Moving to the Hemlock Inn

I know you’ve been waiting for the rest of the story. I had to wait until I really felt like I knew how to tell it, to explain the enormity of it.

Our house is for sale. The clothing line will be closed at the end of the month and Brett* is walking away from his business in CA.  We are selling almost everything we own except for sentimental family items.

And at the beginning of the summer we will be moving from the California desert (with population 600,000+)…..2,159 miles to Bryson City, North Carolina (population 1,500)….to live at a small, country inn.

It’s a story that starts 35 years ago, when my grandfather first visited the Hemlock. As a family, we visited the Hemlock in 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, and 1983.  We stopped going after my grandmother died, but I always thought about it.  Our stays at the Hemlock were the only vacations I really remembered as a young child.  We’d gone to Disneyworld, the beach….all the usual stops….but none of those created the vivid memories like the Hemlock did.

Fast forward 30 years, to last summer.  Boo and I were flying back to the east coast to visit my family in Charlotte, North Carolina. I really wanted to do something different with her and the first thought that came to my mind was the Hemlock, only I didn’t know if it was still there.

I looked up the Inn and was surprised to learn, not only was it still there, it was still owned by the same family.  I made reservations for Boo and I….my mom, sister and my brother’s family too.

In July, driving up the long winding driveway to the Inn I didn’t know what to expect, and it was like I was driving into my past. I had so many images in my head, but childhood memories can sometimes be like little warped vignettes.  As we pulled into the gravel parking space, right up front, it felt like I was coming home to a place that had been secretly pulling at me for years.

Moving to the Hemlock Inn in Bryson City, NC via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo

I felt a shift in me at the Hemlock last summer.  I asked (jokingly at the time) if Mort would rent me a cottage for a few months the following summer so that I could finish up a book I’ve been working on.   On the plane ride back to the desert I pulled out a book that turned out to be the last book my dad was reading before he died (another long story). As Boo slept next to me, I wrote in my journal:

Journal 8/21/13 – I’m dreading going back to the desert. My heart was left somewhere between the Hemlock Inn, Linville and Charlotte.  But what would we do?  Where would Sienna go to school? Where would we live? God, please give me some answers. Help me see the direction you want me to go.

It must have been obvious, because when Brett picked Boo and I up at the airport, the first thing he asked was “you didn’t want to come home did you?”

Back in the desert, life went back to normal but I kept thinking about the inn. I kept in touch with Lainey and Mort every so often. I found Boo playing Hemlock Inn with her Barbies, she had named Barbie and Ken, what else but: Lainey and Mr. Mort.

Around October, I got an email from Lainey:

Lainey: Dear Sweet Ashley, You have been on my mind lately. Have you sold your house yet? Ha. No pressure. There is a log cabin for sale on the property next to us (that we used to own). I may send you a picture of it. We also will likely have the little cottage in the woods available. It is a cute one with 2 bedrooms. I am still dreaming…and scheming! Ha.  Around October,

Me (literally a few minutes later): Crazy. I was JUST thinking about you!  That’s so weird….seriously…..we have been talking about moving back to NC one day. There is a property for sale next door to my mother. What are the schools like there? Sure send me some photos.

Lainey trekked out in the rainy, cold weather to snap a few photos.  I showed them to Brett and his reaction was: Is there an outhouse to go with it?!




I didn’t want to lead Mort and Lainey on so as exciting as it all sounded, I told them to not count on us staying for more than a few weeks during the summer.  It was fun to think about, “dreaming and scheming” as Lainey would say, but there were too many things holding us back.


Then November rolled around, and all those things holding us back seemed to miraculously resolve themselves.  It felt like we were being shown over and over that the Hemlock wasn’t just a big dream, it was meant to be.  Then one day:

Brett: I am okay with moving.
Me: You ARE?!  Me too! Whoa. I’m think I might hyperventilate. I’m calling Lainey RIGHT NOW…..before you can change your mind.

It was in December that I called Lainey.  I told her that I wanted to explore options for living at the inn. Lainey said she couldn’t believe that I had called, because of the timing.  Mort was discouraged and wondering what the future was going to be.  We’d talked before about how much times had changed and small inns were struggling.  How does a small, rustic inn survive in a modern culture like ours?  How do you convince a world that craves new things, more things, accumulation to choose simplicity over technology and extravagance?  I didn’t have all the answers but I did know that I had this clear vision of a thriving Hemlock. I just had the gut feeling about it. I’ve stayed in lots of places over the years, inns, historic hotels, B&Bs all over Ireland and Scotland, but the Hemlock is different for some reason: it’s as if it has a pulse.

As we discussed options for living in one of the cottages I explained that we didn’t want to just live there, we wanted to help out. Maybe Mort and Lainey could let us have honorary “assistant innkeeper” titles when they needed us to. We didn’t want to be just guests, we wanted to immerse ourselves in the beating heart and inner workings of such a place…because when I’m there I feel like the Hemlock represents all that is right in this broken world we live in.


There was just one small hitch in the whole plan….Brett hadn’t yet been to Hemlock Inn or Bryson City.  He was going off of photos, stories and Boo’s new memories. He said, “I trust you” but I wanted us to make the decision together and in order to make such a huge commitment, we needed to visit as soon as possible….so we flew mid-January to the Hemlock.

We knew that the inn would be closed the weekend we visited but Mort and Lainey welcomed us into their home (with fresh cookies out of the oven!)  We talked for hours and hours by the fire about dreams for the inn and what our life would be like living there. We visited the elementary school and were greeted by, “oh yes, Lainey stopped by yesterday to let us know you might want a tour.” We drove all over Bryson City, touring and talking to locals, looking for things like the post office and the hardware store, envisioning what our life might be like there:

Small Town Life: Moving to the Hemlock Inn in Bryson City, NC via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo


And of course we looked for the obscure backroads too:

Me: Stop!  Look at those old gravestones!
Brett: You know why I love exploring with you?
Me: Why?
Brett: Because you choose all the places….you can find stuff in the middle of nowhere. And I just get to experience it.

(the memory I have of taking the above photo is me lying down in a graveyard while a woman stared Brett down in our rental car)

Long story short: Brett was sold.  He loved the small town of Bryson City. He loved the Hemlock. And he loved Mort and Lainey.


So now our house is for sale. I discovered flowers and a heart this morning left by the sign by a friend. I’ve been slowly selling almost everything in it….except for sentimental items I’m keeping for Boo, and of course my millions of books.

Brett: So I guess I need to hire movers just to move your books cross country?


A close friend recently said to me: I know you aren’t related to the innkeepers, but the way you talk about it, it’s as if the Hemlock’s DNA runs in your veins.  You need to go and tell the story.

I want to tell the story.

So we are moving to the Hemlock Inn for a year, maybe more. We have no plans for life beyond the Hemlock yet.  We will be living on the grounds of a small inn where guests come and go.  Mort says I will be the “writer in residence.”  I like that.  I am a story teller, so I’ll be telling the stories of our life at a 1950’s motor inn and small town life through writing, photography and film.

We’ll be living in a small cottage called the Woody cottage….that has a whole story too….but I’ll get there.  I’m excited to redecorate the cottage and make it our own.  Boo is more excited to renovate the treehouse that Mort and Lainey’s boys grew up with.

Boo, Brett and I will be eating most of our meals at the Hemlock and it will give us a chance to meet new people and hear their stories.  Mealtime is one of the highlights at the Hemlock: breakfast is at 8:30am and Dinner is at 6:30pm every night except Sunday, and you know it’s time because there’s a dinner bell, usually rung by a young guest.  All the guests eat together at large family style tables with lazy susans in the center, and only after a short blessing is said. I can’t wait to sneak into the kitchen to share some secrets and maybe learn to cook a dish or two myself….or even just how to cook in general.  Everything at the Hemlock is made from scratch. The inn even makes its own breadcrumbs….I thought breadcrumbs just came in a can. See how much I have to learn?

The Hemlock Inn - The Place with the Lazy Susans - Bryson City NC Smoky Mountains via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo

Because things move slowly at the inn, we’ll have plenty of time to explore the surrounding area and really immerse ourselves in the small town life.  The Cherokee Indian Reservation is only a few miles away.  Maybe I can finally meet Princess Patty again. Deep Creek will be visited often.  There’s hiking, fishing, tubing and kayaking.  The Tuckasegee river runs right through town and the Nantahala Outdoor Center is nearby. Fontana Lake and Dam are pretty close. Brett will be exploring the mountain biking scene (we made sure to meet the owner of Bryson City Bicycles when we visited in January).  I’ll have fun making detailed maps of my obscure, eclectic local road trips…looking for things to photograph and explore…because those are the best kind.  I want to plan on having workshops/retreats on writing, blogging, photography…..all things creative.  Boo wants me to recreate the treasure maps that Mr. Shell, Lainey’s father, used to make for me when he was the innkeeper years ago.


It can be a little scary stepping out onto such a new path, but at the same time I think we are rewriting everything we’ve ever been taught about success and what’s important in life.  We are moving our daughter from a wonderful private school, from every opportunity in an affluent town, to a very small town with very little industry outside of tourism. But for so long I’ve felt caught in this conflicting world of messages, I’m breaking free for good.  Part of a prayer of confession in church one Sunday not long ago:

…we are bound to the regimens of calendars and limits of bank accounts…

The message was about being open and saying yes to where you are being led.  Making our own lives available to others.   Making our world a little smaller and become increasingly un-attached to things, all the while connecting ourselves to something larger. There’s that saying: truth which is told is quick to be forgotten, but truth discovered lasts a lifetime. I think that’s the best education we could ever give Boo. I want my child to become faithful in the little things, so that one day she will realize those little things are really the big things. I’m on a mission to engage myself deeply with the world, and to teach her (and Brett, a willing participant) along with me.  Boo asked me last night if she could have an iPad….I told her she could have snowshoes instead. She liked that idea. She’s never seen a leaf change color, witnessed a change in seasons, or even worn a winter coat. It will be a whole year of firsts. Boo said visiting the Hemlock was her favorite part of the whole summer.  Now she’ll be living there….and it will be part of her DNA too.

Moving to the Hemlock Inn - Leaving our current life for a new one at a small Motor Inn in Bryson City, NC  via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo

I’ve always wanted to live in a small town with lots of places to explore nearby.  I’ve always wanted to have small, intimate workshops and retreats…and the Hemlock gives me an instant venue to work towards that.

The Hemlock isn’t for everyone.  The rooms are simple and rustic, no TV or phones.*  Guests might have to share a dinner table with a family they don’t know (yet).  There’s no spa or room service.  It’s a rustic, country inn.

*There’s WiFi in case of emergency.  How would I blog and share without Internet?

But the Hemlock, with 26 rooms nestled on a mountaintop, and 57 acres overlooking the often “smokey” valley, sets itself apart from the expensive vacation spots we are sold 24/7 on the TV.  The Hemlock is a special place, an unchanging retreat from a changing world. Time stands still. You forget to count the days.


You might be wondering what Boo thinks about all of this.  We were nervous to tell her because she loves her school and her friends. I finally found the perfect chance when we were watching an episode of the Waltons one night:

Me: That looks kind of like the mountains of N.C., like where the Hemlock Inn is.
Boo: It does.
Me: What would you think about moving to the Hemlock Inn?
Boo: Would it be like we are trading our life for the Waltons?
Me: In some ways.
Boo: Do I get to ride a schoolbus?
Me: If you want to.
Boo: Then…..yes!


I hope some of you will come and stay, visit for a while.  Enjoy the view and southern, home-style cooking.  Boo will be directing Hemlock “summer camp” I’m sure.  We are looking so forward to changing leaves and snow as well.  Brett will probably be building something, conquering the bike trails, or fishing:


“Many of us would probably be better fishermen if we did not spend so much time watching and waiting for the world to become perfect”
―A River Runs Through It


And you’ll probably find me right on the front porch:


You can find more photos and stories I’ve written about the Hemlock at the following links:

The Hemlock Inn

Joyful Simplicities

Where We Forget to Count the Days



A few helpful links:

Bryson City & The Smoky Mountains



P.S. If you love books about small town life, read the Bryson City Tales.  It’s a true story written by a young doctor’s first year of medical practice in Bryson City.  The Hemlock Inn and the Shell family are part of the story.  A fun read.  There are 2 follow up books to it as well: Bryson City Seasons and Bryson City Secrets.

 *Note: Mr. LBB will now be Brett.  We felt it was better to make that change so you get to know him a little better over time.  Boo is still Boo.



  1. Stephanie says

    This is so amazing. What a wonderful experience for Boo to have – what a wonderful experience for you all! Enjoy it!

  2. shannon says

    Sounds like your dream coming true! :) so happy for you guys! We live in a small town and it is great. Close enough to a big city but farm land all around. Can’t wait to read your journey and adventure!

  3. says

    I just cried so many happy tears for you. This will be one amazing journey for you and your family. Your curiosity is so inspiring. I was sold on visiting the Inn one day but I will surely visit this summer now!! I’m in Raleigh:) Happy packing!

  4. says

    That is so wonderful. I love that you and your family are doing this. When you write that book, I want to be one of the ones first in line to read it!

  5. Kinsley says

    I fell in love with the Hemlock Inn by way of your blog last summer. So excited to hear that you will make it your home. Now even more reason to make the trip from GA to NC. I’ve already asked my mother and sister if it’s too early for us to make reservations :)

  6. Christie says

    I couldn’t read through this post fast enough….yet I didn’t want it to end! What an incredibly exciting adventure….but to think…this isn’t just a week long adventure–it’s not a vacation–this is the life you are creating for your family!! After your visit to the Hemlock and your blog about it, I immediately did a search and dreamed of vacationing there. No phone or tv? No problem! I believe there are many families out there who long for this kind of experience (and maybe this kind of life??) And I bet with you living there and writing about it you will draw more families to this beautiful place.
    I was waiting for you to mention that you’d be homeschooling Boo for this year of change at the Hemlock. :) I am so glad you are sharing this adventure with us.
    Now I’m going to dream of selling “stuff” to live life!
    Congratulations and may God bless you each step of your journey!

    • says

      I agree! I think there are more of us than we know about :) We aren’t planning on homeschooling at this point….but never say never! Boo is just so excited to have a playground and a school bus to ride. We’ll see how long that lasts!

  7. Courtney C. says

    I’ve lived in Charlotte for the past 17 years and I never tire of the beautiful North Carolina mountains. And, now that I have children, it is a whole new world in exploring the beauty there.

    My kids (7 & 8) dream of living in the mountains. Lucky Boo!

    Congratulations and welcome home!

  8. says

    What a wonderful experience. I’m looking forward to reading all about it. This is exactly something we dream of doing one day. Maybe that one day will be soon. Congratulations!

  9. Cindy Cookson says

    You are so inspiring! And I’m envious Brett is an eager participant. I started reading your blog when I lived in Asheville, NC. We’ve since moved, and I miss the Blue Ridge Mountains immensely – we were avid mountain bikers, so let me know if Brett wants some beta. I can’t wait for the next chapter in your family’s story!

  10. Lori says

    Every part of me says, “you will never regret this.” Your family will be such a blessing to each person that visits during your time there! Thanks for sharing!

  11. Samantha says

    This actually brought tears to my eyes. So inspiring! So happy for your family! Best wishes for a wonderful move and journey to come! I live near Charlotte and can’t wait to visit myself and experience all the wonderful things you have said about Hemlock!

  12. Ashli Hall says

    Its like a romantic love story! I really feel like you should make a movie about it. I too would love to simplify and slow life down to teach my daughters what is important in life. I will be keeping up with your family so post often!

    Best Wishes!
    Ashli Hall

  13. Tessa says

    This is incredible. I sent you an email yesterday and commented on a post a few weeks ago about our house burning which has put my family out of our house for the next few months. I feel so connected to you (is that weird?). I live in Spruce Pine, and all the surrounding areas you are mentioning are all places I’ve grown up visiting. Western NC is the most beautiful place on earth. Seriously. We get to experience four true seasons. Boo will love the leaves changing in the fall. And snow!!! Parkway driving is an activity in itself. I’ve lived in the area for 25 years and am still exploring new trails, waterfalls, and areas. I’m so happy for you and your family. People. Family. It’s what it’s all about.

    • says

      There’s so much to explore! And yes Boo is so excited for seasons. The desert is so beautiful but she misses a lot of experience too from it. Thank you!

  14. Elizabeth says

    I was sad, when I read about you selling your house, your business, everything, and I wondered what your next step would be. When I read this, it all makes sense. I think of all of the posts you have written about the Hemlock Inn and the way you write about it is almost magical. I have never met you, but I can tell that this is 100% the right decision for your family. You mentioned that you want to finish writing a book at the Hemlock – what type of book is it and will it ever be published? Because you have the most magical writing style. I could read what you write for hours, it is beautiful and descriptive and it comes alive as I read it. Good luck to you, Brett, and Boo on this next step of your journey and may it be as wonderful to you as I believe it will.

    • says

      Thank you! Well, it’s non-fiction and it’s obviously been in the “writing stage” for a few years haha. Hoping now I’ll just focus and finish! It changes length all the time so I’m not sure if it’s one book or more than one. We’ll see…. and if no one wants to publish it when I’m done then I’ll just print it myself by hand on the old printing press I’ll buy….tutorial?

  15. Mary W says

    What an amazing adventure for your family! There is something special about those Blue Ridge Mountains. You need to drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway while you are there. It winds along the tops of the mountains all the way up into Virginia and you can’t beat the scenery, especially in the Fall. Good luck as you get ready for your big move!

  16. ali says

    I was so hoping you were going to say you were moving to NC (fellow Tarheel here), but thought…No way! This is so way better. I am beyond excited for you all. And how awesome is your husband??!? I don’t even know you and I’m grinning from ear to ear. You can come home again! :-).

  17. Michele says

    This post is by far my most favorite I’ve ever read from you! I cried years of happiness & excitement for this next stop on your journey. You are an inspiration on so many levels. The Hemlock sounds magical, a place a would love to bring my family to experience. I feel you & your amazing family are going to breath new life into this awesome place. I can’t wait to hear all about it.

  18. Crissy says

    Ashley, so excited for you. I’ve often felt the same. When you posted picks of the inn last year all I could think of was wow I want to go and teach my kids. Now hopefully I can and will finally get to meet you. As everyone else I have followed you for years and you have become a part of my life. Can’t wait to meet you!

  19. Kim R says

    I am so happy for all of you. What a great adventure. I have always loved the Hemlock Inn from my days at Western Carolina. Now I really have an even better reason to visit. Best of luck to you and I look forward to reading more.

  20. randomsideizzie says

    So excited for you and your family on this next adventure. I have a special place in my heart for The Hemlock Inn. We stayed there a few times, but our first visit was the most special – my husband proposed to me on a nature walk around the property. For as “simple” as it seems, The Hemlock Inn is one of the best places I have ever stayed. Best of luck!

      • randomsideizzie says

        I would love to read them! Our meal companions there had the best stories – each year we were always excited for breakfast and dinner (I mean, the food was excellent, but the conversation made it).

        The Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee has a “Pfister Narrator” who does exactly this. I think you’d make a great Hemlock Inn Narrator. :)

  21. Leigh Anne says

    How wonderful this path The Lord is leading you on! Your courage to take this leap of faith is inspiring! I look forward to following along :). And I hope to visit there some day……sounds beautiful……like life on rewind ;))

  22. Tara S says

    LONG time reader, first time commenting. I love everything about this post. I am so moved by the risks and choices you and your family makes. It is very inspiring. I wish you, Boo and Brett the best of luck on this next adventure. (So funny your wrote the comment about calling him “Brett” at the end. As I was reading the post I was totally thinking about it)

    I just told my husband I would love to vacation there. I would be honored to meet you in person. Funny how I feel like you are a close friend because I know so much about you but you know nothing about me, hehehe. Funny how the blog world works like that.

    Random note…..we are bringing my two kids to Disney World next week for the first time. I am doing a count down with my 4 year old daughter, Grace. I painted the wooden princess peg dolls from your post and I am giving her one princess a day. Today she got her first Princess (Rapunzel) and LOVED it. She seriously held it the whole entire day. I got tears in my eyes when she was proud telling her friend, “my Mama maid this for me!”. Thanks so much for the inspiration.

    • says

      Hahaha….I first wrote the post with “Mr. LBB” and it just didn’t wound right! I asked Boo if she wanted “Boo or Sienna” and she said it didn’t matter to her. So I’ll keep it until she asks one day. I think it’s better if people come to the inn they feel like they can say “Brett” and not “Hey Mr. LBB”. Hope you get to come and visit! I just hope everyone is completely disappointed when they see how normal and down to earth we are. Just normal, everyday peeps. I LOVE the idea of the princess a day. So cute!

  23. april says

    So happy for you all. When read your post about staying at the Hemlock last summer I thought what a wonderful place. I looked it up and have been thinking about planning a trip there one day – I am in Oregon so it will have to be planned a bit. I look forward to reading posts about your life and adventures there.

  24. Pamela Zwieg says

    This is so exciting for you and your family. Way to follow your heart and your dreams. I’m so glad you will continue to write and blog, I so enjoy your heartfelt posts. :)

  25. Bindu says

    this feels like a crowning glory of sorts :) last summer we breezed through Asheville, N.C. and soon after that you wrote about this dreamy starry place. It pulled a chord within. i added the inn to my “some-lovely-day” list. now, i am going to add a few stars to the entry!

    so happy for sweet Boo … witnessing seasons change will bring and add so much!

    you continue to inspire just by doing what you do …
    love and hugs!


  26. Grace Quijano says

    I have read your blog for a while and I’m always sharing all that you write with my husband and for some reason you are always in my mind, I admire your courage, your enthusiasm, just the way you handle everything in life and the way you look at it is wonderful. I wish there were more people like you to change this world around but for now Im just happy to know that you are achieving what your heart desires and for going where God takes you.
    You are a total life changer and you have help so many of us with your words and shared experiences.
    The best of the world for you and your family!!!
    God bless you always Ashley!

  27. Tamzen says

    WOW! What an unbelievable post! I’m so thrilled for you, and yet it feels like something in a book or movie. I’m a longtime reader and no I’ve never commented. You challenged me today to break out of my shell and actually comment. :) There has been such a change in you since your Dad died and the cancer. I guess rightfully there should have been. These changes have been so awesome to see. Then to read your posts about how you were in college and your corporate self. WOW! God has great things planned for you. I can’t wait to read about them. My family is moving in a month (we live in Sicily, Italy) back to the good old USA. Maryland to be exact. We will be exploring the east coast and I would love to come experience the Hemlock Inn and meet you. That has to be strange. The thought of meeting people that you’ve never met but already know so much about you. Kind of creepy. I guess that is how celebrities feel!

    • says

      Yay for commenting! It lets me know someone is actually reading all of this 😉 Wow that is a big move back to Maryland! My mother grew up in Nanjemoy. I hope to make it up that way too.

      • gina says

        Nanjemoy?? Holy crap!! I grew up just around the corner from there – small world!

        Best of luck on this exciting journey! Would it be weird if I came to the Hemlock Inn just to meet you?=)

        • Megan says

          SMALL WORLD! My family lives right down from Nanjemoy, though I’m now in LA. Congrats on finding happiness and simplicity!

  28. Georgia says

    Woah! How cool! I never saw that twist coming! :) I can’t wait and if we lived closer we would totally come!

  29. Cathy says

    Wow oh wow!! Congratulations to your entire family. What a wonderful adventure you are all starting. As they always say, God does move in mysterious ways!! God bless! Hemlock Inn, what a beautiful place to raise your daughter!

  30. Tracee says

    What big news!! I’m excited to follow along in this journey. What will Brett do for work when you move?

  31. Anne says

    I thought it might be missions, too. But then I also Googled the Hemlock Inn last week to see if it was for sale. :) What a great adventure; I can’t wait to read about it!

  32. Meghan says

    I just love North Carolina. My daughter is stationed there so I visit often and many places in that state just tug at my heart string! My husband and I are always looking for new, off the grid, places to stay while we are there. We may have to check out the Hemlock next time!

  33. CINDY cochran says

    I will buy any book you write and more for my friends and family! I am excited for you and your journey, maybe I will see you sometime in NC, I live here too!

  34. Morgan says

    Oh my gosh Ashley! That is so awesome! I have to tell you this story: you have enchanted me SO MUCH with all your tales of the Hemlock Inn that I tried to book my family’s annual Memorial Day weekend trip there this year. Of course it was too late and a wedding had booked the whole lodge for the weekend – just my luck. When I called I spoke with Mort and he immediately asked if I read Lil Blue Boo, and spoke fondly of you. He tried to accomodate other weekends (which I couldn’t work with thanks to so many family members already having off that weekend), then gave me recommendations of other area lodging. When I told my co-planners (mom and aunt) about our conversation, they immediately wanted to book for MD 2015. I so hope to meet you then!

  35. says

    I plan on heading down to NC on vacations sometimes and will DEFINITELY come by the Hemlock Inn!!!!! Can’t wait for you to begin this journey, it seems so RIGHT!!

  36. Maria Clara says

    Hi Ashley, i have never write before in your blog, this is the first time, and since i discovered you i haven’t stopped reading everything, i even started my journaling and you helped me in the most dark time in my life (since 5 months ago, now i am better). I am in the process of rediscovering myself, i am 26 years old and i can say that i rediscovered the meaning of choosing joy from you. You have touched me in so many ways. I hope that someday i can be as true as myself as you are, that i can be as creative and adventures and real as you are. You have inspired me.

    I know from the bottom of my heart that you and your family are going to enjoy and share amazing memories in this new place. You even make me want to spent some time there, or have the opportunity to live some months there.

    I ask God the opportunity to go to one of your workshops (or all of them :) ) and provide me with the money and the time to go and live that experience with you and learn and share time together (since i live in spain). Thank you for sharing your journey with such an open heart and with the respect and love that you do.

    I wish the best to you and your family.


    • says

      I’m so happy about the journaling Clara! It helped me so much too….and really at the same age you are now is when I really became religious about it. Maybe you could just host a workshop in Spain one day and I’d come there 😉

  37. Tracey says

    That is wonderful news!!! I had a feeling…

    I’ve been a regular reader here for about a year. Led here by a craft project and stayed for the inspiration and your interesting observations on life!

    Your post on the Hemlock Inn was one of my favorites. It really spoke to me, and I totally get how magical a place it must be for you.

    I totally admire your courage and sense of adventure to follow your heart and make this move. What a wonderful thing for your daughter to experience, and for your family to share.

    We may end up there this summer, either just my family of four…or maybe my big extended family. We’re looking for a reunion spot!

  38. Cami says

    I’m so excited for you! When I read this, I got chills and it was like someone was saying yes, this is exactly what is soposed to happen. You guys are going to have so much fun in the mountains! We try to make a visit to the North Carolina mountains when ever possible. There is something about them that just feeds the soul.

  39. says

    I have been reading your blog for several years now, but I have never commented on anything. I think this decision is going to be a life-changer for you all. My husband, our children, our business partner and his children all live at a lodge. Ours happens to be in Panama on a remote island, but the interaction with guests as you have described it is about the same. I am sure you are excited about the experience and the owners of the Inn seem to be thrilled – and you all should be. I imagine it will be richer and more rewarding than any of you have dreamed it will be. Enjoy the time and all the joy that flows from it.

  40. Kimberly says

    This is an exciting news that you and your family is starting a new chapter! I am from a small town Boiling Springs NC….When you go to a food store, you don’t run in and get something…you always bump into someone and chat a bit! I do have some wonderful friends that live at Bryson City. May God continue to be with you and family as y’all start a new journey!!!

  41. Sarah says

    GOOSEBUMPS the WHOLE TIME I was reading this. I am so happy/proud/excited for you and your family. I just can’t put into words how excited I feel for you! What an amazing adventure. Enjoy every minute! Definitely going to plan a trip there this summer. Can’t wait!

  42. Michelle King says

    Please, please stop here and stay with us! We would be honored and would love to meet you!!!!! Birmingham has to be on the way!!!!

  43. Jill says

    What a wonderful plan for you and your family! I wish you all the most amazing adventures starting in a different place, but one that says “Home” to you. That is what it is all about! BE happy and Be at peace, the mountains are a wonderful place to be!

  44. Michele Ward says

    Don’t you just love it when you pray a prayer asking God to make something “work out” and God answers it better than you can ask or imagine!Praying many blessings on your new chapter – knowing God write a fabulous one!

  45. SusanIrene says

    Ashley, your life stories are better than a Hallmark movie. Funny how your earlier posts about the Hemlock Inn stayed in my mind. There was just something special about them and how they influenced you. It reminded me of the summers I spent at my grandparents cabin at Arrowbear Lake. Tiny, no hot water until my Dad put in a water heater, complete with outhouse which my Grandmother wanted us to use during the day. No Tv, very few radio stations, lots of books (Anne of Green Gables and Shakespeare) and our 3 story treehouse my brothers built from lumber they dragged home from cabins that had fallen apart from snow. Just remembering all the adventures and what we learned makes me so excited for you and your family as you set off on your new adventure. I’m so looking forward to hearing more stories.
    I retired last year from full time teaching and designing as a college professor. I still teach and design (costumes) part time while contemplating leaving teaching and designing to do projects and travel with my husband to visit our past and future. This post has helped me make up my mind to actually commit to starting a new adventure also. Thank you for teaching this older teacher new things.

  46. Brandi says

    Ashley, I am so excited that you and your family are ready for this new adventure. I have tears of joy for you! You are truly blessed and I am glad that you are following your heart and allowing faith to take you where you are meant to be or at least the next chapter of your life. Since we live in Charlotte and I am a huge fan of yours (and think the world of you), we will be visiting you at the Hemlock. I can’t wait to see you! As a mother of two boys and living the hustle and bustle of this life I am exhausted and pray that someday God will show me the way for our family. May God continue to bless you, Brett and Boo!

  47. Erin says

    Wow, such an amazing opportunity! We’ve been going to a place similar to your Hemlock Inn for 10 years now. It’s called Hemlock Hall and is in the Adirondacks. Going there once a year is like going home.

  48. Gale Bamman says

    It does indeed sound soul-refreshing! Will your next installment tell us how your hubby plans to incorporate his own talents, ambitions, and work life there?

    Love your blog!

  49. says

    So happy for you! We made a similar move back to my hometown two years ago. we left a lot of good behind, it seemed like such a silly move. But like you, we had many signs, and it’s the best decision we’ve ever made. WE’ll have to come visit Hemlock! Prayers for you! xoxo

  50. Beth Morrow says

    WOW! So many things about this new venture I love, but most of all that you feel the pull, recognize the open door and your husband “trust you” enough to load up and walk away from everything! It is so obvious to us that have followed your journey for a while, that in facing death…you found life! What a gift! My prayer is that you continue to recognize the voice of the Lord and that you are all blessed as you go out and blessed as you come in!
    Looking forward to watching this new episode take life!

  51. says

    It is so amazing how each one of us has a special connection to some place. Me and my mom were just talking about how everyone’s heart belongs somewhere, and that place is where they will make a big impact for the Lord.

    I am always dreaming of going on adventures, and meeting new people. It seems like you will be able to meet so many wonderful people and go on different little adventures in your new home!

    Oh, I am so happy for you and your family. I have been consistently praying that y’all will do so well there, and wherever else you wander off too. So humbled by the way God’s plan unfolds differently in each of our lives.

    Yay! Reagan

  52. Debbie says

    That is so wonderful! Our family loves the Bryson City area – we kayak on the Nantahala River several times a summer and have stayed at a variety of places. We love walking around Bryson City in the evening eating ice cream cones from a shop on the main street through town. You’ll be making wonderful memories! Such a beautiful area. I love how it all came together. Best wishes on your new adventure.

  53. says

    I’ve reread your post several times since last night. I’m just a dork that wants to say again how happy I am for you to be living out this dream! I’d love to go traipsing through NC with you on a road trip. You would be the ultimate road trip partner in crime!

  54. Jackie says

    This made me so, so, so happy to read. Although I am a bit jealous I could not be happier for you, Brett and boo!!!! I cannot wait to read of your amazing adventures and joyful simple life that you are about to embark on! May God bless your family while you bless others on your new adventure.


    • Jackie says

      I just read the hemlock Inns post of your new adventure and could not be more excited about the life that you are going to breathe into this amazing place!! I can’t wait to read your book and eventually watch a move about your amazing, inspiring life. My cousin and I talk about it all of the time and with every announcement I have more belief that it will happen!

  55. says

    You’re always good for a surprise :)
    What a beautiful new (yet old) place to stay for you, and Boo will definitely love it! As I live in Germany, I cannot imagine how it is to live in the desert, so when you wrote that Boo has never seen a leaf change color, I was excited for her. It will be awesome for her to discover all those little wonders in nature which we take for granted. “Bless Boo”, you remember?
    All the best for you and your family, and thank you so much for sharing your story!

  56. says

    I’ve been a reader for years, I’m more of a lurker (I never really took to blogging and commenting, I tried for a while and gave up!) You are such an inspiration to me. I was so happy when you beat your cancer, I knew you would tho.
    Good Luck with you’re move, one day I hope my family can visit the hemlock inn, I know my husband and boys would love it. My husbands job is hard and he gets no vacation time. It’s hard on our family and when I read your blog post I got insanely jealous for a nanosecond! I dream of being in a beautiful quiet place where my kids can explore nature and I can just lay on the grass and be.

    Best of luck on your new adventure. I can’t wait to buy your book, you inspire me constantly.


  57. Kadie says

    Just started reading your blog “when I have time” and had to MAKE time for this post. Congrats! I’m a Floridian and went to summer camp in NC during my teens and it is in my bones, too. There’s this sweet minty smell that I remember of the Smokey Mtns and every once in a while, I get a whiff of it when I’m outside with my kids. It immediately transports me back to Sapphire Valley, where I spent my summers. I’m also encouraged by your story of recovery as I have been on the hamster wheel of sobriety for the past few years. Thank you for sharing your strength, success, hope…..

    • Shevaun says

      Ashley, when I read your story about Hemlock Inn the first time, I thought it sounded like a place I’d love to visit. There is something special about a place that has stuck to its roots and maintained its values in a society where it’s all about bigger and newer is better. When I read your news about your move, I just got chills and a little teary. I know how much you loved that place and I’m so happy you and your family will be moving there. I’ve been wanting to take a trip to the Smokey Mountains from our place in Virginia, so now I will definitely make plans and The Hemlock Inn will be a stop on the trip. I’m sure it’s scary to leave friends and family in California, but knowing you and your family, you will quickly make friends in your new town. It sounds like there is so much to explore and it will be a wonderful little town to soak up. From what I’ve seen, you and Brett are successful at all your ventures, so why should this be any different. Nice for you too that you will be closer to your family. I only know you through your blog I’ve read for a couple years now, but I feel like you are family and I’m so happy ya’ll {thought I’d throw in a little southern talk] be on the East coast! I hope you sell your house quickly and have a safe trip across the U.S.

  58. Swen Swenson says

    Ashley – excited for you guys – You remind me of the movie UP, glad you are following your adventure, early in life! Love it! ADVENTURE IS OUT THERE!

  59. Julie B says

    First of all. I promise I’m not a stalker. But when I read your posts about the Hemlock I got super excited and checked it out. This is exactly the type of vacation our family takes. (I have a 5, 3, and 9 month old). My best friend from childhood now lives in Asheville. Our two families are staying at the Hemlock in July…all thanks to you! And now I might actually get to meet you too. What a crazy thing.

    You aren’t wrong though…that is the life we all dream about. I’m thankful to visit for a weekend, and super jealous you will get to live there!!!

  60. Karen says

    I am so happy for you all on your new adventure! And what an adventure it will be! You are heading to an area I am quite familiar with. As a matter of fact, my best friend from high school lives in Epworth, GA. You have to travel thru the Nantahala River gorge and it is such a beautiful drive!! Since it’s so close, I highly recommend you all visit the little towns near Epworth since they are quaint and have wonderful little craft type stores and local wares. Giving up the big city life will a transition but take it from someone who grew up small town…you will love the change! The people are amazing too! Everyone is so friendly down south. I live in Tennessee and have since 1978 and I love it in the south!

  61. Jennifer Weed says

    LOL… and to think that just over this past weekend, my husband and I booked a cabin at Bryson City to go for an upcoming weekend in April.. and now you are talking about moving to the area. It’s only about 3 1/2 hours from here in Chapin, SC, but we were needing a nice spring getaway that won’t involve the boatloads of spring breakers that come from the North to head to the beach. We’re just going for the weekend, but I’m pretty excited to go to the middle of nowhere and “get away from it all”. I think the only plans we have at the moment are to go and visit a nearby winery called Calaboose Cellars. I’m pretty excited though that you’ll be blogging about the area since it’s so close and will give us some good ideas of places we can go around that area for the summer/fall. Do you have a moving date yet or just sometime this summer?

    We’ll have to check out the Hemlock Inn sometime once you guys are officially there… would love to come meet you in person some day. I wish you all the best! It sounds like it is definitely a complete lifestyle change, but I know that some places just call to the soul… and you can’t help but long to be where you are meant to be.

  62. Tausha says

    Have you found a church, yet? I moved from Texas to Virginia this past June and sold most of my life. Such a scary and amazing thing it is to step out in faith.

    May God bless you in EVERY aspect of your life!

  63. Jackie says

    Congrats on the move!! My dream is to move to a small town when my husband is ready to retire, I grew up in a small town and can’t wait to return. Your new home sounds like a dream and the pictures are so soothing and peaceful.

  64. says

    I sit hear with tears in my eyes as I read your exciting news. I am overcome with emotion for you, Brett and Boo. I’ve never met you, but your writing makes me feel so connected. This is an amazing journey that you are embarking on and I am just so thrilled for you all. I look forward to experiencing the Hemlock through your eyes, and maybe even one day through my own.
    Best wishes for the three of you as you make your dream a reality. It takes such courage to leave a life that you’ve become accustomed to behind, and I admire that so very much. Boo is such a lucky girl to have you and Brett for parents, she will undoubtedly learn what is really important in this life.

  65. ashley says

    WOW I am so happy for you and your family. So awesome that you have the courage to take such a wonderful journey. I am a regular reader of your blog for the past couple of years and what is so neat to me is how I have felt the shift of your life turn into something even more beautiful over the months. Your life is inspiring! God Bless!

  66. Stephanie S says

    I am so excited for you!! I have only been following your blog for a few months, but right now I have tears of joy for this next phase of your life. I feel like one of my good friends just accepted the opportunity of a lifetime and a lifelong dream they didn’t even know they had.

    Good Luck!!

  67. says

    Wow!! That sounds AMAZING!! Defenitly putting that on my bucketlist!! I don’t even know you and im really happy for you!!

  68. Jennifer says

    I was so excited to read your post. As a native Tarheel(I live in Sampson county) I love the mountains of NC. I will certainly look up the Hemlock Inn and hopefully my husband and I can visit. We’ve been planning a mountain getaway. Your life at the Hemlock sounds like a dream come true. Not meaning to brag here, but for anyone wanting to visit NC, I will tell you, you will LOVE IT. I’ve travelled different areas of our country and seen beautiful places, but I always couldn’t wait to get home to NC. There is something magical about our state, once you visit, she’ll have you hooked for life. Remember to try our bbq and hushpuppies. You will also learn that to many native Tarheels, if you ask for a pack of crackers at the store, they may give you a strange look. We call them “nabs” :)

  69. Natasha J says

    thats soo cool! after reading your first post about it i added the hemlock inn on my bucket list of places i want to visit, i live in virginia so its not that far, now ive even more excited

  70. Nancy says

    What a wonderful example of faith your are for your child and all the people you touch. It’s such a thrill to watch when God directs our path and we follow. Not many would step out and give up all the “luxuries” that they thought they could not live without. But through you, God’s light will shine and hopefully others will come to know Him as their personal Lord and Savior and get to experience his blessings as well. I only wish you the very best. I’m so excited to share this new adventure through your blog. With less things comes less to worry about!
    Go get ’em!!

  71. Cecilia says

    I’m so happy for you Ashley! I know it will be an amazing journey for you and your family! I’m in the craft/sewing world and that is how I started reading your blog, you inspired me to create my own handmade business 5 years ago. But with time I learned that you inspire people no matter what you do, or what you say, you are one of those people who choose happiness over anything else and that is the most important thing you inspire in other people, so I know you will keep doing so whenever you are and whatever you do. I wish you and your family all the best.

  72. Janet says

    I look forward to hearing how God continues to bless your family as you follow the path before you. It sounds like a wonderful direction for the three of you.

    Love, hugs, and smiles.

  73. Lynn Palmertree says

    So excited for you and your new adventure. I’ve lived all my life in the south (Mississippi), and there is just something about a small Southern town. Yes, it is almost like going back in time. We do sit outside in the afternoon, drink our coffee or sweet iced tea, listen to the crickets and watch the lightening bugs flicker in the darkening sky. And if you close your eyes, you can be a child again, catching those little bugs, putting them in your mason jar with holes poked into the lid, something your daddy always did for you. There’s nothing better than following the lead of Christ, and I wish you all the happiness and contentment. you need.

  74. Elizabeth says

    Wow what a chain of events that will now take you to a place where you belong. Kinda exciting that you are doing some things I only have the courage to dream about. Hubby and I were just talking about a vacation in October. I think I will check out the Hemlock Inn. I am beyond excited for you Ashley.

  75. Kelly Summers says

    I am so happy for you and jealous! After your last post I promptly looked up the Hemlock Inn to see about a summer vacation for my family. It is exactly what we want it is so romantic of an idea and a way to live. Good Luck to you and Brett in your new adventure! Maybe we will cross paths at some point!


  76. Suzanne says

    Congratulations on the move! I have been following you for many years, first for the sewing patterns and then just because you just have a certain way of touching people through your writing! I have made many Sienna dresses, as I have a daughter Boo’s age, and I wear my choose joy necklace often and think of your story. How wonderful to have a dream, new vision for your life and make it happen. We only get one chance at this life, right!? I hope you get to write more and we get to benefit from your stories, you have a special way of connecting with people Ashley! Best wishes!

  77. Donna says

    Wishing you & your adorable family much happiness in the next chapter of your lives. I just thought it was so amazing that your husband was absolutely ok with trusting you with everything before actually seeing it for himself first…what a gem you have there! I loved when you described your family as just normal & down to earth…my kind of people! I live in the “country” with my sweet hubby & 2 wonderful kiddos and love it to pieces. I never imagined I would enjoy it so much as I grew up in a big city. So glad god led me to my small town, laid back hubby! Can’t wait to hear more about your new adventure! :)

  78. Helene says

    Hi Ashley. I just told my husband that our next vacation is at the Hemlock Inn in N.C.
    He said, okay, why? I said Ashley, Brett and Boo are moving there, Then I told him your story. Then I said, or I might just go for a photography workshop. I’ll update you when I know more. He seemed satisfied with that, lol. I’m so happy for you and I really do want to visit and meet you. Keep us updated! xo

  79. Ellie from Canada says

    Our guess was that you would be purchasing the Hemlock (maybe someday?) Wow, this is big and I’m happy for all of you. “There’s no place like home” or somewhere near it. Strange what we take for granted, like the four seasons, not consciously realizing there are those among us who have not experienced this. Like our majestic Rocky Mountains where we always camped, took for granted they would always be there but yet appreciated the beauty of nature that God created for us!! My husband would give up all the trappings of life in a heartbeat as well! Me too, if I could take my kids and grandkids along. I love them more than life itself, they are my world! I love that Sienna will be able to grow in such an environment. <3

  80. kathi from a small city in Wisconsin says

    Congratulations on your new lives and the big move. Boo will love the snow and everything about country life. Even riding a school bus. I’d leave the desert, too, if I had to live there! Four seasons are wonderful, and I look forward to each one. My fave is the fall with the warmish days and crisp cool nights, and trees ablaze with color. By the way, for those who haven’t read any of the Bryson City books, all are wonderful reads–they fill your mind with wonderful images of a much slower paced life than most of us have. Looking forward to more of your stories.

  81. Jennifer from Texas says

    Congrats on your upcoming move! That sounds so exciting. We visited Bryson City a few years ago and loved the little town. Looking forward to hearing more of your heartfelt stories from the other side of the country!

  82. Poppy P says

    When you put yourself out in a blog, people are bound to feel like that know you (me and my kids have been following your blog for a long time) — so I don’t know if it is weird to say this but: now you will be on our side of the coast! If you and your family decide to come to DC for some site seeing you have a place to stay (and Boo would be right in the middle age wise with my kids). We are all praying for you and your family! Good Luck with your new road.

  83. Mariel says

    I was enchanted by this post and couldn’t read through it fast enough. Got the link in email as I was getting breakfast ready and had to stop everything to sit down and read. How very exciting! Your posts about the Hemlock have always been full of love and a little extra something, had more life in them. The place sounds amazing. I have looked at their website a few times since you first wrote about it and I, along with lots of others hope to stay there some day. I can’t wait to read your blog as it takes this new path.

  84. Carol says

    Welcome home!
    NC mountains have a way of wrapping and holding our hearts and dreams no matter how far ones strays….the quiet call of the mountains always brings us ‘home’. Much to learn, to share and love can be found in their beauty.
    I’m so happy for you that a dream of a lifetime has presented such a glorious gift to you and your family.
    Enjoy the journey!

  85. K G Palmer says

    I am in awe, I believe in God, Trust him fully & have felt a pull for a change personally too. I am still praying & waiting for clear guidance and and answer. May God Bless, Keep and Guide you. You inspire, enlighten & teach so many. My family has just added this sweet little inn to our Bucket List. Looking forward to seeing more about your new adventure.

  86. says

    Congratulations on the brave decision. This will be such a grand family experience. I do hope you will manage to weave all the magic around to get a book written and published. You have been a pleasure to read, an inspiration over the last few years all the way to your desert to my rural part of France. In the meantime, that is until I can read a book you will have written, I’ve ordered the Bryson book you mentionned. Enjoy your journey and thank you for sharing!

  87. Jess Eveland says

    Thank you for sharing your story and heart. Two years ago my husband and I moved our family from Bakersfield, CA to Nashville, TN. No jobs, no home, just with certainty in our hearts that God was calling us to move. We sold almost everything we owned hooked a trailer up to our Tahoe and went. It has been HARD! My husband did find his dream job teaching at a school he loves so that was awesome but I have been lost since we moved. I have been caught up with city life without even realizing I am caught up with this life. Then when I read your story God spoke to me again. He reminded me that He didn’t bring us to Nashville to live the same life. He was calling us to live a quieter life but placing us close to city so Paul could teach. It was that moment that everything came back to focus. Thank you for sharing! God used your story to open my heart and my ears to bring things back into perspective.

  88. amanda says

    this is amazing and seems like a true dream that is coming true. I would love to go there one day I have always wanted to stay at a place like this, maybe one day :). I use to live in a small town and i miss it so much you will find so much peace living there, i’m sure you will be able to get more done then you ever thought before living in a big city. breath the fresh air in a small town.

  89. Nancy says

    I am so excited for you all and so proud of your decision. Trusting God is not always easy but you all are and that’s awesome. I love to read your blog and want to say thank you for letting us be friends thru your words. Your words touch many lives in such a great way. Best of luck but I don’t think you need it. Thank you and keep in touch.

  90. Michelle M. says

    I can’t believe you’re doing this. I’m happy for you and I think it’s awesome your husband and Boo are on board as well. It’s just SO different! I’m really looking forward to reading about your new journey. NO blogs I follow have taken such a trajectory (and I also follow Special Needs blogs-that’s saying something!) but that’s what I love about you! Best of luck to you.

  91. ira lee says

    Oh my goodness!!!! This is so exciting and I can’t wait to follow along!!! I think the hemlock would be an amazing place to stay! And I’m slightly jealous! :)

  92. Kim says

    When I read your news of moving…my heart felt like it was going to burst with joy for you! I had to hold back the tears at work. LOL. Ive been following your blog for a couple of years. You are such an inspiration!

    We live just north of Chattanooga, TN so maybe we will pay a visit to the Hemlock one day.

    GOD is sooo good!

  93. Julie says

    Ashley, I was raised in Charlotte and live in Lake Norman now. We vacation in that area all the time. How soon can I make reservations? The Inn will be packed with all of your followers from Charlotte.
    So excited for you. I can’t even get up the courage to move across town! As always, you are an inspiration!

  94. Deb says

    Hi Ashley,
    I have an uncle that lives in Maryville, Tn I travel from Ky a lot.. Sometimes I meet up with my cousins to ride the tail of the dragon last year we rode over to Bryson City. For sure we will be looking up your inn!!

  95. says

    Hi Ashley, Thank you for taking me back to my beloved Smoky Mountains! I grew up in Charlotte and spent many summers and falls with my family in the mountains there. As I grew older I would go back, spending time with local artist and regenerating my soul with the peacefulness that only God can create. I now live in Northern Maine. Like you said a long story… God led me here and here is where I met my husband and we are now raising our family. We also have chosen a simple life. My family says we have moved north to where the road ends! God Bless – Christi