Downtown Franklin was swarmed with Appalachian Hikers last weekend for the 5th Annual April Fools Trail Days. Beginning Friday night, hikers began pouring off the AT Trail into Franklin to enjoy a Hiker Bash at Franklin's Sapphire Inn. Refueling, restocking, and relaxing, the hikers enjoyed a "zero day" to get refreshed before heading back on the trail. The Hiker Bash, orchestrated each year by Sapphire Inn owner Ron Haven, featured good food, live music, and warm showers for the hikers.
On Saturday, hikers made their way around Franklin to enjoy music, food, and networking. Visitors stopped into Outdoor 76 on Main Street to restock on supplies or visited Three Eagles Outfitters to take part in a gear exchange. As a certified Appalachian Trail Community, Franklin has become a staple on the trail and a great point for hikers to come into town for a while before going back off the grid.
For the second year, Franklin's American Legion Post 108 served as a stopping point for the Appalachian Trail's Warrior Hike. The Warrior Hike is a project geared toward helping wounded veterans transition back to civilian life through hiking the entire trail. "I would like to thank the members of American Legion Post 108, the Nantahala Hiking Club, and the community of Franklin, N.C. for the tremendous outpouring of support that the Warrior Hikers received during their stop in Franklin," said Warrior Hike Founder Sean Gobin. "First the Warrior Hikers were provided free lodging at the Budget Inn for two nights, then the American Legion and the Nantahala Hiking Club put on a BBQ dinner that raised $2,300 in donations for the Warrior Hike program, then the Warrior Hikers were presented handmade veteran's quilts from the women of the Smoky Mountain Quilters, and finally the Warrior Hikers were treated to an Easter morning breakfast at Don and Sally DePierro's house. The Warrior Hikers were completely astonished by everyone's generosity and compassion."
According to Gobin, who made his inaugural trip to Franklin last year while hiking the trail, experiences like the stop in Franklin is one of the main reasons that thru hiking the Appalachian Trail can be so therapeutic for veterans.
"There is a dimension of healing that occurs when our veterans are exposed to the appreciation demonstrated by our nation and our veterans from previous conflicts," said Gobin. "We can't thank the people of Franklin enough for their support and hospitality and we hope to see everyone again in 2014."