Where to Go, What to Know
Writer Gaston Lacombe recently went gem hunting in North Carolina. Here is his reporter's notebook.
About 10 hours
Mining fees: $90 Gem-cutting fees: $150 | Lodging: $89 per night
Franklin, N.C., is about a 10-hour drive from Washington. From the Beltway, I took a scenic route, taking Interstate 66 to Strasburg, Va., then I-81 down the length of Virginia, then I-40 west in Tennessee. On I-40, I turned south onto Route 66 at Exit 407, toward Sevierville, Tenn., then turned onto U.S. 441 south. This last road goes through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and all the way to Franklin. I took local roads northeast to Spruce Pine.
WHERE TO STAY
In Franklin, there's a Days Inn (1320 E. Main St., routes 441 and 23 N., 828-524-6491, http:/
In Spruce Pine, the Pinebridge Inn (207 Pinebridge Ave., 800-356-5059 or 828-765-5543), in the refurbished Harris School, offers rooms from $55.99 per night.
Mason's Sapphire and Ruby Mine (6961 Upper Burningtown Rd., Franklin, 828-369-9742, http:/
Gem Mountain Gemstone Mine (Highway 226, between Spruce Pine and the Blue Ridge Parkway, 888-817-5829, http:/
Be sure to wear old clothes, since you will get dirty. Except for small snacks, there is no food available at the mines. Take lunch and drinks if you plan to stay all day. Also, check out the Franklin Gem & Mineral Museum (25 Phillips St., Franklin, 828-369-7831, http:/
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