Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dispatches from the Blue Ridge: Part V

When I began my series of posts about our trip to North Carolina, I wrote that the house we rented was so good I would eventually devote a post specifically to it. Well, here it is.

When you go on vacation, you almost always get a better deal renting a house than staying in a hotel. There are the obvious benefits of having much more space, much more privacy, etc. As I have written previously, with a washer and dryer at your disposal you can pack fewer clothes, and with a kitchen at your disposal you can buy groceries and prepare some of your own meals, which is more economical than eating every meal out. And the rental rates tend to be stunningly competitive (more on that later).

Simply put, renting a house gets you a better place to stay and saves money in the process. However, the place we just rented takes it to a whole other level. Dubbed Appalachian Retreat by its owners, Dennis and Debbie O’Neal, it was completed less than two years ago and is immaculate in every way. Though I previously called it “a ridgeline cabin,” I am dropping the word “cabin” because it implies a lack of creature comforts that you just won’t find here.

Appalachian Retreat is a three-level home with every level having its own bedroom, bathroom, and sitting area. The first and second levels each have a gas fireplace and outside deck. The sitting area on the first level includes a foosball table; the one on the second would be considered the home’s great room; and the one on the third is a loft with a tasteful game table. Here is a view looking down from that loft:

The second-level fireplace is two-sided, so you can view its flames from out on the deck as well as from inside. And I know its flames are not merely cosmetic, because we felt its warmth standing outside even when the temperature was in the teens. Here I am reposing on the deck one morning:

I can not begin to tell you how wonderfully appointed the house is. The furniture and appliances are all top-of-the-line and full of character, from the kitchen’s granite counter tops to the lower level’s hardwood floors, which are fashioned from wood salvaged from an old tobacco barn. In a major plus for me, there are none of the cheesy decorations that often afflict vacation rentals (you know what I mean, the kind of decorations which assume that because a house is in the mountains, every square foot must be festooned with images of bears).

And speaking of those stunningly competitive prices I mentioned earlier, as of the day I am writing this, the nightly rate for this entire house is $130, while the nightly rates for a lone room at the nearest LaQuinta Inn range from $79 to $129.

More impressively, the weekly rate for Appalachian Retreat is only $775, and if you go with friends and split the cost like we did, you will start salivating over how much you get for your dollar. If you and another family go for a week and divide it in half, you will pay less than $56 per night. If you and two other families go and divide the price evenly, you will pay less than $37 per night and each family will have a whole floor. (Keep in mind that all of these rates are for non-holidays.)

If you read my previous posts about our vacation, I shouldn’t need to sell you on Appalachian Retreat’s location. It is on a ridgeline in one of the most beautiful parts of the country, close to many handsome towns, and we saw deer in the yard almost every day. However, because my posts were all about winter activities, I feel compelled to mention how wonderful the Blue Ridge Mountains are during other seasons.

Fall foliage brings a riot of fiery colors from mid-October to mid-November, and because most of the trees surrounding the house are hardwoods, I am sure the view from its deck will be postcard worthy if you come at that time.

When the days turn warm in spring and summer, wildflowers bring their own changing hues and the streams and waterfalls run full. Whitewater rafting is exciting on the Watauga and Nolichucky Rivers, and the summit of Grandfather Mountain -- highest in all the Blue Ridge, featuring this mile-high swinging bridge -- is reliably accessible.

You can not go wrong renting from the O'Neals. They are nice, and easy to work with, and their house is splendid. Go here to visit their web site, where you can check current rates and inquire about reservations.


  1. great post! so informative, I will definitely have to check this out!

  2. Such a great trip and a great place to spend it! xoxo!

  3. going there this October Thanks