Sunset on a Mountaintop

Sunset starts

Yesterday was an 85 degree sunny day in Gatlinburg.  I thought it would be a good day to view the sunset from the top of the Smoky Mountains – turns out I was right.  It was breathtaking!

We drove up to Newfound Gap, not sure which direction we’d be viewing, only to discover the primary view at Newfound Gap was east.  So we decided to go to Clingman’s Dome.  This was absolutely the right decision – the views were amazing.  We didn’t even walk up to the viewing tower, we stayed in the parking lot.

Panorama prior to sun setting

There were a few groups of people in the parking lot, mostly there for the photo opportunity.  As the sun dropped lower in the sky and the photographers focused (pun intended) on their shots the chatting and sounds became less and less.  The only sounds came from the young kids and teens in the groups that weren’t using this as a photo op.  It really struck me that most of us were all taking this in and thoroughly enjoying the experience.

Sky gets darker as the sun sets

The change in sky color was just amazing!  I’ve seen many sunsets from beaches and yards and high on hills and this Mountaintop Sunset rates as one of the most beautiful I’ve seen.  To experience this from on top of a mountain and above clouds was fantastic.  And you could feel the temperature drop as the sun dropped.  The parking lot is 6200 feet in elevation, and you could sure notice the lower temperatures compared to the city of Gatlinburg.

This foray to the top of the mountain was well worth the trip.  We will do this again.  Now I will leave you with just the pictures I took as the night progressed – allowing you enjoy the view in your own silence.

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Moonshine in the Smoky Mountains

How much do you know about moonshine in the Smoky Mountains?  Did you know that NASCAR was borne from moonshine runners?  I don’t claim to be either a NASCAR or Moonshine expert, but I’ve read enough about both of them to understand the connection.

Apparently the hills of Tennessee and North Carolina were home to many moonshiners.  The mountains provided a refuge that was difficult for law enforcement to maneuver, but easy for the shiners to navigate to transport their corn whiskey.  As the cops got better at finding and chasing the shiners, the shiners souped up their cars to outrun the law.  Read about Moonshine Runners & Cars for stories right from the runners and their relatives.

So when you visit Gatlinburg make a stop at Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery in downtown Gatlinburg where you can read all about the history of moon-shining in Tennessee and the surrounding mountains, and have samples of moonshine.  But be sure to bring a designated driver!

Art School in Gatlinburg – Who Knew?

There is an art school in downtown Gatlinburg, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts.  The school is located on the parkway at stop light #5, on the left.  The school curriculum provides in -residence workshops one to two weeks in length, and night classes in the cold winter months.  I’ve not taken any of the courses but I will if I ever get to retire in Tennessee as planned!

English: The main entrance to the Arrowmont Sc...

The main entrance to the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts along the Parkway in the U.S. city of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’ve been to Arrowmont for a fundraising event.  Every fall they host the “Souper Bowl” to raise funds for the school.  For 25 bucks we got to pick a hand crafted bowl from a table of student designs and could fill it up as many times as we wanted with homemade soups and breads.  We sat on rickety old chairs at long cafeteria tables with people we didn’t know, and had a really great time.  We got there a bit late but had pre-purchased tickets so we weren’t concerned about securing a spot. Apparently there is a line out the door an hour before they open to make sure the best bowl is available for the picking!

Labor Day weekend is also eventful at Arrowmont.  This year is the 8th Annual Gatlinburg Fine Arts Festival at Arrowmont, August 31 to September 2nd.  Admission is free and there is ample room on the campus for the artists to display their wares and mountain musicians to entertain.  There will be demonstrations and an area for the kids to express their inner artist.

If you can’t make it to the Labor Day weekend festivities you can attend other events or tour the galleries any time of year.

Have you ever taken a class at Arrowmont?  Or would you like to?  Tell us about it…

Art in the Smokies

There are a number of art galleries in Gatlinburg, most of which are on the Arts & Crafts eight-mile loop in Gatlinburg.  Two of my favorites are Jim Gray Gallery, which also has a store in Pigeon Forge, and The Paul Murray Gallery.

Paul Murray Gallery

Aunt Emily

Paul Murray is my absolute favorite Smoky Mountain artist. Paul Murray spent part of his early life in the deep mountains and captures the essence of what the mountain people represent; simplicity and joy. He uses pencil, watercolor, oil and pastels. His art can be very haunting like this pencil sketch of Aunt Emily, but there is no other artist’s work I’ve seen that captures the essence of people as much as Paul Murray’s.

The best part of seeing Paul Murray’s art however is experiencing his ‘gallery’. You’ll find it on Glades Rd. Look for the old house with the dilapidated porch. Don’t be afraid to go in, you’ll experience not only the art, but have a better idea of the simple way of life of these mountain people.

Jim Gray Gallery

Jim Gray gallery is also found on the eight-mile loop that begins on Glades Rd. and is part of the Arts community. In addition to his own work Jim features the art of family members and other artists as well. Jim Gray paints watercolors of a lot of different subjects. Of course my favorites are paintings of the Smoky Mountains.

I love his water colors of the Smokies. He is really able to evoke the feelings you get when you are touring in the park or experiencing a stay in the mountains. There is nothing like waking up to seeing the ‘smoke’ in the mountains, and Jim captures this beautifully.

Useful Links:

New Year’s Eve Ball Drop – Not in New York

Apparently every year for the last 23 there has been a New Year’s Eve party in downtown Gatlinburg.  How did I not know this!?!

The festivities start early in the evening with music playing at the Gatlinburg Convention Center.  Crowds gather at the base of the 342 foot Space Needle in downtown Gatlinburg and a music stage is setup to entertain young and old.  At the stroke of midnight the ball drops and fireworks commence. Sounds fun, and something I have to add to my bucket list.

Here is a video of the New Year’s Eve celebration:

Where will you be this New Year’s Eve?

Cabin Rentals

Do you need a place to stay when you are vacationing in the Gatlinburg area?  How about a stay in your very own log cabin?

Check out this video for Jackson Mountain Homes, a Gatlinburg cabin rental company.  The video also shows some of the Gatlinburg area.

The cost is comparable to a nice hotel room, but the amenities are much better!  You have your own home which equals privacy, a full kitchen, hot tub, fireplace, front porch with rockers and a grill, pool table and/or other games for entertainment.

Southern Serenity is a cabin you can rent through Jackson Mountain Homes.  Bonus – you can even bring your canine companion!

Where to eat?

A friend recently vacationed at Southern Serenity in Gatlinburg, so of course she asked me for restaurant recommendations.  Here is the list I sent her of where I would eat in the Gatlinburg area, of course there are soooo many restaurants there is no way I could have been to them all, so this is my current list.  Check back in a few years, and I’m sure you’ll see a different list.

Bear Creek Grill – East on Hwy 321(next door to Jackson Mountain Homes check-in) – Delicious Italian and Trout
The Rib Shack – hwy 321 east to Birds Creek rd, right on Pittman Center Rd., Shack is on the left – smoked ribs and chicken.  A real experience, and only open Thursday to Saturday 11am-6pm when we were there in May.
Hellbenders – downtown Gburg – outdoor dining and music
Pancake Pantry – downtown Gburg – best pancake place (and there are LOTS of them)
The Atrium – Gburg – get the apple pancake featured in Taste of Home – YUMMY!
Mama’s Farmhouse – Pigeon Forge – Delicious homemade everything from scratch.  AYCE and every meal served family style.  Make sure to have the banana pudding for dessert (my mouth is watering)
Old Mill Café – Pigeon Forge – everything is homemade, even the plates!

Places I haven’t been to yet, but will go there based on others recommendations:
Wild Plum Tea Room – Glades Rd.

Smoky’s Pub & Grub (Formerly The Ship) – Glades Rd. – Recently acquired as an add-on to the original located at the start of Smoky Mountain National Park. I’ve not been here but heard from locals it is good.

Also check the guest book at Southern Serenity for other recommendations and the binder in the cabin provided by JMH. 

If you want to eat in, and there is a full kitchen in the cabin, your best bet for groceries is at the Food City on Hwy 321, only about a mile from the cabin.  They offer smaller size goods for travelers needing items for a week or less.

Missing Tennessee

Right now I’m missing my adopted home state of Tennessee.  I really love Gatlinburg and all the things you can do in the area, and I love that if I don’t want to do any of those things, I can just sit in my cabin and enjoy it.

I’ll be there soon enough as I have a vacation planned with some friends, but I must admit I’m really anxious to get to Tennessee.  Today I was talking to some friends and one of them has been to the Smoky Mountains so we got to talking about the Park and all the cool things to do and see.  Big mistake on my part, now I’m missing Tennessee.  😦

Find this on the Roaring Forks Motor Nature Trail

Two Hours From Gatlinburg

What can you do within a two hour drive from Gatlinburg?  If you get bored with the hiking and shopping in Gatlinburg, and the attractions and shopping available in Pigeon Forge and Sevierville, there are plenty of things to do and see.  I’ve listed a few of them:

  1. Cherokee, NC – Take Hwy 441 south through the park to Cherokee and visit the Cherokee museum, or go to Harrah’s Casino to gamble.
  2. Bristol, TN – Drive 2 hours northeast to tour the Bristol TN Nascar racetrack, or see a race.
  3. The Biltmore Mansion – Drive about an hour and a half to Asheville, NC to see The Biltmore Mansion.
  4. Dragon’s Tail  – Take your motorcycle west through the park and Townsend to Foothills Parkway on the west edge of the park.  Follow Foothills Parkway south to The Tail of the Dragon, also known as Deal’s Gap in NC.  318 switchbacks in 11 miles!!
  5. Cataloochee Valley – See the Elk in Cataloochee Valley on the southeastern side of the park.  The Elk were reintroduced in 2001.
  6. Cumberland Gap National Park, KY – Take I-40E to Hwy. 32N to the park.
Maybe you have some ideas I’ve missed?  Feel free to post them – and happy travels!

Smoky Mountain Area News and Weather

Want to check the Gatlinburg area weather?  Need to know what is happening in the Gatlinburg area?  Here is a list of links I’ve compiled for local news and weather…

The Mountain Press – an online local newspaper – Gatlinburg weather
Sevier County News
Knoxville News – providing area weather information
Smoky Mountain Welcome Guide – Links to area news and information