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Interview with the Innkeeper
Those who are lucky enough to know Don McElliott know how giving, humorous and “humble” he is. What some may not know is that he is the innkeeper at the Long Mountain Lodge here in Dahlonega. To give friends and soon-to-be friends a better understanding of who Don is and what his time at the lodge is like, we sat down for a little Q&A recently.
Q: How long have you been working at the lodge?
A: The lodge was built 10 years ago. Since the beginning I helped out here and there, with graphic arts, photography, or just anything they needed. But I have been full time at the lodge for just over 3 years.
Q: What were you doing before you worked at the lodge?
A: Before the lodge, I was working at a design and printing shop while just finishing EMT school, and was enrolled into firefighting school. Plans changed when my 3 year old (Desmond) was born and I didn’t want to put him in daycare at such an early age. I quit working all my jobs and was asked to come work at the lodge, which allowed me to keep from putting Desmond in daycare. Before that I was in the Military.
Q: What is your favorite thing about the lodge?
A: I love hiking. One of my positions is the hiking guide at the lodge. I get to direct people to some of the amazing waterfall hikes throughout our area. I also get the pleasure of taking people to some of the more remote hikes that you wouldn’t be able to find without a guide.
Q: What is a typical day like at the lodge?
A: We always start the day early with breakfast. Everything is homemade, so we are up early. During breakfast we are talking with the guests, figuring out what their plans are for the day. We give suggestions, ideas and maps to help get them on their way. While they are gone, we are cleaning rooms, getting things ready for returning and new guests, then check ins for the day. We then help the new guests with dinner suggestions and reservations, as well as things to do in the area.
Q: What is the best part about working at the lodge?
A: I like talking with the people. Getting to know them, what they do, about their families. We have a lot of guests that return many times. Some of them have become like family to me.
Q: Have you met any interesting people?
A: A couple of actresses. Both I have become good friends with. One, Zoe, filmed a movie about 5 miles from the lodge, and used one of my children as an extra in the film. She is super sweet and even came up to my wife’s school and taught a free seminar on acting for the drama classes.
Q: What was the weirdest or oddest encounter you’ve had with someone staying at the lodge?
A: When the guests go out for the day, we take care of their room (rebuild their fire, take out the trash, things like that). So one gentleman who was traveling by himself checked in really late. He left before breakfast, and wasn’t seen. When we went to take care of his room the bed was still made, and not slept in. Later we found a necklace with a cross on one of the tables in the dining room with a glass covering it. I tried my best to convince Dianne (the owner) that the man was a vampire and that’s why we haven’t seen him during the day and the cross was covered up. I think I had her going for a minute too.
Q: Is the lodge haunted!? (Not that I have ever heard that it is, but it seems like most places in Dahlonega are.)
A: Our lodge is not haunted. It is the only lodge in the whole state that isn’t haunted . . . so you should only stay with us.
Q: If there’s one thing you could tell people about the lodge, what would it be?
A: The lodge is our baby [being a family owned and operated business]. We are really proud of it. It’s in a beautiful location, surrounded by the national forest with amazing sunsets over the mountains. But without our guests, its just a building. Our guests make this place come alive and special for us. I’m very fortunate to live where people want to come to vacation, and I’m so pleased I get to share a little bit of our world with you.