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The Last Resort

The food at the resort is ambitious, interesting and sometimes quite good -- the chef makes use of distinctive local produce to create a sort of nouvelle Appalachian menu. The breakfast buffet offers flaky buttermilk biscuits, a spread of fresh fruit, thick slices of peppered hickory bacon and a big ol' silver chafing dish of hellishly good sausage gravy.

Not everything is cooked well, but the choices are interesting. There were fried green tomatoes, crawfish tails and mayo flavored with bourbon. One time we were served a pasta dish whose mushrooms eerily resembled the flora we'd remarked on during our afternoon hike.

Stonewall Resort
Stonewall Resort
Stonewall Resort sits on Stonewall Jackson Lake, which covered the town of Roanoke, W.Va., in 1988. (Stonewall Resort)

But my favorite dining moment came back at the golf course, in the eatery of the just-opened clubhouse. Lightburn's restaurant is named for another local boy who made good during the Civil War, though in this case on the opposite side from his buddy Stonewall Jackson.

The dining room overlooks the lake and golf course. We sat out on the deck, the boys spotting the many deer along the fairways, my wife and I drinking and watching the sky.

The West Fork Cobb salad arrived -- four spears of romaine hearts angled into the bowl, pointing to arrangements of roasted corn, poblano peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, gorgonzola cheese and slivers of great peppered bacon. Black-eyed peas, barely cooked, added a perfect earthy crunch.

Pam and I picked at that remarkable construction and nursed voluminous cocktails. As we watched, the sun was beginning to set behind the hills. Way up high, the wind slowly blew the top off a thunderhead, brushing filaments of gray across the sky.

Escape Keys

GETTING THERE: Stonewall Resort (888-278-8150, www.stonewallresort.com) is about a four-hour drive west from the Beltway. For most visitors from the metropolitan area, the fastest route is I-270 north to I-70 west to I-68 west. At Morgantown, W.Va., take I-79 south to Exit 91.

STAYING THERE: Rooms in the lodge run $99 to $159 per night through October, $79 to $119 from November through March. Cottages run from $225 a night (two bedrooms, sleeps six) to $325 (four bedrooms, sleeps 10 or more). Special offers include the Personalized Getaway ($129 per person for one night's lodging, breakfast and a spa session or golf lesson); Fall Bed & Breakfast ($159 per couple for one night's lodging and breakfast); and the Golf Package ($154.50 per person for one night's lodging, breakfast and golf).

BEING THERE: Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park (304-269-0523, www.stonewallcountry.com/stonewalljacksonlake) offers 34 campsites and a 350-slip marina; houseboats are available for rent. The park abuts a 15,000-acre wildlife management area for seasonal hunting. If you come for the golf, the Arnold Palmer Signature Course (304-269-8885) is pricey but a good value. Resort guests pay $65 to $75, including electric cart and range balls; twilight rate, after 3 p.m., is $55 to $65. Off-season rates are $50 per round. Non-resort guests pay an additional fee per round. Stonewall has struck a deal with Snowshoe Mountain Resort in Pocahontas County, W.Va. (about a three hours' drive away), home of the Gary Player Signature Raven Golf Club. The "Hall of Fame" package offers one night's lodging, breakfast and a round of golf at each resort for $225 per person. At the other end of the price spectrum, in search of a day of budget golf we blundered into the delightful-if-shabby Bel Meadow (304-623-3701), about 20 minutes north in Mount Clare, W.Va. A public course designed by the legendary Robert Trent Jones in the '60s, it costs about a buck a hole with a pull cart.

Aside from enjoying the natural bounty, which can easily occupy an entire season, there aren't a whole lot of things to do in Lewis County. But the concierges and guests recommended Jackson's Mill (Stonewall's boyhood home); the Weston State Hospital (a historic insane asylum, said to be the largest hand-cut stone building in the nation); Arthurdale (a WPA town whose development was guided by Eleanor Roosevelt); and the West Virginia Museum of American Glass (304-269-5006). If you're prepared to drive about two hours, you'll find caving and white-water rafting.

INFO: Lewis County Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-296-7329, www.stonewallcountry.com.

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