Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - 37

ABOVE LEFT: Clingman's Dome is the
highest point in the park, at 6,643 feet.
ABOVE RIGHT: The Elkmont Troll bridge is
down a side trail off the main Little River Trail.
RIGHT: The Sinks are just off the Little River
Road and are the result of the blasting of a log
jam in the 1800s.

LESS TRAVELED
Clingmans Dome. GSM's highest peak at
6,643 feet is a classic location during the
day for the stunning vistas and a less-traveled secret at night for galactic views. A
blanket of stars, meteor showers and the
center of the Milky Way are " just overhead. " Park in the lot (flashlights or headlamps at the ready) and walk the halfmile paved trail to the observation tower.
While steep, the trail offers ample spots
to stop, rest and look up from wooden
benches. Since the crowds are elsewhere,
go quietly and listen for wildlife also.
Summers, and new moons specifically,
offer the best sparkling nighttime skies.
Elkmont. At the southern tip of the park's
most popular campground is a ghost
town! With evidence of human inhabitants dating back 8,000 years, this locale
has been a pioneer settlement, logging
community, CCC camp and resort town
over the past 200 years-and now it's
abandoned. In pre-park-protection times
the area was logged, and folks rode into
and out of the mountains on the company's Little River Railroad. The " Elkmont
Special " train opened the area to tourists, who were there for the early days of
the GSMNP. Now the small " town " has
restored historic buildings, self-guided
tours and a distinct atmosphere of its bygone eras.

REBECCA KIMMEL

The Sinks & Meigs Creek Trail. Hiding in plain
sight is one of the most dramatic waterfalls in the park. The entire flow of the
Little River plunges tumultuously into a
gorge under the bridged road of the same
name. Said chasm is the result of blasting
a log jam in the late 1800s, which permanently altered the former horseshoe bend
of the river's path (the pre-railroad route
for getting timber to market). Park in the
small lot to see the cascades (roaring and
powerful especially after spring rains),
and then explore the quiet forests, ridges,
wetland bogs and 18 creek crossings on
the all-but-unknown hilly, challenging
woodland trail.

DOWN THE MOUNTAINSIDES

Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Discover a diversity
of fun at this small-town (pop. 4,100+)
destination that draws throngs of visitors.
A stroll in and around the pedestrianfriendly Parkway (U.S. 441) is a delight
for the senses. Watch master confectioners create sweet magic; tour and taste the

history of moonshine; visit silversmiths,
weavers, painters and a host of other artisans at work; get the shivers at haunted
adventures, moving theaters and oddity
museums; and touch or (for the brave)
swim with a stingray. Experience the
Smokies on horseback with a guided tour.
See life from above on an open-air chairlift, aerial tramway, helicopter, hot air
balloon, the Anakeesta's tree canopy walk
and the iconic Space Needle's 400-foot
observation deck. (gatlinburg.com)
Sevierville/Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Whatever your definition of vacation, you'll
find it here. Indoor/outdoor, contemplative/entertaining, or bucket list/good
'ole standards... this county has it all.
Search antique shops, buy handcrafted
gifts or snag discounts at the many outlet
malls. Reserve a table for " dinner and a
show " -comedies, feuds, stampedes, hit
parades, pirates and more family fun performances. Specialty museums abound
with themes of crime, Hollywood in wax,
gospel, country music, exotic cars, the

MAY/JUNE 2021

37


http://www.gatlinburg.com

Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021

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Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - BRPG1
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