Above: The view at Big Canoe; photo courtesy of Big Canoe Company LLC

The mountains are a cool place to be and many metro Atlantans plan to retire there. But they’re not all waiting to claim their little spot of heaven. Some are making the move to find or build their mountain home and enjoy it now.

Duane and Kim Champlin
Photo courtesy of Duane and Kim Champlin

Duane and Kim Champlin are currently overseeing construction of their Old Toccoa Farm mountain retreat. “We had a weekend cabin near Blue Ridge before we retired, and we fell in love with the area,” Kim said.

Old Toccoa Farm, just 85 miles north of Atlanta, is near historic Blue Ridge, Ga., and about 15 miles from the Aska Adventure Area, which features camping, hiking and water activities like tubing, canoeing and kayaking.

Buying a mountain home has become a common plan for many couples who retire near communities such as Blue Ridge. Now real estate agents say they see couples in their 50s and early 60s buying or building mountain homes they plan to retire to when the time comes.

“Many metro Atlanta residents are becoming empty-nesters, but they’re still working while planning for the future before it’s time to retire,” said Katie Wercholuk, marketing director for Big Canoe Company, LLC. She says that she has seen an increase in purchase by these “pre-retirees.”

Blue Ridge Bungalow

Faron W. King, Broker/Owner, Coldwell Banker High Country Realty, says that while many mountain homes still are bought by retirees, that’s not the whole story. “We’re seeing younger buyers wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of Atlanta for a weekend getaway, and it turns into a part-time home if their career allows them to telecommute,” said King.

He suggests that people not wait for retirement to begin looking for their dream retirement home. Good advice, considering the current rush to the hills.

According to Duane, the couple wanted long-range mountain views. “We got that, plus we’re living on a golf course in a gated community,” he said.

The Champlins moved to the north Georgia mountains from Gwinnett County. What they’ve found in Old Toccoa Farm is peace and quiet, golf courses, the Toccoa River, wooded trails and “the friendliness of everyone we come across,” said Kim.

They note that they have lost a few conveniences, but say they’ve gained much more. “We have a relaxed and friendly environment,” said Duane, “and a whole lot less congestion!”

Kim L. Knutzen, Managing Broker, Harry Norman REALTORS® Blue Ridge Office, reports that there has been an influx of buyers in the new development. “Old Toccoa Farm is the only fly fishing and golf community in our area,” she said.

Robin and Keith Sievers
Photo courtesy of Big Canoe Company LLC

Keith and Robin Sievers label themselves “outdoor people.” They’ve settled into their new two-story mountainside home, with main and terrace levels, in Big Canoe, a gated private community set in the rolling mountains of Jasper, Ga.

The climate and natural landscapes of north Georgia are perfect, the Seivers say, and so are the amenities they enjoy in Big Canoe, where they’ve found the lifestyle they enjoy. Big Canoe boasts a unique Jeep Trail, award-winning 22+ mile trail system for hiking and biking, outdoor dog parks, waterfalls, three lakes and scenic mountain landscapes.

“It’s amazing to live in a beautiful mountain community that’s 30 minutes from the north Atlanta suburbs, and just 30 minutes from the start of the Appalachian Trail,” said Robin. “More importantly, though, are the wonderful people who live here and the many cherished friendships we’ve made.”

They admit that mountain driving was a challenge at first, but say that they quickly adapted. “While some driving is required to get to everything we need, the essentials are close at hand,” said Keith, “and we’ve learned to group our errands into enjoyable ‘urban safaris’.”

Gary and Christy Ray
Photo courtesy of Gary and Christy Ray

When Gary and Christy Ray decided to move from a mountain/lake area in northwest Nevada to be closer to family, they wanted to locate a similar environment in Georgia. They found their mountain cabin in Love Mountain, an upscale rustic neighborhood that features wooded settings and mountain views, in Morganton, Ga.

“The north Georgia mountains are a perfect fit for us,” said Gary. “With the beautiful mountains, sunsets, lakes, affordable living, proximity to Atlanta and wonderful Southern hospitality, we couldn’t have made a better choice.”

Christy adds that everyone in Blue Ridge has welcomed them with open arms. “Within two months, we’ve made a lot of new friends and already feel like a part of the community,” she said.

The area offers a variety of activities, music venues and craft fairs, along with outstanding restaurants. “This is what we love about the community,” Christy said. “We attended a fabulous wine pairing dinner at a local restaurant in Blue Ridge and met some lovely people who we plan to see again.”

The Rays enjoy the peace, slower pace and mild traffic. “There’s no comparison to major cities—great food, Southern hospitality and the natural beauty of the north Georgia mountains,” said Gary. “This has been a great choice for our retirement.”

Riverwalk Toccoa

When asked about the best part of living in north Georgia, Christy answered, “The inner peace that we have when we sit on our balcony and look out at the beautiful mountains. You can’t put a price on that.”

She notes that there have been a few small issues, most notably, learning about log cabin ownership and adjusting to a more humid climate than northwest Nevada, where the annual average humidity is 10 percent. “But really, they’re no longer issues after living here for two months,” she said.

Kathy Dean

Kathy Dean is a freelance writer and editor based in metro Atlanta.