My kids started trying to track Santa with eighty-three days left until Christmas. I can’t say I blame them. I’m ready for a good jolt of holly jolly myself. Despite a large chunk of 2021 feeling a lot like 2020, this fall when I was putting the winter greens in the garden boxes (heavy on the collards and bok choy), the country seemed to be finally gaining a slight leg up on COVID. Not long after that, I pointed my vehicle northwest toward Cashiers, North Carolina, where along with G&G’s CEO and cofounder, Rebecca Darwin, I hosted the Garden & Gun Society Gathering.
The goal of the Society is to bring the pages of the magazine to life, and that’s what we planned to do for forty or so of our most passionate readers. As I pulled into High Hampton resort with the late-afternoon sun bathing the face of Rock Mountain, I knew we picked the right setting. Early Friday morning, one of the members and I found ourselves on a tour of John Hollifield’s workshop. To say Hollifield, a past Made in the South Awards winner, makes bamboo fly rods is like saying Pappy Van Winkle makes whiskey. He builds every component besides the titanium guides by hand, but it’s his artful engravings of trout and mayflies, sometimes in twenty-four-karat gold, that push his rods to the next level. Later that evening, the group gathered at the esteemed Canyon Kitchen as visiting chef Ann Kim, from the Garden & Gun Club restaurant in Atlanta, served up a dish of smoked fried quail and collard green kimchi that stole the show.
On Saturday, folks made the difficult choice of sporting clays, fly fishing, hiking, or a plein air painting class. I put myself in the capable hands of legendary Western North Carolina guide Roger Lowe, who managed to put me on the biggest rainbow trout of my life. Later that afternoon, I had the privilege of hosting a conversation with Nashville chef and television personality Maneet Chauhan that ranged from favorite holidays to creating family traditions to getting your spices to “sing and dance” in the pan. Singer-songwriter Hailey Whitters capped off the weekend with an intimate, living-room-style performance. If Whitters, who throws off a young Dolly Parton vibe without an ounce of hokeyness, isn’t on your playlist, I’d suggest starting with “Ten Year Town,” her breakout hit.
Rolling down the proverbial hill to the South Carolina Lowcountry the next morning, satiated and more than a little groggy, I could feel the chill in the air and the warmth of a weekend spent with friends new and old.