Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Nantahala Outdoor Center

We have finally left the Smokemont Campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  I just love the National Park camping experience.  It is so peaceful and serene with the song of the babbling brook (in this case the Oconaluftee River and Bradley Fork), the birds, and the trees.  The sites are large and since this is still too early for many vacationers, it almost seemed like we had the place to ourselves, especially during the work week.

The Smokemont campground has been closed over the past several months for some much needed renovations and repaving of the interior roads.  Every driving surface in the campground was repaved--roads, parking areas, campsites, dump station.  Wonderful!  The restrooms were renovated as well--not so far as hot water, but a fresh new look.  A lot of work has gone into this campground and we enjoyed our stay there.

However, over a week without hookups was plenty.  I can do pretty good without electricity, but I really don’t like to be without cell service.  It’s not so much the internet that I miss, although it is an important part of my day with my own blog and keeping up with the blogs I read, but I really don’t like to be without a telephone.  With elderly family members an emergency could pop up at any time.  I want to be able to get a call.  I want to be able to make a call if I have an emergency myself.  We’re back to civilization now.  As wonderful as our stay at Smokemont was, I was ready to leave.

Nantahala Outdoor Center
Saturday, we needed a rest from our hike on Friday and decided to drive to Wesser, North Carolina to Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC).  There’s really not much to Wesser; just a small General Store, three or four restaurants, a fly fishing shop, and NOC.

Oops, an unmanned raft is not a good thing.
It’s mostly all about the Nantahala River which runs through the Nantahala Gorge and offers some of the best whitewater around here.

This doesn't even look like fun to me.

NOC is many things.  They offer kayaking and rafting lessons and guided trips not just on the Nantahala River but on several rivers in the area.  They rent equipment and they also sell equipment and clothing.  That’s why we went--to finger the merchandise.  There was a lot of stuff to choose from, but after much looking we only came away with one pair of hiking socks.

The white blaze of the AT as it heads north over the bridge
I said NOC is mostly about the river.  Their other big customer is the Appalachian Trail hiker.  The trail crosses the Nantahala River on the bridge right next to the store.  The weary hiker is always looking forward to reaching NOC.  They have a hiker hostel and a few private rooms to rent.  NOC is about 135 miles from the southern end of the trail on Springer Mountain in northern Georgia and many hikers are looking for a diversion from hiking all day every day.  NOC has the river and they plunge right in.

A class in session
We had brought our own lunch so we “hiked” the AT across the bridge and found a picnic table on the bank of the river.  Since we didn’t have any obligations for the rest of the day we just hung out enjoying the nice spring weather and watching what few brave souls there were on the river this early in the season.

Mr Confidence
On our way home we decided to check out a campground near Fontana Dam.  Mother and I had tent camped there years ago.  It is very conveniently located to the Twentymile area of the Park and since there are a couple trails I need to hike in that area, this campground came to mind.  We drove through the campground, but it was a little too rough around the edges for my taste and the road down to it was a little to narrow, curvy, and steep for Gene’s taste.  We decided to pass on that and look for something else later.
Fontana Lake
It turned out to be a full day and I guess we really didn’t get all that much rest.

That’s all for now.  Thanks for tagging along.


  1. nice view of Fontana Lake!!..not too sure about the kayaking in the river either!..that upside down thing doesn't look like any fun to me either!!

  2. You guys need to raft down the Nantahala and do the Lesser Wesser. It is dam fed and the water,if you fall in, is very cold, but a lot of fun. You can rent a raft and not kayak it. Gerri & I did this several years ago and had a blast!

    1. That sounds like a lot of fun, Mike. I couldn't do without a guide, though. I'm just too afraid of water.

  3. Whitewater kayaking is SO MUCH FUN. You are missing out. I kayak during the hot buggy low-water summer months and backpack the rest of the year.