The Dogwoods are pristine, the tulips are exploding with color and the mountains of Western North Carolina are calling. Spring in Franklin is unlike anytime of year. Everything is new and fresh and the air is a little crisper than normal. If you are thinking of a weekend getaway, look no further, Franklin is where you need to be.
May is a fantastic month to plan a trip to Franklin, North Carolina, with unique experience planned each feel. From an introduction to puppetry class at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts on May 2 to the Echo Valley Gem and Mineral Show May 4-8, there is something for everyone.
Mother’s Day weekend is a treat in Macon County, with gem shows like you have never seen, a plant sale along main street and the famous annual “Airing of the Quilts” festival. Come see homemade, one of kind masterpieces as they are hung up and down Franklin’s quaint main street and stop in to say hello to the shop owners displaying these works of art.
The Little Tennessee Greenway is perfect in the Spring, with the cool breeze of the Little Tennessee River pairing well with the sweet smells of native flowers blossoming along the walk.
The Appalachian Trail and Bartram Trail are bustling with hikers and with various trail heads and access points to both, a great day hike or even a section hike is the ideal way to spend time in Macon County.
Spring is a time for new beginnings and fresh starts and what better way to recharge and refresh than Discovering Us, here in Franklin, North Carolina.
Top Outdoor Town – Check out Franklin, NC
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home.” –John Muir
With mountain ridges as far as the eye can see and fresh water streams that meander through the hills, Macon County is home to nearly 250 square miles of United States Forest land, making it the perfect outdoor adventure mecca.
From unmarred national forests to pristine mountain waters, and its location as a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains, Franklin, North Carolina is the ideal outdoor destination. With Blue Ridge Outdoor Magazine’s recent designation as a 2015 Top Outdoor Town, visitors from all over will soon find out exactly what makes Franklin the perfect place to get lost outside.
- Home to Nantahala National Forest
“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” -John Muir
With terrain reaching 5,580 in elevation, the Nantahala National Forest spans 531,270 acres over six counties, with the majority being located in Macon County. As the largest national forest in North Carolina, the Nantahala National Forest houses three wilderness areas, including Ellicott Rock near Highlands. These unharmed wilderness destinations preserve the forests as close to their original state as possible, making for the perfect outdoor experience. These wilderness areas create the perfect opportunity for solitude in a rugged, natural setting.
- A day’s drive from three major metropolitan areas
“Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.” – John Muir
Not everyone wants to get lost for long and by being located two to two and half hours away from Atlanta, Charlotte, and Greenville, Franklin makes for the ultimate day adventure. Franklin sits 130 miles north of Atlanta, 180 miles west of Charlotte, and 110 miles northwest of Greenville. After a couple of hours in the car, anyone can leave the hustle and bustle of the city and become consumed with crisp mountain air and pristine relaxation.
- Businesses and a community centered around outdoor recreation
“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” – John Muir
From the Nantahala Hiking Club providing insider information about the best spots to put some miles on your hiking boots to businesses built on serving the outdoor enthusiast, Franklin is an entire community dedicated to the outdoor industry. From custom shoe fittings at Outdoor 76 or resupplying before heading back into the woods at Three Eagle Outfitters, to grabbing a beer at the Lazy Hiker Brewery, Franklin has grown into a one stop shop, all of which are locally owned and operated for premiere customer service, for the outdoorsman.
- Franklin was designated as the very first official Appalachian Trail Community
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir
All 2,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail stretches through 14 states and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy has designated 36 towns from Georgia to Maine as certified Appalachian Trail Communities. Franklin, being recognized as a leader in community involvement to promote and protect the trail, was designated as the very first Appalachian Trail Community.
Macon County is home to 47 miles of the Appalachian Trail, with Franklin being just 11 miles off the trail. The Macon County Transit also provide a shuttle service to hikers during peak season. As a leader in the trail communities, Franklin has even worked to develop an annual month long celebration of the trail, April Trail Days, spanning from the first day of Spring until Earth Day. With events and celebrations hosted by various businesses and clubs in the community to promote the trail and welcome hikers to Franklin.
- Hiking, biking, climbing, paddling, and every other outdoor recreation opportunity you can possibly fathom.
“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” – John Muir
The possibilities are endless. From hiking perfection like the Appalachian Trail and the Bartram Trail, to rock climbing at Pickens Nose, to paddling down the Little Tennessee, the miles and miles of forests and rivers encompassing Franklin lends itself beautifully to satisfy your wanderlust. Whether you want to throw on a pack and go off the grid in the Nantahala National Forest or if you was to suit up to test out your rod in a fresh mountain stream, there is no shortage of opportunity in Franklin.
Calling Franklin, North Carolina the Gem of the Appalachians maybe a bit cliché, as the word play has been used far too many times in reference to her abundant mineral deposits; however, cliché aside, I’m in the camp believing she is the gem of the Appalachians. It’s not solely for her mineral offerings; in fact, those offerings pale in comparison to the true rarities, treasures and secrets that lie and have lain beneath the dark soil of Franklin, adding greatly to Franklin’s mystique and reputation. A fine example of Franklin’s being a vault of secrets occurred in the hot summer months of 1898. Attempting to beat the Southern heat, several teenagers were swimming in the Little Tennessee River, nearest the edge of the ancient Nikwasi Mound. One child called out, after careful examination of something he’d seen sticking out of the earthen bank along the river, “Guys, I think I’ve found a skull!” The other teens, with wide eyes, and having found some sticks to dig with, began digging around the alleged skull. After several hours, and after running home for shovels, the teens placed on display their finds. Three entire, and intact human skeletons. Two of the skeletons were nothing but bone; however, the third was still wrapped in a rotting garment of some type. Not only that, a portion of a leather strap still crossed the chest of the skeleton and a piece of what appeared to be a hat still clung to his boney forehead. More shocking still, upon the strap and the hat were two different pieces of metal, both with a still-visible, carved name.
“His name was Danyl Crayne!” One of the kids called out.
The skeletal remains were carefully locked away until the year 1919, when a collector purchased them. His research and the later research of others identified Crayne as having been a Lieutenant in the British Army during the French and Indian War era. He’d been pronounced missing in action, after telling his men that he alone was going to speak with the Cherokee chief at Nikwasi.
The scenes that played out in the 1760s during and after the bloody French and Indian War were often set in Franklin, and many natives and Europeans lost their lives along Franklin’s winding rivers and deep in her vast wilds.
About the author:
Gregg Clark is a native of Macon County, North Carolina. He holds a BA in Professional Writing and a Master’s Degree in teaching English. He’s currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Executive Leadership at Lincoln Memorial University. He teaches English and History at Macon Middle School and he and his wife, herself a third-grade teacher at Iotla Valley Elementary, own and operate Where Shadows Walk, Historic Ghost Tours of Western North Carolina. They have three wonderful children: Erika, Aaron and Shade. Clark currently operates tours in Franklin, Bryson City and Sylva, North Carolina. 2016 will find tours in Highlands and Waynesville as well.