Oh, what a beautiful morning as I stared in wonder at Mount Mitchell’s snow-covered peaks.
The view from our cabin said it all: Oh, what a beautiful morning as I stared in wonder at Mount Mitchell’s snow-covered peaks. We had come for spring break but found ourselves in the midst of a winter storm advisory as we drove into North Carolina. While our kids had thought they’d like to go to the beach, Mom and Dad had something else in store for them: A three-night stay at Clear Creek Guest Ranch in Burnsville, N.C.
I’ll admit the kids were skeptical at first; almost didn’t believe it. But when they saw me packing our bags with jeans, rain gear and boots, they knew we weren’t heading to the ocean. By the end of our stay at Clear Creek Ranch, they would be waving good-bye sentimentally, memories of wondrous trail horse rides, family dinners with new friends and … yes, snow. It was April … come this month at Clear Creek, families will be tubing it down the French Broad River.
A Warm Welcome
After our three-and-a-half hour drive from Nashville, we were happy to be at the ranch at last – all 58 acres of it – within the lush Piscah National Forest in the Blue Ridge Mountains – filled with unknown expectations. Top of my list? Would I fall off a horse?
We were welcomed at the main lodge – a gorgeously large cabin boasting a wide, large fireplace merrily crackling away. The lodge is where meals are served family style – and here’s a real boon: I didn’t have to cook, and we had three delicious home-cooked meals each day at 8 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. sharp. An over-sized dinner bell on the lodge’s front porch rings out 15 minutes prior to each meal time so you can come a-runnin’!
Our cabin was lovely and spacious with three bedrooms to accommodate all six of us. Any thoughts our kids had of a summery beach spring break quickly dissolved when we learned that snow was expected for the next three days! Good thing I’d brought some gear!
The kids dove into the heated pool on the ranch grounds while I got us oriented in the cabin, and soon enough the bell was ringing for dinner. It’s at mealtime that you meet the other guests on the ranch – including the delightful owners, Rex and Aileen Frederick, who realizing a dream, started the ranch at 57 years of age and are true horse lovers and just all around good people.
Many families come for a full week, others a few nights like us. You can eat with your family or spread out, and we were delighted right away to have two of the cheerful wranglers (real cowboys!) join us for supper – a mouth-watering display of barbecued chicken and ribs, corn bread, mashed potatoes, coleslaw and other trimmings. Meals are filled with variety and are truly delicious – especially the desserts!
So you get the idea of the meals; everything else is structured around them. After breakfast, there’s the first morning hour-and-a-half trail ride or you can opt to go on a hike or other activity. There’s also a mid-morning trail ride and later, a two-and-a-half-hour ride for ages 12 and older that has riders crossing a fairly deep river. And about that horse worry of mine? It was quickly put to rest. The ranch assesses your horse expertise in a questionnaire before you arrive so they knew I needed GENTLE. And I bonded with Captain, my strong and brave old steed almost immediately!
He would be my horse for each and every ride. My family loved riding on the gentle trail horses and we even got to trot and canter. It’s fun to tap into your inner cowboy – and during the snowfall it was a majestic sight indeed to be riding high in the mountains, shouting “Yee-haw!” to another trail ride winding around on the mountain lower than us.
Family activities and children’s programs abound at Clear Creek. From horseback riding, nature hikes and hayrides to fishing, tubing, white water rafting and steak cookouts, you’ll never be at a loss for fun. Since it was snowy and cold, we didn’t have the water fun that summer ranchers enjoy, but we did visit a gem mine, hiked to a waterfall, enjoyed a night of karaoke, roasted marshmallows, lost pitifully at bingo and played cards together without the interruption of cell phones, computers and video games.
The most unusual and eagerly anticipated kids activity is the horse painting adventure. The big gray mare – Bertha, who lives at the ranch – loves children and loves to be painted; it’s a Tuesday activity Bertha looks forward to!
Other activities at the ranch include square and line dancing, golfing nearby and relaxing in a hot tub after a long day’s ride. Clear Creek Ranch was the perfect spring getaway for my busy crew – one we’ll never forget – even as the summer beach trips blend together!
Susan Day is the editorial director for this publication and the mom of four great kids ages 15, 13, 11 and 6.
If You Go …
Clear Creek Guest Ranch
100 Clear Creek Drive
Hwy. 80 South
Burnsville, NC 28714