In Tennessee, Blackberry Farm Takes Over a Mountain

To get to breakfast at Blackberry Mountain, a resort constructed into Tennessee’s Chilhowee Mountain, you would lace up a pair of sneakers, ideally with rugged soles, seize a strolling stick, and set off on a 1.four mile uphill climb shaded by chestnut oak bushes that culminates on the Firetower, the property’s restaurant (elevation: 2,800 ft) that serves impressed riffs on conventional breakfast dishes — sunny aspect up eggs topped with house-fermented sizzling sauce and avocado yogurt — alongside panoramic views of Tennessee, Georgia and the Carolinas. On the best way, you would possibly go candy-striped mountain laurel (don’t lick, it’s toxic) and jet-black ravens. The journey up takes about an hour.

Or, you would name the entrance desk and ask for a trip in one of many in-house Lexus SUVs. On the best way, you would possibly go golf carts. The journey up takes about 5 minutes (and nonetheless ends with a scrumptious breakfast).

This is one instance of the “choose your own adventure” philosophy of vacationing superior by Blackberry Mountain, described by its proprietor as “your own private national park.” Opened in February, it’s the sister resort of Blackberry Farm, the award-winning bastion of Southern hospitality.

While the Farm, a pastoral paint by numbers with lush inexperienced lawns and white wood rockers, is bucolic bliss, the Mountain, seven miles away within the Great Smoky Mountains, with 25 miles of personal climbing and biking trails, is summer season camp stepped up. Stepped method up: charges begin at $995 per night (for double occupancy, together with dinner and breakfast). The strong slate of actions ranges from sound bathing (a guided meditation enhanced by sonic vibrations) to endurance climbing. While the workers will graciously ship the instruments wanted to make S’mores in your out of doors hearth (they’ll even begin the fireplace), the Mountain’s meals goes effectively past the flaccid sizzling canine and canned beans identified to many who’ve tried to make a dwelling away from dwelling within the nice open air. Up on the Firetower, mussels bathe in a Thai-spiced broth of coconut milk and ginger; down on the Lodge, the Three Sisters restaurant serves tandoori rooster atop a mattress of tart cherry studded cauliflower rice.

This is how I ended up shooting clay pigeons next to Mr. Zimmern, though he required less help than I, a firearms novice taken under the wing of a very kind instructor named Caleb, who smiled and told me to “just shoot when I say ‘bang.’” The next day I shifted gears, attending a restorative yoga class with Ms. Favia-Erickson. We held pigeon poses and supine twists for long, languid stretches; an instructor with svelte arms and a soothing voice weighted down our limbs with strategically placed sandbags and described the class as “a guided nap.” “You can’t add wellness to your body,” Ms. Favia-Erickson said afterward, as she brewed a pot of her Napa-grown lemon verbena tea for the group. “You have to do it from the inside out.”

“Wellness” has become a buzzword in travel, applied to hotels, resorts and retreats. Blackberry Mountain lets guests decide what wellness means to them. “Some people might want to do three classes every morning and hike to lunch,” Ms. Beall said. “Some people might do one. I can’t wait until I have time to exercise all day long for three days, to not drink and feel so clean and amazing, but I also love the more balanced, realistic idea of, ‘Let’s get some exercise done in the morning, I’m going to eat a great lunch, I might have a glass of wine in the afternoon, and then I might do a cocktail clinic.’ It’s a mix. People can take it for what they want.”

While Blackberry Farm includes breakfast, lunch and dinner in its daily room rate, the Mountain’s includes breakfast, dinner and most classes (alcohol, at both resorts, is charged by consumption). This, according to Hall Mebane, one of the 21 fitness and outdoor adventure guides employed by the Mountain (he specializes in rock climbing) is what sets the two resorts apart.

“When we say ‘wellness,’ we mean mental and physical wellness,” he said. “Everything on the Mountain is meant to get you into a state of well-mindedness. Food at our restaurants is healthier, it’s meant to be fuel for you to re-engage in activity,” which need not mean breaking a sweat (although the state of the art fitness center and curious class offerings like cardio drumming and suspension Pilates make a good case for doing so). One of Ms. Beall’s priorities, in developing the Mountain, was to build an artist’s studio — her mother is an artist and never minded paint on anyone’s clothes. The Mountain offers classes in disciplines like painting, basket making and hand-thrown pottery.

“That’s part of wellness: taking time away from our devices to use the other side of our brain to engage in creating something,” said Ms. Beall. (The popularity of the pottery class may have had unintended side effects. During the April house party, a guest passed around a phone showing an Instagram post of the glossy, artfully imperfect bowls a friend made during a recent stay: “Look how cool they turned out, and they’ll pack and ship them home for you, too!”)

In 2001, Mr. Beall, a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef, took over management of Blackberry Farm from his parents, Kreis and Samuel E. Beall III (the elder Mr. Beall is the founder of the Ruby Tuesday chain of restaurants). Having attracted world-renowned chefs and the foodies who follow them to the Farm, with the Mountain, he and Ms. Beall sought to create a similar kind of haven for wilderness lovers. She never imagined doing it without him, but after Mr. Beall died in 2016, at age 39, following a skiing accident, Ms. Beall, a mother of five, felt compelled to see her husband’s vision through.

“I joke, but not really, that if I hadn’t had to get up and get dressed and go to a meeting about Blackberry Mountain, I don’t know what would have happened to me,” she said. “Figuring out the layout, the restaurants, the activities — it was a way for our whole team to honor Sam but also to say, ‘This is such a crazy idea, Sam would’ve loved it.’”

That’s how the 1.4 mile hike to breakfast came to be. Intrepid guests staying in the six Watchman cabins by the Firetower can kick off their stay with this uphill climb, though they’d do best to let an SUV transport their luggage. Most of the property’s 22 other cottages and multi-bedroom homes are within striking distance of the Lodge, and can be reached in a few minutes by foot or golf cart, which are swifter and quieter than standard models (they don’t beep when backing up, so as not to disrupt any quests for mental wellness).

Other parts of the property reflect Ms. Beall’s eye for design and knack for anticipating what guests want. While the Farm’s style of décor is Southern Plantation home meets French country estate, with worn wood, heavy drapes, and leather bound classics lining the shelves, the Mountain’s is decidedly more modern. Grays and blues instead of maroons and golds. “The Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall Street” instead of “The Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson.” Organic Himalayan pink sea salt popcorn in the complimentary mini bar instead of potato chips and pimento dip. A room at the Farm might include one of Mr. Beall’s hardcover cookbooks; at the Mountain, every room comes with a pocket-size guide to flora, fauna, and “how to enjoy the mountain.” (“Step 1: set your intention.”)

Some design touches from the Farm translated to the Mountain, like the heated floors in the bathroom and the framed painting that hides the television — it’s on a pulley weighed down by a hunk of Tennessee field stone, a trick Ms. Beall learned from her mother-in-law. “Sometimes, during the planning of this place, I’d be the only woman in a room full of men, with all of them going, ‘But where’s the TV going to go?’” she said, rolling her eyes.

In Ms. Beall’s ideal world, the painting wouldn’t move. The idea is for guests to spend less time watching television in their rooms and more time out on the mountain, mingling with their fellow campers, building connections that will last after they leave. Two of mine have: Ms. Favia-Erickson, an Indian food fanatic, happened to be in Los Angeles, where I live, in late April and joined my husband and I for a home-cooked Indian meal (made, I confess, by my mother-in-law).

And while exactly none of Mr. Zimmern’s clay pigeon shooting skills rubbed off on me, we bonded over something else: the sauce that he put on top of his Patagonia-caught salmon at dinner on Saturday night, a piquant, mouth-numbing flurry of flavors so memorable, I had to ask him what it was. A week later, I had a bottle of his Minneapolis restaurant’s Sichuan peppercorn-flecked Mala sauce on my doorstep. (It’s being carefully rationed.)

“When you connect people with a common interest, it’s magical,” Ms. Beall said. “That’s our goal with the Mountain: how can we create more magic for our guests?” Hiking not necessarily required.

Sheila Marikar, a writer based in Los Angeles, is at work on her first novel.

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