I live in the Boone/Blowing Rock/Banner Elk area of the NC mountains. Recently did some artwork for The Ginn Company who bought a good percentage of the county. The Lauralmoor development sold 270 high end lots in one day a couple of months ago. This was a state record I believe. This land was bought from a transcendental meditation group who developed a part of it over the last 10 years. I used to do work for some of them when I was in the sign Biz and I always got a kick out of getting a check from the account of "The Maharishi"(sp?).
Didn`t know the "Half Back" term had legs outside of this area. Floridians have been buying up farms in this area since I moved here in 1990. I was also in school here at Appalachian State ( Last year and this year`s National Champs in 1AA football! ) in the early 80s but real estate was the last thing on my mind that time. :^)
Just down the mountain, Ashe county is beginning to boom along the New River (arguably the oldest river in reality). The areas around the ski slopes in this area have been good in the past. The Areas around Asheville (Highlands) as you were stating have been doing well for a few years now.
I have no capital to say the least ( Between a business risk or 2 after 15 years and the tech crash ) and only 3 small rentals so unfortunately I am out of the game for now but from my limited knowledge you are right on the Money!
Good luck in your endeavours,