Gateway to the Smokey Mountains

Gateway to the Smokey Mountains
Gatlinburg TN, NC

Gatlinburg TN, NC

November 27, 2009

Gatlinburg is a gateway to Smokey Mountain National Park and on this day was a busy little place.

Not the most memorable Thanksgiving but at least we had turkey and cranberries, well a turkey sandwich with cranberries and no turkey hangover the next day.

At breakfast the room was filled with a jr. high school football team and families in town for a tournament. Once they left peace returned and we made our plan for the next couple of days so that we will be able to see Nancy’s cousin, Carol. She and her husband live north of Memphis, which is still 6-8 hours away, and as it happens they are leaving Sunday afternoon to come to Gatlinburg. Our hope is to meet somewhere in between for a few hours. So, we decide to move west toward Nashville.

The first “town” and I use the term loosely is Pigeon Forge. First we wonder how it came to be named Pigeon Forge and next we wonder what exactly it is because it isn’t really a town, at least not in the normal sense. We saw no “town center”, what we did see were mile after mile after mile of amusement park rides, arcades, water parks, restaurants, motels, more arcades, it was like a Las Vegas strip for kids only bigger, it stretches on for about 14 miles or so it seemed. It was fairly busy this day and we couldn’t even imagine being anywhere near the area in summertime, the crowds would be overwhelming.

Finally through Pigeon Forge, which by the way sits on the Pigeon River, we move onto the interstate and enter the beautiful green rolling hills of Tennessee. We leave the highway at Crossville, a small town where we stop to replenish Nancy’s supply of books and for lunch at a small café that served up a delicious meal. We are heading to Fall Creek Falls State Park for the night drawn by the water falls of course. It is a 22,478-acre park with virgin hardwood timber, chasms and the striking fall creek falls plunging 285 feet. Over half of the park is designated natural wilderness and an 18-hole golf course has been listed in the top courses in the U.S., yes golf course, seem odd in a state park but we never saw it. The park is gorgeous; we visit the falls and hike down along a trail toward the bottom of the falls, hoping for a better view but stopping short as the light is fading without offering much in the way of views until reaching the bottom. Following a road from the falls we drive along the ridge of Piney Gorge before heading back to our campsite.

We begin to set up camp and as George is refilling the water tank, he knocks on the window for me to come outside. As soon as I open the door I hear the distinctive calls of trumpeter swans and looking up see them flying over the campground in formation, heading toward the warmth of a more southern location. It was quite a sight to see and to hear.


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