Gatlinburg, Tennessee and the Great Smokey Mountains
Cades Cove, Tennessee in the Great Smokey Mountains Park.
We took this picture with the timer and the camera setting on a fence post.
We are pretty simple folks. We don't travel to exotic places or perform bizarre, extreme sports. We do like the outdoors, nice scenery and comfortable places to stay and eat. In September 2002 we visited Gatlinburg, Tennessee and the Smokey Mountains. The AMA (American Motorcyclist Association) magazine had an article about touring on the roads less traveled in and around the park and this appealed to us.
The room itself was generous in size and included a small refrigerator. The quality of the bathroom, always a concern away from home, was super. It was all tiled and the joints were well done and carefully caulked. If you have been in budget based bathrooms you may understand that not all of them are esthetically pleasing. I regret that I don't have more pictures of the front to post but the setting of the resort was beautiful. (We were taking both video and still pictures so I have learned that you don't always have what you think you have when you are back home. I hope to improve that on future trips.)
Gatlinburg sets in a narrow valley and most of the real estate is crammed tightly together. Brookside resort sits just off of the main road through town and is situated on its own park-like 10 acre plot, but is still very convenient to the rest of town.
As for Gatlinburg itself, well it's a resort town. There were large crowds thronging the downtown shops and it was fun to mingle and people watch. The shopping was another story. We found precious little of the handmade crafts we had expected and the bulk of the offerings were imports, mostly Chinese. To make a short story short, you could do quite as well in your local Wal-Mart or favorite shopping mall.
Just up the road from Gatlinburg is the thriving resort town of Pigeon Forge. T-Shirt shops, Go-karts, amusement parks, restaurants and helicopter rides abound. Honestly, this just isn't our bag. It appears to have great appeal for the younger set and that is fine but we don't have much to say about it because we don't go there. Let's go to the park instead.
The Great Smokey Mountain National Park is amazing to a flatlander like me. The scenery and geography are awesome to behold. Just inside the park, about a mile from the hustle of downtown Gatlinburg is the Sugarland Visitor's Center. The road splits here and the southern leg runs about 24 miles through a beautiful gorge along the Laurel River to Cades Cove. The trip is fantastic with the mountain walls rising steeply on both sides of you. There were miles of road where you could reach out one window and touch the mountain side and spit in the river out the other. Then we kept seeing small parking areas, big enough for three to five cars every half-mile or so. It wasn't long before we learned that these were access points for the fly fishermen who were plying the waters for trout.
If that trip wasn't scenic enough the vista entering Cades Cove was. This is a small valley nestled in the mountains and was once a thriving, self-sufficient community of settlers. What a pretty place. The picture at the top of the page shows it best. Of course our purpose for going there, as we said, was to pass on through to the connection to Parson's Branch Road and drive it eight miles to Highway 129 (The Dragon).
While the ranger talked us out of driving the Goldwing over the rather severe gravel road we still wanted to see it. Parson's Branch was better seen from the Jeep, I must admit. While I was a little disappointed not to be able to ride the Dragon on the bike, after Jenny saw it I she told me I could go back alone if I wanted to ride it. This eleven mile stretch of 129 reportedly has over three hundred turns. It is a world famous Mecca for sport bike riders and now I see why. When I read in the American Motorcyclist that third gear is plenty I was skeptical but I see now why they don't give many speeding tickets here. I assume the speeders get winched out if they can find them, not ticketed.
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Copyright 2014 PJ Loftus