Hiking NC, Mountains to Coast

North Carolina’s hiking system is extensive, and its renowned Mountains-to-Sea Trail (or MST) is well-maintained and scenic, attracting millions of residents and visitors alike to its over 1,175 miles of diverse, picture-perfect countryside each and every year. From Clingman’s Dome, high in the Smoky Mountains at the North Carolina/Tennessee border to the path’s official end-point of Jockey’s Ridge of the Outer Banks – the highest sand dunes in the state – the trail is broken down by segments of 36 – 90 miles in length, which vary in difficulty from Easy to Strenuous.

Trail Segments

Some of the more interesting of these hikes traverse southern regions of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Piedmont, Coastal Plain and Highlands ecosystems, as well as wildlife refuges and various historic towns and other areas throughout.

  • Segment 17: Down East North Carolina / 48 miles / Easy

Stretching from Morehead City to spectacular Cedar Island Ferry, this trail explores the Inner Banks, Croatan National Forest, Cedar Island national Wildlife Refuge and marshlands of eastern North Carolina. Several small fishing towns along the way including Smyrna, Davis, Stacy and Williston offer stunning views of the bays and wetlands of the area.

  • Segment 6: The Elkin Valley / 67 miles / Easy to Strenuous

This tranquil segment of the trail stretches from the hills of Pilot Mountain State Park to Devil’s Garden Overlook in Stone Mountain State park, the latter area being one of the most strenuous segments of the entire Mountain-to-Sea Trail. Here you’ll find waterfalls, trout streams, the 1,600-foot peak of Wells Knob and Surry County’s historic town of Rockford, with additional, optional excursions including a paddling route from Elkin to Pilot Mountain and Stone Mountain horse trails.

  • Segment 2: The Balsams / 61 miles / Strenuous

The remarkable changes in elevation within this unique segment mean some portions of the trail are steep, difficult and more remote than other areas. The trail itself, interestingly, only crosses a paved road 7 times along its length. Since almost the entire trail is on federally-owned land (Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests and the Blue Ridge Parkway), little to none of this pristine area has been developed. Hikers enjoy views from Waterrock Knob, popular Skinny Dip Falls, and beautiful Graveyard Fields, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

  • Segment 11: Neuse River Greenways & the Let’Lones/ 65 miles / Easy

This relatively easy walk follows the Neuse River as it approaches Raleigh from Falls Lake Dam, past the city and on towards the Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center, in the southeastern corner of Johnston County. The popular hiking route, lined with descriptive signs of local surroundings, including wildlife, crosses back and forth across the Neuse River several times and offers wonderful views of the entire floodplain. Since the entire route is paved, it’s also a great pathway to explore either by bike or by foot.

Get Involved

Officially a part of the State Parks System, specific stretches of the trail are maintained by different agencies, local governments and communities, land trusts, volunteers and private individuals. To get involved in or to provide a donation toward the effort to help take care of or continue expanding the historic route, contact the non-profit organization Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail at any of the venues or events found here – https://mountainstoseatrail.org/get-involved/

For more information on how to find the trail, what you’ll see along each segment, and how to prepare for your trail hike, visit either of the very informative sites below –





Adding Some Warmth to Your Backyard or Patio

One of the most wonderful things about living in our state is the climate: an eternally blue sky, more sunny days, generally speaking, than not, and cool Carolina nights. We all enjoy spending time outdoors, and for some this includes hanging out with family and friends around an outdoor fireplace or firepit after the sun goes down – the perfect sort of relaxing end-of-day ritual.

Whether your dream outdoor fireplace is a traditional above-ground firepit or a more imposing stone fireplace with its own hearth, chimney and seating area, an ideal design is as much about adding a welcoming focal point to your back yard as it is about creating an actual source of warmth or light. An outdoor fireplace or firepit also allows us to enjoy our outdoor living areas for a longer period of each year than we may otherwise, giving a great reason to spend more time outside our homes in even the chillier fall and winter seasons.

The firepit or outdoor fireplace of your dreams

The options for an outdoor fire feature are truly endless and depend, for the most part, on budget, style of home and/or yard, space allocated for the outdoor firepit or fireplace, and amount of effort the homeowner is willing to put into maintaining and operating it.

A chiminea, affordable and portable, is a freestanding clay or metal fireplace with a round, bulbous base, a vertical chimney, or stack, and a large rectangular opening in front for adding wood. The chiminea creates a great deal of heat, and because of this, it is sometimes used not only for heating purposes, but for cooking as well. Due to its very vertical design, a chiminea is usually considered a much safer type of fireplace than a firepit, as smoke and fire are directed up and out in a more controlled burn than what a standard firepit can provide.

A traditional firepit, the most popular type of outdoor fireplace, is available in a variety of shapes, sizes and features.

The most common type of firepit is wood-burning and portable. The flickering light, crackling sounds and scent of smoke created by a wood-burning pit provide an ambience that is similar to that of a campfire, which, for most people, is the perfect addition to a warm summer or cool fall evening. The downside of a wood firepit is the fact that it must constantly be fueled with wood, cleaned and kept dry – chores some homeowners would rather forego in favor of a less labor-intensive firepit design.

Propane or natural gas firepits offer all the convenience and ease of use that a wood fireplace does not. Propane firepits, traditionally made of such materials as copper, faux wood, glass or stone, are portable and compact. Natural gas units require the addition of a permanent, natural gas line to your backyard or patio, but once a line is installed there is no chance, ever, that your firepit will run out of fuel. A propane or natural gas firepit is ideal for a homeowner who appreciates the convenience of being able to turn the pit on or off as necessary, and to transport it from place to place with ease.

An outdoor fireplace can add a dramatic focal point to a patio or backyard that otherwise might not be used to its full extent. The variety of designs for such a structure range from a more traditional, freestanding brick fireplace to an additional full-fledged outdoor area featuring fireplace, tables, chairs, kitchen and grilling area, and even artwork. Contemporary or rustic, simple or ornate, an outdoor fireplace can provide an interesting and inviting outdoor setting that not only provides heat but is perfect for entertaining and relaxation, too.

When all is said and done, the warmth and glow of a firepit or outdoor fireplace will provide enjoyment for most homeowners for years to come.

For some inspiring outdoor fireplace design ideas, check out –


The great debate: fireplace vs. firepit



The Ins and Outs of Purchasing an Investment Property

Investing in a property for rental or resale isn’t for everyone, but for those who are savvy about real estate (or, at least, willing to put in the time to become educated), know how to market a property effectively, can afford the financial investment, and have the means to maintain the property, the financial rewards may be great.

Why invest in real estate?

One of the most tried and true techniques, of course, when it comes to investing is the concept of diversification. By spreading financial resources across a range of investments, potential long-term financial risk is lowered. Real estate is often a strong component of a well-diversified investment portfolio. Property prices, too, tend to appreciate, generally speaking; a higher resale price or rental yield is an immediate gain for a real estate investor, whereas increased equity in the property will allow the owner to use that higher value to maybe purchase other investment properties or make improvements that will even further grow the property’s value. Finally, by purchasing an investment property, an investor is also purchasing a future, stable income stream; between 1997 and 2007, interestingly (go to https://www.investopedia.com/articles/mortgages-real-estate/11/key-reasons-invest-real-estate.asp), almost 80% of total real estate returns was due to income flow (property rent) vs. capital value returns. Income return in the form of property rent has been and will likely continue to be a very stable and attractive investment option.

What types of property do investors typically purchase?

When most people start thinking about purchasing a property for rental or resale, they think of a house, a vacation home or a fixer-upper. However, there are actually a variety of investment property types that, depending on the investor, his/her finances, and the economy, are appealing in a variety of ways. Several of the more common types of investment property are listed below.

  • A single-family investment property is a house or condo purchased specifically with the intent to rent it out to one sole renter, or to sell it. The goal, of course, is to purchase a property that is as undervalued or reasonably priced as possible with the greatest potential to either lease or sell.

The benefit of purchasing a single-family investment property over other types of investment properties is the fact that they are usually more affordable than other types of properties, and for first-time, more cautious investors in particular, this does make the choice seem just a bit safer. On the other hand, flipping a property – purchasing it, improving upon it, and re-selling – can be somewhat risky, especially when the buyer is not experienced in renovating a property or when the economy goes through downturns, making the home difficult to sell or rent out in the end. Finally, there are losses associated with a rental property that is left vacant for any period of time; even though no rent money is coming in, the mortgage, property management company, taxes, etc. on the property all still need to be paid.

  • A second home or vacation home is a house, condo, cabin, chalet, etc. that is purchased with the intent of renting out to multiple individuals over a period of time or as using as a family vacation property that is sometimes rented out when the owners are not themselves using it.

The additional income from renting out a property when it might otherwise sit vacant is a very positive thing, although, on the contrary, if the property is purchased specifically with the intent of leasing it when not otherwise occupied by the owners, the challenge of finding renters when demand may not be high due to weather, the economy, or something else might be too great for some investors.

  • A two- to four-unit house or building, or small multi-family investment property, is another common type of investment property for those starting out in the world of real estate investing. Since there is almost always a demand for housing, no matter what state the economy is in – all people need a place to live, after all! – vacancy issues for a property purchased in the right location and rented at a reasonable rate are unusual, as long as no more than one unit sits empty for any period of time. Despite the fact that building and property maintenance is a more major consideration with multiple units, and a higher than expected rate of turnover might have more a more serious impact on profits, the purchase of a small multi-family property is another very stable investment.
  • A retail investment property, for more affluent, serious investors, is a property that is made up of one or more retail businesses – a restaurant, clothing store, theatre, and/or shoe store, for instance – in one location. Typically, tenants sign long leases, creating stability for the investor(s), but there is some risk in the fact that long-term success overall of the retail property is closely tied to the health of the economy.

Which type of investment property is right for you?

As with any sort of investment, real estate investing involves a certain amount of risk-taking and a great deal of consideration given to A) the affordability of the property; B) the investor’s budget; C) the ability of the investor to secure financing for the property, if need be; D) the location of the property; and E) the amount of effort the investor is willing to put into marketing the property and maintaining it for its tenants. Any purchasing decision, whether it is to buy a home or condo for rental or re-sale or a commercial retail property for long-term revenue, should be made only after consulting with a competent financial advisor and experienced real estate agent.

For a complete list of income-producing property types: https://www.thebalancesmb.com/types-of-investment-properties-2124869

For more information on the benefits of investing in real estate:


Exploring the Caves and Caverns of North Carolina

May 20, 2019

The incomparable natural wonders of North Carolina include an astounding number of caves, grottos and caverns – over 900 of them! – dotted throughout the mountainous western part of our state. Although most are remote and often off-limits to visitors, several are suitable for exploration, including the largest of these: Linville Caverns.

The Art of Spelunking

Spelunking is the general term used in the U.S. and Canada for the sport of exploring caves. With levels of activity ranging from light (simply viewing a cave or cavern by foot) to strenuous (which may involve the use of ropes, lighting, special footwear, helmets and harnesses), the pastime is becoming increasingly popular as more and more people are seeking out new types of outdoor thrill and adventure. Although the experience of exploring such a diverse ecosystem may be difficult for some individuals with fears of enclosed spaces or darkness, for others spelunking is a challenging, educational and fun activity unlike any other.

Caving involves walking, climbing and sometimes crawling through a cavern or grotto along trails that can extend for a matter of feet or a matter of miles. Formed over the millennia by the flow of water as it runs, generally speaking, toward the sea, the walls of these caverns are often made of materials such as limestone and gypsum – substances that dissolve or erode over time in the presence of water. Incredibly, a space no wider than two or three feet may take over 100,000 years to develop.

Safety and Spelunking

Whenever there is activity involving exploration of the unknown, there is the risk that some people may venture outside the bounds of what is safe, or not utilize the proper equipment, or fail to pay attention to safety signage or tour guides. Small injuries – twisted ankles, scratches, bruises or scrapes – are not unheard of in the world of spelunking, as is the chance of getting disoriented or lost for those who push forward, unprepared, into a place in which directions are not always clear and a lack of light sometimes plays games with shapes and shadows.

The most important piece of equipment in caving, without a doubt, is a good source of lighting. As a rule of thumb, most spelunkers bring a minimum of three times the amount of lighting that they THINK they will need on a cave trek, in the form of headlamps, lanterns, flashlights and glow sticks. Night vision goggles, binoculars and monoculars are other items that are very commonly used, as are two-way radios, ropes, climbing harnesses, helmets and sturdy, waterproof boots.    


Stalagmites & Stalactites

In many caves, physical structures called speleothems – stalagmites and stalactites hanging down from above or extending upward from the ground in all sorts of other-worldly shapes and colors – grow together into vast, eerie columns stretched out between the floor and ceiling. Other interesting structures a spelunker might encounter include vertical flowstones with such odd terms as shawls, curtains, and “cave bacon” (sheets of stone formed of mineral deposits as they flow down the walls of a cave, often in varying shapes and colors); pore deposits such as cave corals (chalky and white with a surface that resembles popcorn); and pool deposits like lily pads or cave pearls, which are formed when glossy calcium salts build up around a nucleus. The variety and composition of speleothems within a cave system vary greatly.

Linville Caverns

It wasn’t until the early 1800s that a fishing expedition on Humpback Mountain, in North Carolina’s High Country region, discovered a small opening that opened up into a large recess we now know as Linville Caverns. One of the fishermen, likening the enormous space to an underground cathedral, described it as having a delicate lightness that was both miraculous and beautiful. Today, guided tours along lighted pathway systems provide a safe and educational experience for visitors seeking to learn more about the history of the region and appreciate some of Mother Nature’s most pristine works of art, including the “Bottomless Pool” and streams populated by the same species of native trout that original explorers discovered over 150 years ago.

Learn more about Linville Caverns here: http://linvillecaverns.com/






Exploring the Caves and Caverns of North Carolina


How to Wow Potential Buyers

Any homeowner looking to sell wants to make sure their house is in the best possible condition when it goes on the market. Not only does this mean checking off all the traditional items from a seller’s to-do list – applying a fresh coat of paint, cleaning carpets, pressure-washing driveway and decks – but also thinking a bit outside the box in terms of enhancing curb appeal and making it easy for buyers to imagine themselves living happily ever after in your beautiful home.

Getting Your House Ready to List

As you prepare your property to sell, it’s important to remember that there will likely be other homes on the market similar to yours and that are competing with yours for potential buyers’ attention. A home that looks well-maintained and tidy, both online and in person, will do as much to attract buyers as the amenities of the property itself.

Consider the following tips to help your house make the most favorable first impression.

  • Clean up a messy, neglected yard. Imagine driving up to a house where grass is knee-high, bushes need trimming, mulch is old, tired or non-existent… Curb appeal suffers tremendously when the exterior of a home is not up to par. A first view of a home where the landscaping, driveway, and/or lighting shows neglect may tell a potential buyer that the rest of the home may be run down as well, killing that buyer’s enthusiasm to tour the property before they even enter the home.
  • Banish the clutter. Whether inside or out, an excessive amount of “stuff” is often a deal-breaker for anyone who’s trying to imagine themselves living in your house. Too many photos and personal items may also call too much attention to current property owners’ families, pets and past. De-cluttering and de-personalizing a space go hand-in-hand in making your home as appealing as possible to buyers.

De-cluttering can be a daunting task, yet there are plenty of small businesses that focus entirely on home organization, trash removal and storage. Sometimes a homeowner may not wish to part permanently with personal items, in which case a storage unit may turn out to be the best solution, at least in the short run.

  • Apply a fresh coat of paint, inside and out. Most buyers are seeking a move-in ready home. A house that is in obvious need of painting may be a huge turnoff to a buyer who doesn’t want to have to deal with such a large project so soon. Inside, neutrally-colored walls look great in photos and may make rooms look larger or brighter, while outside, curb appeal is greatly enhanced by a freshly painted exterior.
  • Hire a handyman to take care of any small repairs. Dripping faucets; burned out light-bulbs; cabinets that don’t close properly. These are some of the details buyers will notice as they walk through your home, mentally comparing your house to all the other homes they are viewing. It will be well worth the effort to make a list of any repairs, small or large, and hire a handyman or plumber to help out on whatever tasks require a bit of extra time, effort or expertise.

Sprucing Up Your Home by Staging

The decision to purchase a house is as much an emotional decision as it is a practical one. In a competitive real estate market, it’s important, once again, that the property looks as amazing as possible by the time buyers start viewing it. Appearance needs to be flawless – or as close to flawless as possible.

The visual psychology of prepping a home for sale is as critical as anything else. Once a buyer says to him or herself, “I could live here…” then they are already mentally starting to make that possibility a reality. The goal of staging is to make the home as impersonal yet attractive as possible through a process of de-cluttering, rearranging furniture, displaying colors that are warm, neutral and inviting, and making sure lighting is clean and bright. For some, the payoff for styling a home with a professional stager is well worth the extra expense.

Tips for the Day of Showing or Open House

  • Leave the premises. A homeowner who is present during a showing or open house can make buyers feel uncomfortable or crowded.
  • Make sure potential buyers will have plenty of time to roam through your house and won’t feel pressured to show an immediate interest.
  • Set the thermostat at a comfortable temperature, particularly on very hot or cold days.
  • Create a welcoming atmosphere by making sure the house smells pleasant, clean and fresh. Strong air fresheners, candles or spray perfumes are distracting or may simply turn off certain buyers who are allergic to or don’t care for certain aromas.
  • Turn on lights in each room or open blinds or curtains to let in as much natural light as possible, but also to highlight certain outside features or views.
  • Set a mood by leaving a fire in the fireplace, turning on soft music, or leaving a plate of cookies or finger sandwiches as an additional welcoming touch.

For more tips on preparing and staging your property to sell, check out these informative sites.





Historic 1800’s Southern Plantation Home for Sale

This Historic 1800’s Southern Plantation Home on 12+ acres has been Respectfully and Lovingly Restored with Modern Amenities. It is located in a Country Farm setting just minutes from Historic Warrenton, and Convenient to Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Rocky Mount, and Roanoke Rapids. Currently a successful Income Producing Wedding Venue & B&B, this 7000 sq. ft. Manor House with 7+ bedrooms would also make an impressive private residence. Horses Welcome! Limited Owner Financing available. Call for Details!

Magnolia Manor Plantation For Sale

It doesn’t happen often that a unique property with a sterling reputation and proven business income becomes available in our area. When that property includes 13 acres, a restored and updated plantation house that dates originally to the early 1800s, several original outbuildings, a pecan orchard with 21 mature trees along with a variety of other trees, and a magnificent showcase Magnolia tree, it is truly a one-of-a-kind offering. The Magnolia Manor  could be your primary residence if the business wasn’t part of your dream.

Magnolia Manor Plantation is a rare gem. Known as a charming Bed and Breakfast, and operated since 2003 by the current owners, the distinctive property is also a premier wedding and event venue in the

Piedmont area, consistently winning awards for its “barn weddings.” However, the sophisticated charm and stunningly beautiful setting of this Warrenton property belie that description. No matter. If you are interested in further exploring the possibilities of Magnolia Manor Plantation, please contact us at your earliest convenience. 

Contemporary Wedding Trends

Outdoor weddings, particularly those that combine rustic elements with traditional romantic trappings, are all the rage. A recent article in The Atlantic notes that in 2017, 15 percent of couples planning to “get hitched” chose a farm or ranch for the event, and flocked to local barns throughout the nation for receptions that combine both rustic and upscale elements. 

It’s a trend that continues to grow in popularity, according to online wedding authority. The Knot, a popular digital magazine and wedding planner, insists that traditional venues are losing their appeal. In the search for personal expression, meaningful individuality and trendy themes, what has become known as “rustic chic” is at the top of the list. Part of the appeal is the juxtaposition of natural beauty and timeless tradition as exemplified by worn woods, soaring spaces, weathered beams and earthy accessories that can be brought together in a barn setting.

One explanation is the immense popularity of outdoor ceremonies; retreating to a barn for dinner and dancing eliminates the need for a ballroom and, essentially, tosses old “rules” out the window. While beautiful gowns and formal wear are still the choice of most couples, a barn wedding is as likely to feature bare tables and wildflowers as formal table setting with candles and exotic centerpieces. There is a more relaxed vibe. Crystal, engraved menus, white tablecloths and tiered wedding cakes can give way to Mason jars, chalkboards, homespun and pottery, and cupcakes with ice cream.

A barn wedding doesn’t necessarily spell boots and denim or polkas and square dancing, but it does tend to put all ages at ease, and prompts wide smiles on the faces of all guests! Millennials, in particular, gravitate to the inherent informality of a natural, sometimes folksy setting, even though rustic does not equate to cheap!

North Carolina Barn Weddings

Our state, with its varied terrain and unique historical sites, offers great options for outdoor weddings, from the beach to the mountains. There are also many choices available for a rustic-themed celebrations.  

The barn at Magnolia House Plantation, however, is not your typical red barn with an overflowing hayloft. In fact, you won’t find hay bales anywhere on the property, and there are no farm animals in residence.

What there is, instead, is a choice of distinctive ceremony sites scattered throughout the acreage.

Couples can choose to exchange vows on the front porch of the manor house, in the orchard, under the spreading boughs of the Magnolia tree, or elsewhere — on a secluded rise with only lawn and sky for a backdrop. Receptions are most often held in the Carriage House Pavilion, known as “The Barn,” complete with a wooden dance floor and a bar setup contained within an adjacent silo. But, again, there are options.

That’s just part of what makes Magnolia Manor Plantation appealing.

Wedding packages at this historic venue traditionally allow use of the home’s interior spaces for changing rooms or for overnight guests, and the grounds are available for wedding and engagement photographs. 

Looking Ahead

The reputation and future potential of this year-round business are intertwined with the property’s appeal as a wedding venue, but it is equally suitable for other types of celebrations and corporate events or just call it home. A cadre of trusted and cooperative vendors is available to transition to new ownership and to building ongoing relationships. 

If you are interested in further exploring the possibilities of Magnolia Manor Plantation, please contact us at your earliest convenience. Opportunities like this never linger long on the market. $985,000!

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