From Franklin to Fontana

The 60-or-so mile journey from our zero day in Franklin, NC to the southern terminus of the Smoky Mountains has certainly flown by.

We are now preparing to send Willett on what we call his “vacation” while we spend five days in the Smokies, no dogs allowed. Here are the last three days–highlights, lowlights, and photos!

Day One–Down, Down, Down


-Descending from Wesser Bald along a spine that dropped steeply on either side, with incredible views along the way.

-Arriving at our most idyllic campsite after feeling rotten due to the impact of prolonged descent on the joints. A lush stream surrounded by towering trees. Instant mashed potatoes with spinach to celebrate St. Patricks Day (no Guinness found chilling in a stream, alas).


-Travis was hurting! The descending was rough on his knee and we weren’t sure how to proceed… This lowlight has a happy ending!


The view from the observation tower on Wesser Bald.


It has become extremely hot and dry, so springs like this are a wonderful relief.


The Jumpoff–a rocky outcrop from our descent along the spine.


Willett is totally spent, sleeping in a cool ditch near our campsite.



Day Two–NOC and Up, Up, Up


-Lightening our load a bit at the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC). Travis went for lighter shoes and sent a few things home, greatly helping the knee issues! Things are looking up.

-Being surrounded by a chorus of hooting and hollering owls at nightfall. Willett was sure we would perish.


-Lack of sleep due to a snoring/coughing/restless shelter companion and a late-night decision to attempt pitching the tent despite no adequate locations. Unsuccessful night, all in all.


The view from Cheoah Bald, a good 3300 feet higher than where we started that morning.


Irregularly growing tree + Travis + Dog


Sunset from the shelter after a RIGOROUS ascent up “Jacobs Ladder” (which felt rather like a prolonged trip up a steeply angled down-escalator).

Day Three–Down to Fontana


-After a long, winding descent we came to a lovely little stream and a group of hikers outfitted with ukuleles. Quite the oasis! While napping, Willett also slid tragically–yet comically–into said stream and flailed a few moments before recovering his grace.

-Sharing a camping area with a charming bunch of thru-hikers (including the musicians) who GREATLY appreciated our found-object-dessert: blueberry muffin mix dumplings baked in Swiss Miss. A warm, gooey improv cobbler.


-After MUCH anticipation of purported “vending machines” at an upcoming road crossing, we were saddened to find only a near-empty soda machine with barely cool Coke and Nestea. We had been dreaming up treats far more satisfying.


If you look closely you will notice a destroyed sapling near Willett’s saddlebag. These young trees have become his latest victims and we anticipate owing many hours of community service come Arbor Day.



Spring flowers are coming!


Our campsite by Fontana Lake. A lovely spot to watch the full moon rise!


After five months of Snickers Bars and couscous, eating all the meat and vegetables I can get my hands on...
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6 Responses to From Franklin to Fontana

  1. Dave says:

    Awesome Pictures!

  2. Alison says:

    Agreed, that was a great set of photos! Loved hearing about Willet’s surprise wakeup in the stream and new sapling habit. Where is he staying while you guys bag the Smokies?

    • He stayed at a hostel on the north end of the park, Standing Bear. It’s an amazing service–they drive 2 hours to pick him up at Fontana Dam and we walked our way back to him.

  3. Becca and Tony says:

    Just letting you know that we have enjoyed your pictures and stories! xo

  4. Becca and Tony Pecore says:

    Fun to read- enjoy.

  5. Helen says:

    Regarding your photo of an early blooming trillium, I noticed that it looks very similar to an endangered species so I asked the Smithsonian’s trillium expert, Stanwyn Shetler, for an ID. Here is the very kind reply from Stan:

    This looks like Trillium erectum, the red trillium or wake-robin, but the southern Appalachians are a hotspot for trillium species. The number of species there depends on the taxonomist. Some species are very localized and surely are endangered. T. erectum is widespread but could be endangered in parts of its range. I look upon all trilliums as relatively rare and endangered, whether technically so or not.

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