by STEVE WINSTON
Imagine…being in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains, in western North Carolina. Imagine…that you’re near the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in an area of deep-green forest, rushing creeks, and hundreds of waterfalls. Imagine…waking up every morning in an authentic – and beautifully-appointed – log cabin near the top of a mountain, with a stream running right underneath your cabin (which is on stilts). Imagine…taking a cup of coffee out onto your wraparound deck in the morning and sitting in a hand-carved rocker, while watching the emerging sun burn away the Great “smoky” fog for which these mountains are famous. Imagine returning to that same rocker fifteen hours later, and looking up into a black sky filled with more shining stars than you ever thought possible, while gently rocking to the sounds of the cicadas echoing back and forth across the forest. Imagine falling asleep a few minutes later to the sound of a brook bubbling right underneath your cabin.
If you can imagine all of this, you’re imagining Land’s Creek Log Cabins (www.landscreek.com), in the picturesque town of Bryson City, NC.
Some years back, owners Robin and Sue Fronrath sold their auto dealerships in South Florida (and their 8,000 square-foot home) to pursue their dream of settling in the Smokies. And they’ve never looked back. They helped build these cabins with their own hands. And now they offer true mountain hospitality in a place that’s as close to Shangri-La as I’ve ever seen. Their cabins are cozy and comfortable, with fireplaces inside and hot tubs on the deck, surrounded by 100′-high pines and oaks piercing cloudless blue skies. The cabins are filled with the works of local craftspeople – from homemade quilts and lace curtains to pottery and blankets and tables and rockers and assorted mountain crafts…yet they have stone countertops and every modern convenience, as well. And there really is a creek – Land’s Creek – running through their property, and underneath most of their cabins.
At the highest point on the property, you can look across the mountains and valleys clear into Tennessee, taking it all in from a swinging wooden bench. As you slowly swing, you’ll hear the echoes of distant dogs barking in the valleys and “hollers” below.
At the bottom of the Fronraths’ mountain – down a winding country road past horses and barns and stone walls – is the charming town of Bryson City. It’s reminiscent of Mayberry in all the right ways. People here will actually say hello when you pass, and they’ll actually stop their cars if you’re crossing the street…even if you’re not at a light. There are colorful general stores in which your presence is signaled by a little bell ringing as you open the door, and there’s a courthouse with a statue of a World War I veteran in front of it. Bryson City’s filled with craft shops and interesting eateries and outdoors-outfitters and local landmarks such as Clampett’s Hardware, a hundred-year-old gathering place for local folks, with so many thousands of items lining the wooden shelves that I doubt the owners even know how many, exactly, they have. Bryson City is also the home of the restored antique trains of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, which will roll you through some of the most magnificent scenery east of the Mississippi. And this town doesn’t need much of an excuse to celebrate, either; the local calendar’s filled with events such as chili cook-offs and book festivals.
Roads in this region wind through tiny junctions and crossroads characterized by old wooden homes with front porches and rockers, and homemade signs in the front yards advertising everything from “Fresh Boiled Peanuts” to “Homemade Quilts” to “NC Honey.” And the area has great climbing and hiking trails (including the Appalachian Trail). For a real taste of the wild and scenic Smokies, take a raft rip on the Nantahala River (with some stretches on which you can coast, and some in which you’ll encounter Class 4-5 rapids). Afterward, have some lunch outside on a bench at the woodsy/cool/funky Nantahala Outdoor Center (there’s a good restaurant) while getting a glimpse of the true outdoor culture and its devotees. If you’re looking for a different type of water experience, on the other hand, you can kayak in magnificent silence on Fontana Lake, while being watched by nesting bald eagles.
As you drive into Lands Creek, you’ll find yourself thinking that you’ve never seen any place quite as beautiful before. And after you leave, you’ll find yourself returning – if not in person, then in your mind – again and again. Lands Creek Log Cabins is a little piece of paradise in the Smokies. (www.landscreek.com) (1-888-346-9793)