Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Late, Great, Smoky Mountains

SGM Husband and I headed up to the Great Smoky Mountains last weekend for a little getaway.  It had been awhile since we spent a couple of nights away from home, and I thought it would be nice to get some fresh air beneath our wings.  While in the Smokies, we decided to drive around Gatlinburg and check out the local artists.  No big whoop, just knock around some shops and browse through some pottery, wood carvings, paintings...you know, down home mountain art kind of stuff.  We took the winding road from our hotel in Townsend, TN (http://www.dancingbearlodge.com/) through Severville, Pigeon Forge, and then to downtown Gatlinburg.  Okay, first off...Pigeon Forge was just gross.  My eyes almost popped out of my head from all of the roadside attractions - the town should be renamed  "tackyville".  If ever you want to hit waterslides, miniature golf courses, pancake houses, and souvenier shops all within a two mile stretch of concrete and neon signs this is your place.  Uh....no thanks.  Dolly, I'm sorry but from what I saw, your town don't look nuthin' like the travel brochures advertise. 

As disappointing as Pigeon Forge was, Gatlinburg was even worse.  What was once a sweet little mountain town, graced with a lovely creek running through the middle of it, is now the white trash capitol of the Appalachian mountains.  Store after store of glaring commercialism, cram packed with stupid souveniers like resin hillbilly toothpick holders and, "My Grandma went to the Smokies and all I got was this crappy T shirt" t-shirts.  The sidewalks of Gatlinburg were strewn with people who kind of resembled human beings, but just barely.  I saw a man and his woman lighting each other's cigarettes, while pushing two baby carriages.  Nice!  This was NOT what I had in mind for a wholesome afternoon, and I was NOT about to park my car and join in on the madness.  However, a couple of blocks later, we did see a sign in front of a nice looking building occupied by Sugarland Cellars, that advertised, "Free Wine Tasting".  I, a self professed oenophile, thought this might be worth a quick stop.  Sugarland Cellars does not produce "fine wine", but hey, that has never stopped me before.  With the help of the lovely wine wench behind the counter, I threw back a couple of swigs of muscadine wine, cherry wine (smelled terrible but tasted just like cherries with a 13% alcohol content), and lastly a nice little rose called "Martha Jane" (named after one of the first settlers in Gatlinburg).  Obligingly, I bought a bottle of Martha Jane to take home - I"ll save it for when SGM Husband's family comes over.

As we departed Summerland Cellars, an angel from heaven threw us in the path of a local tour guide named Peggy.  We asked Peggy where the local artists could be found, and she explained that they had to move out of downtown Gatlinburg to make room for the kinds of stores that the tourists of today were more interested in.  Peggy whipped out her handy dandy little map, and directed us north of town to an area called the "Artist's Loop".  The loop is an eight mile stretch of road that contains over a hundred little shops featuring real live art.  Imagine!  Exhuberant, we jumped into the white steed and headed north. This being a Sunday during Gatlinburg's "slow season" there were unfortunately only a handful of open stores. In an effort to support the local arts community, we made a couple of stops and a few purchases, and made some new friends along the way.  I am now the proud owner of some pottery bowls, a wooden cheese board, and handmade rosemary soap.  


I went all the way to the Smokies to learn this very valuable lesson:  a person has to leave home every now and again to realize that there truly is no place like home.   I can find prettier views, nicer people, and better local crafts in my own hometown of Blue Ridge, GA.  "So long you late, great Smoky Mountains...we won't be seeing you any time soon."   Martha Jane says, "Amen".

P.S.  For those of you who might be worried about the Southern Baby Protector....while we were gone, he hung out at home with his BABYsitter.  Here they are enjoying the view from the front window!


  1. I've had the pleasure of visiting B.R. and hell yes, there's no better place for quaint shops and some of the nicest people I've ever met. A great mixture of the kind of souvenier shops you want to buy things at (I still wear my BR sweatshirt) and things I happily took home to my peeps here. There's a version of what you experiencd when you drive out to the Washington Coast; littered (literally) with trashy stores, restaurants and not much else. It's all Indian Reservations so if you want cheap smokes, then you'll be happy. However, the cherry wine sounded pretty good.

  2. I am well acquainted with tacky, trashy souvenir shops.
    (I live very close to Niagara Falls)
    It ruins the ambiance and the natural beauty that drew you there to start with!
    So glad that the trip didn't end up being a total bust.
    I'm with Boxer, I like a good cherry wine! =)

  3. im impressed you could get past a bad smell to drink anything -cherry or otherwise. Ive been to Gatlinburg -its been about 30 years...it was horrible then. Its the mountain version of Panama CIty only worse. Like Blazing Scarlet says - you have a natural beauty that is enough - and then to see it covered over with crap stamped out of molds in China. I can just see the worker bees shaking their WTF heads when they look at what we sell. They say they have nets under the windows of chinese factories...supposedly because of the near slave labor conditions...maybe it was the lil abner toothpick holders and rebel flag shot glasses.

    Look at Tag with the baby. so dear.

    theres no place like home. we need to be vigilant on keeping BR sweet -but Wally WOrld is trying to bully in.

  4. Scout?? Whar'd ya go, Sugar Pie? Hope thangs is well wif' yore folks an' all....missin' ya'.

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