Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Walkabout Wednesday: Great Smoky Mountains

Development of Great Smoky Mountains National Park began in 1926 when President Calvin Coolidge signed a bill providing for its establishment. The older parks in the system had been developed by taking sections of land already owned by the government. But the land that eventually became GSMNP was owned by hundreds of farmers and several timber and paper companies. And no one wanted to give up their homes or businesses.

The government is not allowed to buy land for national park use, so the states of Tennessee and North Carolina, which would share the park, appropriated state funds and additional monies were raised by private individuals and groups and even school children who gave their pennies to the cause. A large donation by the Laura Spellman Rockefeller Memorial Fund provided the remainder of the funding.

The first park Superintendant arrived in 1931. Between 1933 and 1942 the Civilian Conservation Corps worked to develop facilities and restore early settlers' buildings, and on September 2, 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the park "for the permanent enjoyment of the people."

While not the largest of the national parks, Great Smoky Mountains National Park has the distinction of being the most visited park with close to ten million visitors each year. The park contains 800 miles of hiking trails (including sections of the Appalachian Trail), 700 miles of fishable streams, camping areas, white water rafting and other family oriented activities. October brings a huge influx of visitors to the park for the fall leaf season.

The area is called Smoky Mountains because they always appear to have a blue haze hanging over them. This is a natural fog caused by warm, wet air from the Gulf of Mexico cooling quickly at high elevation and also by the respiration of he trees. The mist appears blue because evergreens emit natural hydrocarbons that appear blue in sunlight.

Last week the Playfriends visited Great Smoky Mountains National Park, specifically the areas of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Both areas are filled with fun for everyone including Dollywood, a Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum, the Ripley's Aquarium, Ober Gatlinburg ski area, river rafting companies and plenty of shopping. Candy shops abound to showcase what has become a mountain tradition -- lots and lots of fudge. And the area also is home to the Rocky Top Wine Trail, which features three wineries within three miles of each other.

When our visit was over, we returned to Alabama with fudge, fabulous beef jerky (who knew they had a beef jerky outlet?), Christmas decorations, new clothing and accessories, jams and jellies (another mountain tradition) and wine. We did our part to stimulate the economy. :-)

Our week was cut short because of the snow storm moving in. While we'd have loved to be snowed into the mountains, we all had obligations at home requiring us to come on back. ::sigh:: We had a terrific time and the week was filled with lots of fun and laughter. We played board games, ate, shopped, ate, sampled wine, ate, plotted books in the hot tub every night, ate and laughed lots. It's safe to say a fun time was had by all.

Have you ever visited any areas of Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Every visited any of the United States National Parks? Tell me about your experiences. One lucky commenter today will receive a copy of Linda Winstead Jones's recent book LAST OF THE RAVENS, which is set in the Smoky Mountains.


Anonymous said...

Having grown up in Knoxville,TN and having family from Sevierville, I've spent a lot of time in the Smoky Mountains. Our favorite family outing was to pack a picnic lunch and head to the mountains. We swam in the rivers (kids will swim in water no matter how cold the water is and how blue their lips turn), we'd go on short hikes, and of course stop and watch the bears. As I've grown older, I've learned more and more about our family's rich mountain history.
I'm deeply pleased and proud when people visit the area and fall in love with it.
I'm glad you all had a great time and enjoyed some of the treats that I've enjoyed for almost 60 years.
You all come back now, ya hear!

Instigator said...

I love visiting the mountains - especially with fantastic friends! I think that aside from Disney our family vacation to Gatlinburg has been the girl's favorite. They got to do so much - horseback ride, Dixie Stampede and of course see bears in the wild. They're constantly asking me when we're going back. Maybe next year.


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

No need to enter me, ladies. I'm dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this posted on Win a Book for you.

And yep, going to the Great Smokies is high on my list. First, I'd like to conquer that one trail in Shenandoah, though!

Angel said...

Our kids really loved it too! They were not happy to find out I was going without them. :)

The mountains are by far my favorite. I'm not a beach person. I love nature and being able to look out over trees and such. Less chance of a sunburn. :) There can't be anything better than hanging out in the mountains with friends and talking books and writing all day. :)


Rebekah E. said...

I have never visit the smokey mountains. But living in colorado, we go to the rocky mountains and camp sometimes.

CrystalGB said...

I have been to Dollywood, the Aquarium, Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Sounds like you had a good trip.

Anonymous said...

I love the Smokies! It's so pretty in the Fall. I jealous you got to go.


Playground Monitor said...

I didn't mention that I went to college about 40-50 miles from Gatlinburg over on the NC side of the mountains. The university isn't in the park, but it's not far away. I love these mountains, and #2 son ended up going to my alma mater and loving the mountains too. He's a hiker and camper and has done parts of the Appalachian Trail with friends. Back in September I visited him and we did a teensy hike up on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which would be another great Walkabout Wednesday topic.

Rebekah, the Rockies are breathtaking! I've been to Royal Gorge and to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. But actually the Smokies are older. They're all worn down from eons of erosion.

Problem Child said...

Can we go back? I'm not enjoying reality this week...

And I've learned not to tell the lady at the Winery that the wine tasted like kid's cough syrup... (But it did!)

Virginia said...

I love visiting the mountains of Tenn. I can remember our parents taking up there on a vacation when I was a child, we thought it was awesome, I think its the only vacation we ever went on! Although I don't live that far away so it we go anywhere south we travel throught the Smokies, its beautiful country!

Spav said...

I've never been in any of the United States National Parks, but I would love to visit one of them.

PM's Mother said...

I'm b-a-a-c-k!

Oh, Problem Child! Don't fret the cough syrup bit...I told a gentleman at a winery in St. Augustine, Florida that his (white)wine tasted like kerosene smelled!

And PM, you forgot to mention the charm of Cades Cove and the book "Christy" by Catherine Marshall. Check it out!

avalonne83 said...

I've never been to U.S., sorry...I'm Italian. But I do love walking up in the mountains.

Please count me in. Thanks.

avalonne83 [at] yahoo [dot] it

Maven Linda said...

I love the Smokies. I have two heritages: Scots and Cherokee. Something in me breathes a sigh of sheer happiness at being in the mountains.

Gwen Hernandez said...

We met my parents in Gatlinburg about eight years ago when we lived in Ohio. It was beautiful! I've been to quite a few other national parks as well.

Most recently, we took our boys to the Grand Canyon over winter break.

I love the mountains and the ocean, preferably together, but I still have to slather on the sunscreen and wear a hat... ;-)

catslady said...

I feel so deprived - I haven't gone to any National Parks:( The best I can say is we had a few hours at the Grand Canyon which was beautiful. I hope some day that I get a chance!

Gwen Hernandez said...

catslady: The Grand Canyon is a national park, so you have been to one! =)

Jane said...

Never been to the Great Smoky Mountains, but I have been to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the Grand Canyon.

Playground Monitor said...

Catslady, isn't the Grand Canyon magnificent? As Gwen said, you've been to a US National Park.

Welcome back Mom! We've missed you around the Playground.

It seems the Smokies are popular with a lot of our readers. I guess that's why it's the most visited park.

Valerie Peck said...

I *LOVE* Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg! It's such a great place to vacation with your family. Lots to do with the kids and plenty of great places to camp. We vacation there whenever we can. Another great place to visit is the Cherokee Indian reservation. My kids learned so much about how the Cherokee lived at the reservation and there's a great museum about the history of the Cherokee. If your into crafts, there is also a craft store with items made by members of the tribe.

Linda Henderson said...

I've never been to the Smoky Mountains but I used to live in Durango Colorado and the San Juan range there was simply beautiful. Just driving to work everyday you saw elk by the road and all those lovely trees. I do miss the scenery. I've also been to the Grand Canyon, Painted Desert and Carlesbad's Caverns. All well worth a visit.

Laurie said...

I've driven through the mountains on I-24 between Nashville and Chattanooga, Beautiful! In the winter scary!!

I've been to Glacier Natl Park in Montana. Yellowstone in Wyoming( Old Faithful), Grand Tetons Wyoming, Olympic Natl Park in Washington (twice). I love the views from Hurricane Ridge of the glacier and The Straits of Juan de Fuca's view of Vancouver Island. Port Angeles was a nice town too. I've been through the Cascades in Washington. Redwood Natl Park in Northern California.Badlands in South Dakota. Rocky Mt Natl park in Colorado. The Grand Canyon, and finally The Everglades in Florida. We did a lot of camping and hiking.

My son has camped and hiked in the Smoky Mts at least 4 times. I've seen the gorgeous vistas from his camera. He saw lots of black bears, one snake but lucky no problems!

Bcteagirl said...

Living in Canada, I have not has as much of a chance to visit your national parks :P

When it comes to mountains, I just love Banff national park in Canada. The water there is pure blue, and it is just beautiful.

Thank you for the giveaway!

teagirl1 at telus dot net