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April 01, 2003   Email to Friend 

Winds of Change
Fran Sharp

Covington County tree farmers George and Brenda Gant built Hickory Ridge Lodge from trees damaged by Hurricane Opal.
Attics, antiques and attitude contributed to the birth of Hickory Ridge Lodge in Andalusia after 1995's Hurricane Opal ravaged George and Brenda Gantt's beloved 80-acre tree farm.

"To tell you the truth, we cried after we saw what Opal had done," George said. "And I'm not sure today that I wouldn't rather have my trees back than this wonderful lodge, but facts are facts, and you have to deal with them."

Today, Hickory Ridge Lodge boasts five bedrooms with private baths, two kitchens, a 32-by-40-foot great room, a classroom and 1,500 square feet of porches. It sits beside a man-made, five-acre lake and offers wildlife sightings along three miles of walking trails.

The pines culled by Opal and fashioned into lumber by the Gantts cover walls, ceilings, floors and every visible square inch of the lodge. Furnished with functional antiques from the Gantts' nearby Sweetgum Bottom Antiques shops, Hickory Ridge offers a restful retreat for families and is an ideal setting for weddings, reunions and other gatherings.

Brenda, who drew up the plans for the lodge, said she and George set up a sawmill on the property and bought a planer to transform their twisted trees into a rustic resort.

"George would get on one end, and I would get on the other end," Brenda recalled with a chuckle. "We would run every board through that planer. It takes a long time to plane enough lumber to build a lodge."

The Gantts are members of the Alabama Treasure Forest Association and are committed to responsible management of their land. Their main focus is on wildlife and timber, but they also are developing plans for an outdoor education classroom.

The gracious couple emphasized the lodge mostly attracts people who hold events or individuals who want some tranquility without the bother of phones, computers and traffic jams.

"We warn people there's not excitement here unless you like watching the deer eat or sneaking up on rabbit nests," George said. For information on rates and reservations contact the Gantts at (334) 222-6647.

Freelance writer Fran Sharp lives in Alabaster.


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