Sunday, July 12, 2015

Our last days in the Great Smoky Mountains

With just a few days left in The Great Smoky Mountains, we still had a couple of places we wanted to see!  Our campground was nicely situated where we could easily get to Knoxville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg easily (we were already in Sevierville which is where Dolly was born, don't ya know!).  So, with our list in hand, we set out to check out the towns! 
Weather played a big part in what we did first...Dollywood was big on our list, but since it was going to be a "full day" outdoors, we needed to make sure to save it for a day it wasn't going to rain.  So far, this week, the weather proved to be an "on & off" rain cloud variety - one best to do "other things" we chose to "wait" on Dollywood til later in the week..

So...we went shopping!  Now, Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge aren't "our" kind of places, actually.  They're best for young families...the kind that have kids who enjoy lots of miniature golf, dinner shows, Wonderworks, and Ripley's Believe It Or Not, etc.  But, Gatlinburg does have an 8-mile loop off of it's main road that is called Great Smoky Mountain Arts & Crafts Community that has about 120 artists from the local Appalachian Mountains.  Wonderful drive and terrific artists!  We found a great wedding present for our nephew and his bride-to-be this fall.  I think something "hand-made" is so much more special than what anyone can buy at a commercial store, don't you?  All the artists were in homes, tucked in along the creek & trees, it was a lovely drive and so nice to be away from the main road that screamed "tourist $$!" 

Outside one of the artist's shops

Our next visit was to Knoxville.  Very different! It was so much more metropolitan, and no "screaming tourist $$!" at you!  Nice.  Hard to find parking tho...But we managed.  We had read about a noon radio show being broadcast at their Visitor Center downtown, called the "Blue Plate Special", so we headed to that as soon as we got settled.  Good thing we got there at 11:30, because the place was filling up fast!  Two groups were playing that day, both bluegrass groups (we love bluegrass!) but get this, one was from Sweden and the other from Iceland!  I guess "the world" loves bluegrass!  Each group played for about a half hour, and they were each great!  What a treat!  Jack spoke with the banjo player from Dunderhead (Sweden) and asked him what got him interested in playing bluegrass & banjo, he said he heard Earl Scruggs when he was 7 years old, and after that, started looking for a banjo in Sweden!  Wow, amazing, huh? 
Dunderhead, from Sweden
Arstioir, from Iceland
After we left there, I had read about an old Victorian cemetery, so we went in search,  The Old Gray Cemetery was established in 1850 and absolutely beautiful. The massive oaks and hackberry trees are part of a wide variety of trees and vegetation here that are living witnesses to the history of Knoxville since before the Civil War at which time this area was an open pasture.  Some of the headstones here are pure art...

We also made a stop at the Museum of East Tennessee History in Knoxville.  They had a wonderful exhibit called "Voices of the Land" that had everything from the Civil War with a cabin you could walk into, right up to an 1800's trolley and pharmacy with a soda fountain you could walk into.  Lots of recordings of people and experiences, crossing through the Cumberland Gap, the music, just about everything.  Very nicely done.
Virginia Road Wagon
"Betsy", David Crockett's First Rifle
Well, with the rain gone, by the end of the week...we finely made it to Dollywood!  Yea!  Well worth the wait too!  We pretty much filled our day with music & food!  We caught every show they had, and all were great (of course!), and each just different enough.  Her "My People" is fun in that her brother, sister, two nieces and two cousins are in it and she appears above in a video that is so well done you almost forget it's not "live".  Her museum is fun to go through as well as her RV (especially since we have one to "compare" to:  Hers has a well lit dressing room tho!).  They did have one really unusual show, we'd never seen anywhere, and that was a "bubble" show.  We couldn't take any pictures, and you wouldn't think "blowing bubbles" wouldn't be that amazing, but I have to tell you, what this guy does with bubbles and lasers is truly amazing!  After 7 hours, we called it a day.  A nice way to end our stay in the Great Smoky Mountains...

"My People" (sister, niece, brother, cousins)
Dolly's "coat of many colors" in her Chasing Rainbows Museum
The make-up spot in Dolly's Home-on-Wheels
Dolly's Childhood Home
...kicking back in Tennessee,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at: 


  1. We entered the Smoky Mountains via Cherokee. Appreciate the photo which shows the old fountain Coca-Cola dispenser. When I started my career with Coca-Cola there were still a few of these operating in old drug stores (very few). I enjoyed working to keep them operational a few years longer until parts became too difficult to find. I was surprised to see Jack standing so close and without his Pepsi T-shirt on. Ron