Nestled on the bank of the Knapps Creek in Marlinton, a 1970s homestead has received a facelift and is now home to the Knapps Creek Trout Lodge.
The home was built by Reed and Anne Mitchell in the 70s. It is now owned by their son, Mark Mitchell, who, with his daughter, Anne and her boyfriend, Mark Hengemihle, started the new lodge business.
“When my dad was a kid, my granddad bought the dealership and turned it into Mitchell Chevrolet,” Anne said. “Then, my grandma designed the house. The family all kind of helped build it. She was creative. One time I found her notebook and it was just a composition notebook with all these clippings from different magazines and she wrote beside them, ‘for the kitchen,’ or ‘in the living room.’ We compared them and they look the same.”
The house was initially used as a vacation/second home by the family until Mark sold his construction business in Northern Virginia. Not quite ready to retire, Mark discussed the idea of the lodge with his daughter and they began their partnership.
“I was living in Idaho and he just called, and asked if I was interested to help him start it,” Anne said. “That was probably the end of last winter and we’ve been working on it ever since. It’s almost about a year now from planning to fruition.”
The lodge will be rented bed and breakfast style, with meals provided. Accommodations include the master bedroom complete with bathroom and spectacular view of the river, and the family loft, also with its own bathroom.
With the style of the lodge and rooms, Anne said they plan to rent the lodge in its entirety instead of room-by-room, like most bed and breakfasts.
Along with the two bedrooms, renters have access to an open floor plan living room with ample seating, a fireplace and fly tieing station, dining room, a reading nook and large porch furnished with a picnic table, porch swing and built-in grill/stove.
The meal plan includes using fresh and locally grown vegetables and local beef.
“We have some beef from the Rose’s at Hillsboro, which is really tasty,” Anne said. “If people go fishing, we can cook their trout. We’ve joined Grow Appalachia. We’re really excited because we’re going to do a vegetable garden. Hopefully, we’re going to have a lot of vegetables. It’s just kind of fun to put together different menus. My mom really likes that part.”
While the lodge is cozy and a nice place for a restful weekend, the outdoor amenities are the icing on the cake.
“They get access to eight beach cruisers for the Greenbrier River trail,” Anne said. “They get to access the fishing here. Then we also offer half-day guides and full-day guides so one of us would go out with them if they want to go fishing or hiking or biking to somewhere a little bit less easy to come across on their own.
“It’s kind of like a concierge service for outdoor activity,” she continued. “If they want to do an activity and they don’t have the experience to get them out there, then we can just kind of get the equipment ready and pick the trails, that kind of stuff – make sure they have a successful time.”
The plans are endless when it comes to creating a day trip that includes hiking, biking or fishing. The trio has tossed around ideas that include taking visitors on a biking tour of Cranberry Glades or a lazy float in inner tubes down the river.
Mark sees the lodge as a place for groups to retreat to for the weekend or a getaway for families who need to leave the city life behind for awhile.
“We think we can attract some groups of motorcycle riders,” Mark said. “Then, young families – that’s one thing I really look forward to – to have young families where their children can develop an appreciation for the mountains, rivers, hiking trails and camping of West Virginia.”
As the name implies, there is a focus on fishing, mainly due to the proximity of the river.
“Pretty much exclusively, we do fly-fishing,” Mark said. “That’s what we want to do is fly fish but we bring people in that aren’t fly fisherman.
“We change the story when they’re here instead of telling them real fishermen fly-fish,” he joked.
“Fly-fishing is pretty great and it’s a little more intimate, I think,” Anne said.
To prepare themselves for the official opening in two weeks, the lodge had a “soft open” where they hosted Project Healing Waters participants.
“We had them over to sort of get a feel for hosting people and how many fisherman we could handle,” Mark said.
The lodge is now booked by several chapters of Project Healing Waters – a sign the “soft open” was successful.
Although they aren’t officially open for business, yet, Mark said they are networking with several organizations and businesses in hopes of getting the word out in the fishing community.
“We’ve worked with several of the Orvis stores in Virginia and they’re hoping to be able to work our way into being part of the Orvis partnership where they come over here,” Mark said. “Anne and Mark reached out to them and went to some of their events. We hope to get them over here in the next six weeks or so.”
Because it is a family-owned business in a former family getaway, the lodge will be open for three seasons, and closed from Thanksgiving to February to allow the family to enjoy the holiday seasons together.
“Our family comes up a lot to go skiing at Snowshoe, and Mom loves the holidays up here,” Anne said. “She lives in Virginia – my dad goes back and forth and she also comes back and forth. In the wintertime, she wants to be up here every single weekend, so we thought that we want to preserve the house for the holiday season for our family.”
While Mark owned a construction business, Anne and her boyfriend Mark have always had jobs that were focused on recreation and the outdoors, so it seemed natural to have their own outdoors-related business.
“I pretty much knew from the beginning that I wouldn’t be able to work behind a desk,” Anne said. “I always had jobs moving around and kind of like a different schedule. We’ve been working seasonally here all throughout college. We worked Snowshoe each winter, then we would travel down to North Carolina and work seasonally down there. Last year we went to the Teton Valley and worked seasonally there.”
Hengemihle had a similar experience with jobs.
“I’ve been pretty flip-floppy,” he said. “I worked at a golf course, that was one of my first jobs. I’ve spent a lot of time outdoors. I feel pretty comfortable either way, indoors or outdoors. It’s a good split.”
Hengemihle is a good fit for the business because, as Anne puts it, he’s the “business guy.”
“He’s our mediator,” Anne said, laughing. “He’s organized.”
For more information on the Knapps Creek Trout Lodge, visit www.knappscreektroutlodge.com
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org