Leaves flame-stitch a tunnel of crimson and bronze as we angle down to the water’s edge. We scramble along a roadbed the Shakers built in 1826, heading for their Kentucky River landing.
My husband and I have carved out a weekend for one of our favorite retreats, Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, which honors self-sufficient religious Shaker practices. For decades we’ve been coming to this place out of time, America’s largest restored Shaker community.
Its beauty is its constancy.
This time we’re trying something new: leaf-peeping from the deck of the Dixie Belle. It’s a real paddle wheeler, and its extravagant 5 mph is the best way to drift by the waterfalls, limestone cliffs and fall tapestry.
Snuggled up on the open deck, we’re so lulled by the slap of the paddle wheel that we barely register the Southern cornpone that Capt. Richard Herring is dishing up. Did he just say there were piranhas in the river and snakes onboard?
Maybe it’s just to see if the city slickers are paying attention, but they can’t fool us at Shaker Village. We’ve been to the workshops, with artisans making soap and rag rugs, and we’ve sung along on Shaker hymns.
We love to close our eyes and let the world slip back centuries.
Once on dry land, we kick up the dust along the gravel turnpike, meander to the farm to admire the sheep and oxen, and wonder what produce might be on our dinner plates.
At the Trustees’ Table, we go full Southern: fried chicken, fried green tomatoes and corn pudding. No one leaves without Shaker lemon pie — a tart pie made with lemon curd and peels.
As dusk settles, we wander, hand in hand, through the silent village. It’s time to turn the key to our little home, the Old Ministry’s Shop.
This is a real Shaker building, and we feel privileged to stay in their rooms. The original peg rail rings the room, and the fireplace still offers a toasty promise.
Of course, the Shaker sisters had no electric light or a Tempur-Pedic mattress. And no good, celibate sister would be cuddled up with her husband.
Yet the Shaker aura of peace still envelops this room, this house and this place out of time. Its constancy is its beauty.
The Souvenir: Yes, Shaker oval boxes ($35-$91) may be the most traditional treasures to snap up, but they’re wildly versatile. Give small ones as stocking stuffers, midsize varieties as hostess and housewarming gifts, and large versions as serious thank-yous.
Embrace Fall: Keeneland Thoroughbred Racing has always been a bluegrass rite of autumn, but this marks the National Historic Landmark’s 80th year. Dress up — hats, anyone? — for meals at the Lexington Room or go casual in the Equestrian Room. Some of the proceeds benefit charities, so it hurts less to lose. 4201 Versailles Road, Lexington, Kentucky, 800-456-3412, keeneland.com
When You Go: 3501 Lexington Road, Harrodsburg, Kentucky, 800-734-5611, shakervillageky.org