It’s quiet. Well, there are birds singing and the occasional crunch of gravel as a car slowly passes by, but pretty much it seems like I am a million miles away from anyone or any care in the world.
I am staying in a rustic cabin with all the amenities anyone could wish for at Balsam Mountain Preserve. The entire mountain in Western North Carolina is a community of homeowners and cabins which are part of The Boarding House Program.
This beautiful setting is in Jackson County and my home for two days.
Location, location, location
A half hour drive to the north is Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Skirting the northwest border of Jackson County is the Blue Ridge Parkway. Add to this the rivers and streams crisscrossing the area, the lakes and waterfalls, and the opportunities to fish, raft, bike, ski and golf, and well, you get the picture.
Three miles west on US – 74 is Sylva the county seat. I decide to leave the preserve the first morning to get to know the community where “Three Billboards of Ebbing, Missouri” was filmed.
There are just over 2,500 residents. Along Main Street I am greeted by everyone as we pass on the sidewalk lined with locally-owned restaurants, boutiques and gift shops. At one end of Main Street, high on a hill, is the historic Jackson County Courthouse. Constructed in 1914, it is now used as the public library and features rotating county history and mountain culture exhibits. The former courtroom is used for concerts, performances and community theater.
One stop I make is Sassy Frass, a store selling everything from new furniture to antiques and collectibles. As I wander through the massive store I notice a huge collection of photographs on one wall showing construction crews and different actors. I ask the young clerk if the store was used in the movie filming. He says it was the police station and explains how they partitioned off the front of the store to use as Ebbing Police Department. Directly across the street is the second-floor office of tenBiz that stood in for Ebbing Advertising Company.
I could picture the scenes in my mind and how the two locations played such an important part in the movie. The county is also home to scenes from “The Fugitive,” the original and remake of “Dirty Dancing” and “The Legacy of a White Tail Deer Hunter.”
The Equestrian Center
The next day I decide to go horseback riding. The last two times I was on a horse were at Petra in Jordan and Pacaya Volcano National Park in Guatemala. Someone else was leading the horse. This time I decide, not thinking really, that I would take a trail ride. Let me just say; the trails are maintained, but this is wilderness.
I am met by preserve stable manager Lila Kilby and her assistant Katie Hockley. Although there are times the stables are busy, this morning I am the only rider. With Lila in the lead and Katie following behind me, we set off to explore. Lila tells me there are more than 34 miles of trails on the mountain and that the preserve’s trail system connects to the Nantahala National Forest, offering 500,000 acres of unspoiled riding habitat. The same trails are used by residents and guests as hiking trails. They were once logging roads.
The forest is lush and lovely this summer day. With rushing streams, waterfalls, wildflowers and endless twists and turns, I can see why anyone living here would fall in love with the mountain. Nearly an hour of enjoying my ride and the glorious surroundings, we return to the stables.
Other amenities offered for club members are the Arnold Palmer Signature golf course, swimming pool, tennis pavilion, nature center and camping.
The Boarding House Program
There are more than 100 homes on the mountain with another 200 lots. But for someone not interested in home ownership on the mountain, there is a unique fractional ownership opportunity called Balsam’s Boarding House Partners Program. It allows families to be part of the mountain community.
There are ten Boarding House cabins complete with everything anyone could need for a stay including a kitchenet, living room with a stone fireplace. There is another fireplace on the large porch.
The program offers the flexibility of reserving two guaranteed weeks each season (eight weeks annually) along with unlimited additional time based on availability. Owners and their family members enjoy full club membership while in residence.
I enjoyed my stay in Jackson County. I hope to return and explore some of the other small towns and do more hiking. This is truly a lovely and restful destination.
For more articles on North Carolina, click here.Tags: North Carolina