Sunday, December 26, 2010

Graham County, NC

Graham County Courthouse
George and I visited Graham County, North Carolina, on October 26. Our main goal in Graham County was to see Fontana Dam, but we saw so much more!

The picture on the left is the courthouse in Robbinsville, the county seat of Graham County. The county has three stoplights and one high school, Robbinsville High. Graham County was formed in 1872, and was named for William A.Graham, who first served as a U.S. Senator for North Carolina, then as governor, in the 1800s.

Appalachian Trail
 On our way to Fontana Dam, we pulled off at a scenic overlook to take pictures, and found one of many trailheads in this area for the Appalachian Trail. This picture is one of them. If you click on the picture to make it larger, you can see the Appalachian Trail sign. A long time ago, I had a dream of hiking the "AT," maybe even from one end to the other. For now, just finding access points to the Appalachian Trail is fun to me!

Water and Notes Left on the AT
 Of course, George and I took advantage of the opportunity to do some walking on the Appalachian Trail while we were there! Along the side of the trail, we found these full water bottles and a ziplock baggie with some notes for "Andy and AT Hikers." Charming and cool!

Fontana Lake from Highway
One of many "scenic overlooks" we stopped at in Graham County was the one where we took this picture of Fontana Lake, which was very pretty. It's a reservoir created by Fontana Dam, and it is part of the southern border of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, as well as part of the northern border of the Nantahala National Forest.

Fontana Dam

Here's Fontana Dam! Both George and I were pretty impressed by Fontana Dam, which was built in the 1940s as part of the Tennessee Valley Authority. Fontana Dam is the tallest dam in the eastern United States, and when it was built, it was (according to Wikipedia!) the fourth largest dam in the world. Part of the Appalachian Trail crosses over Fontana Dam, another cool fact.

We spent some time in the Visitor Center at Fontana Dam, and enjoyed the talk by a volunteer docent who is a retiree of the TVA.

After our time at Fontana Dam, George and I stopped in Fontana Village and shopped at the General Store before having lunch at Wildwood Grill. There are a lot of outdoorsy things one can do in the Fontana Village area, so it seems like the kind of place that would be fun for a family reunion (for families with folks who like the outdoors, anyway!).

Lake Santeetlah
Our next stop was the town of Lake Santeetlah and the body of water known as Santeetlah Lake or Lake Santeetlah, depending on the source. I enjoyed stopping at the marina and walking around, shooting pictures. The shot on the left is from that stop.

Cherohala Skyway
After our Lake Santeetlah stop, we backtracked a little bit towards Robbinsville to get on the Cherohala Skyway, a drive that a local recommended to us. (We've gotten pretty bold about introducing ourselves to locals on these county visits and asking them for recommendations!) The Cherohala Skyway reminded us of the Blue Ridge Parkway, but it seemed more dramatic, in terms of leaf colors and turns in the road. Maybe it was because the Cherohala Skyway was just new to us, though. At any rate, the drive was just beautiful! It's a fairly new road, finished in 1996 at the cost of $100 million! We didn't make it all the way to the end of the Skyway in Tennessee, though, because it was toward the end of a full day of sightseeing and mountain driving, and we were running out steam. We changed the route in our car GPS to take us the fastest way back to our hotel in Murphy from the section of the Skyway we were on in Tennessee, but that ended up being quite an adventure (and a story we're glad to tell, if you just ask!)!

My two regrets from this day trip to Graham County were that we didn't get to the end of the Cherohala Skyway in Tellico Plains, TN, and that we didn't take the time to see the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest in Graham County. It is so hard to do it all!

Other interesting tidbits about Graham County:
* Parts of the movies, "Nell" and "The Fugitive" were filmed in Graham County.
* It's the only dry county in the state of North Carolina.
* Graham County is the birthplace of Ronnie Milsap.

The rest of my pictures from Graham County are here.


Christina said...

I think its so cool your going to all the counties. It amazes me there are so many counties where in AZ, there are only 16 (or something like that). I love the pictures with all the fall colors. thanks for sharing

Lesley said...

Thanks, Christina! It's a fun project, and I've learned some interesting things about "my" state. 100 counties does seem like a lot, but I don't have a deadline for finishing, thank goodness! :)