Camping Among the Pines
Community on common ground has brought families together for decadesBy Edie Burnette
In Haywood County there is a unique, quiet collection of well-kept, privately owned campers edged by Pisgah National Forest and Shining Rock Wilderness. East Fork of Pigeon River and Schoolhouse Creek both flow through the property.
Camping structures line two lanes in the neighborhood. The music of water flowing swiftly over rocks and boulders is a pleasing backdrop to added decks and porches, ideal places to visit with friends, eat a meal, read a book or take a nap.
Welcome to the Pisgah Camping Club.
At an elevation of 3,200 feet, six of 10 acres have been developed into 23 camping sites and a clubhouse, while four acres remain natural forest.
“Over the years, the club has responded to various community needs, collecting ‘love offerings’ for individuals in need of a small amount of financial support.”
Current owners — club members — reside in North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee, and represent a variety of professions, including retired military personnel, law enforcement, teachers and employees of the Canton paper mill.
Member Joan Novelli declares the camp has changed her life for the better as a getaway with less pressure and a slower pace. “These folks have become my extended family,” she says.
A storied past
The club got its start 55 years ago, when local families who liked to camp organized as Pisgah Camping Club, meeting periodically to choose public campgrounds and specific dates to enjoy vacations together. In 1967, the Little East Fork road property was purchased as a permanent site. And in the early ’70s, members shared costs and innumerable manpower hours to build a clubhouse with full kitchen, restroom facilities, seating for 50, a heating system and large rock fireplace.
Participating families have changed over the years, but the club still operates on the principals of its founders: a family-oriented club with no alcoholic beverages consumed in public on club property, according to member Del Carmichael. Membership is by invitation only, and applicants go through a screening process.
Del, who currently lives in Tennessee, lived in Florida when he applied for membership and laughs that he barely squeaked through the vetting process. (He had been told that an early member declared “not no Florida people.”)
Connected to community
Picturesque Laurel Grove Baptist Church, also known in its infancy as Laurel Grove School, occupies an adjacent lot. Church members can attend special gatherings and are granted use of the clubhouse for baby or bridal showers and the like. And close neighbors, many living on land owned by their families for generations, visit occasionally and are considered honorary members. The members also organize efforts to give back to the community where they can.
“This (site) is not just about camping,” says Gary Wooten of Canton, a nine-year member.
“Over the years, the club has responded to various community needs, collecting ‘love offerings’ for individuals in need of a small amount of financial support,” says member Vickie Holcomb. “We financially supported a member’s tutoring efforts at a school where she volunteered, and helped provide clothing, necessary everyday items and Christmas gifts for a young man.”
Warmer months always draw members back, but the campground is open year-round. When snow comes, Haywood County clears the state-owned road within a few hours.
“We want members to feel comfortable in staying here,” says head trustee Bob Holcomb, “at any time during the year.”
About the AuthorEdie Burnette, author of "Mountain Echoes" and a Canton native, is a graduate of Wake Forest University, retired teacher and former Asheville Citizen-Times reporter. She is currently a freelance journalist.