...because home doesn't happen overnight.
07.03.13 / Mountain Getaway


cabin 1

HH and I spent seven days and seven nights in this cozy one bedroom cabin. The cabin is located on a secluded mountain in Bryson City in western North Carolina. The mountain has only one drivable entrance and is gated for safety and privacy. From what we could tell, the mountain is home to four vacation rentals {including the cabin we stayed in}, two new builds, a few private homes and a bunch of vacant land. {We did a lot of hiking.} And when I say mountain, I mean mountain. Accessing the cabin requires driving curvy rural roads – some single lane, dirt or gravel – and then navigating a steep mountain. Forget about GPS, cell phone coverage and wifi. This cabin is the real deal.

cabin 2

The main entrance to the cabin is on the side. I was a big fan of the cedar siding and shake roof.

cabin 3

The main door opens into a hall with a bathroom and laundry room on the left, an open living space on the right and a back door at the opposite end.

cabin 5

There are a slew of large windows on three sides of the cabin making it feel like you are outdoors when you are in.

cabin 6

The back {or other “side”} of the cabin boasts an attached deck with dining furniture, a hot tub, a charcoal fireplace and a gas grill. This is where we spent most of our vacation.

cabin 7

There is a slab of granite fixed to one corner of the deck railing for preparing and serving food. I thought this was a great idea that could be easily and cheaply DIY’d with a solid surface countertop remnant.

cabin 8

Just off the deck is a fire pit surrounded by gravel. Again, another DIY-able feature.

cabin 9

The one thing that couldn’t be copied though was the scenery. Throughout our stay, I couldn’t get over the vast landscape and my camera doesn’t do it justice. Our deck overlooked a deep ravine with a large stream running through it at the bottom. The constant sound of the running water was glorious and that’s all we could hear. No traffic, no sirens, no neighbors, no dogs barking…nothing but that soothing stream.

cabin 10

There is a stone and gravel path that leads down to the stream and a waterfall where you can sit on a bench and be hypnotized by a water wheel. A trail follows along the opposite side of the stream. HH and I hiked it one day and it reminded me of my childhood. I grew up on 12 acres of hilly country and was free to roam and explore.

cabin 11

That’s the view of the cabin from the stream. Pretty amazing.

The cabin was perfect for us. If the thought of being on a mountain with one other person and no phone/internet service makes you nervous, this isn’t the vacation spot for you. And while the cabin itself is family-friendly {there is a king bed, pull-out couch, modest full kitchen, laundry room, TV, DVD player etc.}, the steep drop-off outside isn’t exactly childproof. I wouldn’t trust my kids here.

My only complaint was the decor {think country} but it wasn’t awful and we weren’t there for the decor so it wasn’t a big deal. See more of our cabin here.


We spent most of our time at the cabin. We exercised on the deck some mornings. {HH likes P90X Yoga X. I’m a Tracy Anderson girl.} We played a lot of Blokus. {I like to think of it as rearranging furniture on a small scale.} We read. We watched a few movies. We hiked around our cabin. We sat in the sun and listened to the stream. We tried not to talk about the kids but completely failed. And we did other things that two people who have been married for ten years with three kids do when they’re alone on a mountain. Wink, wink.


We ventured down from the mountain to check out a few local outdoor attractions – Nantahala Outdoor Center and Tsali Recreation Area. HH and I had our first zip lining and white water rafting experiences at NOC. The zip lining was our favorite. It’s a two-mile course and includes one half-mile zip over the Nantahala Gorge 300 feet above the forest floor. Breathtaking! Our zip guides were Charlie and Tom and they were awesome. Super knowledgable and cautious yet comedic which helped take the edge off. I was actually more fearful of the rafting than the zipping but the raft ride was pretty mild. Just class II and III rapids. We did get soaked but no one fell out of our boat. We opted for a fully guided river tour for the rafting because, up until a week ago, HH and I had zero experience white water rafting. It took us two hours to paddle/float an 8-mile stretch of the Nantahala River. Once again, the scenery was indescribable.

NOC is great. You can do all the outdoor adventure stuff there and they have two on-site restaurants and a little beach area for smaller kids. There are shops, too. We easily spent an entire day at NOC. We’d love to take our kids there someday.


On our first trip to Bryson City a few years ago over a long weekend, I completed my first mountain bike ride at Tsali. It was one of the easier trails and I did pretty well so I agreed to go again this visit. {HH used to be an avid mountain biker.} Well, the “easy” trail was a designated horse trail on the day we showed up. HH mentioned something about it but was kinda nonchalant so me, being the trusting wife I am, followed along on my bike. A few minutes into the ride, I knew something was different. It was difficult. Like, really difficult. Steep hill climbs, sharp turns, rocks, water, mud, crazy narrow “bridges” – if you can call a piece of wood laid across a stream a bridge. I asked HH how long this particular trail was.

HH: 11 miles.

me: You’re joking, right?

HH: Nope.

me: Eeee-lev-en miles?! You do remember that this is only my second time mountain biking, right?

HH: You’ll be fine.

Well, I was fine. For about 5 miles. Then I was toast. I hadn’t eaten breakfast that day – just juice. It was after 2:00 p.m. and we weren’t even halfway through the course. I was having problems with my vision. My feet kept slipping off the pedals. My steering was getting sloppy. I was covered in mud and sweat. I started pushing my bike on the inclines. My water bottle was empty. We had no food. I had nothing left. I was trying not to pass out. HH kept encouraging me to stop and take breaks but I just wanted it all to be over and the only way to make that happen was by finishing the course. I was mad. In the midst of my low blood sugar turmoil, I may or may not have told HH that I hated him. I blame the hypoglycemia. I noticed several empty energy powder packets on the trail and thought about picking one up and licking the inside. The last few miles were a blur.

Eventually, we did finish. It was nearly 4:00 p.m. I headed straight for the water fountain and chugged a bunch of water then splashed some over my beating face. I thought about the dude from 127 Hours.

I would have died.

HH told me he was really sorry and that he didn’t mean to make me miserable. I curled up in the fetal position in the back seat of our car and HH drove into downtown Bryson City. {HH later told me I was unresponsive and he started to worry.} He parked outside a local brewing company and I walked on sea legs inside where we were promptly told they didn’t serve food. I wanted to cry. Then we walked two or three blocks to a sandwich shop and I stuffed my face.

We drove back to our little cabin. I have never smelled so awful. But I had no energy to stand in the shower. I did a face plant onto the bed and slept for three hours until the stink that was myself woke me up. I took a shower and felt a little better. HH apologized again.

me: Remember when you took me mountain biking for the second time ever on a difficult 11-mile trail on an empty stomach and then you took me to the only restaurant in town that doesn’t serve food? That was awesome.

Then we laughed and he massaged my butt and legs until I forgave him. Sometimes romantic getaways aren’t always romantic.

In summary…NOC is the bomb. Tsali really is gorgeous but, gentlemen, if you’re thinking of taking your lady friend on her second mountain biking trip stick to the easy trails and feed her.


We bought groceries on our way into town. We packed our juicer and juiced breakfast, had salads for lunch and grilled out for most dinners but I did no real cooking for the week. The day we went to NOC we were surprised to learn they had a few decent places to eat on-site. We ate at Slow Joe’s Cafe – a BBQ joint. Here are a few other restaurants and eateries we loved:

*Lulu’s on Main {Sylva, NC}

*Cork and Beans {Bryson City, NC}

*The Burger Basket {Bryson City, NC near NOC}

*The Filling Station {Bryson City, NC}

*Jack the Dipper {Sylva, NC}

*Speedy’s Pizza {Sylva, NC}

Even though we technically stayed in Bryson City, we prefer Sylva. Sylva is a bit easier on the eyes but they are both small podunk towns so don’t expect much. Either way, they each offer some great places to grab grub. Our favorites were Lulu’s and The Burger Basket – we ate at each of them twice. Lulu’s makes everything from scratch. The Burger Basket looks like a trailer on the side of the road but don’t pass it up! The burgers and fries are made to order so expect a wait but it’s so worth it. Cork and Beans has a great local organic menu and such a wonderful vibe with exposed brick walls, reclaimed wood ceilings & floors and statement lighting. {I posted a pic of it on instagram.} The Filling Station is a good lunch choice with hot sandwiches. Get the Cuban! Speedy’s was a last resort option one night when we waited too long to go out for dinner. It was the only place open. We got the Go Green Pizza and were impressed. On our final night in North Carolina, we discovered Jack the Dipper’s. Waffle cones are made to order and they have a huge ice cream selection. To be honest, I’m usually not much of an ice cream girl but the cappuccino crunch in a fresh warm waffle cone was over the top. So, so good. I wish we would have found this place earlier in the week.

And that’s our getaway in a blog post. Some of you asked about things to do with kids near Bryson City. After making two visits without kids, I don’t know that we’re the people to ask about that. There is a Smoky Mountain train ride that everyone raves about and even if smaller kids aren’t big enough to do everything at NOC it’s worth it just to walk around, check things out and let the kids play in the river. We’re hoping to take our kids – maybe next year?


Here’s the thing about Bryson City. It’s a true getaway. You don’t have to worry about what to wear, how to fix your hair, putting on makeup, checking boxes on your touristy list or having concrete plans. You just go and do whatever and stare at the mountains and breathe easier.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking


Love hearing about North Carolina (my law school stopping grounds!) and really love hearing about all of your adventures. So impressed you survived that killer ride – I totally would have made my husband massage my butt after that for sure (and that’s not all…).


Your adventurous 11-mile trail reminds me of a hike my hubby had planned a few years back in the Alps. He had bought a map and had all figured out … except we got lost, we ran out of water and snacks and all I was thinking about was eating an omelette !! It kept me walking all the way up to the farm hubby intended to bring us to … and they had omelette ! Way too expensive but who cares at this point, right ? Since it was a farm, they had a road so hubby walked down by himself to the parking lot and drove back to pick us up … yes, his 8 yo daughter was with us … she thought the whole thing was funny though … Take care and have a great summer !

This was a great post! I loved the mountain biking story – I could totally relate. You were what I like to call “hangry” : angry because you’re hungry lol. Happens to me all the time! I’m glad to see everything ended well though and at least you can look back and laugh at it now…hopefully!


Great post, Dana–what a beautiful part of the country!

Thanks for sharing the biking story. I think we set ourselves up sometimes to think that a vacation has to be ‘perfect’, and that it is ‘ruined’ if something doesn’t go as planned. But in reality, that will be the story you probably tell on your 30th anniversary!

Congrats on your anniversary! We just celebrated #17 in London!


Loved reading this! And the mountain biking story–yeesh! I’d probably be saying more than the word “hate” to my boyfriend. Haha! Have you been to Hocking Hills? My boyfriend and I thought we were going on a 1.2 mile easy walk through one of the scenic areas. WRONG. Ended up hiking 8 miles from one site to the next. It wasn’t TOO bad because we did pack a lot of food but it was a humid, muggy mess since it was raining off and on. I was fine with it since I grew up camping but it was my boyfriend’s first trip there. Let’s just say I had to listen to his choice words for a few hours. Haha.


Sounds like you had a great time – we’ll have to add that to our list of places to visit and maybe try the white water rafting.

We’ve vacationed in the north GA/western NC/eastern TN area for about 25 years and I’ve learned to never leave the cabin without a big breakfast – the hike to the waterfall (and there is always a waterfall or I’m not going) always takes longer due to exploring and photography. I figure I’ll burn the calories so eggs, bacon or sausage, cheese grits and often pancakes are all on the menu!

The biggest thing to watch for if you like to go out to dinner is to make sure of the hours – we’ve been caught several times with a much longer drive than expected because of a restaurant not being open as expected. Always call to verify – sometime the internet (or even posted on the door) is not correct – especially in off season.

Sounds like the perfect spot to get away. So glad you enjoyed your trip together (minus the mountain biking ;)


I just wanted to quietly point out that I suggested she actually eat something for breakfast AND pack a separate water bottle for the ride. Just sayin’ :)


I went to college at Western Carolina University, right down the road from Sylva, where we often went to Jack the Dipper. It really is the best. It’s such a small world. I’m so glad you had fun in NC!


Sounds like you guys had a blast. I live in Franklin NC about 30 min from Sylva, over the cowee mountain and Lulu’s is one of our favorites too.


i just love your blog! i first discovered it when we were trying to decide whether or not to get ikea butcher block countertops, and i have been visiting ever since! i feel like i’m reading a friend’s blog — so easy to relate to, connect with and visit again and again. good work!


Your mountain bike sotry made me LOL!!! Oh man, I’d kill my hubby! haha


What a beautiful get-a-way! You two deserved it. I love your blog! Greetings from a reader from Norway


Haha, I’m sure Dana left that out on purpose. The story just reads better without that tidbit :)


Obviously your bike ride picture was taken BEFOREHAND! The thought/picture of you licking empty energy powder packets made me laugh. Glad everything else went well!


Ah, that reminds of a wonderful story of visiting Niagara Falls in college with my then boyfriend, now husband, for my birthday. It was March, and I had dressed up in impractical clothing, and it was cold and snowy at the falls. We decided to try to walk somewhere to eat, and it took longer than we thought, and my shoe fell off and my foot went into the snow and I was so hungry and cold and I cried :) Precious memories! haha
Seriously, I’m glad I’m not the only person that does things like forget to eat or not eat when I really SHOULD eat and then regret it later.


Yes, the biking pic was taken on the first half of the trail.


Hangry, I like it! Definitely using that from here on out.


You picked a great place to visit. I live in the Upstate of South Carolina so we go hiking up there all the time, and my parents live in Waynesville, which is very close to Sylva. Next time you go you should visit Lake Nantahala. It’s gorgeous, and really quite. We vacationed there one year and it was bliss.
Our kids like hiking, kayaking, and playing in the mountain streams.


I laughed when you called Sylva “podunk” since it’s SO much better now than when I went to high school there 20ish years ago! I remember a time there before Walmart & Subway even came to town :) I remember it fondly, and we always LOVED Jack the Dipper…glad to hear it’s still around!


This looks so peaceful and beautiful! you must have had a wonderful trip!
well, except for the 11 miles…
I’ve thought of buying the tracy Anderson dvd’s what do you think of them?!


How fun to get a little vacation with just your husband. Sounds like a great trip. Your recount of the bike ride was hilarious!


Your trip sounds great…minus the mountain bike ride! Just curious which Tracy Anderson videos you like. Always looking for a great workout! Thanks!


Wow I like the idea of a trip to the mountains where the air is fresh and you can have the peace and quiet that you desire. However, can I just take a helicopter going there? I am sure that you had a very rewarding trip going there. As for me, it would take practice.


Be proud of your mountain biking experience. I race BMX with the family (our little guy started first, now we all do it), but the thought of mountain biking a narrow trail scares me! Be very proud. That is awesome!


If I’m not mistaken if you drive through Bryson City you’ll eventually reach Cherokee, NC. That is where my husband and I vacation every year with his brother and sister in law. Last year both of my husband’s brothers went with their wives and one of our nieces. We stay at the KOA with access to the river and trout ponds. It is WONDERFUL for families. You can bring an RV, stay in a tent, camping cabins or (my favorite especially while 8 mos pregnant…) the deluxe cabins. You can hike to Mingo Falls (gorgeous!!), fish, they have pools, hot tubs, snack bar, big jumpy thing for kiddos, everyone rides bikes, and the next town over has plenty of restaurants and local shops. I too, am a lover of the smokies. I am looking forward to one last trip before our family of 2 becomes a family of 3!

In the biking world, that is called bonking. It can be very dangerous. Glad you got water and food in time. Next time, eat a good breakfast and take plenty of water/snacks with you.


The mountain we stayed on has its own helipad so, YES!, you can take your helicopter!


Right now I’m doing the mat workout but I did the post pregnancy workout after Mabrey was born. Love them both!


I love them! There’s definitely some nods to dance which is great for me. {I practiced ballet for 10+ years.} They aren’t like anything I’ve done before. Good, good toning.

I loved this- its like a snickers commercial!! [I have a similar story about hiking I blogged about but mine ended in rescuing. boo]


Oh no! Thankfully you were rescued!


Looks like a great, relaxing getaway! Did I miss a link to the cabins? Care to share?


Check the link at the end of the WHERE WE STAYED section.


Looks like a fantastic getaway! I had a similar experience on a hike that ended with me thinking I was going to fall down a mountain and my dog barely being able to walk herself down! I was a bit perturbed and covered in dirt, but we can laugh about it now.

Hi, Dana–WNC is my happy place! Once my hubby gave me a rafting trip for Mother’s Day at the NOC…and when I ate it right at the bridge for all to see, well, I requested a gift exchange. :)

I hope when you plan to visit the area again with your kids you will consider our vacation rental in Waynesville. Very kid friendly! And, there is nary a black bear or plaid in the decor, ha! But it’s also a perfect getaway for two…very private, wink-wink.

Anyway, since you love the area, I’d thought I’d share.


Plus I love a good 50s ranch rescuer. We need more of them, right?


Eeeeeeeeeek! That’s gorge! Forget vacay…when can I move in permanently??