The curve in Middle Fork Road in downtown Crouch leads right to the cozy setting of Wander Inn Motel and Cabins, so the ten-year-old name is apropos and sure beats the old cognomen, Valley Motel.
After selling her home elsewhere ten years ago, Maggie Ryan thought it seemed reasonable to purchase a business where she could live and work. Her career had been in hospitality, so the homey little inn with five different units seemed the perfect situation.
Maggie has a wealth of stories gathered on the front porch where folk tend to congregate. “I get people from all over—rafters, kayakers; Starlight Mountain Theatre grandparents come to see the kids in shows,” she says. “My patrons come over and over—it’s a place they’ve always come and you see the kids grow up. I get a surprising amount of older women in twos—sisters, cousins, friends, road-trip buddies.”
This is the business and location to make lots of friends. Maggie muses, “If you sat here all day, there would be a parade of people. That’s the fun. You never know who’s gonna show up.”
Her longest customer is Harold “rafter”. In his sixties, he rafts two-hundred days out of the year. He is famous for taking over a unit for a month, rearranging furniture, and holding BBQs for all the people who come to see him. He was here for the Wander Inn’s first summer and has come ever since.
Maggie says, “There is always the ‘Kevin Bacon’ effect. On my second 4th of July, I had everybody out here watching the fireworks—it’s a perfect spot, with all they need—bathroom, water, food. One guy said, ‘You have a funny accent, where are you from?’ ‘New Jersey.’ ‘No! I’m from New Jersey! Where in New Jersey?’ Then it was, ‘I’m from Georgia.’ ‘No! I’m from Georgia!’ Their daughter knew so-and-so…and so on. It’s fun.”
The Wander Inn is dog-friendly and has everything but phones—fridge, microwave, coffee makers, wifi, television and there are two units with kitchens. The bedrooms have quilts made by Maggie’s mother, who is eighty-eight now and is always interested. The inn is quaint and cute, even with no genealogy—“Sorry, nothing historic,” Maggie shrugs.
Its face has changed, though, with the recent addition of Books in the Attic, Maggie’s used-book shop that was housed over Cabin Keepers and on the Boardwalk, before a close friend built the small cabin in front of the inn.
The shop adds a companionable element to the inn, bringing another type of patron to the property. “It’s a bit slower than on the Boardwalk,” says Maggie, “but the people who come in, come in to buy books. I don’t have to carry t-shirts and touristy stuff. I’m carrying older books, which is much more interesting. The true reader—book lover—finds it’s like a little adventure.”
Books in the Attic apparently feeds Maggie’s book-loving soul, and balances her own love of adventure with an enjoyable occupation. When her father found out that she was going to run an inn in Idaho, he said, “Promise me two things: get a gun and get a dog.” Maggie says, “I did, but I’ve never used either one. He’s gone and now I think about my own age and I don’t want to miss anything. I open my door to people I don’t know, but these people--the things some people say—that’s the stuff I don’t want to miss.”