Maybe I am a little too sentimental when it comes to Gatlinburg and The Great Smoky Mountains. I like to come here every year to slow things down and stop to smell the air and realize all that I miss out on every day that I am not here. After all, life is like that; the constant avalanche of responsibilities that take its toll, not just on our sanity, but of our well-being. I like to take advantage of this vacation that I am grateful to experience, and do things that very few people should do when they have the opportunity to come to this increasingly popular destination.

On the days we don’t have plans to go into the National Park, I still get up bright and early and start my trek from our downtown hotel and take a walk down the Parkway. Now I know what your thinking:

But what can you do at 7 in the morning. I mean, none of the stores and shops are open. There’s nothing else to do. 

Well, you’re wrong on both counts, actually. I get the rare opportunity to take photographs of businesses on the Parkway without having to worry about getting scores of people in the shot; not that I am — by any stretch— a professional, but it is nice to not have to fight that battle. The only people I have to dodge are delivery drivers making their early morning rounds before the real crowds hit.

My morning walk also takes me to a place that fully awakens my senses, just as the cool morning air does, and that place is the Donut Friar. I swear I can smell those doughnuts as soon as I start my walk a half mile away. I know I seem to mention it on every post, but they are that good. Also open early is Coffee and Company — who unseated Burg Coffees as my new favorite coffee in town. They open at 7:30, which is perfect timing for my next stop after the Friar.

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The Chocolate Chipper from The Donut Friar

It is just so peaceful to get to walk the Parkway by 7 each time I get the chance. It is a shame that more people don’t engage in this activity…well, OK maybe I have mixed feelings about this, because if more tourists were involved, then I may have to get up even earlier. Oh well, I guess most people figure they get enough exercise during the day, and nix an early walk for this very reason. I would argue though that they are missing out on the one thing that gives me a clear mind and reinforces my love for this place. I will now end this so I don’t go off on an emotional rant about how much I miss it here. I will see you all again soon in Gatlinburg…in June…in the morning.

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