Before I checked in to receive keys for the Golden Eagle Tree House that I had a reservation for, I didn’t realize that they’d be accompanied by a second pair of keys.
“Here’s your 4×4 to get around,” said Chase Goins, the bell captain. The Ford Escape before me came standard to anyone with a reservation for one of the tree houses, since they required a little bit of off-roading to get to their neck of the woods. (I could have had Chase or one of the bellhops give me a ride there, but I opted for the freedom of getting around on my own.)
The Golden Eagle Tree House is just one of the accommodation options at Primland in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern Virginia, a French-owned mountain resort two hours away from Greensboro airport by car. Encompassing 12,000 acres of Appalachian hills and valleys that concealed many a moonshiner back in the day, there’s a lot of ground you can cover on its roads and trails, with said 4×4, your own car (if you drive there), an ATV, or simply on foot with hiking boots — or golf shoes on its world-class golf course if that’s your thing.
Staying in the Golden Eagle Tree House, Primland’s first of three, was as luxurious as glamping can get in a tree, or rather next to one. With its own support structure designed in France, the house and private deck were built around a big branch of its host tree, a chestnut oak, so as not to damage Mother Nature with nails. With that said, I briefly wondered if it could technically be a true tree house given the fact that it’s not perched up by tree branches, but when I took one glance of the view from the deck and saw that it’s situated on a cliff side with the Dan River Gorge below, technicalities went out the window and flew away with the mountain breeze. Splendid red-tailed hawks spread their wings and flew beneath me, rising up with the thermals to my eye level and above. I took a breather, and sipped a glass of Malbec while the sun began to set down the mountaintops.
The sights inside the tree house, while not as awe-inspiring, were also impressive. With wi-fi and a flatscreen television that could be viewed from cozy, cushioned chairs or the comfortable king-sized bed, modern technology was glamping along with me. Add a Keurig coffee maker, mini-fridge, soft, thick bath robes, and even turn down service, and I had all the amenities of a luxury hotel room, just out in the woods, and pleasantly smelling of cedar. Of course there’s plumbing to the tree house too, which allowed me to take a hot bath with a view of the gorge — a perfect moment of relaxation after my active day of hiking, clay shooting, and ATV riding.
While there’s no kitchen in the Golden Eagle Tree House, you can always call in for room service from the main lodge — or as I call it, “tree service” — especially on days when it expectedly snows overnight and you just want to have breakfast in bed. But when you’re out and about in Primland — may it be fishing, tree climbing, kayaking, or participating in one of its main draws, hunting — you can always stop in at the main lodge for a bite to eat. The 19th Pub serves up casual fare — as well as my first taste of Appalachian moonshine — while fancier dining experiences are just across the way at the Elements restaurant. I was fortunate enough to partake in a meal at the Chef’s Table, where award-winning Chef Gunnar Thompson prepared a multi-course tasting menu featuring his classically-trained takes on local cuisine, including pine-roasted rainbow trout with foraged horseradish, hog jowl grits, and blackberry moonshine sorbet. How’s that for Appalachian glamping food?
The main lodge itself is an attraction, even if you’re staying at a tree house, and not because of its pool or spa — although those are definitely highlights, especially the latter. From a distance, the lodge appears to be a big farmhouse or a mill adjacent to a big shiny silo — an architectural homage to regional building styles — but upon closer inspection, the “mill” holds 27 luxury rooms, and the top of the “silo” is actually an observatory dome with a powerful telescope capable of showing stars thousands of light years away. On a clear night, Scott Martin, Primland’s resident Director of Astronomy (yes, they have one) invites guests to explore the night sky and see celestial bodies up close over drinks, proving that when it comes to glamping at Primland, it’s all about the views, interstellar or otherwise.
Back at the Golden Eagle Tree House, as I gazed out at the foliage of the Dan River Gorge with the warmth of the sun on my face, I remembered that the view back down on Earth isn’t bad either.