It was a Sunday evening and I just came in from hiking in a very dry Bankhead Forrest when I saw online reports of a fire in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park in the rural area of Chimney Top.
Having just experienced the woodlands in full drought, I was worried what would burn in my treasured national park.
The next day I kept track of the fire, but overnight Monday, the fire grew into a furious storm bearing down on nearby Gatlinburg.
To many of us in the Tennessee Valley, Gatlinburg is one of our main vacation points, so I watched report-after-report as the mountain tourist town was evacuated.
When the smoke cleared several days later, we saw images of the devastation and heard the tragic death tolls.
But soon, we heard a piece of good news, most of Gatlinburg’s beloved downtown and tourist strip were undamaged.
As spring approached, I was interested in how Gatlinburg was recovering after the devastation, and what I found made my heart sing. To quote Marci Claude from the Gatlinburg Conventions and Visitors Bureau “Gatlinburg is open for business.” Full recovery of forests and some cabin sites is a long way off, but a quick peak from your hotel window or a stroll down the strip and you will be convinced that this tragedy only made Gatlinburg stronger.
So, as you plan your vacations for spring and summer, I highly recommend (if you haven’t already) putting Gatlinburg back on your list. It’s an easy drive, it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world, there is literally something for every member of your family to do, and most importantly – by visiting, you are helping them recover.
So to prepare you for your trip, here are a few of my favorite sites:
Great Smokey Mountains National Park:
It plays host to more than 10 million visitors each year. You have to visit to see the reason it’s the busiest of all of our national parks.
If you have ever read my blogs before, you know this homage to all things wonderfully weird would be on my list.
Toss-up: The Mysterious Mansion / Ripley’s Haunted Adventure:
The Mysterious Mansion is Gatlinburg’s oldest haunted attraction, but Ripley’s may be a tad more frightening. But hey, they are both open 365 days a year. What more could you ask for?
Wil Elrick hails from Guntersville, Alabama where at an early age he developed a love for both trivia and history. He has spent the last 20 odd years, fine tuning the art of communication while working in law enforcement, writing, television media, historical research, and public speaking. He lives in North Alabama with his two boys, and a neurotic German Shepherd Dog. He one day hopes that Bigfoot is proven real. Wil’s new book Alabama Scoundrels is available from History Press.