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January Gatlinburg Trip Report: Day 2

My previous blog post described the first day of our January weekend trip. I didn’t realize that I would have so much to say about this trip–even though there’s plenty to say about staying in Gatlinburg–but once you get going, sometimes it’s difficult to pare things down. This post takes us to Day 2 where we weren’t going to be deterred by the cold that swept through the Friday overnight hours and blanketed Gatlinburg with a light dusting of snow.

Saturday

Crockett’s Breakfast Camp

There’s no doubt that Crockett’s Breakfast Camp is one of our favorite places to eat in Gatlinburg for plenty of reasons–my choices have been different each time–but this time we had to walk quite a way to reach our destination. We bundled up and were a bit pleased that we didn’t need to wake up as early as the weather caused Crockett’s to open one hour later than their normal 7 a.m. time. Upon entering we were promptly seated on the other side of the restaurant for just the second time out of about a dozen visits now. My wife had been looking forward to having pork chops, which is a bit strange for breakfast, but hey, it’s vacation. I decided to eat rather light, opting for some bacon and a fruit bowl, because I figured I would have to share some of my wife’s meal–which I did. While the size of the meal wasn’t as large as expected, the flavors were great as usual, and I have to admit, it was nice leaving without feeling like I had to be wheeled out of the restaurant from over-eating.

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After leaving Crockett’s, a few shops had opened on the Parkway, and we caught a break from the cold by going inside a few and looking at some things that were new, and some that were familiar from our last trip. When we returned to our room at Zoder’s we got a little too comfortable, staying for a bit longer than anticipated by watching a terrible movie and a few shows that just provided for noise. We’re a little spoiled by staying in the middle of downtown, so it wasn’t just that we could wander about; we needed to make a plan and didn’t really have one at that moment, especially since the cold was another variable to consider, and our original Anakeesta plan for the day ended up on the to-do list for tomorrow instead, due to the…you guessed it, cold and snowy conditions.

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Smoky Mountain Brewery

The change in our plans made way for new ones to emerge in the afternoon hours. My blog has opened my world up quite a bit, and I’ve been very thankful for a few people that live in nearby Knoxville to have given me some advice on proceeding with my newfound passion for writing–and tweeting–about Gatlinburg. It was at Smoky Mountain Brewery that we met in-person for the first time. I’m not a naturally outgoing person–a bit introverted, in fact–so I was a bit nervous meeting these fine individuals, but even small amounts of alcohol made me a little more relaxed, so I opened up more about what I hoped to accomplish–which at times can be a bit sketchy and muddied. I enjoyed getting to talk to them, as I had only previously known them through the lens of their social media profile. Time went by fast, and I’m sure my wife enjoyed some alone time shopping on the Parkway.

No Way Jose’s Cantina

This trip can probably be best described by the number of times our itinerary changed on this particular trip. We had originally planned on a visit to Best Italian in a different location–on the Parkway–but after getting some advice, we decided to scrap that and go to No Way Jose’s, which we visited for the first time on our last trip. The Arroz con Pollo I ordered on this occasion topped my last dish and probably will definitely be something I get again the next time we visit this fantastic Mexican restaurant that has several locations in the area. I recommend you give them a try if you haven’t already; the margaritas are a nice little compliment to the meal as well.

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Doc Collier Moonshine

If I remember correctly, I believe the wife and I separated again (don’t worry, we do this often when go out shopping) and while she went back to the hotel, I decided to stop in at a very underrated moonshine distillery, Doc Collier Moonshine. The spirits here are much less fruity overall, and sometimes less is more even though we enjoy the experience and shine at Sugarlands Distilling Company too. Of course, I sampled the moonshine again just in case it was how I remembered (wink, wink, nudge), and I kept my eye on a few things I was interested in purchasing–surprisingly, not any of the moonshine even though the Naner will most certainly be obtained in June. I was eyeing a few hooded sweatshirts for my Gatlinburg apparel collection that included a couple from the other distilleries, but the one at Doc Collier’s was my favorite looking one. Unfortunately, on this trip, we didn’t have as much money to spend so budgeting was something to consider.

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Well, that’ll conclude Day 2 of our Gatlinburg weekend. I hope you learned something about where you’d like to go if you ever have the opportunity to visit this beautiful mountain destination. For those of you that follow me, you already have an idea on where to go, whether that be from your own experiences, or from reading some of the tips I’ve given in my blog in the two-plus years I’ve been writing about Gatlinburg. I also hope you’ll stick with me as I write about the last part of my weekend in Gatlinburg with my wife, as I’ll be writing about some of the shops we enjoyed visiting while here, where else we decided to eat, and what we took home with us on Monday when it was time to say goodbye to the place we love the most. Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

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January Gatlinburg Trip Report: Day 1

January is usually a time when we sit at home huddled under a blanket wishing it was no longer winter. Yes, all of us have a tinge of that seasonal disorder in the winter in which, here in the north, our vitamin D levels are lower because of the major decrease in the amount of sunlight during the day. This year, however, we decided to do something about it and made plans for a winter weekend vacation in Gatlinburg–our first for this time of year. In this blog post, I will be sharing our experiences from this trip that is now two weeks past. Here goes:

Friday

We arrived in Gatlinburg much earlier than anticipated in large part because our area was set to get hit with some measurable snowfall in the morning hours; therefore, we elected to leave the previous evening and drove to Lexington, Kentucky, where we stopped–a little past the halfway point–and got some sleep at a hotel just off I-75. Since we left so early we got into Gatlinburg–after making a stop in Pigeon Forge at The Old Mill–and made it to our planned destination in plenty of time for their BOGO lunch special: this would be the rebuilt Alamo Steakhouse.

Alamo Steakhouse

This is an old western-themed steak restaurant, and we instantly noticed that new building smell as they’ve only been opened a few months. The atmosphere is felt as you walk around the inside with its architecture and photos of old Americana-esque images. The food delivered, however, on my end not as much: The San Antonio chicken would’ve been much better if it wasn’t a bit dry, and the partially unmelted cheese on top made for quite the contradiction. My wife had the steak, and naturally, it was the best part of both of our meals with the only exception being maybe those beer-battered french fries that were mighty tasty. Our server was quite a hoot, cracking jokes and making for a good experience overall. Would we return? Yes. But now I know what I need to order in a…ahem, STEAK RESTAURANT!

Arts and Crafts Community

Even though it was raining we decided to head to The Arts and Crafts Community to check out one of my wife’s favorite shops in The Covered Bridge: Custom Creations by Beth. Both of us love her artwork so that means I don’t have much of a problem with my wife wanting to buy one of her paintings. We decided to purchase a painting of hers of a mountain scene at Newfound Gap that is one of her favorites. She could’ve probably picked any scene from that area and hit a home run, but we loved this one, and it is proudly hanging on an opposite wall in our bedroom of another picture of hers we bought two trips ago.

Zoder’s Inn

I wrote in our planned itinerary as well about how excited we were to return to Zoders in order to stay in one of their remodeled rooms by the creek. The room did not disappoint. We had a nice comfortable bed with the floors replaced with hardwood vinyl and two sinks–one inside and another outside the bathroom that was added. While the room passed inspection, we were a bit disappointed with a few things: First, the WiFi was simply incapable of being accessed for any amount of time; Second, there was no Visitor’s Information Channel in the room, which is ironic given that this was the very first place we saw this programming on our first visit to Gatlinburg. I know these two are small beans when you look at the overall picture, but WiFi is still essential for business and researching on-the-fly, and VIC is a great time-waster in a hotel for many visitors to The Smoky Mountains, so we can’t give Zoder’s an excellent rating this time around. Still, though, I would recommend this place because it’s in a quiet location, and you can still walk downtown if you’re able-bodied.

Gatlinburg Trail

After taking our initial walk downtown to dive into a few shops we figured out that we wanted to eat at Big Daddy’s Pizza for dinner, but I just wasn’t ready to eat yet being that we had a late lunch. Based on where we were on the Parkway, we knew it would be a bit too much to walk all the way back to the hotel just to kill a half-hour, and then walk all the way to the other side of town to Big Daddy’s; so, we decided–since the weather was cooperating a bit–to head down the Gatlinburg Trail to where the bridge crosses the river. We took a few photos of the dreary, but still very beautiful landscape, and made our way back into downtown Gatlinburg. And it was now that we had worked up quite the hunger–enough for some wood-fired deliciousness.

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Big Daddy’s Pizzeria

Ah yes, Big Daddy’s Pizzeria, a rediscovered gem of a restaurant serving great wood-fired pizzas and amazing Dough Daddies. I’ve described how much we enjoy those appetizers in previous posts with their hard outer crust but yet doughy center that pairs perfectly with their in-house marinara. YUM! The best part of their pizza has to be the crust–the oven gives it a flavor not found in your standard pizza joint. The toppings are above average too even if was just a bit greasy for just having red peppers on it, but the excellent crust contradicts any minor misstep with the overall product. I’ll still take Best Italian in the Elks Plaza as our favorite pizza, but Big Daddy’s has a highlighted bullet next to its number on the pizza charts.

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Stay tuned for Part Two coming soon. I didn’t anticipate the rambling of this post, so I am going to break this band up for the sake of not making you sit and read a 3,000+ word post of my entire trip. I will give you a sneak preview for those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter: We changed our plans for dinner the next day and enjoyed an excellent meal at a new favorite of ours and braved the temperature drop in going to a few of our favorite places. Thanks for reading!

 

 

Anakeesta: Our Experience Visiting Gatlinburg’s Newest Attraction

Since Anakeesta opened this past September, we’ve been patiently waiting for an opportunity to visit this new and exciting attraction. We jumped at the chance to go when we were afforded that chance in January with an extended weekend–our first winter vacation. The only thing that held us back a bit was the fact that it would more than likely be a bit chilly since you are taken another 600 feet above Gatlinburg (more on that later). The following is our account and honest review of Anakeesta, which is another name for “place of the balsams” or “place of high ground”.

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Picture and Chondola Ride

When you first start your journey at Anakeesta, a photographer will snap your picture, and you will have the choice of deciding if the photo was worthy enough to make the $25 purchase–which we did. Then, you are to wait in line until your method of travel up the mountain arrives; ours was the chondola, which to us, was slightly less frightening as the open-air chairlift, which is a bit of a phobia for the wife and me.

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The chondola and chairlift do not stop for you so you have to mind your step getting in, even though it goes slow enough for you to embark. The chondola seats 6, but 4 adults is probably a more comfortable number; six is a better estimate if there are kids in your party. The journey up the mountain plods along slowly and takes about 15 minutes. At the halfway point, the doors open–and then close–at a platform that serves as a point where zipliners go when they finish a part of their adventure that begins at the top.

Firefly Village

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Once you reach the top, you are now entering the Firefly Village area–a place that currently has three shops that include a few merchandise shops and Pearls Pie in the Sky for sweet treats. This is a nice little village that also has a fire pit that was ideal for a cold morning such as this one. As you walk around Firefly Village, the one thing you cannot ignore is the absolutely breathtaking Smoky Mountain views previously unseen by anyone prior to the development of Anakeesta. It is necessary to take whatever video or photo-taking hardware with you before visiting; in this case, the snow-capped mountains made for a one-of-a-kind experience I had been looking forward to prior to this trip since I had never seen them in the winter. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. Despite the small number of shops available, this is a picturesque area that will be expanding later as they will be adding more retail and restaurants, being that they are still in Phase 1 of development. Stay with me here, because there is more to describe about Anakeesta that shouldn’t deter you from reaching for your wallet to visit Gatlinburg’s newest adventure.

Memorial Walk

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The owners of Anakeesta used the devastating fires of November 2016 to tastefully memorialize the people whose lives were affected by the event. Along the way, there are displays that featured the work of Nashville photographer, Jeremy Cowart, who photographed families lying down on a white mattress with the charred remains of their homes surrounding them. They are stories of inspiration, and the project, which is known as “Voices of Gatlinburg”, garnered media attention for the generosity that was displayed in creating this work. At the top of the walk are wind chimes that play the notes of “Amazing Grace”, which evokes a reaction that is both emotional and eerie.

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Tree Canopy Walk

Just before you reach the Tree Canopy Walk is the Treehouse Village Playground, which is mainly for children, but we were told that the adults get more excited than the kids do–and we could clearly see why. We meandered through this little playground-in-the-trees like we were still innocent little eight-year-olds, but unfortunately not quite as nimble as we once were.

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The Tree Canopy Walk was next, and I was surprised at how unfazed I was by this; my wife, however, was a slightly shaken at first, but she managed–like myself–to adjust to walking over a rope bridge even if it feels a little like someone else is bouncing and swaying purposefully behind you–which I was not doing. This is actually quite a long trek as you go from bridge to bridge some 16 times before reaching the end. I know both of us were surprised at how quickly we marched through the Canopy Walk; we marked our progress when it appeared we had just finished and saw how far we had actually traveled. This was quite an experience, and pretty exhilarating if you’re not too fond of heights. Don’t be afraid to look down, though, because the spring and summer should provide a pretty fair chance to see some Smoky Mountain black bears roaming.

Dueling Ziplines

Ha! No, we’re not quite ready for this yet. The cold was a factor, and coming from someone that’s a bit nervous about a chondola and chairlift, it’s no surprise we didn’t do this attraction. If you want the full thrilling experience, there is an additional cost to ride the ziplines: $14.99 per person. For more information about the Dueling Ziplines and the entire Anakeesta attraction, visit the main page here.

I should mention the Gem Mining that is just before the Treehouse Village Playground that the kids should enjoy as well. I can’t speak much of this, but a full description can be found at the Anakeesta website that I provided.

Coming Soon

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As I mentioned earlier, Anakeesta is not done expanding their attraction up on the mountain. They have another Restaurant with Bar and a dining pavilion that is set to open in the Spring of this year. The bar will feature local craft beers on top, and its location will provide diners with stunning mountain views while enjoying their favorite food and beverage. Also coming soon in that same time frame is a mountain coaster, so if you’re looking for another mountain coaster to tackle with an even better view, then this figures to be one of the better ones in Gatlinburg and the surrounding area. Finally, an amphitheater is planned for some outdoor entertainment to go along with the experience at Anakeesta. Overall this is a place that caters to the whole family, and there’s plenty of fun things to do here now to justify going before everything is complete.

 

Even though it was a bit chilly up on Anakeesta Mountain to start the day, this was a memorable experience, and we are sure to visit again once the added attractions are completed this year–and a bit warmer, I might add. Whether you’re a selfie taker or an adventure-seeker, or you just want to get away to a place for relaxation and whimsical shopping with fantastic views, I suggest you check out Anakeesta to see why they say there’s magic in the mountains. See you again soon and be sure to check out my entire trip report soon. Thanks for reading!

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January Itinerary For 2018 Gatlinburg Trip

A few weeks ago I wrote an unplanned blog post about my thoughts on this trip that was a bit random in nature. For this post, I have a theme at least–what our plans are for this particular visit, which is a lot different than how we usually plan a Gatlinburg trip. As of this writing, we are a mere three weeks from another excursion to our favorite spot. Mentally, we are ready for this, of course, but we still have things to do before we go. The following will describe what we doing and basically outline our plans so we have an idea of how to spend our brief time in Gatlinburg.

Day 1

We usually avoid Gatlinburg intentionally during the weekends; now, not only are we giving the weekend a shot again, we are going during a holiday to boot. Unfortunately, this is really the only opportunity afforded to us for a three-day trip to the mountains, since it’s hard with our son being in school–even though he’s not coming with us, it’s still difficult.

We plan on leaving when he gets on the bus around a quarter till 7 in the morning and hopefully getting into Gatlinburg in time to take advantage of the new Alamo restaurant’s BOGO free deal on lunches–served until 3 in the afternoon. It will be our first visit to Alamo, and since we love two other Johnson’s restaurants, our expectations are rather high. Just by looking at the pictures of their food online and on social media, we are really looking forward to getting a real treat with their offerings.

I teased on my Twitter page a few days ago about a place we haven’t visited since 2012–that place is Zoder’s Inn. They were affected by the fires last year and took their time to do some much-needed cleaning and remodeling as well. We loved the location, and it is why we stayed there on our very first two trips to Gatlinburg. So far, they have already exceeded our expectations by calling us after we booked the room online–this surprised us. I don’t remember what I requested but they said we could have one of the remodeled rooms but not on the floor we wanted; however, by looking at their social media pages, (they are now very active on social media, by the way) we wanted to stay in one bad enough to not care what floor it was on. Hopefully, our stay is just as special as how it was some five years ago. Boy, has it really been that long!

After checking into Zoder’s, we may do some moonshine tasting a bit later. Last June I bought four bottles of Doc Collier’s–a very underrated place that I recommend for some good tasting shine–but my wife did not try them, and this time she is interested in trying them with me. I don’t think she wanted to try the ones I bought, so I am still making my way through them. I’ll finish by saying that there are a couple I’d like to buy already, but I’ll let y’all know after we visit which ones I bought, if I do.

Day 2

Now we’re really going to start getting into the best parts of our trip, and it starts with breakfast at…c’mon now, you know where our favorite morning eatery is: it’s Crockett’s Breakfast Camp. The only question is what I’m planning on getting. I’ve successfully ordered a different menu item every time we’ve visited, so it’s getting harder to figure out what to get. The one thing I know is that everything has been fantastic, and this time should be no exception.

Lunch is usually an up-in-the-air thing for us, so we are going to use this day–weather permitting, of course, to visit the new Anakeesta attraction in Gatlinburg. This is where staying at Zoder’s is going to pay dividends for us, because of their location and Doc Collier’s being very convenient to Zoder’s. We’ve never seen snow-capped mountains with our own eyes, so hopefully, this will give us a simply magnificent–and majestic–view of the beautiful Smoky Mountains. My wife is really looking forward to doing this–as am I–but she is a bit uneasy about getting there by way of the chondola. She definitely won’t do the chairlift, so this is the only other option available.

Dinner will be a case of same-but-different with us eating at Best Italian, but not in Elks Plaza like normal; this time we are planning on going to the lesser-received one on the Parkway. Their pizza and garlic rolls are what brings us to this Gatlinburg local Italian restaurant. The service was a little strange and off-putting last time, but the pizza is better than anything we get here in Ohio, so we’ll give them another chance in the service department before we think about other options…ahem, maybe Smoky Mountain Brewery, who makes a fantastic pie–with great craft beer too.

Day 3

As you all who’ve read my blog know, I cherish my morning walks to The Village in Gatlinburg to visit the Donut Friar and Coffee and Company for breakfast. The only question with this visit will be whether my wife will decide to make the walk with me, as I normally do it alone so she can sleep in a bit; and yes, I do bring her a favorite donut of hers from the Friar: the Chocolate Chipper.

Today is a day for tying up some loose ends by buying some of our favorite fudge from Chocolate Monkey and whatever souvenir we may find to our liking that’s worthy of purchase. There are other options that are dependant on the weather, and whether the roads are good enough to travel out to The Arts and Crafts Community: Custom Creations by Beth and maybe other undiscovered gems out on Glades Road. We bought one of Beth’s artwork that is hanging up on our bedroom wall, so we look forward to seeing some her beautifully crafted artwork when we come here now.

Day three’s dinner will be at the widely acclaimed Cherokee Grill in downtown Gatlinburg in Calhoun’s Village. Once again, if you read my blog you’ll know how much we love this restaurant. It is the most expensive meal on our trip, but it’s worth every penny when they’re as consistently excellent as they normally are.

Day 4

This day is notable only for our final stopping point before we…wait, the last spot will really be Donut Friar before we head home, but prior to that, we will eat breakfast at a place we returned to last June after a long absence: Log Cabin Pancake House. I’m thinking of trying crepes for the first time on this visit, but we’ll see how I feel about that when we arrive. I know my wife will probably order some of their excellent ham and maybe another a-la-carte item.

Sadly, that will conclude our trip. Stop back to my blog again in a few weeks, and I will give you guys a full report of how everything panned out. Until then, I’d like to wish everyone Happy Holidays, and of course, I appreciate all of you that take time out of your busy lives to read my posts. Thanks, and see you all again soon!

 

Random Thoughts About Our Upcoming January 2018 Gatlinburg Trip

At times, I’m feel I’m no different than any other tourist that decides to visit Gatlinburg. Having been there more than 10 times, I feel I have enough experience visiting this destination to impart my wisdom on the best places to eat and things to do here. However, I don’t know everything there is to know about Gatlinburg, despite my semi-frequent trips to the Smoky Mountains.

First of all, I haven’t eaten at every restaurant–even though I eventually would like to; in fact, the only BBQ place we’ve eaten here is Bennett’s, and while many people love them, some–especially some of the locals–have said there are better places; Hungry Bear is one such place I really want to try. Steakhouses are another big hole in my restaurant repertoire I’d like to change. We love Cherokee Grill, but many have offered good enough reasons about places like The Peddler and Chrystelle Creek to make me want to stray a bit. I’ve decided to write posts about only those places that I’ve had enough variety on which give my honest opinion; those are breakfast and pizza places. With those establishments, I only have a select few more to try, so I feel I have a good grasp of that.

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, (you really should *insert winking emoji*) then you already know my wife and I are planning a couples trip in January–our first winter trip to the Burg. I’m super excited to hopefully see snow-capped mountains for the first time ever, and I really think it will be as breathtaking as my first time viewing the Smoky Mountains.

Of course, we will hit up our favorite spots to eat, but we are really looking forward to eating our first meal at the rebuilt Alamo Steakhouse in Gatlinburg. We didn’t get a chance to go before the fires, and I was stoked to hear they were going to rebuild it in the exact same location. I’ve seen many pictures of their food on social media, and with all the recommendations, it seems too good to pass up, so we’re going to give it a try.

We love Best Italian in the Elks Plaza, and while the reviews for the one on the Parkway aren’t as spectacular, we want to compare, and hopefully, it will live up to the standard upon which the Elks Plaza location has delivered. The one other pizza place in town we haven’t visited in town is Luigi’s; once again, mixed reviews have kept us from trying it. The other pizza restaurants in Gatlinburg are too good to ignore; it’s hard enough that we can’t eat at them all in one trip.

The one thing that really bummed me out about our upcoming January trip is the fact that the Ripley’s Odditorium will be closed for remodeling. Look, I’m not super excited about most of Ripley’s attractions, but for the deal we were getting and my wife’s recommendation of the place–since I didn’t go with her and my son last time–I was anticipating doing a nice indoor activity since it will probably be pretty cold. I’m sure we will find something else worthwhile; I mean, we will be in Gatlinburg, right?

Unfortunately, we won’t even try to plan on a hiking day with it being the wintertime, and the weather being so unpredictable; throw on top of that the fact that a few scenic routes will be closed anyway. Nevertheless, we are no doubt looking forward to our next trip in about five weeks or so. Stay tuned to my Twitter page once we make the trip, as I will be posting more magnificent pictures from our vacation. If anyone has any suggestions, I will read them; I have an open mind. If you have any questions, I will be sure to respond. Like I said in the beginning, I’m no expert, but my experience has taught me what you can expect when you visit Gatlinburg. Remember: it’s always best to do lots of research; questions that ask for opinions are fine, but these are just that: opinions, so you may feel differently about something. What I’ve written about candy and other foods in Gatlinburg you may disagree on; it’s mainly my thoughts on what I believe is the best. Thank you for reading, and I’ll be sure to post again prior to my visit but look for my January trip report on here shortly after our trip.

Remembering the Gatlinburg Fires: One Year Ago Today

November 28, 2016.

This is a date that brings back many different feelings for those that live and work in Gatlinburg, as well as the millions who visit this scenic mountain town in Tennessee. Of course, I’m referring to the wildfires that spread and nearly wiped out the entire city. Many of us didn’t actually experience it, but to those that have fallen in love with this place, it was a helpless feeling watching the events unfolding–and getting constant updates on social media.

This can’t be good.

I remember earlier that day seeing the pictures of Gatlinburg being overcome by ash and smoke and seeing people covering their faces having a difficult time in the smoky air. This was certainly a harbinger, and I was fearful of what might be happening given the reports of high winds forecast with rain still a long way from hopefully halting the progress of the fires that were already spreading just a few miles away in the National Park. I was concerned, to say the least, but I felt that things would hopefully change for the better as the day progressed. Boy, was I wrong.

Gatlinburg is going to burn down

In the evening it became abundantly clear that things were not ok at all, and with the winds becoming hurricane force, I was officially worried. When I realized how close the fires were–after seeing reports of the trees on fire by the Spur–those sinking feelings started setting in: Are the tourists getting out safely? What about the people in the mountains in their cabins? Are they evacuating? Is Gatlinburg going to burn to the ground? We’re going to have to find another place to vacation. At this point, I began to update my wife on what was becoming a dire situation, so she joined me in following the events via Knoxville television social media outlets. All of those previous questions and concerns were being shared as we watched in horror.

I remember staying up pretty late that night, going to bed after hearing the rains had finally come to assist the firefighters in their efforts to save the city. Tragically, people lost their lives trying to escape and countless others had their homes wiped out. So many people’s lives changed that night, and once again, I had never felt so helpless, because I wanted to help but there wasn’t much I could do; eventually, I would make a small monetary contribution to help out those that lost everything.

A huge thank you has to go to the firefighters who made unbelievable sacrifices to at least salvage a large share of what makes Gatlinburg a thriving tourist destination–the many businesses and attractions on the Parkway. They braved blinding road conditions through the mountains and intense heat; and did everything they could possibly do to save lives.

Gatlinburg is still intact, but it is still going through a major rebuilding process that will take some time yet. It is important on this day to take a moment in remembrance of those that had their lives taken from them so tragically and honor everyone that had a hand in helping–and saving–this community, as it is more than just a tourist hotspot; people do live here. Hopefully, we can all learn something and turn it into a positive lesson that we must respect nature and hope that nothing like this will ever happen again.

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