Autumn is trickling down the mountain in the Cullasaja Gorge as leaves begin to change promising a spectacular show.
In the next few months, thousands of tourists will make the drive from Franklin to Highlands to catch a glimpse of the changing leaves.
For the last 15 years Brandon Hintz and his wife Jodi have been vacationing in Macon County and after purchasing a place in Scaly Mountain a year and a half ago, decided to start a business here. With Hintz' experience as a brewer with Sweetwater Brewery in Georgia and after opening a successful brewpub (Hop Alley Brew Pub) in 2013 in Alpharetta, Ga., a business in craft beer seemed like the logical choice.
"Our brewpub in Georgia became a success and I had always wanted to expand into a production brewery at some point," said Hintz. "After discussing different locations we could go to, Franklin was the one spot we kept coming back to both due to the proximity to our place on Scaly as well as the people there. Combine that with the love of craft beer that people have in the western Carolinas coupled with the more attractive beer laws in North Carolina specifically, it was somewhat of a no brainer to open in Franklin."
“Start by doing what’s necessary, then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – St. Francis of Assisi According to “Pentecostal Evangel” magazine (May 1959 issue), Macon County pastor Fred Sorrells, started with a vision, a dream, a very large portion of faith, and $800 in cash, and set out to build the Assembly of God Camp Cullasaja off Highlands Road. Along with a congregation of folks willing to volunteer and provide labor for the project, the campground was completed for a fraction of its worth, even back then.
The campground became the meeting place for the Western Assembly of God District. In its heyday, it provided a venue for all types of Assembly of God functions, meetings, camps, and the annual church camp meeting.
Since John Wesley Powell led the first expedition down the Grand Canyon in 1869, adventure seekers from around the world have flocked to Arizona to gaze into the natural wonder.
Spanning 277 miles in length with the widest point of 18 miles across, it is easy to see why around 5 million people visit the Grand Canyon each year. Last month, a crew from Macon County traveled to the National Park to celebrate James Pader's 85th birthday. Pader was joined by his son, James, and friend Sarah Lowell, to hike the entire Grand Canyon from rim to rim.
On Saturday, April 13, a group of about 50 volunteers comprised of a diverse group of citizens from the Franklin and Highlands areas joined forces to clean up the Cullasaja River Gorge's roadsides and river banks.
This initiative is one of the Highlands Chamber of Commerce's ongoing annual projects to help keep area natural resources clean. The cleanup takes place every spring during the NCDOT's clean sweep week and has been headed up by the Highlands Chamber for the last 10 years.
This year, members of Venture Local Franklin, Franklin Chamber of Commerce staff/board members, Stay And Play in the Smokies, and others joined in to make an even bigger impact on this stretch of the “Mountain Waters Scenic Byway.” Of the 50 volunteers on Saturday, 20 volunteers represented Franklin.
"Franklin and Highlands market this same stretch of scenic highway for tourism and recreation purposes, and its very important for both communities to keep the roadsides of Highway 64 as beautiful as the natural assets that surround them,” said volunteer Matt Bateman. “So we decided to reach out to Jennifer Smathers at the Highlands Chamber Visitor Center to join forces."
Bateman, who is a member of Venture Local Franklin (VLF) and tour guide, believes it is important to build a mutual cooperation to take full ownership in maintaining the natural beauty of the roadside. "One of VLF's goals is to continue to reach out to other groups and entities within Franklin and beyond, so we can work together on moving Franklin forward in a positive direction," said Bateman.
The combined effort bagged litter from just above Cullasaja Falls, all the way up to the city limits of Highlands. More than 100 bags were filled by volunteers and hauled away by the U.S. Forest Service.
Main Street Coffee & Tea in downtown Franklin donated coffee for the volunteers of Franklin, while Bill and Sharon Van Horn donated bagels from Dills Creek Bagel Co. also of Franklin.
To finish the day, volunteers were treated to a cookout provided by the Highlands Chamber of Commerce at the Cliffside Lake Recreation Area.