Fall Camping at the Nantahala Outdoor Center

Our favorite time of year is here: FALL!  We tend to kick our activity level up a notch these next couple of months to make the most of the decent weather to be outside.  We just got back from our favorite festival/camping trip of the year.  GAF (Guest Appreciation Festival) at the NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center) in Bryson City, NC.

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It’s an awesome time of fellowship and family reunions with like-minded outdoor enthusiasts  We camp every year at the Lost Mine Campground down the road from the festival grounds.  The same families come year after year and it’s cool to see the progression of the kids on the river.  We have been coming to this festival since our days at ASU Outdoor Programs.  It’s crazy now remembering back to when we would come (prior to even dating) and now here we are almost 10 years later with 2 kids in tow.  The festival has evolved too and is a full fledged family event with a bouncy house along the river, face painting, pump track, and river fun for all ages.  The backdrop to all those activities is the Nantahala River.  A cold but friendly river for the diverse levels and abilities of river-goers.  The main attraction (and original purpose) of the festival is the MECA of used outdoor gear that gets swapped between people and sold to one another.  Just like your standard yard sale you have to get up EARLY to get the good deals but by the afternoon most people have made all of their purchases (or run out of money anyways) and are ready to PLAY and put to the test all of their new gear.  The only downside to the event is the amount of money you spend there.  We have found the kids last 2 mountain bikes there, their first whitewater kayak and accessories, and this year’s large family purchase: a double inflatable funyak.

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There is an ABUNDANCE of activities to do in the area.  Knowing this we extended the weekend into a 5 day camping trip to maximize our time there.  A couple of our highlights included Jon and Caleb’s 5 mile stretch kayaking the Tuckaseegee River.

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They put in downtown Dillsboro and took out at the Tuckaseegee Outfitters post.  A great stretch of river, mostly roadside.  Also spent some time mountain biking the Tsali trails near Fontana Lake.  The trails are part of almost a 40 mile system consisting of 4 different loops.  They are well maintained and the most scenic trails you may ride in the southeast.  The trails alternate use between mountain bikers and horseback riders on different days so you will need to plan ahead depending on the distance you want to ride and which loops are available that day.

The last day of the trip I took Caleb in our new funyak down a section of the Nantahala River.  It was great memories all around.  Caleb informed us when we returned that the one thing he DIDN”T like about the trip was how much his body seemed to hurt when he got in his sleeping bag at night.  He didn’t complain once during the day but it seemed at night his poor little 5-year old body finally caught up to him.  Until the next day anyways!

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I can’t leave out this little one.  Though she was pretty devastated not being able to get on the water kayaking this year (f you are friends with me on fb you have probably seen the video), she had her share of big fun and there was no shortage of happiness!

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