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TheBigGuy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-20-03 08:30 AM
Original message
Gatlinburg...the concept.
Im sure there are enough folks here who have heard of "Gatlinburg" (and even a few who have been to the place)

"Gatlinburg" is more than just the resort town at the entrance to the Smokey Mountains National Park(and surrounded by the park). Conceptually in includes Pigeon Forge, its "suburb" ton the flatlands to the north ,strung out along US 441 (now growing into Sevierville, the county seat) and the North Carolina town of Cherkoee, on the other side of the national park (and located in a real-live Cherokee Indian reservation). So we are really talking about a tourism complex, not one town.

A complex that represents a particularl kind of tourism, and a tourism divided by hierarchys of class and taste.

Gatlinburg itself grew up as the gateway to the park, the place where the first hotels went up to serve park visitors. And it developed into the classic kitchy tourist trap...shops selling confederate flags, T shirts, kitchy souvernirs "made in Japan"., a "space needle" observation tower, etc. On the other side of the mountains, connected to Gatlinburg by US441, was Cherokee, which developed along the same lines as Gatlinburg (but not as intensively), but with an "Indian" theme; a good place to buy plastic tomahawks and have your pix taken with a real live indian in Plains Indian garb (that the Cherokees never wore).

As Gatlinburg was "landlocked" (surrounded by the National Park) it couldnt grow, so Pigeon Forge developed to the north, along US 441...a four lane highway strip lined with cheap motels and cheesy kiddy parks (plaster dinosaurs, UFOs, mini golf, etc).

As time went on, Gatlinburg became more expensive and upscale. A ski resort opened, and the tacky trinket shops where replaced by "arts and crafts" galleries. Hotels became more expensive, and nicer restraunts opened. Pigeon Forge became the resort town for the hoi-polloi; when people said they where going to "Gatlinburg" or "The Smokys" they usually meant Pigeon Forge.

Yet even in Pigeon Forge the attractions became more elaborate and sophisticated; outlet malls opened, and the country music industry began to develop the US441 strip into another "Branson", with stages and hotels and shows for various country stars. The most famous of this country music influx was Dolly Partons "Dollywood" amusement park. Developement creeped north on US441 towards the county seat of Sevierville.

So a vacation in the Smokeys or in Gatlinburg may not have anything to do with these two places. A vistior is most likely to be staying and playing in Pigeon Forge, with a "ritual" visit to the National Park by driving across the moutains to Cherokee, and back again. Maybe (and just maybe) stopping at the overlook at Newfound Gap. That is if the vistors find time to see the National Park at all.

One wonders about this kind of a vacation...staying in a hotel on what is essentially a suburban commericial strip, shopping at outlet malls, and maybe going to see some country music act or taking the kids to an amusement park, and getting stuck in big traffic jams traveling from one part of this tourims complex to another (the traffic jams to and through Gatlinburg are notorious).

If one is more affluent, Gatlinburg itself is a destination, and, compared to Pigeon Forge, it is really more of a walking town. As its surrounded by mountains its more of a mountain vacation, but even here the commecial aspects dominate...the hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops and 'craft' galleries.

The real reason for this tourism complex, the Great Smokey Mountains, have become almost incidental to it. And the type of leisure here seems to be just a transplanted "rural" version of the type of consumer lifestyle most folks are already living back home; its just a change of scenery.
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demnan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-20-03 08:47 AM
Response to Original message
1. But the National Park is the most famous part, the part that is
photographed. Is it not?

I've never been there but I've spent quite a lot of time at Shenandoah National Park. The tourist industry is not so built up. In fact Front Royal is really a small town (but lacks much personality), Luray is a sprawling valley town surrounded by farms and New Market on the other side of the valley is quite a charming town - with antique shops and a wonderful second hand book store, nothing is cheap and tawdry in New Market, and you can go to a friendly little diner there and get a genuinely good southern meal.

It's too bad that the Smokey's are so commercialized. I think one of the prettiest views from the Blue Ridge is the lovely farmed Shenandoah Valley down below where you can hear the cows lowing in the evening.

Last time I was up in the Shenandoah though, the pollution was so alarming and had really affected the folliage up there from the acid rain.

Curious, how is Asheville? That appeals to me more, I think.
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TheBigGuy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-20-03 09:00 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. My experience with Ashville...
...was pretty much limited to a visit to the Biltmore Estate. Which is probably the most impressive "house" that Ive ever seen. It easily is the largest and grandest estate that I have ever visisted, larger than some European castles that ive seen. Worth the trip.

We did drive into Ashville, to downtown Ashville. Ashville is fairly hilly, and does have a large-ish downtown (a few small skyscrapers), but the city itself looked pretty nondescript. Like a smaller southern city, similar to Macon or Lexington or maybe Knoxville. I didnt see anything extra-special to the place, aside from its setting surrounded by hight mountains.

The drive to Ashville from the Gatlinburg (the route we took) was pretty nice. It seems the tourism industry isnt that developed in the Carolna mountains, or not as concentrated.

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supernova Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-20-03 09:08 AM
Response to Reply #2
3. The Blue Ridge Parkway in NC and Skyline Drive in VA
are protected national scenic highways. So driving through them isn't a Gaitlinburg experience. Yes, I admit I've been to Dollywood! :P Though, I don't blame Dolly for trying to bring some economic development to the area.

I will admit, I think Skyline Drive is less developed even than the BRP.

You can ask mlawson about Asheville, he lives there.
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demnan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-20-03 09:13 AM
Response to Reply #2
5. I just thought as the home town of a famous author
it might have a bit more class than that. But then many towns in the south don't take advantage of the wonderful literary heritage that was spawned in the area to develop a classy town.

I liked New Market, VA so much, I was surprised how charming the place was, but these places within a day's drive of D.C. tend to want to appeal to the clientele in that area, I think. They've done some good things in Charlottesville, but the town center there is too new to be genuinely charming. Another mountain town I love is Hagerstown, MD. They have a huge lake in the center of the town which is a park with ducks, etc. and there are museums, art galleries and an outdoor theatre. There aren't any really high mountains around it, it's a valley town.
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TheBigGuy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-20-03 09:31 AM
Response to Reply #5
8. I could have missed alot in Ashville
as I said my experience with the place was somewhat limited...the parts I saw of Ashville where not run-down, just not that special. The place is really a small city, not a town. There maybe some nice neighborhoods with grand old victorian houses and such, but i didnt see any.

My favorite US "mountain" town is Nevada City, up in the Sierra Nevada foothills in California. Its an old gold rush town, and is really nice. They did an excellent job restoring the place, and it is right in the moutains, with a rushing stream cutting through the town. Downieville, also in the Sierra, is similar, but maybe not as cute.

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ayeshahaqqiqa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-20-03 09:09 AM
Response to Original message
4. Not like it used to be
I went there in the Sixties, and spent most of my time in the Park. I laugh at the mention of "confederate flags" since Sevier County prided itself on voting the stay IN the Union (learned that when I visited there)! I don't recall the tacky Plains Indian dress on the natives at Cherokee;even then I would have realized that wasn't authentic. I do recall the books on Sequoia's alphabet and the village.

I think there are two types of tourists; one that looks for plastic and one that looks for real. If you're looking for real, you can find it.
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TheBigGuy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-20-03 09:19 AM
Response to Reply #4
7. yeah..the "confederate" thing is a joke.
I think most of the Appalachian South was pro-union, which is one reason they voted Republican after the Civil War. Thats sort of a hidden history of the GOP in the South...that the original southern republicans where pro-union, and not that well-off.

If I recall right folks in what is now Gatlinburg where pro-union, and actually ran the guy who the town was named after out of town as he was a Confederate sympathizer.

Back in the 1960s I think the place wasnt anywhere near as developed as it is today.

That Plans indian dress was just one indian, at a gift shop in Cherokee.

The Cherokees actually do have a good interprative center set up, and I think a recreated village (which I didnt get to see)....this was more educational and non-tacky compared to some of the other things in the town.

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demnan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-20-03 09:17 AM
Response to Original message
6. Why don't we have a DU Applachian Trail walk?
We could pick an area where most of us could drive in one weekend and just walk the trail, a few of us and enjoy nature together. Nothing too athletic or challenging, just a nice contemplative walk. What do you say?
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TheBigGuy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-20-03 09:39 AM
Response to Original message
9. Fontana Dam, my favorite Smoky Mnt "attraction".
I guess becasue im interested in engineering and architecture and public works:

Fontana Dam. It was build by the TVA during WWII to provide power to aluminum factorys near Knoxville.

And the place is hard to get too...a long twisting drive through the mountains.

When there its like something out of a James Bond movie.

This huge concrete dam, with a modernistic vistors center (with some great views of the lake and Smoky Mountains, as well as a good story of the building of the dam and the TVA in general) , and a tramway that descends down the moutain side from the visitors center down into the dam itself.

Inside the dam you can tour the powerhouse and control room.

Nearby are the remains of "Fontana Village", the housing area of the workers, which used some early versions of prefabricated housing.

Of course getting there and back is half the fun. On the way back we took the nearly empty "Foothills Parkway",....with spectacular views back towards the Smokeys, and also out over the "Great Valley" .(a continuation of the Shenandoah Valley) ....with the blue wall of Cumberland Mountain way off in the distance.

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1monster Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-20-03 10:21 AM
Response to Original message
10. I haven't been to Gatlinburg.... but
I spent a week in a CAMPGROUND just outside Cherokee over ten years ago. I had a great time while I was there, hiking up an almost verticle (it seemed that steep to me) trail to get to a lovely water fall. It wasn't very wide, but it fell a long way down a moss covered rock face with plant life clinging to it wherever it could get a root hold.

We also did the tourist railroad ride around the large area. I'm not to fond of heights, but I was impressed by the tressle that went over the resevoir seeminly hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of feet below (okay, perhaps I exaggerate a little, but remember I don't like high places). And I was distressed to see just how low the resevoir had fallen at that point. Living in Florida, I'm always aware of the potential for horrible forest fires when drought is the theme of the summer...

Parts of Cherokee did have a somewhat kitchy feeling, but that was fun too. (I live in a tourist area that takes its heritage very seriously, and even we have our kitchy bits here and there.) People like kitch; it's fun. And that is why there are so many of them and why it thrives. A vacation to a "high class" resort with five star hotels isn't, in my opinion, all that much fun. Just more stuffy and much more expensive.
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