Franklin, NC and Wayah Gap 1

Finding some quiet time today to catch up on blog posts. We have been having far too much fun socilaizing, and I haven’t spent enough time working. Life is good, isn’t it??? But Eric is working today so the cats & I are enjoying some outdoors time to give him peace & quiet.

After leaving Virginia and several weeks of “moochcamping” in driveways, we are finally striking out on what feels like real travel.  We set off for Franklin, NC to visit friends out in the Nantahala National Forest.  Our route takes us over the Eastern Continental Divide (where waters drain either to the Atlantic in the east or to the Gulf of Mexico) via I-40 in the Black Mountains of North Carolina.  It’s a pretty steep climb from the east to an altitude of 2,880′ , yet the Traveler chugged right along, even with the Jeep in tow.  She really is a good workhorse!  We checked into The Pines campground, and met up with our friends Ella & Jonathan the next day for a little exploring.  The Nantahala is breathtaking: it is a Cherokee word meaning “Land of the Noonday Sun” and it is fitting because the terrain is so steep that in some ravines/hollows you can only see the sun when it’s directly overhead.  I wouldn’t want to drive the RV on some of the roads we were exploring because of the steep grades and tight switchbacks.  We head up to Dry Falls, so named because you can walk behind it and stay relatively dry.  It’s been very cold and there’s ice on the rocks, so the path behind the falls is blocked off (not that you’d need a barricade to keep me from walking back there and getting wet today!)  We have some great beer & barbecue for lunch before heading back.

chilly drive Dry Falls Dry Falls2

On a second day of exploring, we take the Jeep and head up to Wayah (wolf) Gap.  It’s a beautiful drive, and there’s a parking area at the Gap because the Appalachian Trail crosses the road here and the dayhike to Wayah Bald is popular.  We parked and decided to hike a short way up the trail.  My father loved hiking and, in particular, loved balds because the views are so spectacular.  He thru-hiked the AT at the age of 61, and so it was very moving to realize that I was literally walking in his footsteps.  Just a few days before I had completed the task of scanning in 30+ years of my father’s journals, including the journals he kept while hiking the AT.  It was an emotional task to tackle, but especially so in the weeks after the complete life upheaval of selling our house & leaving our home of 20+ years.  Our hike brought the best memories of him close, and it was nice.  I miss you dad.

Wayah Gap  View from Wayah snow

Leaving Wayah Gap, we decided to take a forest service road back to the bottom of the mountain.  Nice views, and an exciting discovery on the twisty little road without a guardrail: snow!  No worries with the 4×4 though.  The views from the mountains here are spectacular.  The steep rocky terrain means that there’s a waterfall or stream on virtually every hillside.  There’s something about seeing the brilliant sky through the skeletal arms of dormant trees that resonates in me: a connection to a time when I lived in a place that had 4 seasons, when people too tend to be dormant and contemplative on those short cold days before bursting back onto the landscape with the first leaves of spring.  I loved living in the Keys but realize now how much I have been missing the change of the seasons.

In between hikes and exploring in the National Forest, we checked out downtown Franklin and we like it!  It’s big enough to have all the conveniences, but still small enough to feel homey.  We had fun with our friends and will definitely be back here again.

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