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Welcome to delicious Destinations, a GourmetStation blog. Through the charater of T.Alexander and occasional real-life guests, our aim is to share with you light-hearted fun ideas about food, gift giving, entertaining and culture. At the same time we would love you hear from you. Please share your experiences from home or abroad.

Escape to Banner Elk and Black Mountain


Posted: November 13, 2007
by: Mark Stine

Sometimes the pressure of work and everyday living forces you to look at your life and realize you need a break and a well planned retreat can be just the answer. Well North Carolina and specifically Banner Elk, tucked into the “High Country,” has been just such a refuge for me for the last 20 years.

There is something about the gentle peacefulness in the mountains that lowers the blood pressure and puts things in perspective.  Breathing the cool mountain air amidst lush rhododendron and hiking up trails, knowing your hard work will be rewarded at the end of the day with a nice glass of Merlot is a satisfying experience.


So… on a recent trip, an invitation was extended to two friends, Colleen and Kim, both in need of some mountain time, to spend a week exploring Asheville, Black Mountain and the environs around Banner Elk and Sugar Mountain.

Weight_world

When you feel you have the weight of the world bearing down on you….escape!

Asheville has been receiving a lot of press as a new boomtown for retirees and a growing eclectic force of artists, new age proponents and real estate investors and developers has swooped in to make that a living reality and driven up the prices for retiree wannabes.

Asheville has its finer points, a well preserved downtown, the stunningly beautiful Biltmore estate on the near outskirts of town and some decent eateries. But…it lacked something in spite of all the hype and my traveling friend Kim agreed. Not exactly what we were looking for.  Perhaps a little too touristy…pleasant and all….made for a nice afternoon, but it wasn’t until we ambled up the road a piece, headed back towards Banner Elk that we felt we had hit the right spot. And that would be Black Mountain.

Just a little more real and unreal at the same time, this small community traces its roots back to the Black Mountain College, which gives the community the right influx of intellect, new age-ers, real estate growth, retirees and a semblance of balance we found lacking in Asheville. The shops were just a little more friendly too, as was the entire town. 

Now for those in need of a Chakra adjustment, some sound-energy work, including singing Himalayan bowls then I suggest you check Black Mountain out. We treated ourselves to a number of approaches and left feeling energized!  For appointments or more information, check out the web site RayneMaker.com and touch base with Calen. An additional treat was listening to native American flute music and meeting the musical genius, Marina Raye-“ the feminine voice of the native flute”, behind itA serene, calm woman described by my traveling friend Colleen as a “Goddess,” her serenity permeated the surroundings and we each purchased a cd (www.marinaraye.com) which has provided me with soothing moments back in the unreal world of Las Vegas.

Raynemaker1 


After the exploration of Black Mountain…we retired for the balance of the week to Banner Elk.  A formerly “little” spot on the map between Sugar and Beech Mountains- four season resorts in the High country with mountain tops in the 5,000 ft plus range…  And now a booming real estate market as the entire 76 million baby boom generation seems to be colonizing the entire Smoky Mountains in faux Adirondack styled homes with spruce siding, Adirondack chairs, and price tags that hardly seem like second home prices! .

Perched amongst the trees …

Mossycreekbannerelk I was content to enjoy my pedestal home of 20 years, where we enjoyed some tasty dinners and selected wines from Eric’s Wine and Cheese Shop, a 20 year plus local institution.  Knowing now that FedEx delivers there, I am also going to order GourmetStation dinner gifts the next time to compliment the experience!

Stops at 6,000 ft. Grandfather Mountain and the mile high swinging bridge were highlights, as well as dinner one evening on Beech Mountain at over 5,000 ft…looking out over lush lawns and right on cue, pre-dusk, the small herd of deer that bounded out onto the lawn to entertain us.

One very indulgent afternoon we arranged a three hour massage therapy session. I can only say that it is worth the extra expense to have the massage therapist come to you, so that afterwards you can just relax and not have to worry about moving. The pedestal home features a spa room at tree level…cedar lined with a built-in sound system. So we listened to some flute music courtesy of Marina Raye and sat for well over two hours after our respective massages, in the  giant four person soaking tub looking out into the tree canopy.  Kim received an extended foot massage in the soaking tub, whilst she sipped a bottomless glass of Merlot and Colleen disappeared towards the end of the soak to surprise us with a wonderful pasta dinner, resplendent with a display of locally grown Heirloom tomatoes and mozzarella stacked and swirled in a creative presentation. This was a perfect way to end our last evening in the mountains of the High Country. Cool night air descended…the sounds of crickets came up in a chorus around us and great conversation ensued.

Sadly, the week ended far too quickly… and at the airport in Johnson City, TN, the goodbyes were hard to do. Our sheltered retreat was over and we were being thrust back into the real world of email, Blackberry, investment banking, communication support and the non stop stream of data interpretation. All we have to sustain us going forward would be the memories…but great memories they are.  So if you are in need of a wonderful relaxing retreat, then I suggest the High Country of North Carolina.  Hiking, white- water rafting, sight seeing, and relaxation on your terms are just some of the activities of the High Country. For further information on rentals try checking out NCMountainRetreats.com and remember life is worth living, so enjoy it and put the stress of unimportant things behind you. It is after all about friends and good food and wine and simple things done well. Thanks Colleen and Kim!


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