Hike, bike, paddle, fish, climb: OutdoorAthlon coming to Franklin has it all

Joe and Dawn Johnson of Atlanta might be making another trip to the mountains next weekend after learning about the WNC OutdoorAthlon in Franklin Oct. 8 and 9.

The couple both enjoy mountain biking, and she jogs routinely for exercise — making them perfect candidates to enjoy a smorgasbord of events lined up for the family outdoor recreation event. The Johnsons were on the Blue Ridge Parkway last week riding motorcycles and enjoying the start of the fall’s leaf show.

“It sounds like fun,” Joe Johnson said, before openly speculating with his wife about whether they could angle more time off from work to make the trip back that soon to Western North Carolina.

That’s exactly the kind of response Rob Gasbarro and Cory McCall of Outfitter 76 in Franklin were hoping to generate. The business partners believe Macon County is destined, by virtue of its location and superb outdoor opportunities, to become as big an outdoor draw as such traditional stalwarts as the Nantahala Gorge.

The future’s uncertain. But what is certain is that Gasbarro and McCall, who are touting the event as “the biggest little event in the Southeast,” are hoping, even expecting, thousands to show up for the OutdoorAthlon.

So what is it? Everything, really, to do with the outdoors — think Mountain Sports Festival in Asheville; or, the Guest Appreciation Festival at the Nantahala Outdoor Center.

Here’s what’s lined up: Food, music, an outdoor triathlon, a kid’s duathlon, a 5K, an Ultimate Frisbee Team Tournament and corn hole tournament. Free clinics for fly-fishing, paddle sports, stand-up paddling, rock climbing; do-it-yourself bike maintenance and demos, backpacking and camping demo’s and more. The outdoor triathlon offers a twist on the standard trifecta — with a line-up of paddling, mountain biking and trail running instead of swimming, road biking and road running.

There are 40 vendors scheduled, plus eight food vendors. The event is free.

“It’s going well,” Gasbarro said of the organizational aspects of putting together such a gargantuan undertaking. “We’ve got lots and lots of volunteers.”

The two men also have lined up $7,000 worth of “giveaways” from outdoor specialty companies.

The events are taking place at the Cullasaja Park along Macon County’s greenway, located off Fox Ridge Road near the flea market on Highlands Road in Franklin.

Gasbarro, taking a break from minding the front desk last week at Outfitter 76 to chat about the festival, noted that remote parking is being set up, and two buses courtesy of Macon County Schools will be used to shuttle people to the event.

Visit www.outdoorathlon.com for more information.



The event runs Saturday, Oct. 8, and Sunday, Oct. 9, in Franklin at the Cullasaja Park. There is no entrance fee.

Events start both days at noon. Here are some key events:


• 12:30-2 p.m. Honey Locust 5K

• 12:30 Bicycle maintenance clinis

• 1 p.m. fly fishing clinic

• 1 p.m. beginner mountain bike ride

• 2-3 p.m. Kids’ duathlon

• 2 p.m. intro to kayaking

• 2-5 p.m. Ultimate Frisbee Tournament

• 3:45 p.m. intro to disc golf


• 12 p.m. putting and long drive disc golf competition

• 12 p.m. fly casting clinic

• 2 p.m. backpacking clinic

• 12-3 p.m. Paddle parade on the Little Tennessee

• 2-4:30 p.m. Adventure Triathlon (paddle, mtn bike, trail run)

• ­­3 p.m. intro to stand-up paddling

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