ABOUT Boots Off
A unique hospitality experience
During the summer of 2015, Jim Gregory felt the time was right to make a major change in his life and was looking for the right property to do just that. He successfully operated a small, mobile kayak rental business in Southwest Florida, with the help from some wonderful people there who already owned a well-established and very successful kayak shop and rental business. A move north to a more permanent location was the next logical step since Jim enjoyed the change of the four seasons more than the year round hot, humid weather in Florida. His vision of having a home and a business on the same property, that could support himself and his family, motivated him to look for something that was close to a large body of water which hopefully had at least two separate houses and other buildings onsite. A large enough property which could also be home to his kayak, canoe and SUP rental business was a requirement. He found 142 Shook Branch Road, just outside of the sleepy little mountain town of Hampton, TN, that had the two homes and multiple buildings needed. It was right across the street from the Shook Branch Recreational area on Watauga Lake, which features a lake beach area, a swimming area, grills and picnic tables, and a pavilion area with restroom facilities. This wonderful public space is just a 5-minute walk from the property. The property is home to a mature forest, filled with wildlife and beautiful natural surroundings, nestled on the side of foothill in Blue Ridge Mountains, which is part of the Appalachian Mountain range. The drive to the property from Hwy 321 turning onto Shook Branch Road takes you directly over the Appalachian Trail. It is literally just steps from the bottom of Jim’s driveway. When he went for that first visit to his soon to be home, Jim knew he found the perfect property. Why not share this beautiful location with others and achieve the goals he has always longed for, to be self-employed and run a kayak rental business and a campground, that’s when Boots Off Hostel & Campground was born. Once Jim talked more with hikers arriving onsite, and he learned more about the Appalachian Trail, he altered the business plan to serve the needs of hikers and found tremendous joy helping others and being a part of their journey on the trail.
From the beginning, Jim had a vision of building family friendly, eclectic, comfortable, and well maintained indoor/outdoor spaces where everyone felt welcomed and at home and could enjoy the beautiful nature surrounding them. Over the years, countless hikers and others have poured their blood, sweat, and tears into making “The Boots Off Experience” possible for all of his guests. To this day, Jim still lives onsite, and the property now features 3 air-conditioned and heated Private Tiny Cabins, 2 large Private Canvas Cabin Tents, an 8-person air-conditioned and heated Bunkhouse, and a “Walk-Down” Primitive Campground with 21 flat tent and hammock sites of various sizes. There are super clean and unique showers and restrooms, and a small onsite General Store too. Also available is an indoor/outdoor common area with small kitchenette, dining area, and charging stations for cell phones and other electronics, along with a large communal bon fire pit for guests to gather around and share stories and get to know one another. There is also a large stage/multi-functional space for bands, events, weddings, and receptions. He has a fleet of Kayaks, Canoes, and Stand-Up Paddleboards (SUPs) available to rent for use on Watauga Lake, and offers several other services as well, such as shuttle services which cover a 400-mile range, along with numerous other hiker and guest services. Jim’s vision, built mostly by hikers and other volunteers, and staffed by a friendly and knowledgeable team, came together to create a Unique Hospitality Experience. With rustic charm, and value-driven, no-frills products and services, along with the best outdoor showers on the AT, you too can come have “The Boots Off Experience!” Please stop on by sometime and take your Boots Off. Thanks!