Sunday, September 15, 2013

Lake Spivey vs Lake Toxaway

This is the second part of my two part series on our trip to the Highlands and Cashiers area of North Carolina.  The first part, Highlands - Cashiers NC Trip can be found here.  It deals with the trip, where to eat, and where we stayed.  Part two is a look at Lake Toxaway and how it compares to Lake Spivey.

You might ask what's the purpose of a comparison between these two lakes.  Firstly, I was struck by the similarities.  Two communities with private lakes of similar size with adjoining secondary private lakes of similar size alongside a golf course.  They each even had their own "Spivey Queen" boat for cruising the lakes.  The Spivey Queen is gone now but Lake Toxaway still has Miss Lucy, a 26 passenger mahogany launch.  A secondary purpose of this blog is to highlight the potential of these lakes, especially Lake Spivey.

A picture of the Spivey Queen taken in the early 1960's
First of all I must disclose that I'm no expert on Lake Toxaway.  I only know about the lake from having driven round it twice, speaking to locals, and what I've read.  Some folks might say that I'm no expert on Lake Spivey either but I think I know more than most residents about the history and administration of Lake Spivey.  I fancy myself as somewhat of an historian.  Susan and I moved to the Lake Spivey area in the Spring of 2004 from Decatur, Georgia.  In the fall of 2007 we purchased a home on Emerald Drive which gave us rights to use the lake.  Since the summer of 2008 we've ridden our pontoon boat, kayaked, and swam in the lake as much as anyone.  The lake is the only place I swim.  In the past year I've swam over 100 miles in the lake training for various triathlons.  Diana Nyad I'm not but I'm proud of my own accomplishments nevertheless.

Of course Lake Spivey is located in Georgia just south of Atlanta.  Downtown Atlanta is 21 miles away.  The convenience of interstate highways I-20, I-75 and I-85 are minutes away.  Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport is less than 20 miles away.  Lake Toxaway is located in North Carolina.  Nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains, the closest metropolitan areas to Lake Toxaway are Asheville, NC and Greensboro, SC which are 50 and 55 miles away, respectively.  So, if you live near Lake Toxaway and need a loaf of bread, you'd better pack a lunch.

Map centered on Lake Spivey, Georgia
Map centered on Cashiers, North Carolina
Lake Toxaway is a private lake advertised as being 640 acres.  Management of the lake is handled by the Lake Toxaway Community Association.  Lake Spivey is also private.  It's advertised as being a 600 acre lake but county records indicate that it is 481.7 acres.  Lake Spivey is managed by the Lake Spivey Civic Association.  Both lakes have an adjoining feeder lake.  For Lake Toxaway it is the 65 acre Lake Cardinal.  For Lake Spivey it is the 70 acre Lake Jodeco.  Both Lake Spivey and Lake Toxaway are advertised as being the largest private lake in their respective state.  You can expect a bit of "puffing" whenever a developer describes a property to a prospective buyer.

Lake Spivey and Lake Toxaway allow power boats.  Jet skis are not allowed in Lake Toxaway.   Lake Jodeco also allows power boats but Lake Cardinal does not.

Calm water on Lake Spivey
A ski boat on Lake Spivey
A pontoon boat tie-up on Lake Spivey
Lake Spivey allows property owners to construct docks and boat houses down to and beyond the water line.  Lake Toxaway also seems to allow this however, I'm sure there are restrictions similar to those on Lake Spivey.  This is different from most other large area lakes which only allow floating docks and restrict tree cutting and brush clearing near the water line. (Many of these lakes are controlled by Corp. of Engineers or power companies).

Susan and Max ready for a boat ride on Lake Spivey
A home and dock on Lake Spivey
One of the community marinas on Lake Spivey
The shoreline on Lake Spivey
Homes on Lake Spivey
A grand estate on Lake Spivey
Notable residents of Lake Toxaway reportedly include several Coca-Cola and Home Depot company executives.  Lake Spivey is home to many Chick-fil-a and Southern Company executives.  Phil Rudd, the drummer from the rock band AC/DC reportedly has a boat on Lake Toxaway.  Phil Ehart, the drummer from the band Kansas recently moved from Lake Spivey.  Rapper and actor Clifford Harris, better known as T.I., still calls Lake Spivey home.

Lake Toxaway and Lake Spivey are neither water reservoirs or used for power generation.  So, as you might expect, the level of both lakes remain relatively unchanged throughout the year in spite of changes in rainfall.  During the 2008 drought in Georgia the water level of Lake Spivey reportedly was three inches below full pool.  Susan and I couldn't tell a difference between 2008 and 2013, a year when we had at or near record rainfall amounts.

Located in the Nantahala National Forest, Lake Toxaway boasts pristine mountain vistas, clear trout filled streams and narrow, steep, winding roads lined with rhododendrons and mountain laurels.  There seems to be very little poison ivy.  Lake Spivey, being so close to a major metropolitan area is more of a suburb of Atlanta with the the manicured lawns and trimmed hedges that these communities bring.  

Annual fees for members of the Lake Toxaway Community Association are around $2200.  The fees for Lake Spivey Civic Association are around $750 annually.  There are similar extra fees for boats on both lakes.   Lake Spivey has an optional $45 fee to fund the 4th of July fireworks show.  Membership in the private Lake Toxaway Country Club is considerably more.

The annual 4th of July Fireworks Show on Lake Spivey
Lake Toxaway has a single community marina for members to moor their boats.  The marina is located next to the country club and The Greystone Inn.  It has slips for about 110 boats.  Lake Spivey has conveniently located Reserved Mooring Slips (RMS) and marinas located throughout the community.   There is an adjacent public golf club, the Lake Spivey Golf Club, but no accompanying accommodations.

The Lake Spivey Golf Club entrance
The Reid Stephens Heritage Park and Wildlife Sanctuary near Lake Spivey
Only property owners may use Lake Spivey.  Only property owners may use Lake Toxaway, and visitors may purchase a temporary membership.  With the temporary membership visitors are free to rent a boat at the marina, use the fitness facilities, play golf, croquet and tennis, plus enjoy the benefits of the country club.

Lake Toxaway has been under development since the 1960's.  The 5000 acre development is still actively promoted by the Lake Toxaway Company and as such it has an active marketing program with accompanying literature.

Lake Toxaway has a Dam to Dam Swim.  Lake Spivey has the Swim Across America.

The Greystone Inn's Lake Toxaway boats - Miss Lucy is on the right
Lake Toxaway marina
The view of Lake Toxaway from the marina
A selfie at Lake Toxaway
The shoreline along Lake Toxaway
Accommodations at The Greystone Inn
The entrance to The Greystone Inn
The view of Lake Toxaway from the water's edge at the inn
The view of Lake Toxaway from the inn
Moss on the roof of The Greystone Inn
The Lake Toxaway marina has slips for about 110 boats
Lake Cardinal which flows into Lake Toxaway
Lake Toxaway at the dam area between Lake Cardinal and Lake Toxaway
A home near Lake Toxaway
Lake Toxaway Company real estate information package
A quick review of the US Census community data for Lake Spivey (zipcode 30236) and Lake Toxaway (zipcode 28747) shows that, with regard to income, the residents of both communities are very similar.  Data from the "2007-2011 American Community Survey" shows Lake Toxaway residents have a median household income of $46,250.  Lake Spivey residents are only slightly lower at $44,099.

So, obviously we like both lakes.  They both have their own appeal, their similarities and their differences.  We're still searching for the perfect place to retire away from the big city.  Lake Toxaway seems to be a place that begs a second look.

Call Susan if you'd like to see any homes in the Lake Spivey or Lake Toxaway area.

Thanks for reading.

See all our pictures here.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Highlands - Cashiers NC Trip

Susan and I decided to celebrate our anniversary in the Highlands and Cashiers area of North Carolina.  I've decided to break this blog about our trip into two parts.  The first part will be about the trip, where we ate and whether we enjoyed it, and some of the sights we saw.  The second part will be about Lake Toxaway, our favorite lake, and how it compares to Lake Spivey.

Lets get started with part one, the trip.  We spent out honeymoon here years ago and have always enjoyed the few return trips that we've taken to the area.  Since our trip was scheduled after Labor Day and before Fall and the changing of the seasons we found the area to be notably unattended.  Instead of leaving Max at home or at a local pet resort we decided to bring Max with us and let him stay at a farm near Highlands.  Loma Linda Farm offers "free-range dog boarding, day care and dog park".

Max sees his first horse


The view from where Max will be staying

Max on the porch knows full well that mommy is still inside

Max performs a site survey

Star waiting for Max to join the fun

Hey!  Do I know you?

After dropping off Max and while in Highlands we ate lunch at Wild Thyme Gourmet restaurant in Highlands.  It is not affiliated with the Wild Thyme Cafe in Cashiers.  Our first dinner in Cashiers was at Chile Loco, a Mexican restaurant which seemed to be the only place open on a Tuesday night.  We found it by happenstance driving around town.  We also ate at breakfast at Buck's Coffee Cafe in Cashiers every morning.  There's also a Buck's in Highlands.  The following days we ate lunch at Randevu in Cashiers and dinner at The Orchard.  On our last day we ate at Buck's for breakfast, and Cornucopia for lunch.  Both restaurants were in Cashiers.  For our last dinner we ate at The Gamekeeper Tavern which is located a few miles west of Cashiers on Hwy 64.

Our favorite place to eat breakfast was obviously Buck's because we ate there three times.  The staff was friendly, the food and coffee were good, and the cafe had lots of comfortable seating.

Our favorite place to eat lunch was Cornucopia.  The food was good, there is indoor and outdoor seating.  This is a popular restaurant so you might find that there's a wait if you go during peak times.

Our favorite place for dinner was The Orchard.  We made reservations for Wednesday night at 7:15pm.  It was good that we did because even during off peak times there was a wait for those diners arriving around 8:00pm.  You shouldn't be in a hurry at The Orchard.  Your dinner experience will likely take almost two hours but the food will be well worth the wait.  The service is friendly and helpful.  It was obvious to us that many of the other diners frequently dined there.

A little about the other restaurants.  Chile Loco had a fresh tasting Margarita that was not too sweet but the food was just your standard Mexican fare.  Randevu was recommended by several people but we were not blown over by it.  Susan's steak salad was mostly iceberg lettuce stems and craisins.  My Ruben sandwich looked perfect and tasted good but the bottom piece of bread was soggy.  The Gamekeeper's Tavern is a beautifully done restaurant situated behind an unassuming bottle shop and deli.  We found the food and service good but very pricey.

Our hotel, the Laurelwood Mountain Inn, is centrally located in Cashiers between Highlands, Lake Glenville, Lake Toxaway, and Whiteside Mountain.  All areas that we wanted to visit.  On previous trips we stayed at Innisfree Inn on Lake Glenville and the Main Street Inn in Highlands.  We also spent a few days at the Days Inn in Clayton, Georgia and two different hotels in or near Asheville, NC during different trips.   Obviously we like the area.  We like the mountains and the pristine environment, the waterfalls, trails, trees and rocks.  It's just a beautiful part of the country.

Laurelwood Inn in Cashiers, NC

The driveway to the Laurelwood Inn parking lot

The common area at the inn

The parking lot at the Laurelwood Inn

Another view of the parking lot at the inn

Our comfortable but tiny room

A water feature on the porch at Laurelwood Inn

The view from the porch at Laurelwood Inn

Downtown Cashiers is very busy and could use some sidewalks

The weather for our trip was perfect.  The low temperatures at night were between 60 and 65-degrees. Coming from Atlanta, it took us a few days before we felt safe enough to sleep with the windows open.  The cool fresh mountain air smelt so clear.   The high temperature was on our first day.  It only reached about 85-degrees.

On Wednesday we decided to do some hiking.  We hiked up Whiteside Mountain twenty years ago so we thought it would be interesting to do it again.  Back in 1993 Susan got stung by a bee.

The sign at the entrance to Whiteside Mountain parking lot and trailhead

We arrived at the trailhead at around 9:00am.  There was only one other vehicle in the parking lot.  Susan and I headed up the trail on the two mile loop.  I sent Susan ahead just in case there were some bears loose in the area.  "Is it safe Honey?  Go a little farther."

The path up Whiteside Mountain

At the top of the mountain there were several places to take pictures.

Susan and I on top of Whiteside Mountain

The trail on the return trip was much steeper and somewhat treacherous.  Fortunately for us it hadn't rained in several days so the trail was dry and not slippery.

Susan traversing the steps down Whiteside Mountain

After the hike we had the opportunity to use the facilities.  These are much like a port-a-let on steroids.  There's a seat fashioned over a hole in the floor over a pool of nasty, funky, and pungent waste.  Susan couldn't bring herself to stay inside.  I did and even took a picture down the "rabbit hole".  Outside the facilities, and all around Cashiers, you'll find bear-proof square metal trashcans.  We didn't see any bears.

The facilities at Whiteside Mountain

From Whiteside Mountain we drove over to Dry Falls.  Susan found these similar facilities slightly more accommodating.

The facilities at Dry Falls

Access to the falls is via a short steep set of stairs and walkway.

Susan descends the steps to Dry Falls

A "selfie" at Dry Falls

Dry Falls

One of the most notable things about Highlands and Cashiers is the lack of trash.  There are no billboards, roadside signs proclaiming "Cash for Junk", "Hail Damage? Free Estimates", or tree cutting services, and no trash.  Another notable difference is the lack of fast food restaurants and the people who patronize them.   Cashiers and Highlands are for retirees, hikers, kayakers, and fisherman.  We saw only two cyclists on the narrow, steep and twisting mountain roads.  This would be a place to mountain bike I'd assume but road biking would be another story.  Cashiers does have an annual century ride in May, the Tour de Cashiers.  Maybe my local bike club, Southern Crescent Cycling, will make this a destination ride next year.

Mountain road lined with Rhododendrons and Mountain Laurel 
I don't know how many miles we put on our car while in Cashiers but I drove a lot.  With our hotel centrally located we hit Lake Toxaway twice, Lake Glenville twice, Mirror Lake and Lake Sequoyah once, the road into South Carolina once, and all points in between.

Our drive back to Atlanta and the reality of life was sobering.  Even though we should have missed the bulk of the Friday noontime traffic, an accident slowed I-85 south to a crawl.  We exited the highway and drove back roads to I-285 and home.

Traffic jam on I-85 south

Thanks for reading.

Part two of this blog will cover the similarity and differences between Lake Spivey and Lake Toxaway.

See all our pictures here.