A Collection of Views
Fontana Village Resort For the Win!
I always want to get the family together for a week each year, but we range in age from 3 to 92, and in interests from avid readers to adventure junkies. This year I made it my goal to find a setting that would work for everyone, and boy did I hit the jack-pot when I booked a stay for all 14 of us at Fontana Village Resort, nested in the Nantahala National Forest along Fontana Lake.
We booked 2 cabins, complete with fireplaces and large front porches for slow morning rocking and coffee. The first thing that hit everyone’s sweet spot was a pontoon rental from Fontana Marina, where we had access to 10,230 acres of clear mountain water thanks to the impressive Fontana Dam, sitting pretty as the tallest dam in the Eastern U.S. We cruised and fished, caught up, and laughed until we hurt. Then we hit the ground running. You could find us shredding some mountain bike trail, fishing on the lake, playing mini golf, and going for nature walks. At the day’s end we enjoyed delicious dinners at the lodge and swapped stories of the adventures we’d had.
3 Reasons Lake Santeetlah is the Most Beautiful Lake in the US
Have you ever been somewhere that has a beauty that feels ancient and mysterious? That is the feeling that coursed through my body when I spent the day on Lake Santeetlah. Surrounded by the Nantahala National Forest in Western North Carolina, this pristine, man-made lake was voted the #1 Most Beautiful Lake in the US by ThisInsider.com, and no one who knows this lake was even surprised.
Why aren’t we surprised? Because Lake Santeetlah has 3 things that come together to create a perfect lake trifecta:
First, it is surrounded by the Nantahala National Forest in the shadow of the Great Smoky Mountains. Think crisp mountain air and changing leaves.
Secondly, it’s pristine, unspoiled, secluded. It’s far enough away from all the large cities to pass under the radar. Even on a perfect day you’ll rarely pass more than a handful of other boats on the water.
Lastly, its just the right size. With 76 miles worth of shoreline, and one marina you can find your own cove to real in bass and crappie or find the perfect jumping-off rock and call it your own.
So, shhh don’t tell anyone, but when you crave unspoiled outdoors, you know where to go.
6 Stars is Right
They say you can’t have it all, but Tapoco Lodge has somehow figured out how to do it. I stumbled across the Historic Tapoco Lodge Resort in Robbinsville when I was looking for a mountain getaway for my husband and I, and after reading the word “LOVE” in all caps, and “wish I could give it 6 stars” over and over on TripAdvisor I had to hit the book now button.Wow were all those reviewers right, the Tapoco Lodge blew us away with its mountain luxury. We stayed in a lodge suite overlooking the Cheoah River with a sink-in comfy King and a walk-in shower. We could have stayed in the room the entire time, but I’m glad we didn’t, because the on-premise hikes through the lush forests and the sound of rushing river in the crisp air was unbeatable. We enjoyed the communal firepit one night and made friends with a couple from Vermont who we enjoyed a trip into precious Robbinsville with the next day (more to come on that!). We ate most meals by the river, devouring the stone oven pizza and trout nuggets. The trip was complete by traveling the Tail of the Dragon (only 2 miles away) home with incredible views of our new favorite spot.
An Ode to The Trees
“I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.”
The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest pays the most fitting tribute to its namesake poet maintaining one of the most impressive old-growth forests in the country. This 3,800-acre forest is part of the Nantahala National Forest in Graham County, NC (where the forest covers 2/3 of the county) with a mission of maintaining the land in its primitive state and is only accessible via foot. As you hike through the forest you will see trees that saw Cherokees and early English settlers grow up alongside them. Trees that are 20 feet in circumference and 100-feet tall.
Keep the awe of nature alive as you follow Little Santeetlah Creek out of the forest to fish for small, wild rainbow trout. We took a guided fly-fishing trip with the Nantahala Fly Fishing Company and they were kind enough to share some amazing honey-holes with us that made us feel like pros. We took Kilmer’s words seriously and discovered more tree splendor along the 42 mile-long Cherohala Skyway. I think we stopped at every overlook, and especially enjoyed the Hooper Bald hike that took us to a beautiful summit only a half a mile off the byway.
A Town that Delivers - Town of Robbinsville
They say you can’t have it all, but Robbinsville, North Carolina has somehow figured out how to do it, with quaint mountain charm, exceptional vistas of the Great Smoky Mountains, outdoor adventure, and style to boot. Robbinsville is just one of those places where you don’t walk, you stroll. So, stroll the quaint downtown, admire the old courthouse, read up on all the movies filmed here and see the real-life backdrops for yourself.
Grab a meal at The Hub, a funky converted gas station at the base of the Trail of the Dragon with an eclectic menu, but always North Carolina barbecue. Then, make your way over to the Stecoah Valley Artisans Gallery, set in a restored 1920s schoolhouse with original artwork, pottery, woodwork, and jewelry, each with a story to tell. It’s essential North Carolina. Be sure to sample the natural honey, meet the bees, and take a farm tour at Wehrloom Honey and be sure to stick around for lunch from their onsite food truck and a glass of mead. Keep the pace slow as you head back by way of the Cherohala Skyway, where you’ll have to stop a dozen times for oohs, ahhs, and photo-ops.