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Published: October 22nd 2019
When life starts to feel suffocating in a small town, you have no choice but to pack up and leave town for a few days. With our daughter starting kindergarten this year and our son in the midst of his second year of preschool, our little family was definitely feeling more than a little stressed and overwhelmed. Add to that the fact that we’re currently living with my in-laws while we renovate a family home, and we were almost begging for a change.
While our schedules don’t always allow us to get away for the weekend, I noticed that everyone was free last week. We could have stayed home, slept in late, and enjoyed a lazy few days together but I knew that we needed more. We needed fresh air, creeks, streams, mountains and animals. In other words, we needed to head west.
I searched for hours for somewhere to stay, and I was coming up short at every turn. Everything I found was either too expensive, too bland or too far away from the places we wanted to visit. We had our sights set on the area near Galax, Virginia. It was about a three-hour drive from our
hometown of Wallburg, NC and there was a family fall festival coming up that looked like a ton of fun.
Finally, I found it. A rare spot opened up on an online rental agency due to a last-minute cancellation by a guest. It was for the Dream Rock Silo in Independence, VA. A short 20-minute drive from Galax, it looked like an absolute wonderland on the computer.
The story went like this: Karen and Bill, a retired couple from Florida decided the Sunshine State wasn’t for them. There was too much sun and too little to do. So, they packed up and moved to Virginia, looking to settle down and put down roots in the gorgeous, undeveloped wilderness that defined much of the state. Along the way, they found parcels of land that almost fit the bill but weren’t quite right.
Then, they found it: Two acres smack in the middle of a 350-acre spread owned by Charlotte Hanes of the Hanes family legacy. Her husband had recently passed away and she asked for one year before making a decision to sell. In the meantime, Karen took a rock from the farm and wished on it, hoping
her dream would come true. A year later, Charlotte sold them the land and Dream Rock was born. That rock now has a permanent place in the couple’s mantle.
They spend six years turning a dilapidated barn on the property into the home of their dreams. Now, they live on the main level. They rent out two gorgeous rooms in the lower section, along with the ultra-special silo room that goes all the way to the top!
I clicked “Reserve” without hesitation and prayed that I wasn’t going to be catfished. Nothing can be quite that beautiful and majestic, can it?
When we pulled up at Dream Rock, I audibly gasped. It was absolutely beyond my dreams. Nestled by a creek that Karen and her sister lovingly restored, it was the picture of perfection. Meeting us on the sprawling front steps, Karen welcomed us in and took us on the tour. It took an hour for us to see everything, as she and her husband, a professional cabinetmaker with a full-scale workshop in the basement, had put so much thought into every nook and cranny of the house.
We stayed in the Rustic Rooster Room and
had an absolute blast. The kids loved the amazing Murphy beds that pulled down from the wall while my husband and I appreciated the repurposed slab of walnut that she’d turned into an in-suite coffee bar! The room was spacious, immaculate, and everything we needed.
The first morning, we made coffee in the room and let the kids play in the stream. They got absolutely disgusting with mud, but my heart was so happy. The last time they were that free and fun-spirited, we were in New England, two years ago. We’d driven up to New Jersey, parked in Newark
, and flown to Maine. We’d stayed in a little house in Bar Harbor and spent a week just adjusting to life as a family of four.
Since then, we’ve grown a little, moved two times, and are still trying to adjust, one day at a time.
The good news, though? You can’t stress about school or work when you’re cleaning mud off your shoes! We drove into Galax and let them have at it. They bounced in the bouncy house, devoured hot dogs, played with other children and rode the train around downtown.
When we’d had our fill
of the festival, we ventured over to Grayson Highlands. There was a thick cloud of fog obstructing our vista view, but we changed into our hiking boots and took off anyway. Although the kids were more interested in counting rocks and skipping than actually hiking, it was an afternoon I’ll never forget. We even encountered the Highlands’ famous wild ponies on our trek! They’re scattered around the countryside and we were hoping to run into a few! The kids named them Black Beauty and Merrylegs because we’d just finished watching the movie at home!
We ate dinner at a great pizza restaurant that evening and headed back. When we arrived at Dream Rock, Karen had started a bonfire. We sat around the fire and had the time of our lives talking to her and Bill, along with her sister, son, niece and great-nephew. I’m normally a little shy when it comes to striking up a conversation with strangers, but they were so accommodating and kind and all-around fun that the conversation flowed and we stayed out there for hours! They even let the kids throw some extra kindling (cabinet door remnants) on the fire, which delighted them to no
That next morning, we had to pack up and leave. At the risk of sounding or looking too sentimental, I tried to restrain myself from showing Karen how much the weekend had meant to me. I swallowed back tears as she let the kids pick the garden that morning, and gather the eggs. I didn’t waver when she gave them each a stuffed chicken and told them they’d always have a place there. I also stood strong as the kids splashed in the water and sat on the bridge one last time, talking about everything under the sun and giggling together.
But then, Karen hugged me and I fell apart. I didn’t realize just how much we all needed that time away, and that time together. I was beyond thankful to her family for welcoming us with such open arms. We arrived as mere strangers but left more like kinfolk.
On our way out of the state, we stopped for one last celebratory meal at one of our favorite breakfast spots, Shatley Springs. We enjoyed a delicious, warm brunch before hitting the road back to North Carolina. It was a long way back filled with too
many bathroom breaks, meltdowns, and whines, but I took it all in stride.
Ultimately, that only proved one major point to me: There’s beauty in breaking away from the norm. When we let ourselves discover something new and we aren’t afraid to step out of our comfort zones, we can reach heights we never thought possible. Then, when we climb back down into the valley, we can carry that mountaintop experience with us, conjuring it into memory whenever the days feel too long.
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