Exeter, Devon UK • May 18, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home International Searching for America: Gatlinburg

Searching for America: Gatlinburg

Stepping into the foothills of the Smoky Mountains and exploring the trails around town, Lucie ventures into Gatlinburg. Beyond its picture-postcard feel, this quirky town holds acclaim as a melting pot for a handful of different ingredients to modern America.
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Searching for America: Gatlinburg

Image: Lucy Connors

Stepping into the foothills of the Smoky Mountains and exploring the trails around town, Lucy ventures into Gatlinburg. Beyond its picture-postcard feel, this quirky town holds acclaim as a melting pot for a handful of different ingredients to modern America.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee, could be the most unique (read: bizarre) town I have had the opportunity to visit. Situated at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, it is a mixture of isolated mountain town, tourist hotspot, and Deep South. The journey to Gatlinburg consisted of adventuring through rolling hills that resembled sleeping dragons, and driving up a snowy mountain on a gravel road that instilled us with the fear of them.

The town is undeniably a tourist haven, with one long strip consisting largely of moonshine breweries that offered up enough tastings to constitute a pregame. Outside of the tourist population and central areas, I have not seen more confederate flags somewhere; casting a nasty haze over the picturesque surroundings. Because, truly, it was beautiful. When the setting sun reflected off the back of the Smoky Mountains and painted them bright pink I was left in awe.

The journey to Gatlinburg consisted of adventuring through rolling hills that resembled sleeping dragons, and driving up a snowy mountain on a gravel road that instilled us with the fear of them.

In the late spring, despite the snow and freezing temperatures (especially for a newly proclaimed Floridian), the streets were lined with blossom and the overarching presence of nature was beautiful. While maybe lacking in substance, Gatlinburg does not lack style and offered up a fantastically eclectic mix of the sublime and the ridiculous. It felt as though you had just strolled into a movie set, and even the accents of the locals had such a deeply southern twang that it only added to this effect.

Image: Lucy Connors

The Smoky Mountains are most famous for the Appalachian Trail running through them, and I was fortunate enough to undertake a small hiking venture toward them. As soon as you exit Gatlinburg you are in the wilderness, and it was only half an hour to the trails. I didn’t intend to hike any of the Appalachian Trail; largely because I thought it was far more inaccessible than it was, but it only took a two-mile upward hike to meet with it. The Appalachian Trail is a huge bucket list item for me, as it is for so many, and I was just enthralled by it. With only the slight trepidation that we might stumble upon a black bear with absolutely no knowledge of what to do, we undertook a small section of the hike.

It was incredible, so stunning, so rich, but when two thru-hikers told us they’d almost been killed by the blizzards the Smokies had been throwing at them for consecutive nights I believed them. The Appalachian Trail is still on my bucket list, its presence even more firmly cemented by this experience, but this trip was not the one on which to tackle it, and so we headed back towards the town.

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