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!
Its just about time for the kids to head back to school, but before your daily routine turns into bagged lunches and carpools, pack the kids up and head to the mountains for a quick weekend getaway to end Summer with a bang.
Franklin is the perfect weekend get-a-way as it is just a few hours from Asheville, Knoxville, Charlotte, and Greenville and with endless activities for the whole family, its a great way to have one final relaxing weekend before getting back into the swing of things.
The Little Tennessee River is a 135 mile stretch of water that flows right through the heart of Franklin with access points all along the river, there are numerous opportunities for a quick dip or a day’s trip seeing Franklin by boat. Franklin’s business community has grown to cater to the asset of the river so you can rent a tube or boat at Primitive Outback in Otto or rent a stand-up paddle board from Outdoor 76 on Main Street and explore the Little Tennessee.
2) Gem Mining
After all, Franklin is the Gem Capital of the World, so what better way to see all the town has to offer than to stop in at any one of Franklin’s dozen gem mining shops to try your luck at finding some authentic mountain gems. Mining for ruby and sapphire began in Macon County in 1870.
3) Take a hike!
Franklin sits right off the Appalachian Trail making it an ideal location to get some mud on your boots and get lost in the woods. Franklin has hiking for all experience levels ranging from short .3 miles just out side of town to day hikes that can turn into a camping trip such as the Standing Indian Mountain Long Loop. Franklin is known for a trail town and the businesses and locals alike are natural pundits when it comes to steering you in the right direction.
4) Take in a show
The Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts is in the middle of their summer line ups and still have a full schedule of gospel greats, country favorites, and world class tribute acts slated for the Summer. Before a night of entertainment at the center, stop into the Factory of Franklin and let the kids try out the newly opened trampoline park to burn off some energy.
Nothing screams summer in Franklin more than the annual BBQ festival held at the Wayne Proffitt Agricultural Center. This year’s two day event is scheduled to kick off on August 12 and makes the eight annual festival and will feature authentic, mouth-watering BBQ, live entertainment, a car show, crafters and tastin’ tent!
Whether you’re planning a day adventure, a weekend escape or a week’s vacation in the mountains of Western North Carolina, Franklin has plenty on the schedule to keep the whole family entertained and happy this Summer.