Sometimes it’s nice to get your head into the clouds and use some of those L.L.Bean gloves, mittens, scarves, and jackets pushed back in the closet. OK, sandlappers, I am going to tell you about a secret mountain getaway, the likes of which you will want to experience before it is discovered. Believe me, the ones that know of this gem aren't talking—they are hoarding.
Nestled in Westfield, North Carolina and adjacent to Hanging Rock State Park, Singletree Gun & Plough Inn encompasses 1,000 acres of flora and wildlife and includes five miles of riverfront on the gorgeous Dan River. "We are committed to enjoying and sharing this ecologically significant property with minimal human disturbance, and we're dedicated to sustainable and organic methods of maintenance for the overall health of our game and land," says owner Johannah Stern.
Hanging Rock State Park touts the accolade of 2012 State Park of the Year, and in 2014, it was named in USA Today as one of the top 20 state parks (out of 7,500) in the USA. Both Hanging Rock and Singletree Inn are a marriage of property lines and tundra. If the wind carried parables here, Singletree Inn would whisper to Hanging Rock, "You complete me." Not only are you privileged to enjoy the 1,000-acre property of Singletree Inn's lodge, cabins, wildlife, and riverfront, you also have Hanging Rock State Park and all of its amenities.
Don and I stole away for a weekend to Singletree Inn recently. Five hours into the drive from the coast, my phone signal disappeared along with the daylight. A tad bit of city-slicker panic kicked in when I realized that I was almost off the grid. We climbed one last hill and there was Singletree Lodge, looking every bit like a Thomas Kinkade painting, glowing windows and smoke rising from the chimney.
Owner Johannah Stern and property manager Bill Sparks greeted us. "I figured it was going to be late when you arrived, and you might not want to go down the mountain for dinner, so we’re cooking for you," Johannah said while drying her hands on a cotton dishtowel. No argument given. Bill opened my wine and refrigerated Don's Holy City beer while we unpacked and settled in. After a fabulous dinner, we moseyed over to the den and tamped down both the evening and blazing fire with wine and conversation. We slept fabulously on the organic cotton sheets in the Dean's Room, one of seven lodge rooms. "Washed in Charlie’s soap and clothes line dried," Johannah tells me. It sure was quiet, too! Johannah told me later that they never fill more than two rooms at one time, unless, of course, a family or group requests more room. There were guests in the cabin across from the lodge from us, but we didn't lay eyes on them all weekend.
The next morning, the smell of bacon wafted up to the guest room and got me stirring. I crept down the steps, but I'm sure a creaky board gave me away. Bill passed me a cup of organic, free-trade coffee, and I went back upstairs to discover. I snuck past my room to peer out of the windows, smiling as my feet found a squeaky plank on the lodge's antique floor. The sun wasn't promising an appearance, but the fog was a magical morning gift. After pulling a book from the shelves in the library loft, I found an Indian footstool and an easy chair by the expansive windows. Minutes after settling in, I gave up and put the book down—the foggy morning breakdown would not be denied my attention.
A little while later, Don and I headed down for breakfast. If you stay at the lodge, absolutely opt in for the meals. I have seriously not had a better breakfast in my life. And every thing we ate was locally sourced and organic. Don and I pulled out of Singletree shortly after breakfast, mapped-out itinerary in hand, for a full day in Stokes County. We found all of the things we'd been hankering for and more! Local honey, ham, beans, Amish butter, goat cheese, homemade soap, and a delicious Eastern-style BBQ sandwich. The lodge was quiet when we returned, and Bill was still stoking the fire. I was thinking nap. Later in the evening, we donned our coats and scarves and drove a country mile down the road to the Green Heron Club on the Dan River, where we enjoyed an amazing Delta blues live band, partook of adult beverages, and watched our new friends cut the rug (shag) on the wood floors next to the sleeping resident Labrador, Cubbie.
When we left the next morning, we left our new friends with hugs and promises to return. Johannah Stern and Bill Sparks have a vision for this beautiful mountain lodge and property. That vision is to be at one with the land and, thankfully, share it as well. I am so grateful that they are including the public on this journey to provide a preservation vacation.
Check out Singletree's website and contact Johannah or Bill to discover the many amenities offered for a fabulous getaway. And whatever you do, don't count out the winter here. It is serenely beautiful and just as accommodating! "Some of our guest have secretly wished to be snowed in during their visit,” says Johannah.
To sum up my experience at Singletree Gun & Plough Inn, I felt like I had wandered into a time warp of archaic beauty coupled with elegant, albeit rustic, creature comforts offered by its proprietors. If you don't come away from here feeling like Zen & Huck Finn, I'll shut my mouth.
Their website is comprehensive and beautiful. Johannah is a phenomenal photographer. Whether it is relaxing, rafting, fly fishing, hunting, tubing, hiking, or wining or dining you are looking for, Johannah or Bill will be happy to guide you to that exact experience.
A little tidbit: I took a friend to this area a few months back. We didn’t drive 16 miles total for the two days we were there. Here are a few things we experienced: a morning jog with mountain views and deer crossings, a fabulous waterfall hike within minutes of the cabin, a jaunt to the beautiful lake at Hanging Rock State Park, a stroll along the Dan River, a visit to a centuries-old country general store, a mouthwateringly simple yet delicious Eastern BBQ sandwich at a tiny restaurant that still has Conway Twitty and George Jones on the jukebox, conversation with a local goat farmer, stocking our cooler with butter, goat cheese, and venison to bring home, and, finally, a morning tour of an unbelievable wine/art gallery.