The following is a journal entry dated October 8th 2013. Although this was two years before we would become “Darwin” and “Snuggles” I will still use our trail names. It’s fun to reread my old journals now that I can see how the Universe was leading us to a life of travel and eventually hiking the Appalachian Trail. At the time I wrote this we had no idea what was coming.
Darwin and I had an amazing trip planned for our next visit to the Smokies. We reserved a night of camping at Elkmont Campground (which we discovered during last year’s visit) and then a two night backpacking trip along the Little River Trail. The backpacking trip along the Little River was to be filled with history and rich with fresh air! This was one of our most desired and planned out trips. We reserved our camp spot, applied for our backcountry permits and counted down the days until our departure. Two weeks before we left it happened, the government shut down. Every government ran agency is closed and off-limits this includes National Parks. Where is a majority of our trip planned? THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK!
I am not a political person in the least however in the weeks prior to our trip, I became one. Constantly watching political figures I had never heard of before bicker back and forth coming to no resolution. I do have to be thankful that our jobs are not effected, our lively hood is stable. We did not fight for our country only to be denied access to a national monument made in our honor like some. I feel bad for being so upset when its only our vacation on the line but we have worked so hard for this and planned so long! We just wanted to enjoy a piece of land we and everyone else in the country pay for.
We decided to stick it to the government (like the man really knew or cared) and go down to Gatlinburg, TN anyways. Surely it wouldn’t be as bad as all the Facebook posts were saying; people getting arrested for entering the park now illegally. Unfortunately it was. No one was getting in and if you did get in and were caught, you really were arrested.
Darwin managed to move our end of the week hotel reservation to the day of our arrival in Gatlinburg, TN. We stayed at our favorite place Glenstone Lodge which regardless of the current circumstances, we were excited about. So here I am day three of our vacation hanging in my hammock behind our beloved Glenstone Lodge. The closing of the park is the elephant in the room that we only acknowledge occasionally but try to ignore. We have tried to make the best of our trip without the park and have for the most part been successful. At times, it’s kind of the like the park itself has shown us small glimpses of its beauty as if it’s begging us to explore, it’s tempting us. For instance, I’m currently hanging behind the lodge but also in a small area that no one seems to have noticed. I’m hanging along side a magical mountain stream that runs through the whole town. A sight also enjoyed from the park. I can only hope this is part of the same stream that runs by Elkmont which our reserved camp spot was going to be next to.
We have also explored some of the areas back behind the lodge which we have never really noticed before. We came upon an old abandoned house once owned by The Ogles (at least that is what was on their mailbox). A mystery of the mountains I suppose. Where are the Ogles now and why was their house left empty and unlocked? Much like the abandoned Timber Town in Elkmont, I wondered who these people were and where did they go? For the families in Elkmont, how did they feel once the park was established?
We have also discovered a very cool outfitter right outside the entrance to the park called the NOC or Nantahala Outdoor Center. We have seen this place a few times but never really took the opportunity to explore it. It’s huge! We spent an hour or two walking around and looking at all the gear. I geeked out looking over all the books about trails, park history, plants, etc. We also enjoyed thumbing through a trail journal of sorts signed by Appalachian Trail Hikers or hikers in general that have passed through.
We took almost a full day on a different kind of trail, a wine trail. We visited Sugarland Winery which was another place we have never taken the time to explore. We tasted a few different types of wine and were given a passport to The Rocky Top Wine Trail. With nothing else better to do besides moping around outside the park, we decided some type of trail was better than no trail and headed out to hit more wineries. We met a nice older couple from Nashville, TN and swapped travel stories with them while at Apple Barn Winery; they were there for the pies. After we visited a few other wineries along the trail we were of course feeling a little tipsie and or spirits were lifted. We returned to the lodge with our free victory wine glasses in hand!
We hit up our favorite pizza place Mellow Mushroom and ate what was supposed to be our hard-earned backpacking pizza. Although we didn’t earn it as we had wanted, we enjoyed it non the less.
And so I hang having enjoyed the pleasures of the Gatlinburg concrete jungle but still mourning the loss of a vacation that will never be. The government shutting down did give us the opportunity to enjoy places we passed up before however it is still sad The Smoky Mountain National Park is so close to us but yet we are unable to even step a foot inside its wild terrain. It amazes me how much “man” attempts to dominate and control nature and wild places. This place was here long before man was yet know man takes control of it. Eddie Vedder sings it best….”Society your a crazy breed.”
(Darwin Walking Through The Abandoned Lumber Town in Elkmont in 2012)
Things To Expect In Up Coming Blog Posts/Website Posts And Other Doings:
Currently Enjoying: The Ministry of Happiness Blog By Rev. Kane Check Him Out!
Book Review: “The Long Shadowed Forest” by Helen Hoover – Check It Out!
??? Skirt Testing: Skirt Name and Review Will Be Out Next Week!
Check Out Our Etsy Store TravelandTrail – Full of Fun Travel Finds!
Other Pre Darwin & Snuggles Posts You May Enjoy: