A former dude ranch in the North Carolina mountains has new life as the Mount Mitchell Eco Retreat. The retreat opened in early October to encourage people to spend time in nature while interacting symbiotically with the land.
Not far from the Blue Ridge Parkway, the 28-acre retreat is surrounded by the Pisgah National Forest and offers views of Mount Mitchell, the highest peak in the eastern United States.
Guests have a choice of 16 nicely-appointed rooms and suites spread across four buildings. Another building, with large stone fireplace, will be converted by year’s end to a community kitchen/dining area for guests to create their own meals. An organic foods market opens in 2022.
Other amenities include fire pits and a healing house. At the healing house, guests book sessions with massage therapists and energy healers. They also take classes on topics like ecology and sustainability. A food forest, greenhouse and meditation garden open next year.
“Our guests have been surprised at how nice we’ve made things on the inside given the eco feel outside,” says Sean Busher, who co-owns the retreat with wife, Heather. “It’s great to have comfort and quality inside and then go outside and be immediately in wilderness. There is not a spot anywhere on the land where you look out and see another structure.”
Busher was born and raised in Charlotte. He started a successful commercial photography business after college and thought that would be his life’s calling.
“I was happy with my career, but also felt, ‘If I just turn this corner, I will conquer this rat race and be able to take a step back,’” Busher said. “And I never seemed to be able to get around that corner. This provides a paradigm shift to get out of the race altogether and do something different and exciting for myself, my wife and our daughter, as well as the people close to us.”
Busher says the location is ideal. It is about 20 minutes to Mount Mitchell State Park in one direction and about 20 minutes to Burnsville in the other direction. The area is home to more than 100 miles of public hiking trails, including the highest trails in the East.
“To be able to stay in an eco retreat and be near world class hiking seems like the perfect fit,” he says. “And it’s nice to be close to Burnsville with restaurants and activities for our guests.”
The dude ranch had been closed for five years prior to the Bushers’ purchase in late 2020. It took a year of hard – but rewarding – work to get it ready for the first guests in early October. A key challenge was adhering to green practices for both the renovation and ongoing operations.
“To flip the switch on bookings recently and be contacted by people who want to come and experience this place that we’ve created, it’s such a joy,” Busher says.
For information about Mount Mitchell Eco Retreat, go to www.MMEcoRetreat.com or call 828-358-4326.