Our time in Franklin NC is coming to an end. Monday we head west and south eventually landing in Desert Hot Springs CA. We are hoping to spend a few days in Shreveport LA, but with the impending Polar Vortex threatening to invade most of the country, we may just continue southwest til we find some sun and heat.
We will be spending a few weeks in several locations, and I thought I might share my likes/dislikes of the areas I visit. Our plan is to travel until we find an area we find interesting, and spend some time picking up the local flavor before we head on. Staying longer allows one to get a better feel of the location, and provides a well-needed break from the rigors of the wrestling the rig down the freeway!
Our daughter Shauna has lived in the Franklin area for about nine years, and we have spent a fair amount of time visiting. But this is the first time we have been able to spend more than a week’s time. We decided to stay six weeks visiting and exploring. It was a good choice!
Franklin is a mountain community located in western NC within the Nantahala National Forest, and is also the county seat of Macon County. It is a small town, population around 3800, and is known locally as the “gem capital of the world.” Although from my experience I might call it “the hiking capital of the world.” The climate is generally mild, however this was not our experience! Average highs in October are 69 degrees with the lows around 42. I did find the highs to be right around 65, but it has been 32 or below many nights of our stay, causing us to utilize both the electric and propane heaters. We stayed toasty warm (not counting the times the propane ran out forcing Dear Hubby out to switch tanks in the middle of the night), and have yet to use the electric blanket my Mom gave us. Bless her heart, she still worries about me getting cold! Rightly or wrongly so, when folks find out we are from Michigan, they blame us for the cold weather. I believe we may hear this sentiment repeated wherever we may land this winter!
It is hard for me to be objective. I love this town, if non-other than the fact we have family here. But aside from family there are many things Franklin offered us during our stay. Here’s a few:
#1) The Great Smoky Mountains and it’s numerous trails including a good stretch of the Appalachian Trail. Bruce and I logged a total hiking time of 20 hours and 25 minutes during our stay. Although every hike was beautiful and ranged from easy to difficult, the most notable, as always, was Pinnacle Point. Technically the trail is not in Franklin, but located in the neighboring town of Sylva, and is a must-do most times we visit. The elevation is just over 5000 feet, very steep and rocky terrain, mainly a switch-back style trail. And wouldn’t you know, the day we tackled the Point this visit, it was snowing making for a difficult trek with very soggy sneakers.
Although I did not walk out to the actual point itself (my hands were frozen and I was afraid if I slipped I would not catch myself) which is accessed via a small rock ledge, Josh and Shauna braved the ledge and shot some wonderful pics. Simply amazing! And when you have finished your hike, and are in need of sustenance there is a wonderful No Name Bar (yeah, that’s what it is called!) just down the road which has a warm, inviting interior, cold beer, and great nachos to revive weary hikers. Round trip on hike is about 7 miles and took us 3.5 hours. I have a love/hate relationship with this particular trail!
#2) Deal Farms. When one is hiking, one needs to be properly nourished. To my delight, just down the road from our campsite on Highway 64 is a family-owned farm where we were able to purchase reasonably priced produce. Fresh green peppers and tomatoes in October, yes!!! They had a great selection, and I planned our meals around what was available. And I even got some free-range eggs which were beyond good. The woman who runs the stand was very friendly and helpful, and I look forward to returning in the spring.
#3) Speaking of friendly…We had a wonderful time meeting new friends at the local VFW post and the American Legion post. So both deserve a spot on my list. Everyone was so kind and made us feel more than welcome. These types of clubs are great places to meet some locals and enjoy a cocktail that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Most Thursdays found us cozied up around the bar playing a few rousing games of bar bingo. We never won a game, but Bruce did score a free drink! We even met a movie star. Okay, he wasn’t a star, but did have a bit part in the 80’s movie “Ordinary People.” And he had some great stories about his experiences on the set. Hats off to bartenders Dickie and Mike who really treated us well. We look forward to catching up with our newfound friends in the spring.
#4) Franklin Proper. The town is an awesome place with all the Americana only a small town can deliver. Despite it’s small population, it boasts a unique downtown area with some great shops and restaurants. And in fine small -town fashion we attended the Fall Pumpkin Festival complete with a pumpkin roll down a very large hill. The day was bright and sunny with a beautiful blue sky. There are several festivals, including one in the springtime aptly named “The Airing of the Quilts Festival.” Now that sounds interesting!
#5) Vito’s Pizza and Italian Tavern. Located at 607 Highlands Rd, Vito’s has a nice menu selection, but quite honestly, I can never get beyond the pizza. As any pizza lover can attest to, the crust and the sauce make the pizza. And Vito has it down! Word has it the recipes have been in the family for 50 years. We will be there tomorrow evening with our family to break bread and say our “see ya laters.” I am going to order a giant pie so I can enjoy the leftovers as we travel!
But ya know, with the good, is the not-so-good, and here are a few of my dislikes of my stay here:
#1) Japanese Beetles. Or as they are known here, stink-bugs. When the sun is out they are everywhere, sneaking into tiny crevasses, and impossible to keep out. I keep thinking they will die in the freezing nights, but they don’t. We cannot even have our doors or windows open because they will invade. Bruce has enjoyed many hours hunting them down and squishing them in our travel trailer. The locals say they will stink if allowed to survive. Stupid fake ladybugs. In the heat of the day I cannot even sit outside without them landing all over me. Which leads me to my next point…
#2) Extreme temperature changes. Now I am from Michigan, and we have all types of weather, sometimes all in one day. But not everyday. Two things here hot and cold. Hot when the sun is out, cold when it goes away. I literally shut off the heat in late morning and turn on the air an hour later. Because I cannot open my windows due to the stupid stink bugs. When I shut off the air in late afternoon, an hour later, on comes the heat. Really, you never know what to wear in these parts! Dress in layers for sure.
#3) Music. We get one radio station; country. Now I can listen to some country, but not all the time! I even watched the CMA awards, and knew all the artists and songs. (we also get 4 tv stations compared to 22 at our last campground, I miss ME TV!) I would kill to hear some Motown or metal at this point. Load your ipod before you arrive.
#4) And don’t forget to stock up on some supplies before you arrive as well. Food is very expensive here, and I wish I had loaded up on some of my staples before I left Michigan. I am missing Aldi’s. I realize the goods must be trucked over the mountains to get here, and I respect that, but my frugal and nutritionally-minded self does not like it one bit. My big box of Earthbound Farms organic spinach, which I purchase in Michigan for $4.99 is $7.99 here. I still need my green smoothies, so I compromised and choose a big bag of UN-organic spinach instead.
#5) Forest Service Roads. In a word…terrifying. We traveled on FS Road 69 back in July to reach Wayah Bald. I planned to go there to hike. By the time Bruce maneuvered our giant truck up this scary mountain road, complete with increasingly smaller lanes and sheer-drop offs, my anxiety levels were so high, I could not function. Everyone else traveling this FS road seemed to be driving Honda’s or Kia’s, not us, oh no. Let’s take that big-ass 2500 Chevy Silverado up that road. Hiking was replaced on that particular day with self-medication at the local pub! No more FS roads for this gal!
So there you have it. My top 5 likes and dislikes. Our time here has been wonderful, and it is always great to see our NC family (and friends now too!), but as they say, I am getting “hitch-itch” and it is time for this gypsy to move on. Being a flatlander, the mountains are beginning to close in on me. So until next spring; Franklin I bid you a fond farewell….