Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer
For the past few years, the 110-mile Northern Georgia through Western North Carolina section of the Bartram Trail has been documented by film. A series of episodes, available on YouTube, not only features interviews of hikers, but also of historians and nature experts, in order to give viewers a glimpse of what each section of the trail offers – as well as challenges and idiosyncrasies.
Kristina Lynn Moe, adult services assistant at the Macon County Public Library and an avid hiker who has completed all 110 miles of this area’s Bartram Trail commented.
“Christine Tranchina with Backlot Cinema [in Franklin] was interested in working with us and we [the Blue Ridge Bartram Trail Conservancy director and some board members] met with her a couple of years ago and shared the beautifully inspiring Bartram documentary, ‘Cultivating the Wild,’ which focuses on ‘modern day Bartram’s’ in areas farther South where Bartram travelled. We agreed that there needed to be a documentary that highlights the North Carolina and north Georgia sections of his travels and shows potential visitors some of what they might expect on the trail while learning the history.”
Horticulturist and naturalist William Bartram explored this area in the 18th century and wrote about his travels and sketched plants, animals, and Native Americans for his classic book, “Bartram’s Travels.”
“I filmed each hike, but I also had help filming the hikes and interviews by my co-workers at Backlot Cinema, and my husband, Chris Tranchina, who is the Membership Development Coordinator of the Blue Ridge Bartram Trail Conservancy,” Tranchina said.
For the “Walking With Bartram” documentary, around a dozen experts in different fields that are somehow tied to the Bartram Trail have been interviewed, including individuals from the Conservancy, Nikwasi Initiative (about Cherokee history), and horticulturists. The documentary’s production has been supported by several local entities, such as Franklin Tourism Development Committee, Franklin Tourism Development Authority, and various retailers and businesses.
“I’ve learned so much working on this project,” said Christine Tranchina. “First of all, I had no idea who William Bartram was. Following along the trail and learning about Bartram and his book, I’ve really discovered the beauty of southern Appalachia. We’ve discussed plants and animals, from bird watching to the plight of the American Chestnut, to mushroom foraging. I’ve been introduced to Native American and Cherokee history in a way I never have before … We’ve discussed conservation and have met with young people today working on the trail with groups like the Southeast Conservation Corp. In future episodes, we will be exploring Cherokee trade paths, mining in Macon County, William Bartram’s art and how artists today are inspired by him, Bartram’s love of animals, trail maintenance, how the Georgia and North Carolina trails got their start. …”
Each episode of the “Walking with Bartram” series is titled by number and by hiking section. And each episode is under 10 minutes in length. So far, nine episodes have been completed, with six more in production, explained Tranchina.
Library’s Photography Exhibit Aimed at Interpreting Bartram Trail
In December 2022, the Blue Ridge Bartram Trail Conservancy partnered with Kinship Photography Collective to embark on a nine-month photography “exploration” focused on the well-known trail. Workshops, seminars, field trips, and more are all part of the initiative, but a main component involved a group of Kinship photographers contributing images that communicate how they see the Bartram Trail. That entire exhibit was on display at the Bascom in Highlands for a month, but part of it is now at the Macon County Public Library in Franklin.
The exhibit is called “Listening to the Land – With Rapture & Astonishment,” a title that is based on a quote by William Bartram from his book, “Bartram’s Travels.” When he reached the summit of Wayah Bald in May of 1775, he wrote about it: “[I] beheld with rapture and astonishment, a sublimely awful scene of power and magnificence, mountains piled upon mountains.”
The goal for the photographers was to seek to interpret the Bartram Trail landscape in a way that is distinct, but that also shows viewers some aspects of the region’s rich biodiversity. Photographs in the exhibit run the gamut from stark-contrast black and whites to colorful close-ups to impressionistic-style techniques.
The photography exhibit is in the library’s meeting room until March.