Great Smoky Mountains Natl Park, Gatlinburg, TN 3-24-14

Long strange travel day. 18 degrees in Boston, 38 in Charlotte, NC, 50s in Knoxville, TN.  On the way to Gatlinburg, drove through town of Pigeon Forge – the strangest, honky-tonkest, bizzare-fest. Sidewalks were packed with young people in identical jackets for the Future Farmers of America Convention. So many kitchy “attractions” – most of them named for Ripley. Like Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum, Ripley’s Odditoreum. Plus all the Dolly Parton Dollywood stuff. And arcades. And humungous miniature golf places- Ralph noted more mini golf here than Dunkin Donuts in Boston. and T-shirts, and “Old Tyme” Photos.  Dinner “theater” shows like Lumberjacks, and Hatfields & McCoys fightin’ it out.

It was sunny, so we drove straight into the Park, and all the way up to Newfound Gap, elevation over 5,000. Just past the Gap is the road to Clingmans Dome – the highest point in the park – but still closed for Winter.  The views at Newfound Gap are amazing – you can see the blue “smoke” (condensation) hazing over the rolling hills, far into the distance. In recent years, pollution has added to the haze. This spot was the site where FDR held a huge ceremony in 1940, dedicating the Park and work of the Civilian Conservation Corp which built so many of the roads. The Gap marks the border between Tennessee and North Carolina, and the Appalachian Trail crosses through here as well – with a marker showing 1,900 miles to Mt. Katahdin in Maine! We hiked a little, and saw lots of wild rhododendron. And families. And kids – it”s the south’s Spring Vacation week!

Then dinner at Greenbrier Restaurant in a historic log house way up on a ridge in town.

Staying at Baymont Inn & Suites, balcony over the babbling river, gas fireplace and jacuzzi in our room. Free breakfast buffet. Our kinda vacation!




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