We arrived in Pigeon Forge, TN on Tuesday afternoon, after spending the night at an Elks Lodge near Knoxville. It didn't have the creature comforts of most lodges, as you will see in the photo. We settled into Clabough's campground and had time to drive over to the Visitor Center at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The ranger there was very helpful, gave us a map, and put down all the mileage for drive and hikes. We took a short loop drive called the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and stopped at the Bales place along the route. Life was very hard for the Bales, and everyone else living in the hills of eastern Tennessee.
On Wednesday we drove up to visit some POG friends, Jon and Di. We hung out with them at their house and then went out for a nice lunch. After lunch Janet and I drove to Greeneville, TN to visit the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site. Learned a lot about old Andrew. He was conscripted by his mother to apprentice as a tailor. After 5 years he ran off as a young man, and later returned to his mothers house. He eventually moved her to Greenville, where he opened his own tailor shop. Johnson never attended school, he taught himself to read and write. He marries and develops an interest in politics. Pretty soon his shop is the political center of Greenville, people coming from all around to get in on the debates. His political philosophy was a strict interpretation of the Constitution, a belief in states' rights, a notion that public lands belonged literally to the people, and an aversion to government spending. HMMM. While a Senator, President Lincoln appoints Johnson as Military Governor of Tennessee in 1862. Johnson believes succession us unconstitutional, so now he is military governor of a succeeding state, held by the Confederates, but controlled by the Union. Thanks a lot Abe!! He becomes Lincoln's running mate in 1864, and becomes the 17th President after Lincoln's assassination in April 1865. After his failed impeachment proceedings, he does not run for reelection and returns to Greenville. Johnson runs for office again and in 1875 becomes the only former President to return to the Senate.
Thursday and Friday we went back into the Smokies. We hiked up to Laurel Falls, 2.6 mile round trip. The falls were running about 50%, but very nice. The Appalachian Trail runs through the park from the northeast corner to the southwest corner and is actually the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. We drove across the park from north to south and continued on to the Cherokee Indian Reservation. In doing so we connected with the Blue Ridge Parkway for a short distance.
Let me say something about Sevierville and Pigeon Forge. This place is commercialized to the max. Capitalism is alive and very well here thank you. Pigeon Forge is about 11 miles south of I-40, and you have to pass through Sevierville to reach it, and Gatlinburg is past Pigeon Forge. Between I-40 and Pigeon Forge, there are 3 Cracker Barrel restaurants, more than a dozen pancake places, multiple mini-golfs, multiple go karts, multiple outlet malls, and any number of BBQ joints. Plus all the regular Olive Garden, TG Fridays, MickyD's etc. One right after the other, after the next. And then you have Dollywood too. It's way, way, way over the top!!
And the adventure continues,