We had driven down from Knoxville, staying in a campground called Smokey Bear RV Park about eight miles east of Gatlinburg. It is a pleasant enough campground, we had no complaints. That first evening we went into town to see what was going on. Gatlinburg is a strange place, kind of a tourist town on steroids. Driving through town reminded me of Waikiki. The sidewalks were packed full of tourists and the cars trickled down the main drag at about 2 mph, significantly slower than the pedestrians on the sidewalks. Instead of tourist shops filled with plastic flower leis and shell necklaces there were tourist shops filled with Appalachian pseudo-crafts, probably mass-produced in Taiwan. And I asked myself the same question I was constantly asking myself when we lived on Oahu. Who actually buys any of this junk? There were also dozens of what I guess passes in Eastern Tennessee for tourist attractions like "Ripley's Believe It or Not" museums, mirror mazes, dark rides, spinning machines designed to make you throw up and miniature golf… lots and lots of miniature golf.
We did not go to any of these. Even the ones that might have been fun, I would've been embarrassed to be seen walking into. What we did go to was the Smoky Mountain Brewery restaurant where they make some quite excellent beers and burgers. And they validate your parking, which is important since a parking spot in Gatlinburg runs about 10 bucks per half day.
|David, Jamie and the "fun vehicle"|
The next day we got together to go see what we could see of the Smoky Mountains. We had mis-timed our visit by a week or two. The
We drove through the Park admiring the scenery. Of course, all of the campgrounds and picnic areas were blocked off but prior to leaving the area, the Rangers had also gone to the trouble to block off about half of the highway pullouts, leaving relatively little space to stop and look around. We did find a half-dozen places we could pull over and get out of the Jeep (and then struggle back into it). It was a nice drive overall and if you frame your pictures just right you can almost make it look like autumn. When you exit the park on the south side you find yourself in the Cherokee Indian Reservation. We were hoping to get a late lunch and found ourselves with a choice of half a dozen fairly terrible looking places to eat. We got some advice from one of the locals on which was the least terrible of the lot. I had an Indian taco which was okay. I think David was significantly less than impressed with his hamburger. We sat on the front patio where the dogs could join us and bark at the other diners. We then drove back over the same road to return to Gatlinburg. That was our tremendous visit to the most popular national park in America.
|Judiciously framed fall foliage|
Vicki and I drove out to the nearby neighboring village of Townsend. There was a shop there that manufactures dulcimers on site and Vicki thought I would be interested in seeing it. Yeah, right. Only later did I discover that on learning that the dulcimer is the easiest stringed instrument to learn how to play, she had decided she needed one. Here you can see her having her first dulcimer lesson. We left the shop with a dulcimer, a dulcimer bag, a teach yourself dulcimer book and a dulcimer CD for Vicki. And for me… well, nothing really. I did not even get to see them make a dulcimer since the luthier was out of town doing other business that day. Now Vicki is practicing diligently on a daily basis so she will be ready to lead the group singing of Christmas carols when we get back to California in December. Be afraid... be very afraid.