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Published: September 4th 2013
Strollin Around Gatlinburg
Gatlinburg is a great little village for just moseying around. We found some really great candy - and a Life is Good store!
I had been anticipating our trip to Gatlinburg since our arrival in Pigeon Forge. The reason - Tennessee’s only legal Moonshine still. The only challenge - since it was Sunday, there were no samples, or sales, until noon. So, we had time for a leisurely breakfast at, where else???.... a pancake house. Yummy, and fast.
We headed out on the short drive to Gatlinburg by 10:15. The trip was a short five miles, but is was a beautiful, if short drive. We elected to drive into town and park rather than park at the visitor center as was recommended. From the visitor center, you could take a free shuttle, but after our Dollywood shuttle challenge, we thought it safer to keep the FJ within walking distance. As we entered town, it was reminiscent of a small mountain village in the foothills of the Alps. It was more reserved than Pigeon Forge, but definitely laid out with catering to the tourists being the driving force of urban design. It was fascinating. If Pigeon Forge is known as the pancake house of Tennessee, then Gatlinburg should be known as the candy shop capital of the state.
Flowers and Whiskey
Of course when there are flowers, Cynde always grabs the camera.
walked up and down the main drive and found a true “Life is Good” store. Although a little smaller than the Memphis store, it had great deals and Cynde bought a shirt and sweater and I found a pair of shorts. All in the “sale room”. Always fun to discover a store that has our favorite shirts.
After exploring town, we ended our walk at the Moonshine Distillery. All you have to do is to follow the smell. They are acually distilling moonshine at all times, as the process takes several days. You can look through the open windowns at the fermenting vats and see the mash bubbling and swirling as it cooks toward hillbilly perfection. Once the process is completed, the moonshine can be flavored, or be sold as the pure “White Lightnin”. Although the flavors are interesting (grape was my favorite), the original is much higher in alcohol by volume. Was really good, but a little pricey - about $25-$30 per quart.
Knowing that if we lingered at the distillery I could be in trouble, we headed to the car and up the road to the enterance of The Great Smokey Mountains.
Looking for the Whiskey
Cynde takes a rest on the way to the Moonshine store.
The entrance was only a few miles and we quickly found the visitior’s center. The visitor’s center had a wealth of information. We took borchures, bought a book on Cade’s Cove, and left to begin our tour. Just outside the visitor’s center, we took a short trail to a beautiful little waterfall. It was only about a half mile walk through the forest and well worth the views.
As we pulled out of the parking lot, I thought of the news spots that I have seen in recent years about the problem of traffic jams in our national parks. The traffic headed up the mountains, was quite heavy, but it began to thin out as we passed different areas of the park. Our destination was to follow the road into North Carolina and to the summit overlook which was at 6,640 feet. The drive was amazing and the temperature continued to drop in direct relation to our climb into the clouds. When we reached the top, there remained a half mile trek on foot to actually make the summit. The walk was steep and many folks were stopped along the way attempting to catch their breath. We
did make a couple of short stops on our way up, but they were really short. At the top, althought the view was obscured by a light rain that had moved into the area, it was breathtaking! On our way down the mountain, we stopped at several turn-outs to take in the view and briefly walk along the Applician Trail. The Trail runs from Alabama all the way up into Maine and there were several hikers along various segments where we stopped. By the time we got down the mountains and back to Pigeon Forge, we were ready for our afternoon rest and a late swim before dinner. Anther great day in Tennessee with a short trek into North Carolina.
Dinner was home (camp) cooked ribeyes with salad, veggies, baked potatoe and bread. It was a beautiful evening so we elected to sit outside and have dinner under the stars. It was really nice to have a low key and relaxing evening at home - followed by a soak in the hot tub and a float on the lazy river!
Our plan for Tuesday was originally to travel to Ashville, North Carolina to visit
Moonshine in the Making!
This vat is full of fermenting mash. I would guess that you wouldn't want to fall into this - or would you???
the Biltmore Estate. However, the prospect of a two hour drive each way curtailed that plan and we instead opted to return to The Great Smokey Mountains and to Cades Cove.
The Great Smokey Mountains National Park was created by the Park Service beginning in 1933. Much of the area included in the Park was privately owned - some large coprorate ownership by the lumber companies and mining companies, but there were also many mountain families who had made there home in the hill for over a hundred years. The Park Service took the lands in return for an average of $35 per acre. The literature indicates that this price was a very fair price for the time. Once the land was acquired, the families/occupants were given a time in which they had to vacate the properties. Again, this was land where some of these folks had made their homes for two and three generations. They literally packed their belongings and headed to the lowlands. This exodus resulted in the vacated homes being left in near perfect historical condition. There were a few older owners who were allowed to remain in their homes until their death. However,
Kenny Sampling the Hooch
This place makes about seven different flavors of moonshine. The best was the grape flavored. It was not as strong as the original "White Lightning".
upon their death, their heir(s) could make no claim on the property and could not occupy any of the properties. Again, this has resulted in these homesteads standing today in the exact same condition as they were in the 1930’s when the occupants left.
Cades Cove is a unique area that is comprised of approximately 4,000 acres of land situated in a “bowl” in the mountains. With very limited natural access, the residents of the area remained cut off from most of civilization except for semi-annual trips outside the cove to sell their excess crops and wares. Cades Cove can be toured by taking an eleven mile route around the exterior of the cove. This route takes you by many homesteads and churches. There is also a nice NPS store about halfway through the route. Many of the homesteads are short hikes back into the foothills. As we began our tour, we encountered traffic that was at a total standstill. There were some folks on horseback, but we quickly decied that surely people were not stopping their cars just to watch the horses. We soon learned that the traffic jam was being caused by a very disinterested
Heading Up the Mountain
The clouds helped to set the stage for some beautiful pics.
bear lounging in a tree beside the road, munching on leaves. What a sight to see!
When we completed the tour of the cove, we elected to return to Pigeon Forge via a mountain road that was prominently labled “low clearance” and “one way”. Yes, finally a true mountain trail for us to explore. This would be an exciting 13 mile drive over the mountains on an unimproved gravel road that was most likely used originally by the moonshiners to haul their liquid wares down the mountain to market. It was great! Too many switchbacks to count, steep drop offs to the valley floor - all that the owner of a city dwelling FJ Cruiser could hope for. The only disappointment - no need for 4-wheel drive on this trail.
It only took about an hour and a half to complete our return trip to Pigeon Forge. We made a couple of stops on the way and headed to the Christmas Mall up on the north side of Pogeon Forge. If you know Cynde, you know that if there is a Christmas store within 50 miles, she will find it, and will most likely
Skill and Agility
What balance, what endurance, what the heck am I doing??????
find something that strikes her fancy enough to make a purchase. No different here. She found Jeffrey and Blaise matching teddy bears - and they were on sale. It was then time to head back to camp to think about dinner and make preparations for our early morning departure on Wednesday.
It is funny, but when you are on the road and it is time to start home, you get really anxious to get there. We had reservations in Hot Springs, Arkansas for two nights but after a brief discussion, we both agreed that we should take a direct route home, electing to stay in Little Rock for a night and canceling our plans for Hot Springs. That schedule would put us back in OKC on Wednesday evening giving us plenty of time to take care of preparations for the holiday weekend.
The mountains were great, Dollywood was fun, and the moonshine was real! Tomorrow we are homeward bound.
Life is Good!
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