Over the next few months, the Blair staff will be going on their own animal adventures throughout the state, armed with Jennifer Bean Bower’s Animal Adventures in North Carolina. First up: Angela, our VP of sales and marketing, takes us to Hawkesdene House in Andrews, N.C., a mountain retreat where visitors can take a llama trek to a mountain top, discover to a” hidden” waterfall, or pan for gold without leaving the estate.
As soon as I read the first entry in Jennifer Bean Bower’s Animal Adventures in North Carolina, I knew I was going to love the book. Hawkesdene House, described as “a luxurious retreat that encompasses twenty-six acres of picturesque beauty in a scenic mountain valley at the town of Andrews,” was the first to offer llama treks in western North Carolina. After I discovered that this “luxurious retreat” was surprisingly affordable, especially in the off-season, I invited two other couples to join me and my husband, Jeff, at a three-bedroom Robinsnest Cabin for the last weekend in February—and prepared ourselves for a winter mountain retreat replete with llamas!
Although I’d seen pictures of Hawkesdene’s cabins online, I was not prepared for the combination of rugged mountain lodge and luxurious comfort that awaited us. Our cabin featured an enormous screened-in porch with tons of outdoor seating and an eight-person fire pit with complimentary firewood. Did I mention the gorgeous view?
Or that Hawkesdene’s grounds border the Nantahala National Forest with access to a number of hiking trails? Oh, and don’t forget the llamas!
Tempted never to leave the comfort of the cabin, we nevertheless headed out to meet the llamas—Hawke, Dene, Crazy Horse, and Scooter—who are guarded day and night by a loyal Great Pyrenees named Claude. Hawkesdene offers llama treks to the summit of Hawksnest Mountain from April to October, where they then serve guests and visitors a three-course meal at the Hawkesdene Pavilion. Since we visited in February, we hiked to Hawksnest sans llamas. We also enjoyed a two-mile round-trip hike into Nantahala National Forest to a splendid “hidden” waterfall.
Our group visited Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest off the Cherohala Skyway, where we hiked through one of the nation’s last remaining old-growth forests. Many of the trees are over 400 years old, measuring twenty feet in circumference and reaching 100 feet tall (offering opportunities for fabulous photographs). Our winter hike was especially impressive as the lack of foliage revealed the bare bones of the forest, and a recent ice storm caused many of the dead or dying trees to snap, splinter, and fall in fantastic and frightening ways. We felt we had walked into a dystopian novel featuring a dead forest. Warnings to be alert and not to linger under dead or dying trees added to the sense of danger—we even saw shards of splintered wood jabbing out of the trunks of surviving trees, so much was the force of the wind, storm, or breakage.
For more recreational activities around Hawkesdene House, check out Touring the Western North Carolina Backroads by Carolyn Sakowski (the third edition will be published this October), North Carolina Waterfalls by Kevin Adams, Hiking North Carolina’s Lookout Towers by Peter Barr, and Fishing North Carolina by Mike Marsh. Animal Adventures in North Carolina is available at your local bookstores and through online booksellers, and Jennifer Bean Bower has events scheduled at bookstores across the state (visit our events page for an event near you). In the meantime, check out this top-ten list of some of the lesser-known animal adventures in North Carolina. Happy travels!