Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Trip Start Aug 14, 2013
Trip End Apr 30, 2014

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Flag of United States  , Tennessee
Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Gaitlenburg looked so inviting on the map, nestled in the shadow of the Great Smoky National Park. Oh boy, a mountain town I thought. Not so. The streets are alternately lined with fudge factories, curio shops, pseudo cowboy emporiums and all other manner of delights in this godawful injustice to a vision of Hillbilly Heaven.

And, as bad as this place is, it pales in the combined shadows of Sevierville and Pigeon Forge, gateways of hell. 20 miles of crowed strip mall interspersing pancake/burger palaces with numerous hotel, motel, kitschy inn and Dollyville!

Well, what more can I say without making us all sick. We're heading up into the Park for a couple restful nights camping in the snow. Yes, it snowed yesterday, while B was getting her nails done. 22 degrees this morning, but the days are supposed to warm into the 40s and 50s. Just right.

First CG, Elkmont, where we took a refreshing 5 mile hike along Jake's Creek. We were surprised to find ourselves in a Rhodedendron forest. It would be an incredible sight when they bloom in July.

Today we went to the top of the Smokys, New Found Gap at 5,046', and walked a bit of the Appalachian Trail which runs 70 miles along the ridge of the Park. It goes from
Georgia to Maine, some 2100 miles. Later we went even higher, up to Clingman's Dome at 6,643'.

After a last night in the Smokemont CG at the eastern base of the divide we visited an old grist mill which still operates, grinding out corn meal and whole wheat flour for the tourists. Then on to the Oconaluftee museum and historical farm. The pictures, stories and exhibits of the old time settlers were a vivid reminder of the hardship, hope and community of these gritty pioneers.

Perhaps more gritty were the Cherokee Indians who were forced from their ancestral homes here to make way for America's "Manifest Destiny".
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