Located in Tennessee and North Carolina, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the US. We just spent a few days camping and hiking on the Tennessee side, near Townsend and Gatlinburg.
We wanted to spend a few days away from the studio before VL work gets really hectic — wedding season is upon us, and we’re busy producing seed bomb favors, plus we’re planning our trade show debut in May. The Smokies’ landscape of mountains, lush forest and numerous streams was the perfect backdrop for a bit of adventure and relaxation.
The Elkmont area is dotted with old buildings — remnants of a logging community and a resort town once situated here. They are in a sad state of disrepair, but plans are in the works to restore and preserve some of these structures as an interpretive historical site:
The road to Clingmans Dome opened a day early, so we embarked on the hike up to the top but, as you can see, the snow was still pretty deep:
The trail to the highest peak in the Smokies is only .5-mile long but, partway up to the summit, we gave up and turned around. This vista will have to do:
This national park preserves both the natural landscape and Southern Appalachian history. Cades Cove is a wildlife-filled valley with preserved 18th and 19th century churches, barns, log homes, and a working grist mill.
An old cemetery behind one of the country churches in Cades Cove:
As a bonus, nearby Gatlinburg offers a spectacle whose magnitude that can be compared to present-day Times Square. Old-timey portrait studios, candy guaranteed to make your teeth hurt, air-brushed t-shirts and the like vie for your attention and your money.
For me, the highlight was Cooter’s Place, a “museum”/gift shop with mini-golf and go-karts. Here’s the General Lee, one of the stars of The Dukes of Hazzard [there’s another one on display at the Cooter’s Place in Nashville; hmm]. For a small fee, you can climb inside and get your photo taken:
These photos represent just a small glimpse into Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This was my second visit to the area, and I can’t wait to go back and explore different parts during different times of the year.
That takes me back. I went there with a few guys around spring 1975. I imagine the park is pretty much the same – do they still tell you to not molest the bears?
I looked at some pics of Gatlunburg, tho…
oh, man – I swear that place was like 5 sleepy blocks long with a couple side streets. Ripley’s was there.
Since ’75 I think there’s been a lot of condo/cabin/chalet development. Most of Gatlinburg’s visitors probably sleep on beds in rooms now instead of sleeping bags in tents. More $$.
The park was beautiful, tho. Can you imagine the folks who crossed those mountains & found, essentially that – everywhere?
Quimbob, one thing I always find humbling and, well, awe-inspiring, is to imagine what pioneers were seeing in these kinds of places, and how challenging it must have been to traverse a given landscape. Also, I love that this National Park has preserved some of the old farm structures so that modern-day city dwellers like myself can get a glimpse into life back then.
Present-day Gatlinburg is kind of gross. It makes me think of present-day Times Square [no sleaze, just commerce and spectacle up the wazoo]. We ended up there because it rained hard on the first night, and our friend’s tent had leaked, so he was desperate for a laundromat to dry everything he’d brought. That turned into hours of wandering around the town, marveling at the tacky kitsch of it all. With the right mindset, it’s kind of fun, though I’d never do it again!
The park itself, though, is probably mostly unchanged since its founding in the 1930s.
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