Drive time from NoVA: 3 hours, 10 minutes
Small Town Charm
With less than 150 people living in Monterey full time, it’s a small town by any measurement. Everyone really does know everyone’s name and they know all the secrets too. It’s all residents on deck for the town’s events and activities, whether it’s the spring maple festival that brings 50,000 visitors to the county every March or it’s folks sitting around the Liar’s Table at High’s Restaurant where you’re encouraged to tell your best lie, starting at 11 a.m. every day. Is there anything more small town than telling tall tales for entertainment?
Aside from its impressive, under-150-people small town status, Monterey is also on the map for its annual Highland County Maple Festival. Held every year in mid-March, attendees can see how maple syrup is produced and taste a plethora of maple
syrup-related foods. And don’t worry: Work is underway to start a Maple Syrup Trail where you can visit any of the 10 sugaring houses throughout Highland County, just in case you don’t make it there in March. Other events include a regular first Saturday of the
month Rocket Launch at the Jack Mountain Village, sponsored by the Valley AeroSpace Team, regular live music performances, a weekly seasonal Friday afternoon farmers market featuring fresh produce, baked goods and local crafts, a bike challenge, a star party and other events.
Arts and crafts lovers will want to make a trip to Monterey for the Barn Quilt Trail, which includes three dozen-plus quilts painted on 4-foot-by-4-foot or 8-foot-by-8-foot boards and mounted to barns, homes or other outbuildings across Highland County. The barn quilts were started by Margie Boesch, a former international flight attendant and avid quilter, and her husband, Mike, a teacher who became a farmer. They retired to Monterey
from Rhode Island and she became fascinated by barn quilts. After giving quilting a try, she decided painting was more enjoyable than stitching, and in 2010 she created
three for their farm (Sunset Star, Maple Leaf and Turkey Tracks). Mike handled the heavy labor of mounting the wooden art works. The three quilts caught the eye of other
locals and it quickly turned into a town project with other quilts getting painted and displayed.
When it’s time to dine, there are two particular places of note. High’s Restaurant, with celebrity chef Christian Brown (you may have seen him on the Food Network’s
Cutthroat Kitchen Tournament of Terror) manning the kitchen Monday through Thursday nights and Executive Chef Barry Neave on Friday through Sunday nights, radiates small town charm. Save room for the Fire and Ice Cream dessert. Then, you’re invited to take out your Sharpie and sign your name into a bench seat.
The second is The Curly Maple in the old H&H Cash Store. It’s a renovated general store serving up breakfast and lunch (closed Sundays), and also offers specialty grocery items, fresh produce, a coffee bar, deli selection and a bakery.
Shopping options include the Sugar Tree Country Store (all things maple, handmade pottery, toys and gifts) in Highland County, The Recorder (books by local authors), The Blanchard Gallery (local art), David Cockerham Photography (Monterey-based photographer), Twice is Nice (thrift store) and the Big Fish Cider Co. (locally made cider).
Make it a Weekend
The celebrated Highland Inn (also known as the historic Hotel Monterey), the 1904 “Pride of the Mountains,” is currently undergoing a painstaking restoration. It’s not an overnight option now, but worth a stroll by. Until it re-opens, accommodations range from farm stays, including the Allegheny Mountain Institute with fresh-from-the-farm meals; the Victorian Arbogast Inn with three guest rooms (one even has a clawfoot tub); the Blue Grass Cabin set in 16 acres of hardwoods, yet only 10 minutes from Monterey; and a real log cabin at the Cabin at Faraway Farm with a queen bedroom downstairs and two twin beds in the loft.
What the Locals Know
Betty Mitchell, executive director of Monterey’s Bluegrass Resource Center and one of the leaders on the Highland Inn restoration project, says Monterey is “a great place to call
home. Lots of things happen here and when you have an area with artistic talent and natural beauty, people just roll up their sleeves and make things happen. It’s such a welcoming group.” She’s particularly excited about events being planned next year
around the 100th anniversary of the filming of Tol’able David, a silent movie shot in the county. Harry King directed and Richard Barthelmess, Gladys Hulette and Walter P. Lewis were the stars. “We have a copy of the film and, with help from the Virginia Film
Office, it will be shown several times throughout the year.”