Sizzlin Summer 2012
"Set at the foot of a rolling Appalachian hill and surrounded by gardens, the six separate buildings—many connected by raised porch-like walkways— create a maze of elegant man-cave dens: log-cabin walls, an endless profusion of leather couches on which to loll about and read, stone hearths, and pool tables (there’s also a pool and a hot tub). If the upscale rustic Southern magazine Garden and Gun opened a gay bar, this would be it.
All of this organizing has paid off: As more weekend visitors fell in love with the area and decided to buy vacation homes, not only the Guesthouse but the entire county became a haven for the more affluent members of Baltimore and Washington, D.C.’s gay communities. By Dillard’s count, there are over 200 gay homeowners (mostly weekenders) in the area and several other gay-owned businesses. Though there are no official records to document the sexual orientation of homeowners, Dillard is in a position to know. Through the Guesthouse and Guesthouse Realty, he built up the gay community in the area in the same way that he built a sprawling complex around this log cabin.
Eventually, Dillard, Mickow, and a third partner, Tammy Stanley, decided it was time to get out of the innkeeper business. “Most people only last seven years,” Mickow says. “After 30, it was time for a change.” They were looking for someone younger and more technologically savvy to take over the business.
They found Michael Cooley and Gary Robinson, friends who had been visiting the Guesthouse for years. Both owned property in Hardy County and they had begun to consider opening an inn somewhere.
"Now there’s a new reason to go. The Guest House, an upscale but affordable 16-room lodge with Blue Ridge views, recently opened the valley’s first fine-dining restaurant.
After a day in this outdoor playground, return to the lodge for city comforts—a massage, maybe, or a game of billiards; a dip in the hot tub or the pool; cocktails in the bar; a candlelight dinner. Later, watch the stars twinkle in the pitch-black night.
I first visited the Guest House soon after it opened in 1982 with only six rooms. Even then its spacious, window-bedecked public spaces, comfortably furnished with large leather chairs and sofas, wowed me. Since then I’ve watched the place grow; it now has more rooms in several cottages.
Friendly and casual, the lodge cascades down a forested slope, its many levels yielding views of cloud-draped ridges marching into the distance. On arriving, your first urge is to explore, seeking out the lounges—five by my count—where you can curl up with a book. Decks and porches tempt with rocking chairs lined up to catch the views. A fitness room is angled for scenic workouts.