attractions, places to stay and restaurants!


This B&B gets its name from their very own gourmet chocolates made right on site and directly from the beans.

Welcoming the New Year


Step aside 2017! Bring on 2018 and Weddings!

 

As I sit here gathering my thoughts, tucked snugly under a blanket in a chair by the fire- a warm mug of Jasmine Green tea and Briggs snoring at my side- it’s difficult to believe 2017 is coming to an end. Reflections of the past year and hopes for the New Year, swirl around in my head much like the snowflakes on the wind just outside the window.

2017 was a whirlwind of highs and lows, determination and perseverance. We lost Skip’s mother this past year which left our hearts heavy. As we continued along with the renovation process, Skip and I would often remark how much his mom would have loved seeing all the changes. You see, she was a HUGE fan of the show Fixer Upper and one of her favorite past-times was decorating…typically with her favorite color, white. If she were here today, I think she would be very proud of how far we’ve come and the end result of our renovations. In a way, Skip and I put a bit of her into our project and couldn’t be happier that it has come to a successful end.

Don’t be fooled by the renovation shows you see on TV, though. Construction and renovation is difficult and the amount of daily drama should not be underestimated! Everything from ordering materials, only to find out they’ve been delayed and backordered which interrupts your construction timeline, to various crews that can’t quite seem to fit you into their schedule and weather that just won’t cooperate. Delays are common practice, which for someone coming from the corporate world, where everything runs according to clocks and schedules, it’s a nerve-wracking transition. There were seriously days when I wanted to hide in a closet with a five-pound bag of chocolate and a case of wine…and I don’t even drink! And then there’s the inspections…overall, most inspections went very well, but we all know there’s that one guy that can ruin the party. Suffice to say, there was a bit more drama, but in the end, we received our final approvals and are now a fully operational and a state-approved event venue. Good thing too, because I was running low on chocolate!

Truth be told though, Skip and I truly enjoyed the design process. Poring over tiles and putting together endless combinations of color and texture, selecting light fixtures and furniture…even urinals and sinks, it was a fun and creative process that helped ease the stress and pain of the construction drama. The entire time, we tried to keep our couples in mind and provide quality products and value to make the space extra special. Timeless elegance was what we were going for, and based on the feedback we have received, I think we hit our target! Skip’s dad even got the creative bug and began crafting an entire room full of items for our couples to use. He has literally spent hundreds of hours on Pinterest finding ideas for things to create in his workshop. Everything from signs, to easels of all sizes to yard games and trestle harvest tables, he has kept busy and we value all that he has contributed to our lives.

2017 was full of overcoming obstacles, but Skip and I received the wonderful news (and test results to back it up) that not only am I in complete remission from Lyme Disease, but that my body is beginning to heal and return to a normal state of health! Now that our venue is finished and my health has returned, Skip and I can pick up where we left off several years ago…thinking about our future. We have set a date for our own wedding and are excited to finally be able to plan our wedding! We look forward to the New Year with hopeful and happy hearts and eagerly anticipate the gorgeous weddings of our amazing couples, right here in our beautiful Red River Gorge!

Step aside 2017, we’ve got amazing things to do, adventures to have, friends and family to hug on, and weddings to plan!

 

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“A monument of bygone days,

I’ve kept the place where now I grow,

And, over all my head did raise

Above a thousand years ago

What mighty changes in that space!

What revolutions on the earth!

What strange events have taken place!

What wonders! Since I date my birth!

Of these I have laid up a store,

And at your service they shall be;

When you would think on days of yore

Come sit beneath the Hemlock tree.

In every branch I have a tongue,

I have a voice in every breeze;

And when I speak to old or young;

My aim is to instruct and please.”

~The Hemlock Tree and It’s Legends

I’ve never felt comfortable wearing most jewelry, so when Skip first took me shopping for an engagement ring, I was really nervous. When I was a child, if we went into a store that had pricey things on display or pretty much anything breakable, my mom would have me put my hands in my pockets since I had a tendency to touch things. On this shopping trip with Skip, instinctively, my hands went into my jeans pockets. As we looked at gorgeous sparkly and giant diamonds, while I found them pretty, nothing really felt like me. Skip picked out a truly stunning ring and a diamond to match, but when I saw the price tag I nearly lost it and ran from the store. I felt a little bad being so awkward as Skip was obviously enjoying this shopping experience, so I humored him and tried on a few different rings. They felt cold and heavy and knowing how expensive they were, I felt like I needed a bubble around my hand to protect that “investment”. No doubt they were all beautiful, but it just really wasn’t my style, so we left empty handed.

I had an idea of what I might like though and shared my thoughts with Skip not knowing if such a thing even existed or if it could be made. Being the amazingly supportive man that he is, he encouraged me to look for exactly what I wanted. A quick Google search led me to two websites that offered exactly what I had in mind…something natural, organic and earthy. Rings made of wood.

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Since it was the Red River Gorge and the outdoors that brought us together, what better way to celebrate our relationship than to have rings made from wood from the place we met? One of the companies we found, Northwood Rings, can custom make rings from the materials you send to them, and we knew immediately what we would choose.

My favorite tree has always been the Hemlock with it’s gracefully feminine evergreen branches and woodsy scent. When we first started dating, I was delighted to learn the Hemlock was also Skip’s favorite tree and also the name we chose for our business. The Hemlock is also known as the “Tree of Faith” and is symbolic of family, tribe or community, and healing. We chose a piece of a recently downed Hemlock as the inner layer of the rings; the one that would be closest to the skin. For the outer layer of the rings, we selected a remnant of one of our Douglas Fir beams from the barn. The Douglas Fir is known as the “Tree of Strength” and is symbolic of past and future. Like most evergreens, both the Hemlock and the Douglas Fir are flexible and will bend before they break. They are some of the longest living evergreens, perhaps because of this flexible quality and something that we felt was important for a marriage. Both trees maintain their deep green needles throughout the year symbolizing enduring love…another important marital quality we wanted to be reminded of. To this end, we had a dear friend, Tim Yates, design a Hemlock branch that would be engraved on the outer layer of my ring and inlayed with crushed malachite.

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Though unconventional, we couldn’t be happier with our choice. Our rings hold much meaning and symbolism for us and serve as a reminder of the place we call home no matter where life takes us.

We would love to hear of any other couples who have chosen an unconventional ring, so please leave us a comment and tell us your story!

 

 

 

How a permitted venue makes all the difference.

 

If you’re an adventurous bride or groom that’s looking for a unique venue, then you may want to pay close attention to this post because I’m about to share with you some little known information that could literally make or break your big day. This one detail can ruin your wedding.

As the popularity of farm and barn weddings has exploded across the country, couples are choosing to come to Kentucky to take advantage of all the Bluegrass state has to offer. From quaint farm settings, to sprawling ornate horse barns to spectacular natural scenery, Kentucky has a bit of everything to suit rustic tastes to elegant soirees and everything in between. The possibilities are endless when you consider the multitude of barn venues, farms, vineyards and woodland locations, but before you book, I’ll fill you in on a little secret that will save you tons of stress.

At Hemlock Springs, doing things the right way is very important to us. Hiring competent contractors, ensuring guests’ safety and comfort and not cutting any corners has been at the forefront of our venue project. We have been in the process of obtaining all the proper permissions, permits and certificates for quite sometime now, (much longer than we were initially advised of) and let me tell you, the process has been slow and painful…but not all venues go to this trouble or expense. There are currently venues that are operating without proper permitting or certifications and that puts YOUR wedding day in grave jeopardy.

Some venues across the country have been shut down just days before an unsuspecting couple was to be married; leaving them stranded on one of the most memorable days of their lives. Other venues that have been shut down were unable to refund their couples’ payments creating an even worse situation. Unfortunately, this is beginning to happen more and more often. To be fair, many venue owners are unaware that permits and certifications are required, but that still won’t stop officials from shutting the venue down and potentially ruining your day.

So, how can you protect yourself? Make sure that you’re asking these specific questions of your venue.

  • Are you a permitted venue?
  • Have you passed all final inspections?
  • Do you have a certificate of occupancy?
  • Are you a registered business?

These questions aren’t romantic by any means, and they may seem strange to ask, but they can potentially save you from having your wedding cancelled at the last minute.

The four things you should do to start your wedding planning off right!

You just said ‘yes’, now what?

Your family and friends have been notified, it’s Facebook ‘official’ and you’re using the term fiance because you just got ENGAGED!

It’s an exciting time. You’re both ecstatically in love and practically floating around on cloud nine, until you start thinking about actually planning your wedding. Eeeeek! Where to even begin?!

Here’s a few pointers that will hopefully keep you mellow in the midst of planning.

  1. Start your venue search early. Your venue will set the stage for your entire wedding in many cases. Everything from your dress, to decor, the venue space is important. Make sure you feel comfortable at your chosen venue and you can work with the folks in charge. Ask about insurance, alcohol, required vendors, restrooms, and if children/pets are allowed.
  2. Hire a Planner/Coordinator. I understand that many brides and grooms are on a budget, but a good Planner can actually save you money, time and your sanity. You can hire someone to do full-service planning, to just day-of coordination services and everything in between. Having a professional to help guide you in the process and keep everything together and flowing smoothly so that you, your mate and your mom can enjoy the day is worth every penny!
  3. Attend some bridal shows. This time of the year, there are some amazing expos to check out and often there are deals to be had, free food to sample, giveaways and more! Gather up your girls or guys and make a day of it. A whole day….trust me, you’ll want plenty of time to go through all the booths and collect information (and food). Check out http://www.bridalblissclassic.com/ and http://lexingtonbridalshows.com/ for two of the larger shows in our area.
  4. Give yourself plenty of time to plan. Remember you don’t have to plan everything in one day. Break it up into chunks so that you don’t get overwhelmed. Remember to relax and spend some quality time with your soon-to-be spouse! Go on dates and try NOT to make any huge decisions with every conversation. Pace yourselves; after all, you’ve got your entire lives ahead of you 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

New Beginnings

For Auld Lang Syne


It’s that time of the year once more, where we reflect on the past and make plans for the future. We remember the struggles, celebrate the triumphs and re-live the adventures; laugh at the good times and shed tears for the sorrows.

We hope for new beginnings, anticipate with excitement good things to come, and plan to make improvements. It’s a new year. It’s a new beginning.

Many just received a proposal and are planning a wedding, others are making plans for a family addition or a new business or perhaps a dedicated exercise regimen. Whatever the beginning may be, we hopefully embrace it.

It was one year ago, that Skip and I set about officially starting our business. We filed all the paperwork, nervously tried to plan for each and every contingency and obstacle, and hopefully embraced our new path. No amount of planning could have prepared us for the grueling amount of work, sacrifices to be made or the meandering path our business would take. 

There have been challenges and setbacks, triumphs and heartache, but we made it…more importantly, we made it as a team. Together. Hand in hand.

We have had the honor of meeting some truly remarkable people along this path as well. We have deepened friendships with some as they supported us in our journey and to them we are eternally grateful. We have met the most amazing couples and have been profoundly touched by their kindness, generosity and graciousness even in the face of our most recent challenges. To each of those couples (you know who you are) you will forever hold a very special place in our hearts and we couldn’t have been more grateful to have met each of you this past year. As in the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne, we will surely drink a cup of kindness to you.

We are looking forward to 2017, (though realistically we will be asleep long before midnight), and all it has to offer. We have a few goals and some plans, but for the most part, the best adventures and memories are the ones we stumble into. Those pleasant surprises that we couldn’t have planned even if we had tried are the ones we eagerly anticipate in the coming year.

We will be celebrating in our beautiful new venue, filling it with love, friendship, fond memories, reflections and good vibes for 2017. We hope that wherever you are, you will be doing the same.

Happy New Year from Hemlock Springs!

 

 

 

There are moments in our lives that begin a domino effect of events. Life-altering decisions that are made; often with the urging of that little small voice in us that guides us rightly if we listen closely. Hopefully, years later, these decisions are looked back on with peace and happiness, without a shadow of a doubt that our small voice was indeed right.

Skip and I recently took the opportunity to ask his parents about their love story, fifty-four years in the making. It all started as a blind date Barb’s freshman year in high school. She was fifteen at the time; Darrell was 18. Their mutual friends were dating and they set the stage for Barb and Darrell to meet.

A trip to the movies aka “the passion pit” didn’t make the best impression on Barb. She openly admits that she didn’t like Darrell and didn’t really want to go out with him again. As is the way of the Wolfe men however, he grew on her. He was persistent and she agreed to go out with him again. The wheels were now set in motion for a great love story.

The second date proved a bit better and Barb decided to give Darrell another chance, and found she actually enjoyed his company…and truth be told, his “bad boy” attitude and reputation. They dated off and on throughout high school and for two years in college, when one night, Darrell proposed. They both got a surprise that night, as Barb wasn’t expecting a proposal and Darrell wasn’t expecting her response. There is debate about exactly what her response was. Darrell says she told him she had to ask her parents and Barb says she told him she would think about it…. though it only took her a day to decide. When I asked her how she knew Darrell was the one, her response was profound and touching as is typically her way.

“I didn’t think about how long I would be with him, or what kind of husband he would be, I just knew I liked being with him. I just always went back to him, no matter what other guys I dated.” When I asked her if she had it to do over again, would she, her response was again simple yet touching. “I would be a fool not to.”

Darrell’s response to this same question was answered with his typical endearing sense of humor, but then quickly followed up with his sincere and genuine feelings.

“I found her when she was very young and didn’t know she could do a lot better! She is the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Over the next several years, they married, finished college, started careers and welcomed into the world two children, Skip and Jenn. They raised their children in a loving environment full of laughter, support, and love.

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Looking back over the past fifty-four years together Darrell had this to say. “We have had a lifetime of happiness. We’ve seen our children grow into wonderful human beings who have found perfect mates to share the rest of their lives with.”

As parents they have been loving, supportive, and encouraging with a bit of real talk mixed in. Skip says he couldn’t have asked for better parents, and I would have to agree with him.

Together they faced challenges and serious illness. The way Darrell looks after and cares for his wife and the love of his life through illness is inspiring, and I now see where Skip gets that admirable quality. They have each cared for, supported and encouraged one another throughout their marriage. The testament of their love and the lasting effects of their relationship are profound and far-reaching.

Fifty-four years ago, a small nudge led to a moment of impact; a life-altering choice that initiated a fantastic course of events spanning decades. With all the ups and downs, the adventures and missteps, they both admit they would, without hesitation do it all again.

I think this is what we all look for; these beacons of true love that shine for the rest of us to follow and learn from. To see their struggles, but then to see them not only survive but thrive with a stronger love and relationship because of what they’ve been through together. It’s beautiful and bittersweet. It’s a life well-lived.

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Thanksgiving Holiday Thoughts

“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.” ~John Milton

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, we find ourselves reflecting on the past year and taking note of the positives in our lives. This has always been one of the most profound holidays for me because I truly believe that having an attitude of gratitude can have an empowering effect on our lives and those around us. I believe living intentionally and appreciating the good and positive has a ripple affect that touches those around us.

This year, as my health has returned and our business has taken flight, Skip and I consider ourselves incredibly grateful beyond measure.

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Every day that we wake up to this view, we are so very fortunate to live in a stunningly gorgeous place, and to be able to share our joy and estate with others is remarkable. We have met so many truly amazing people this past year in the wedding industry as well as phenomenal couples; several of whom have chosen us as their venue.

Although we count our blessings daily, in this season of Thanksgiving, we would like to extend our most heartfelt and sincere thanks so those who have encouraged us, supported us, expanded our business reach, booked with us, believed in our dream and shared words of wisdom.

Let’s keep the attitude of gratitude going! What are YOU thankful for?

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I wish I knew who took this picture, and I REALLY wish I knew this couple. I can only imagine how much fun this reception was!

Skip has a really funny sense of humor and stumbled across this today. He totally wants to do something like this for our wedding. I’m not quite sold.

Although, I could be down with some of the “trash the dress” fun stuff like jumping into a lake or pool…but only if I only paid $5.00 for it.

An adventure wedding has always appealed to me and I envy those awesome couples who get married on a mountaintop after backpacking up. We have several amazing places on the estate that would be perfect for an “adventure” ceremony, but the hike is seriously  not for the faint of heart, and most likely my dress would be a mess by the time we got there. Logistically for our guests, it may just not be an option unless we pack our clothes and change before the vows and then pack our guests down on ATV’s.

I’ve seen some cool rock climbing wedding shots, which would be really cute and fun…actually climbing in a wedding dress, now that would look cool. Not exactly sure how I’d explain to the dress tailor to make that work though.

Maybe Skip’s idea of goofy masks is the best idea…

Any couples out there want to share their fun and outrageous wedding photos or ideas?! I’d love to hear your stories!! Comment below 🙂

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I sit here on this All Hallows Eve, with our Golden Retriever, Briggs at my feet, Skip reading in his chair beside me, a small fire burning in the woodstove beside us. The doors are open allowing the night air to billow in, bringing with it the fog from the valley below and the eerie hoot of owls coming from the dark woods surrounding us. It’s pitch black outside, save the for the starlight; which in the absence of the moon, allows for the Milky Way to dazzle. It’s a perfect Halloween night. It’s a creepy Halloween night.

There are no trick-or-treaters that venture down our road…not anymore anyway. I imagine at one time, our road looked very different. You see, there’s history in these hills and hollows, and we are surrounded by old homesteads which the forest has reclaimed. Here and there tucked back into the woods, it is common to come across what’s left of a cabin, sometimes with only the chimney and corner rocks where the foundation once stood remaining. Here and there you can find pieces of tin cans, antique mason jars, medicine bottles buried in shallow graves around the house. Often, there will be a well nearby with the rocks near the edges worn into grooves where the ropes ate into them over time.

We have even found an old school house with a few desks remaining and a large green chalkboard still on the wall. There are old family grave-yards dotted in and all around the estate, making excellent fodder for those ’round the campfire ghost stories…perfect for nights like tonight. We often imagine what happened to the many families that once lived all around us, or what tragedies befell them.

The grave stones themselves can often impart pieces of their stories to us. Often we see tiny little stones that speak of high infant mortality rates, or stones that speak of a beloved mother or father, or in one case, the crypt of a civil war soldier. One of the earliest graves we have found dates back to 1815; back to a time very different from today as evidenced by the large trees growing through what was once a one-room cabin on a lively street.

Local legend has it, that our road once was home to quite a few moonshine stills, remnants of which can still be found deep in the woods today. In fact, there were so many quality stills on our road, the locals jokingly referred to it as Booze Ridge Road  instead of Booth Ridge Road.

We have even found rock carvings of initials from travelers long ago, as well as petroglyphs we can’t quite desipher. It’s not uncommon to find arrowheads, spear heads and other such items in the Red River Gorge. There are active archeological digs taking place in some areas where they have unearthed shards of pottery, carvings, and old fire rings.

History haunts this area. There are thousands of untold stories and forgotten people and places, just waiting for someone to stumble upon their forgotten items that will help bring their story to light. It’s somewhat spooky and somehow comforting at the same time; an interesting thought to ponder on a night like tonight.

Happy Halloween!

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It’s finally here!!!! My absolute, favorite, smelly-good, color-filled, perfect weather time of the year is here! My beloved Jane Austen said it best in her book Persuasion,

“Her pleasure in the walk must arise from the exercise and the day, from the view of the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves and withered hedges, and from repeating to herself some few of the thousand poetical descriptions extant of autumn- that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness- that season which has drawn from every poet worthy of being read some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling.”

Although the weather has been rather dry, the leaves are still brilliant, the sky is still crystal clear and blue, and the distinct smell of fall is carried on the near constant breeze which brings with it the anticipation of cooler nights and campfires.

The turkey and deer continue to endeavor to fatten themselves on the abundance of hickory nuts found around the estate and we see them daily, cloaked in the early morning mist and again every evening, emerging silently from the woodline.

Yes, the Red River Gorge is stunning year-round, but fall holds a special place in my heart. Fall is also a special time of the year for weddings. Those earth-loving souls, who, as Nathaniel Hawthorne said best, “…cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house”. What better time of the year to celebrate a glorious occasion in a glorious natural, organic setting? 

I suppose it should come as no surprise that our available fall dates are being snapped up faster than the eager single ladies vying for the bouquet toss! You know what I’m talking about…we’ve all seen those epic tosses, where elbows are thrown, heels are broken and all bets of lady-like behavior are off. That’s about how fast our fall dates are going.

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With such stunning views and pure, untamed fairy-tale scenery combined with perfect weather, it really shouldn’t be a surprise, but we are always honored when a couple chooses to spend their special day with us, at our home. You see, we aren’t some giant, faceless corporation. We are two people, with a passion for the Red River Gorge and each other, who want to share what we have with others. We take pride in our facility and our ability to help our couples create one of the most memorable days of their lives. It’s important to us and we truly care.

If you haven’t been to the Red River Gorge in a while, right now is the perfect time to visit. Come for a weekend getaway, wear some flannel and boots, enjoy a hike, breathe in the woodsy fall smells, snuggle up by a campfire with your sweetie, and by all means come see us. We would love to show you around.

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Skip and I received some AMAZING news recently. I’ve been debating on whether to blog about it, and decided that it truly is at the heart of our business venture together and I’m hoping there’s a nugget or two in here for a few folks who happen to read this.

In 2012, I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease. I underwent treatment pretty quickly and seemed to improve, and so I discontinued treatment. A lifelong over-achiever, I pushed myself hard in all areas of my life. I worked long hours at my job, pushed my limits physically with strenuous daily workouts, and gave my all to my personal training clients after leaving my day job, often staying up late to research the best methods to get them results. My health lasted for a while, until everything came crashing down again in 2015.

I was two years into a new and stressful job that often required loooooong hours, and I no longer had the time or energy to exercise and de-stress like I knew I should. Even with Skip’s constant reminders to work less and slow down, I stubbornly barrelled ahead thinking I could handle it.

In April of 2015, my Lyme symptoms returned along with a large bullseye rash and I became sicker than I could have ever thought possible. I was forced to take six months off from work in order to complete treatment that consisted of daily IV’s, lots of rest, dozens of pills multiple times per day and more self-compassion and care than I had ever allowed. Our lives were put on hold. No marriage planning, no dates, no normalcy. Our lives now revolved around getting me better.

I changed. I morphed into a totally different being; unable to walk, talk coherently, think properly, or care for myself. I spent days at a time in bed, sleeping more than I was awake, experienced excruciating pain throughout my body, and an overwhelming sense of guilt that I was dragging Skip through this hell with me. I was changed, you see. I was no longer the active, happy, peppy chick he fell in love with and I doubted whether that girl would ever re-surface.

It was a strange feeling, knowing that I was depending on him to care for me and yet feeling that what was best for him was to break up. Through tears one night, I shared with him what I thought was best. I shared with him how I didn’t want him to spend the rest of his life as my caretaker; chained to a zombie. His response was classic Skip and one I’ll never forget. “Well, it’s a really good thing, that’s not your choice to make about what’s best for me. I get to make that choice and I’m not going anywhere.”

He never faltered. He never wavered in his constant care of me. Through some of the worst days, he was there caring for me and comforting me. THIS ladies and gentlemen, is the epitome of what “In sickness and in health” is all about, and someday, when we finally can take those vows, we will do so with complete and full understanding of what that means. 

Two weeks ago, we received the news we had been waiting so long to hear. I’m now in complete remission and we are both overjoyed! We are now ready to open our arms and hearts to all the future has for us…together.

We know that so many couples have faced struggles such as ours and we are honored that they would choose our venue as the place where they solidify their union, their bond, and commitment to the words they recite to one another. There is a deep comfort that comes from knowing your partner in life is ready to meet challenges and joys head-on, by your side and we look forward to bearing witness to many ceremonies of amazing couples in the years to come.

Welcome to Hemlock Springs. We choose love.

 

Paying It Forward

Be The Change


From a very young age, I was a champion for whatever cause I felt passionately about. In Kindergarten, my friend Charlie wasn’t allowed to have chocolate milk. In my child-sized mind, this was an injustice of the worst sort to be deprived of this nectar from the heavens, so I of course shared mine with him. He became hooked. Bad. It then became apparent why Charlie’s parents didn’t allow him to indulge thus as his behavior took a nose dive right into daily trips to the principal’s office. My sweet mother used this as a teachable moment and guided me into more constructive uses of my championing of causes.

I remember her taking us to the store to pick out angels from the Salvation Army Angel Tree at Christmas and shopping together for complete strangers, hoping that our gifts would brighten their day and provide some love and comfort. Helping others was encouraged and compassion was instilled in us.

Just before her untimely death, my mother and I were speaking of my future. I was telling her of all the things I would do in my life and the achievements I would attain to make her proud, which in my 12-year-old mind was what she needed to know before leaving this world. Wise and understanding beyond her years, my mother imparted sage advice to me that day. 

“What’s most important to me is that you have a good heart; that you leave people and places better than you found them.”

Years passed and ultimately, I found myself drawn to non-profit work; which would have been no surprise to my mother. Her words of wisdom were engraved on my memory and in my heart and I circle back to them often when seeking guidance. To my delight, I found a partner in life who enjoys giving of himself as well. Everything from medical missions to his time and energy volunteering at Muir Valley and adopting families at Christmas, Skip has a wonderful heart for helping others.

We knew when we started our journey as entrepreneurs, it was important to us to give back in some way. Our ultimate goal is to create jobs and inspire other start-up businesses in our community; helping to grow and flourish at a grassroots level.

With that in mind, it is our honor and pleasure to announce that we are DONATING our beautiful event space to one lucky non-profit organization to host their event or fundraiser this fall! We are beyond excited to offer this and we hope that this project will gain momentum and continue the pay-it-forward energy.

To apply, just email your organization’s name, mission statement and event details to info@eventsathemlocksprings.com Our panel of judges will select one lucky winner. If you would like to be a part of our give back initiative and sponsor an event for the winning non-profit, be sure to let us know!

Best of luck and we can’t wait to share more with you in the future!



The Making Of A Dream: Hemlock Springs Red River Gorge Wedding Venue


“Created by love, for love.”

 

My love affair with the outdoors, and specifically the Red River Gorge, began when I was eight years old; Skip’s began when he was ten.

We would each travel from our respective hometowns to hike, camp, backpack and adventure with our families. Exploring new trails and marveling over rock formations and streams and caves became an escape for both of us. A way a channeling wonder and creativity in our youth, the ‘Gorge’ beckoned to each of us and kept calling us back throughout our teenage years and into adulthood.

Although we explored some of the same areas, adventured down the same trails and camped in some of the same sites, we never met until many, many years later.

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My sense of adventure led me to take a technical rope rescue course in the Red River Gorge several years ago. There, I befriended one of the instructors who invited me to go rock climbing. I had been climbing several times before and had just returned from a trip where I attempted to summit The Grand Teton, so I eagerly accepted this climbing offer. Unbeknownst to me, my new friend called Skip-a long-time buddy- and convinced him to join us for a day of climbing to meet me.

After years of being in the same place and never chancing to meet, our worlds were about to collide.

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I remember being struck immediately by his charming smile and thinking that he was quite possibly one of the most interesting people I’d ever met. He will tell you he was struck by my eyes and that I could take a joke and respond with a witty come-back.

Months went by with an occasional thought, or mention of him until he began to contact me regularly. He was quite persistent in his pursuit and I eventually relented and agreed to go on a date with him.

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We met in the Red River Gorge for a hike and it wasn’t long before we were spending every weekend together going on new adventures and exploring new places in the place we loved so well.

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Before we knew it, one year, then two years had passed. Sicknesses and surgeries came and went.

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Our relationship was put to the test by challenges far beyond our control, and each time emerged stronger than before.

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Holidays and landmarks were celebrated together and bonds grew even stronger.

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As time progressed, we knew we would have to find a way to be together as life had us separated. His time was split working in Dayton while my career was in another town in Kentucky. We spent weekends together at his cabin in the ‘Gorge’, but our dream was to be there together, full-time. From this desire sprang an idea for our future.

Skip had a cabin on 100 stunning acres and had built a 6,000 square foot building a few years before we met. We had noticed over the years, the increased tourism to the area and thought perhaps an event facility might be a possibility.

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We launched into in-depth market research for the next year to determine whether this was a viable option for us. We crunched numbers, visited other venues, talked to numerous professionals, and then crunched the numbers again; arriving at the conclusion that indeed, we could and absolutely should move forward.

The thought of finally being able to be together and in the place we loved so well was overwhelmingly wonderful! We knew we would have our work cut out for us, so we wasted no time in getting started.

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We hired an Amish crew to turn our dream into a reality and began transforming the interior of Skip’s building into a work of art. Over the next year and a half, we saw a transformation take place right before our eyes.

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Douglas Fir beams we had shipped from British Columbia were carefully fitted into place by hand.

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A second floor loft was constructed for our office space.

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More beams were installed.

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9,000 square feet of drywall was delivered and unloaded with a crane!

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Preparations were made for a pond.

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Drywall was installed…along with even more beams.

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Tongue and groove pine was installed on the walls.

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Galvanized metal was installed on the 16 foot ceilings to reflect light from our crystal chandelier.

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Pegs were carefully placed in the beams.

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We primer-ed and painted our hearts out!

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Fencing went up, gravel was spread, grass was planted and hope sprang forth! Our project is nearly complete and we are thrilled with the results!

Our hope is that the place that brought us both together will serve as a breathtaking backdrop for many very happy memories to come…for us and others.

Welcome to Hemlock Springs. Love happens here.