Cashiers, North Carolina, is not a place you visit only once. For generations, families have returned to the area again and again to enjoy afternoons on the lake, leisurely mountain hikes, and sunsets on the front porch. And now, they have another reason to vacation in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Tucked away at the base of a canyon, Lonesome Valley offers a natural sanctuary of wooded forests and rolling hills spread across 800 acres.
First established by the Jennings family in the late 1800s, Lonesome Valley is now a gated community that appears to seamlessly blend into its surroundings. An emphasis on conservation is at the forefront of the development’s plan, and it was this mindset that first attracted Birmingham-based Merrill Stewart to the community.
“I fell in love with the mountains as a child—the majestic peace, the trees, the trails, ” Merrill explains. “When I found Lonesome Valley, it just spoke to me.”
The community’s agrarian atmosphere, along with its understated approach to living, was what Merrill was searching for in a vacation home to enjoy with his adult children, Merrill III, Chappell, and Julia. His connection to the community’s philosophy seemed only natural since Merrill is president and founder of Stewart Perry, a Birmingham-based construction company with an environmentally-friendly focus. So even before construction on the 3, 100-square-foot cabin began, Merrill was resolute about preserving Lonesome Valley’s natural environment. “It’s important to let the lot speak to you, ” he explains. “We attemped to shape the home to the lot rather than vice versa.”
Ultimately, Merrill succeeded in that attempt so well that it’s hard to determine where nature ends and the cabin begins. He began by utilizing white pines from the home site—which he had lifted out with a crane so as not to disturb the mountain laurels and rhododendrons below—to create the ship-lap wood paneling that lines the interior walls of the home. And he made use of repurposed clear redwood from a 60-year-old water tank he found in Washington to construct the home’s massive doors.
Also important to Merrill was maintaining the casual, nature-inspired syle of the community. Cedar siding on the exterior was purposely given an uneven look as if produced in an old mill.
Inside, the stairs were constructed using the mortise-and-tenon method, an old technique that requires no nails. “You rarely see this construction style used today, ” says Merrill. And while the technique is more labor-intensive, the end result offers the authenticity of yesteryear that Merrill was seeking.
With each element perfectly in place, the cabin now serves as a peaceful retreat. “I wanted to build something multigenerational for our family, ” Merrill says. “I envision this home to be a place that provides decades of memories.”
ABOVE The white-oak flooring laid in random widths throughout the house came from a local mill.
ABOVE The painting above the bed shows “Cow Rock, ” a natural formation that can be seen on one of the granite mountain walls surrounding the canyon.
ABOVE LEFT Most of the repurposed wood doors in the house stand at a majestic height of 9 feet.
ABOVE RIGHT One of the shutters on the front of the house displays a hand-carved logo of the Civilian Conservation Corps. “The Corps was formed during the Depression to provide work opportunities for so many unemployed citizens, ” explains Merrill. “We thought it would be nice to recognize this group and what they built for our country.”
Reasons to Call Lonesome Valley Home
Indulge your Senses Set in the old caretaker cottage, the spa charms with its farmhouse feel. While the setting may be rustic, the service is pure luxury. Open to both property owners and visitors, the spa offers handcrafted treatments using farm-fresh ingredients from the Canyon Kitchen garden. 828.743.0006 • [email protected]
Drop a Line Lonesome Valley offers a fully stocked, trout pond for property owners. ESPN’s “Fly Fishing America” host (and Lonesome Valley property owner) Chad Foster helps manage the property’s fishing holes. For more adventurous anglers, wet a fly on one of the fishing spots along the Western North Carolina fly-fishing trail (There are more than 500 miles of trout streams open to fishermen within a one-hour drive of Cashiers.) For guide services, Brookings’ Anglers, Cashiers • 828.743.3768 • brookingsonline.com
Take a Dip Enjoy a paddle or swim in the crisp, spring-fed water of Long Lake, a 5-acre lake with amazing mountain views. Canoes and kayaks are available at the boat house.
Take A Hike Lonesome Valley offers 10 miles of hiking trails that wind through lush forests and across streams and open meadows. There are also two state parks and two national parks that make for easy day trips for hikes and waterfall viewing. Don’t miss the windy 19-mile route of US 64 for great window views and accessible hikes to waterfalls.
Lonesome Valley is surrounded by one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world, the Southern Appalachians. Geological formations sculpted by natural elements create stunning views from the valley of the canyon. Residents strive to blur the lines between natural surroundings, landscaped areas, and home construction in order to create a more harmonious environment. Fly-fishing continues to be a top leisure sport in the North Carolina mountains. Sweeping vistas and an emphasis on spending more time outdoors mean visitors feel a closer connection to nature.
EXPLORE THE MOUNTAINS
Pristine Golf Courses Though there’s not a golf course on property, golfers can choose from several championship courses nearby.
Downhill Fun Catch the lift at Sapphire Valley Ski Area. Only seven miles away, the property offers intermediate and beginner runs for downhill and snowboarding, along with snow-tubing fun. 828.743.1162 • skisapphirevalley.com
Make a Splash The Nantahala Outdoor Center offers rafting on seven rivers in and around the area. The Nantahala River, a mildly challenging run with class I and II rapids, is only an hour-and-a-half away. For a relaxing canoe trip (or tubing trip), check out an easy float on the French Broad River just an hour away. Nantahala Outdoor Center • 828.785.5082 • noc.com
text by Paige Townley • Styling by Kelly Sorrell • photography by Jim Bathie