Weekend escape to Blue Ridge

Michael Ryan is in the apparel business. Back in the 1990s, he helped a retailer open a store in Blue Ridge and, as a thank you, was given the use of a cabin in the area. He took the family -- wife Mary Beth and their two sons --  and they fell in love with the North Georgia mountains. They kept renting houses for weekend retreats until finally they decided to find a place of their own.

“We saw a lot of properties with beautiful mountain views, but they were sitting on cliffs. With a son who was 4 at the time, this wasn’t really an option. This property in Cashes Valley was a perfect fit and we bought it back in September 2000. We’ve been in love ever since,” he said.

What they found: The Ryans bought a spec cabin that was about 70 percent complete. They added granite counter tops and customized the lighting, doubled the size of the driveway, finished the basement and added rock to the foundation. They also bought the lot next door to protect their views, so they have about three acres total.

An easy weekend escape: Kennesaw is home. “My wife and I go up every chance we get. It’s just an hour and a half away, but I feel like I just took a flight to Colorado. Even if you just come back the next day, you feel like you really got away and the time in the car driving up is good quality conversation time,” Michael said.

How they spend their time: “When the boys were younger, it was like going to Disneyland. They rode horses and four-wheelers and we spent lots of time at the lake. I expect as they get older, it will cycle back as they want to take their friends up and hang out on the lake,” Mary Beth said. These days, the family horse is at Adventure Trail Rides at the bottom of Cashes Valley so it gets exercise every day; and they keep a boat at Blue Ridge Lake.

An incredibly beautiful lake: After having boats on Allatoona and on Lake Lanier, Michael said Blue Ridge Lake tops them all. The family has debated off and on about buying a property directly on the lake so they can just sit on the dock with their morning coffee, but when they drive back up to the mountain and enjoy their view, they decide they have the best of both worlds – a 4,000-foot-high perch and a beautiful lake accessible with a 20-minute drive.

A charming town: They love all the pleasures of small town life in Blue Ridge. They spend Fourth of July on the lake enjoying the fireworks and go to the drive-in theater to enjoy a movie and a funnel cake. “It’s reminiscent of your childhood and to be able to share that with your kids is pretty cool,” Mary Beth said. A new shop offering custom blue jeans shows Blue Ridge is getting pretty cosmopolitan, as well.

The final game plan? “Once the kids leave home, we will be spending more than weekends up there,” Michael said. “And we look forward to having them come and visit Grandma and Grandpa with their families one day.”

At a glance: The Ryans' home is a two-story log and siding cabin with a finished basement. The top floor houses the master suite, while the middle level has two more bedrooms, a full bath, and the kitchen, living and eating areas. A family room, bedroom and full bath are on the basement level. “We live outside more than anywhere,” Michael said, and a picnic table on the deck is where the family enjoys most meals. The back side of the house has a deck on all three levels and a hot tub that the Ryans love for the view of the national forests that surround the house.

Getting there

From downtown Atlanta: Take I-75 north to Exit 268 (I-575/Ga. 5 north). It’s approximately 70 miles to Blue Ridge from this point.

Community information

Harry Norman Realtor agent Rachel Callihan said, “Living in Blue Ridge is a refreshing step back in time. Everything from the drive-in movie theater to the restored downtown appeals to both residents and tourists. In fact, the joke among the locals is trying to find a parking space in downtown Blue Ridge on the weekends.”

Callihan said the rental market is booming as well. “I think people are trying to save money, and since we’re just two hours from Atlanta, coming to stay in Blue Ridge gives them the serenity of the mountains in a really convenient location.”

For more information, www.harrynormanblueridge.com or 706-258-8067.

For sale

$139,000: Lot 7 Downy Road, Blue Ridge. A 1.12 acre riverfront lot, approved to build on. Bank owned. Mountain views and 100- foot frontage on Upper Toccoa River.

$1,300,000: Cashes Valley Lodge, Ellijay. Seventeen-acre lot with thousands of feet of trout stream frontage on Fightingtown Creek. Five-bedroom house with six levels of decks. Sixty- mile view of the Cohutta Wilderness Area and bordering Chattahoochee National Forest.

Recent sale

$144,000: 315 Dillons Ridge, Morganton. A three-bedroom, three-bath cabin with mountain views on more than three acres. A foreclosure, sold May 2009.

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