Alpine House has limited availability for the holiday season. For reservations, call 423-645-0036.
For four years, Eulene Cloud has run a bed-and-breakfast in her restored Victorian home on the highest peak of Sand Mountain. Her guests have a dizzying view from their very rooms of a panorama ringed by mountain ridges. Stretching out for 30 miles, the vista takes in eight towns across Tennessee and Alabama.
Alpine House Bed and Breakfast takes its name not from the mountainous landscape, but from the home's jagged roofline, with the same silhouette now as when Samuel H. McGee constructed the private residence in 1889 in the small town of Bryant, Alabama. Cloud's home is certainly off the beaten path, and it seems odd that a bed-and-breakfast can thrive in a town with only one restaurant that's open four days a week.
Cloud credits Alpine House's success to the visibility the internet provides and the centralized location between Nashville, Birmingham and Atlanta. But a quick glance at guest reviews on Facebook or TripAdvisor reveals that Cloud, and her homemade biscuits, are a major draw.
Friendly and knowledgeable, Cloud can point guests to any of the area's local attractions, be it the Cornbread Festival in South Pittsburg, Nickajack Cave where Johnny Cash nearly died, or a stone marker where you can stand in three states at once. Bikers, cancer survivors, foreign travelers and missionaries find themselves at her table. People open up to her, and she enjoys them. "You don't do a bed-and-breakfast for the money," she says. "If you don't like people, don't have a feel for people, you better not."
Of the six bedrooms in the house, only the two best are usually available for booking. Large, clean and comfortable, both are upstairs on the front of the house, providing the best views the property can offer. The Bridge Room is so named for its view of the famous South Pittsburg bridge, and the Bird Room looks out onto a garden sanctuary for birds on the right side of the house. Both rooms have an en suite bathroom, jetted tub, and open onto the spacious, second-story balcony on the front of the house.
A central landing on the second floor offers a place to sit down for a game of chess or cards and connects guest rooms to a convenient kitchenette stocked with snacks and beverages.
The original wood staircase leads down to the main floor where Cloud serves a Southern breakfast and sits down to chat with her guests in the cozy dining room. Here, the fireplace mantel and bookshelves are laid with evergreens and twinkling lights for the season, and a miniature snowy village and small Christmas tree top the buffet.
Columns frame the opening to the sitting room, which, because the house was among the largest in town, once served the community as a funeral parlor. Now it's warm and inviting with casual furniture, the house's largest Christmas tree, and mistletoe hanging from the candelabra. The seasonal décor is traditional and unfussy, lending a perfectly at-home ambiance.
Indoors and out, guests will find a place to retreat in the peaceful quiet of the mountain, whether sitting on the old stone wall where riders used to dismount from their horses or under an old tree that shelters a side porch. Cloud is always tweaking the property. She just added a screened-in porch on the back of the house, and by the driveway, the circular stone patio with a bistro table and chairs is new.
Across the two-lane county road are a swing for two and a circular fire pit on the edge of Porter Bluff. A custom deck gives guests a level sitting area to take in the sights below them, which appear as a model train exhibit. In fact, the whistle of trains often echoes up from the Long Island Valley below where the Tennessee River cuts through the green. All of these additions are nooks and crannies in the icing on Cloud's cake, the fulfillment of a long dream of living here.
Years before she purchased Alpine House, Cloud worked for the post office and would deliver mail to the residence, which had fallen into condemnable condition. A descendant of the original owner invested in its restoration, gutting and rebuilding the interior with plans to turn it into a bed-and-breakfast. As a result of family tragedy, that owner's plans were never realized, and when the house was put up for sale again, Cloud sat in her car by the mailbox and prayed that God would make a way for her to own it.
Fifteen years later, after the distress of the deaths of her second husband and her younger sister, Cloud found herself bored and asking God for direction. She had a vivid dream of the house with a "for sale" sign in its front yard. It seems impossible, but when Cloud drove out to the house the next day, there was indeed a "for sale" sign in its front yard. She immediately pursued her dream of buying it, watching the price slowly fall nearer to her budget, and eventually winning the house in an online auction the day she turned 65.
"It is a dream. It's still a dream," she says with tears coming to her eyes. "I believe it's my ministry. And I didn't have to go back to work."
In truth, she works hard to keep the place in shape and meet the needs of her guests, but she's a person who likes to be busy. "You've got to have a reason to get up every morning," she says.
Cloud's youngest daughter, Kristie Holland, also lives at Alpine House and lends a hand running the business, a fruit of the family-oriented life Cloud has nurtured. Tina Clark, the daughter of Cloud's sister who died before she bought the house, decorates Alpine Crest for the holidays, and the rest of the family always insists on gathering there.
It's no wonder. During the holiday season and always, a certain magic abides at Alpine House.