As we drove down Interstate 64 toward Ghent, West Virginia, Tim and I were flooded with memories of the many times we’ve traveled this road before. As a child visiting my grandparents, I became familiar with the landscape, the twists and turns of the mountainous road, the way the river wound along the left and right of the highway as we reached Charleston, the anticipation of arriving at my grandparents’ house where Little Debbies and other surprises waited for me. Tim’s travels along 64 took him to and from base more times than he cares to recall, the long hours logged as he tried to balance military and personal life between deployments and field dates.
But this trip, we were headed for neither of those destinations. Tim’s days of traveling back and forth between base are firmly in the rearview (hooray!), and the house where my grandparents lived was demolished and all that remains is the garage and my grandfather’s “lean-to” he built-a precursor to today’s man cave. No, this time we were headed for an exclusive, invitation-only lakeside retreat we’d been trying to see for years now.
Ghent (pronounced gent, like gentleman), West Virginia is a small community, perhaps best known for Winterplace Ski Resort. A hopping place in the winter, Ghent becomes a quieter place when the snow disappears from Flat Top Mountain. But just as Flat Top Mountain snows recede, the action on Flat Top Lake picks up. Most of the homes, closed after a celebratory Labor Day weekend, come back to life Memorial Day weekend and out-of-towners join the few brave souls who live at the lake year-round. Flat Top Lake was the brainchild of three friends who decided that traveling distances for fishing trips was for the birds. They bought the property, flooded it, and began selling off lots in the early 50s. Flat Top Lake is the highest and largest lake in West Virginia, featuring 10 miles of shoreline. There are 2,200 acres of land around the lake, much of it undeveloped and outfitted with trails created by residents exploring on foot and on ATVs.
Flat Top Lake is a gated community, so staying at the lake is an invitation-only proposition. We were fortunate to score an invite to 75 Laurel View Lane, a beautiful slice of heaven likened to the shire in Hobbiton. The main house is cozy and inviting, with the best “room” being the porch overlooking the lake. If we weren’t on the water, in the woods, or asleep, we were pretty much planted on this porch. It was the perfect spot to chat, read, and nap. The guest cottage was perfect for the two of us: the main room had a sleeping and sitting area with a bathroom and small kitchenette to the side. The kitchenette had a stove top for Tim’s morning tea kettle and a generously stocked mini fridge.
Each morning of our 4th of July stay began with a breakfast prepared to our liking with consideration of my gluten intolerance. Lunch was determined based on our activities for the day, and dinner was always a satisfying affair. We ate like a king and queen the whole weekend.
The activities are a real highlight–we had full access to a jet ski, kayak, and pontoon boat for water activities and access to two ATVs and a side-by-side for land activities. We took advantage of most of these amenities, enjoying flying across the surface of the lake on the jet ski, watching fireworks from the deck of the boat, and exploring the woods in the side-by-side. The dock provided an excellent spot for reading and relaxing with drinks and finger foods in the afternoon.
While it was hard to tear us away from all the fun right at our fingertips at the shire, we headed to Beckley, twenty minutes from Ghent, on Sunday and enjoyed lunch and browsing at Tamarack. Tamarack was built as a repository for the best of West Virginia craftsmanship: art, crafts, books, and homemade specialty food are carefully selected and featured here. It truly is the best-of-the-best–you’ll not find any of the run-of-the-mill crafts you see in your neighborhood craft fair. This is truly artisan-focused. We stopped for a couple hours to enjoy lunch and browsing the juried arts and crafts. There were plenty of things to bring home if we’d had an unlimited budget!
The best part of this exclusive experience were our hosts. Mike, Ann, and Kevin bent over backwards to spoil us as much as possible during our 3 nights with them. Mike and Ann were chefs, guides, and entertainers for the whole weekend. Mike even graciously agreed to get out his guitar and play some songs for us as we sat around the firepit roasting marshmallows for smores under the stars.
Kevin was master of fun, taking us out on the boat, joining Tim for jet-ski rides, and encouraging some serious mudding in the side-by-side. As beautiful as the setting was, we wouldn’t have had half the fun without them. And lucky for us, Mike and Ann (better known as Uncle Mike and Auntie Ann to us) and Kevin are stuck with us since we’re family. And we’ll be taking full advantage of this connection in the future–now that we’ve seen just how beautiful this place is, they will be seeing a lot more of us.
75 Laurel View Lane is truly the perfect retreat for fun and relaxation. We’re so grateful to have finally made the trip, and we already look forward to our next visit to this cozy Appalachian spot.