A Taste of Tennessee Whiskey

Having journeyed down nearly 400 miles along the serene Blue Ridge Parkway into the Great Smoky Mountains, we exited on the western side into Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  As you emerge from the beautiful fall colours of the Appalachians, you’re immediately greeted by snarled traffic leading into a bustling – and tacky – tourist town.  Gatlinburg and nearby Pigeon Forge combine to resemble a cross between the Vegas strip and Fort Lauderdale, with a hillbilly theme.  We couldn’t find a convenient place to park in Gatlinburg (and we’ve been there before) so we carried on a few miles up the road to Pigeon Forge.


There’s no shortage of things to do and spend your money on in Pigeon Forge, particularly if you want to see a patriotic dinner theatre show, ride go-carts (there must be 50 go-cart tracks), visit countless outlet malls, take in a variety of theme parks, and pay tribute to the queen of country, Dolly Parton, with a day at Dollywood.  We didn’t do any of those things, despite our intention to go to Dollywood.  When we arrived at the parking gate, we asked the elderly attendant about parking options and during the conversation, he told us it was a bad time to visit as several shows were temporarily closed to convert to their Christmas program.  Dang it!

So instead, we decided to stroll around town and see what other tourist traps we could fall into.  We walked around the Old Mill District and ‘The Island.’  The Bear made friends with a terrific musical talent – Logan Murell – a local Tennessean that we listened to for a set (see http://www.lalalogan.com for more), Mama Bear found a massive candy store and Papa Bear got to sample 13 varieties of Tennessee moonshine (for free) as well as listen to some great bluegrass.


After a couple of days in Pigeon Forge (which was enough for us), we stopped into Sevierville, Dolly Parton’s hometown, for a picture with the statue…


We then drove past Knoxville and came across Fort Loudoun State Park.  The park features the rebuilt fort, originally constructed in 1756, and was one of the earliest British fortifications on the western frontier.  The Bear demonstrated how a diligent sentry patrol should work…

That evening, we found a terrific campground – Hiwassee / Ocoee Scenic River State Park, which was secluded, had great hiking trails along the river, a shower building and was only $13 / night.  There was only one glitch.  As we drove in, we came across an ominous sign – which made us screech to a stop.  Good grief, do we want to stay here?  We later discovered that its a state law for all public campgrounds in Tennessee…


Good thing we have a variety of camouflage glassware…

We moved on to Chester Frost Park near Chattanooga and found a spectacular waterfront site on Lake Chickamauga.  The campground featured sites with power and water, free wifi, numerous walking trails for $25 / night.


We spent three nights there including a day trip into Chattanooga, which was wonderful.  The city is very walkable and has lots of great features, including an unbelievable donut shop, a  stately art museum…

And a famous locomotive…

So other than the weird campground prohibition, and a lot of gun-totin’, God-fearing, Trump supporters, Tennessee has been wonderful so far.  After taking in a few more local sights, we plan on moving towards ‘Music City’ (Nashville) in the coming days.  Stay in the groove y’all…


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