The workplace sent me to Gatlinburg, Tennessee to a conference. It’s been a long time since I’ve spent any time in Gatlinburg. The last time I was here was in 1986, and except for the mall/ski slope up the hill, I remember it being a quiet mountain touristy place, mostly a few stores downtown surrounded by hotels and resorts. I had been told that time and money had destoryed the quiet mountain town, and I was not dissappointed.
The hotel we stayed at was adequate for 85 bucks a night. The pool was very nice, even though I forgot to bring swim trunks and couldnt use it. I have been told there was a bear in here once, many years ago. Someone left a back door open and the bear wandered in. I dont know if he enjoyed a swim or not.
On the first full day of our conference I had some time alone to do some geocaching, and found this little park, only because of geocaching. Otherwise there’s not really much cause to go there. It would be a good place to camp if that was allowed. I highly doubt that is legal in here.
Gatlinburg has a nice camping store, the Natahala Outdoor Center, at the west end of town right outside the national park. Try as I might, I couldn’t find anything I needed to purchase.
Gatlinburg is the home of the “Old Smoky Moonshine Distillery”, the first legal distillery in Tennessee. We took a tour of the place, and tried some free samples of different flavors. Down the street was “Sugarland Distillery”, and we got a tour of the actual distilling room, from ginding corn through mashing and distilling. It was an interesting process on small scale. I’ve seen a rum distillery, but the equipment was so big there that it was hard to get a good feel of it. I bought a few shirts, but that was it. I promise!
Gatlinburg was sort of a disappointment over all. Its sort of like the old Myrtle Beach pavillion area. There are a few shops with old time craft stuff, but a lot of useless crap souvenier shops. There are two lingerie/”novelty” shops, at least four martial arts weapons/airsoft guns shops, and flourescent t-shirts galore. The old school glass blowing and home crafts type stuff seems all but gone. Even the really cool sock making store is closed and gone. Its all touristy… full of chain restaurants like Bubba Gump and TGIFridays. We walked to the east end one day, and to the west end the next, and pretty much saw everything.
Its nice to see I guess, but I can’t imagine spending a week or so here, unless I was hanging out in the national park. The Great Smokey Mountains park is bordering the town, and I can see this being a nice base camp for some hikes and day trips. There are plenty of places to raft and zipline and hike right around here, but the town itself doesnt seem to have much to offer in entertainment.
The one thing I can say I have liked is seeing all the hikers coming in and out of town. They are everywhere. Some scruffy-looking thru-hiker types fresh off the trail, and some fresh and clean hikers ready to go out on adventures. It was nice to see them going about their thing. I was a bit jealous, and hope to have some more of those adventures sooner or later.