Bill Bryson’s Walk Through Franklin

Last week I started reading A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson, a travel book that he wrote after hiking (most of) the Appalachain Trail. Bryson’s novel is funny and educational, full of factoids about the natural environment of the Appalachian mountains and human impact in the past few centuries. On page 83 of my edition, he arrives in Franklin, a small town in southwestern North Carolina that was my home for the first 18 years of my life. Closest reference points are Asheville (1.5 hours northwest) and Atlanta (2 1/2 hours south). I thought Bryson’s observations of the town were hilarious, so I’ve quoted him here:

And so we had a little holiday in Franklin, which was small, dull and cautiously unattractive, but mostly dull — the sort of place where you find yourself, for want of anything better to do, strolling out to the lumberyard to watch guys on forklifts shunting wood about. There wasn’t a thing in the way of diversions, nowhere to buy a book or even a magazine that didn’t involve speedboats, customized cars, or guns and ammo. The town was full of hikers like us who had been driven down from the hills and had nothing to do but hang out listlessly in the diner or launderette and two or three times a day make a pilgrimage to the far end of Main Street to stare forlornly at the distant, snow-draped, patently impassable peaks.

There’s only one place in town I can think of where a diner and a laundromat are in the same shopping plaza, so I wonder if the diner is the B&D, an old staple for my family on Sunday mornings after church. I think Bryson’s observations are funny, but to do it justice, I must say that though Franklin is not the most bustling place on earth, it does have some great qualities that include a beautiful landscape and kind people.

It’s so funny to come across mention of a place no one who isn’t from the area has ever heard in such a well-known novel. I guess I will have to start reading more trail books to find out what others think!