Our Beautifully Strong, But Fragile Earth: An Interview with Local Photographer John MacLean
Franklin is home to many artists who are inspired by life in a blue ridge mountain valley. Photographers in particular find themselves surrounded by infinite possibilities to capture and create art, and one such photographer, John MacLean, showcases his incredible work in a gallery downtown near the gazebo.
MacLean accepted our invitation for an interview, and we were inspired by all he had to say about being an artist in Franklin, North Carolina.
How long have you been a photographer, and how did you discover your love for the medium?
I’ve been a photographer for about 50 years. My father introduced me to B&W shooting, film processing and enlarger printing around 1972 when I was 9 years young. My dad will be 93 in January and it’s wonderful to still share this craft with him. It’s been the longest love affair of my life.
What draws you to natural photography in the mountains, especially in the Franklin area?
The infinite variety and natural light of landscapes have always attracted me. The mountains of Western North Carolina provide a never-ending palette of color and illumination.
For photographers who are new to the area, which locations and times of year would you most highly recommend to shoot?
My favorite locations would probably have to be on the BRP. It’s just magical up there. And, of course, amazing waterfalls are everywhere, with a few very famous ones local to Franklin. I also really like some of the fire towers for views. (If aspiring photographers want lessons, I provide small workshops/photo tours and 1 on 1 training in the field or via online mentoring.)
Every season offers a different and inspiring composition. For vivid colors and more atmospheric vistas I would say any time from Spring thru Fall. The winter usually requires a long freeze to produce enough interest for me to go out in cold weather. That being said, I thought my fingers were going to snap off while at Dry Falls during the Polar Vortexes of 2014 and 2015. But I got some unique images. Lately I’m becoming more temperature challenged. 😉
Have you always lived in Franklin? What is the best part of being a local here?
My family has been here for 40 years. I spent 30 years out West, but visited often. I moved back East in 2012 to help my parents in their Golden Years after losing my older brother here a couple years before.
Photographically the best part of being local is having direct access to the area without having to travel long distances. As you know, the weather conditions here change the lighting, by the second. The air and water are great, and lifestyle-wise the traffic is non-existent compared to areas even within a couple hours away. The mountain life gives you more time and subject matter to explore and to experience its wonders.
What message do you hope to communicate through your art?
It’s my goal to capture the essence of each scene and visually communicate that to the viewer. I’m not just recording it with a device that replicates the location, but I’m trying to also put my optical spin on it, while keeping it as natural and organic as possible through controlled exposure and processing. My end result is to hopefully evoke a response that ultimately our beautifully strong, but fragile earth is in need of protection, or else we’ll just be left with beautiful images of it.
For more information check out johnmaclean.com.
Planning a Family Reunion in the Mountains
When it comes to getting your whole family together, there’s no better place to have a reunion than the North Carolina mountains. Franklin is home to both exciting outdoor exploration and family-friendly entertainment, so there’s plenty to do for people of all ages!
All that’s left to do is plan out the details—so here are the three big things to think about while planning your next family vacation in Franklin, North Carolina.
Get cozy with mountain lodging
First, you need a place for everyone to crash when they arrive from the four corners of the map. Whether you choose a hotel, motel, or bed and breakfast, take into consideration where you’ll be spending the most time during your reunion.
If you’re keeping everyone busy from sunup to sundown, you can spread everyone out once it’s time to hit the hay. On the other hand, maybe you want to spend most of your time lounging indoors—in that case, planning to keep everyone in one location is the way to go.
Plan an expedition or two
What activities does your family enjoy? Franklin is home to gem mining, fly fishing, hiking, great live shows, and arcade gaming—so you’re sure to find something for everyone.
Even if you don’t want to split off for your activities, many options are great for people of all ages. For example, local hiking trails range from easy one-mile strolls to more challenging 15-mile treks, so finding one that’s perfect for your crew is a breeze.
Gather around great food
Let’s be real: Food is everyone’s favorite way to catch up. Once the whole family arrives, it’ll be on their minds, so it’s a good thing Franklin is home to a myriad of dining options. Take everyone out, or get catering and eat in!
Make memories and have fun!
The mountains are full of opportunities to celebrate the old while exploring the new, so there’s no better place to reminice family memories, make fresh ones, and have an adventure. We can’t wait to have you!
Heading to the mountains during summer means it’s time for trails galore, and Franklin delivers! Whether you’re looking for a fun family outing that’s easy on the kids or a truly challenging trek with backpacks and tents, you’re sure to find exactly what you’re looking for around these parts.
Here are 9 trails in a 45-minute drive or less from downtown Franklin! Difficulty level is ranked by AllTrails.com, and all distance measurements are round-trip.
Little Tennessee Greenway
Easy | 6.4 miles | 4 min drive
If you’re looking for the absolute best place to take the kids, check out the Little Tennessee Greenway. There are several entry points scattered throughout town, so if the six-and-a-half miles are too much, you can always pick a spot and walk as far as you like. Bring the bikes, the pets (on leashes), or a picnic—and be sure to check out the Wesley Park playground!
Easy | 1.4 miles | 44 min drive
Pickens nose is well worth the extra drive time, and not just because of the silly name that will keep your kids giggling for the whole trip. The view is absolutely stunning after a half-mile hike uphill, which is just enough to make you feel like a mountain explorer without having to break out the boots.
Wayah Bald Tower
Easy | 4 miles | 46 min drive
The kids are going to love this one; the Wayah Bald Tower is an old stone fire tower perched at 5,342 feet elevation with a massive 180-degree overlook. You can see as far as the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee all the way to the foothills in Georgia!
Rufus Morgan Trail
Medium | 1 mile | 28 min drive
The terrain is a bit more challenging, but for explorers who love chasing waterfalls, this trail is for you! The Rufus Morgan trail is also prime bird-watching territory, so be sure to grab a camera and a sketchbook. Leashed dogs are also welcome!
Medium | 4.1 miles | 9 min drive
Trail runners, get excited! The Bartram trail is a gorgeous rising-and-falling trail dotted with waterfalls that runners seek out. Climb all the way to the summit for a glorious view at William’s Pulpit. It’s also great for more adventurous kids and leashed pups, too!
Medium | 10.1 miles | 23 min drive
Get ready to feel delightfully lost in a forest wonderland. The trek is a bit longer than most we’ve covered so far, but you’ll truly feel like you’ve wandered into a fairy realm. Ready your backpack and your camera—and maybe even some camping gear—for a truly nature-rooted experience.
Expert | 4.9 miles | 42 min drive
Deep Gap is a great catch-all trail. Whether you want to spot wildlife, set up camp, or get some trail running in with your dog, the 5-mile round trip is a great balance between being challenging and also accessible for different goals.
Winding Stair Gap
Expert | 9.4 miles | 15 min drive
Want to conquer a section of the Appalachian Trail without getting whisked away to Maine? Winding Stair Gap is just the thing. The entry point is right on US 64 with convenient parking at the base. Take your pups on a leash and get ready to take plenty of floral photos!
Wayah Bald to Tellico Gap
Expert | 13.8 round trip | 42 min drive
Start at Wayah Bald Tower and prepare for an expedition! Hikers who want to backpack and camp along the trail are in for a treat between Wayay Bald and Tellico Gap. You can even bring Fido on your journey! For adventurers who want to undertake the almost-14-mile round trip in one go, we salute you—that’s an undertaking!
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.