Smoky Mountain High

Winter Wonderland at Lands Creek Log Cabins
A Winter Wonderland at Lands Creek Log Cabins
(Photo Courtesy Dwayne Parton/Lands Creek Log Cabins)

In this part of western North Carolina, you’re surrounded by the ethereal beauty of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with deep-green forest, rushing creeks, hundreds of waterfalls, and quaint little towns delightfully lost in time.

Bryson City, for example, is reminiscent of Andy Griffith’s ”Mayberry,” with stores such as the N.C. Clampitt Hardware Company and the Charleston Station antique store. There are colorful general stores in which your presence is announced by a little bell as you open the door, and there’s an old courthouse with a statue of a World War I veteran in front of it. And people here still say hello when you pass, even if they don’t know you.

Bryson City’s filled with outdoors-outfitters, fascinating little shops, and excellent restaurants such as Pasqualino’s (Italian) and 4 Queens (Mexican). It boasts, as well, an excellent train museum and 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 Bryson City 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 characterized by old wooden homes with front porches and rockers, and homemade signs in front yards advertising everything from “Fresh Boiled Peanuts” to “Homemade Quilts” to “North Carolina Honey.”

The region has great climbing and hiking trails (among them the Appalachian Trail, which passes right through Bryson City). You can take a rafting adventure on the Nantahala River, with some stretches where you can leisurely coast…and others in which you’ll encounter Class 4-5 rapids! Afterward, have some lunch outside on a bench at the woodsy Nantahala Outdoor Center (there’s a restaurant), while taking in the mountain scenery.

If you’re looking for a mellow water experience, you can kayak or row in magnificent silence on Fontana Lake, while being watched by nesting bald eagles.

My favorite place to stay is Lands Creek Log Cabins, in Bryson City. At Lands Creek (, you can wake up in an authentic, beautifully-appointed log cabin, with a fireplace inside and a hot tub on the deck, surrounded by 100′ pines and oaks. The cabins are filled with the works of local craftspeople – from homemade quilts and lace curtains to pottery and assorted mountain crafts. But they also have stone countertops and every modern convenience.

You can relax in a hand-carved rocker on your deck, while the rising sun burns away the “smoky” fog in the morning. In the evening, you’ll sit under a black sky filled with stars, and hear the sounds of cicadas echoing across the forest. And you’ll fall asleep to the sounds of a stream under your cabin…because it’s on stilts.

Autumn at Lands Creek Log Cabins
Autumn at Lands Creek Log Cabins…pretty much every color of the rainbow.(Photo Courtesy of Dwayne Parton/Lands Creek Log Cabins)

Owners Robin and Sue Fronrath sold their popular auto dealerships in South Florida to pursue their dream of settling in the Smokies. And they helped build these cabins.

At the highest point on the property you can get a panoramic view from a swinging bench, clear into Tennessee. And as you swing, you’ll hear distant dogs barking in the “hollers” (hollows) below.

This is a place to remember.