BY HEATHER DOWDY
This past weekend, Chris and I took our rescued pit bull, Briley, to the beautiful North Carolina Mountains to the charming town of Brevard. It was her fourth birthday and we were determined to give her a big adventure at Dog Woods Retreat, some awesome new cabins we'd found online.
(In the interest of full disclosure, mom and dad really needed a break as well, after hosting our biggest Barktoberfest ever!)
We loved our weekend getaway so much that I've decided to run a full-length feature on it in our holiday issue, which will hit stands December 1st. (You can subscribe to have it mailed hot off the press!) But I couldn't wait to share some of the highlights, so I thought I'd post some of what's to come in print!
If you're looking for a great dog-friendly getaway, look no further than Brevard, North Carolina!
The Road Trip and Dog Woods Retreat
Briley was super excited when we packed up the car and then gave her the word that she was coming along! In fact, I don't think she slept any of the 7-hour drive. She spent most of it standing up between our front seats, smiling and watching out over the road and we wound our way into the colorful mountains of East Tennessee and Western North Carolina.
We made a few "pit" stops (pun intended!) to let her potty and stretch her legs, and we grabbed food along the way. It was a nice drive and she seemed to really enjoy the adventure.
I'd found our destination online when searching dog-friendly cabins in the western North Carolina mountains. We'd been to Barkwells in Asheville before (you can read about that adventure here) so I was looking to find a new gem to enjoy during the peak of fall color. I was delighted to come across Dog Woods Retreat, and contacted them right away.
Owner Nan Long invited us to come for three nights to check out their cabins, which were created specifically for dogs and their people. The minute we began the drive up the mountain, surrounded by vibrant fall leaves, we knew we'd found a true sanctuary for relaxing and exploring.
In the Fall of 2001, Nan packed up her two dogs Osmond and Zoe and headed to the mountain town of Brevard seeking that same sense of sanctuary. Upon arrival, she was amazed by the natural beauty of the area and it’s calming influences. Enchanted by the Land of Waterfalls (Transylvania County), the Pisgah National Forest and the friendliness of the local people, she decided to make Brevard her home the following summer.
Searching the area for the perfect property, located not too far from town but in the midst of the forest, she discovered Cantrell Mountain located near the DuPont State Forest. Wanting to share the natural beauty and her love of dogs with others she bought the land on which she designed and built the cabins for DogWoods Retreat. Using responsible stewardship of the land and maintaining its natural beauty she has created perfect private luxury dog friendly vacations.
She now lives on the property and manages all of the operations of three guest cabins: Tree Frog, Firefly and White Squirrel. And her cabins don't just welcome dogs -- they cater to them. Each of the gorgeous cedar cabins tower among the treetops, feature a fully fenced yard and deck for your pups to enjoy, and come supplied with incredibly comfy dog beds, food and water bowls, poop bags and more. In fact, Nan is also a dog trainer and is happy to offer on-site training and behavioral sessions, potty service and more.
Best of all, she has bulldog breeds of her own, so she happily welcomes dogs of all sizes and breeds, as well as multiple dogs at a time. (A fee applies for groups of more than two dogs at a time.) Depending on the season, the cabins run $240-$280 per night. You can also reserve by the week or month.
Kitchens are equipped with utensils, pots, pans and dishes and the cabins even have a great selection of DVD movies, board games and books for guest enjoyment. Briley wasn't particularly impressed by the movie selection, but we were thrilled to find one of our favorite movies, The Big Lebowski, waiting for us!
She did, however, really take to the incredibly plush dog beds both downstairs and upstairs. In fact, I spent some time snuggling with her on them, and they were really comfortable!
We played fetch in the big, sloped yard, crunched around in the leaves and spent a lot of time just resting and relaxing on the wrap-around porch and upper level deck. A two-person hot tub provided a relaxing spot for stargazing and for staring up at the nearly full moon that cast a gorgeous glow across the trees.
The gravel drive that meandered through the cabin properties also made for an excellent walk to enjoy the fall colors and crisp fall air.
We stayed in the Tree Frog cabin, nestled among the trees at the top of the property. (Nan lives across the gravel road in Dragonfly Cabin and was able to stop by to say hello before we got settled in.) All three cabins feature two bedrooms and two baths, and sleep six people when the pullout bed is used. They each also feature a small but beautiful kitchen and dining room, and bright and airy living rooms with windows all around to allow you enjoy the spectacular views of the surrounding woods.
While our cabin offered Tempur-Pedic and memory foam Queen beds, the other cabins do feature King sized beds. While we did wish for a larger, more comfortable sofa to really sink into in the evening, the decor was beautiful and cozy.
The cabins feature free wifi, but internet was a bit slow and spotty when we tried searching for local hike routes online.
Otherwise, it was a fabulous stay! The lounge chairs on the sprawling decks were dreamy, and a large outdoor table allowed us to eat in the treetops. It really was like living in a treehouse! We made good use of the gorgeous stone fireplace, and there was also an outdoor fire pit and a charcoal grill for guest use, although we ran out of time before ever getting the chance to use either of them.
We quickly fell in love with the charming town of Brevard, located about 45 minutes from Asheville. It's beautiful streets are lined with unique shoppes, trees and flowers and it is one of the places in the country that is home to the White Squirrel. In fact, they are protected within the city limits, and they celebrate the rare squirrel each year with a White Squirrel Festival. After a few days of looking for the seemingly mythological creature, on our last day in town, we finally spotted three of them! Briley was beside herself with excitement.
Our first night in town, we picked up a wood-fired pizza from Jamie's Creole Brasserie on Main Street. I had the "Margie"-- a delicious hand-tossed pizza made with fresh mozzarella, fresh basil puree, extra virgin olive oil, roasted garlic and sun-dried tomatoes. It was seriously one of the best pizzas I've ever had. We enjoyed the pizza back at the cabin with Briley and just relaxed after our drive in.
Our second night, we enjoyed an incredible meal at Hob Nob, an eclectic restaurant in an old house downtown, which features a beautiful pet-friendly patio. (Pictured below.) There were so many amazing vegan and vegetarian dishes (in addition to their traditional meat entrees) that I had a hard time deciding on what to order. I finally started with a house salad featuring fresh okra, cucumber, field greens and drizzled with pecan vinaigrette, then enjoyed an incredible entree of smoked tempeh, carrots and green beans covered in a miso-almond sauce and served over cauliflower mash. I can honestly say that it was one of the most memorable meals I've had in a long while! We finished off the evening with a melt-in-your-mouth raisin-cinnamon bread pudding with vanilla ice cream. I loved their focus on farm-to-table and local, fresh ingredients. If you come to Brevard, you must eat here!
Next door to Hob Nob was Marco's Trattoria, about which we heard amazing things. Their dog-friendly patio was pretty awesome as well...
While we did not get to some of the other restaurants, they include The Falls Landing, which serves up seafood and a house made veggie burger, and Mayberry's, which serves soups and sandwiches. Both are located downtown on Main Street and feature dog-friendly tables out on the sidewalk. Nearby, The Square Root features "Relaxed American Cuisine with a World View" and features a few water bowls on its pet-friendly patio.
We also love the dog-friendly patio at Quotations Coffee Cafe, also on Main Street. This hip little coffee shop offers a great selection of bakery items, ice cream, chai teas, coffees and more and has a roomy patio that features a water bowl labeled "for puppies of all ages". (Too cute!)
While we were on the patio, we met this adorable Brittany Spaniel puppy named Pope, and his pretty cool parents.
We noticed that many of the shoppes downtown had out water bowls for dogs, and some of them even welcome your pups to accompany you while shopping.
Our favorite was Local Color, a funky, bohemian boutique featuring locally made art, crafts, textiles, jewelry and gifts as well as many fair-trade items. The owner (the awesome guy pictured below in the very cool boots and shirt) saw us looking at some of the sculptures on his sidewalk and came out to greet Briley.
We told him it was her fourth birthday, and we were celebrating with a mountain getaway! He welcomed us all in and showed us around the fantastically colorful shop. I loved it immediately. Vibrantly colored scarves, metal sculptures, canvas art and photography surrounded us. Handcrafted jewelry, repurposed furniture and wall art, handmade cards and laser-cut wood... you name it, it was here!
I just had to buy some laser-cut wood guitar coaster and these amazing handmade "cool dog" earrings!
Meanwhile, Briley began attracting admirers who came flooding in from the sidewalk to rub the belly of the "adorable pit bull" they heard others cooing over.
Afterward, we stopped for some to-die-for milk chocolate peanut butter truffles at Downtown Chocolates, then browsed the rest of the shoppe-lined streets. Halloween decorations were out everywhere, making for some really fun window displays. We also found a quaint little old-fashioned Soda Shoppe.
Hiking in the Mountains
We were also fortunate enough to have the most perfect fall hiking day, and we took advantage of it! We'd already been to DuPont State Forest in an earlier trip, so even though it's just ten minutes or so from the cabin, we decided to try a new spot.
We opted to make the hour drive up into the mountain to take a hike up to Devil's Courthouse. Nan at Dog Woods Retreat thought the color would be spectacular there, and said that the views from the lookout rocks could not be beat. She wasn't lying! The view was absolutely breathtaking, and my smartphone photos don't begin to do it justice!
The half-mile uphill hike to the lookout was simply magical. Fuzzy green and white mosses covered the forest in a soft glow, and the fall colors were simply stunning. We found beautiful little treasures everywhere along the way, and Briley loved sniffing out the trail ahead of us on her leash.
Afterward, we drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway and through the towns of Highlands and Cashiers. The curvy mountain drive was breathtaking with the roads covered in falling leaves in vibrant red, orange and yellow.
It was a trip we won't soon forget... and we'll be returning for a longer stay as soon as we can! I'd love to visit in the winter, when Dog Woods Retreat and the surrounding mountains are deep in fresh snow. I hear that winter wonderland is another adventure all its own!
I'll leave you with this final photo of Nan with one of her own canine kids enjoying the snow. Book your getaway now! :)