As Horace Kephart, chronicler of life in the Great Smoky Mountains said, “The Smokies are wild.” But wilder still, depending on your idea of a good time, is the stretch of schlocky civilization that runs north from the edge of the national park, 15 miles through Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville.
The first populated place you come to after leaving the Smokies is Gatlinburg. Gatlinburg, in my opinion, is crass, gross and an assault to good taste and decency, a graceless blunder of a boil in the armpit. I’m well aware that there are those who thrill by the kind of degenerate, lucre-focused entertainment you can find here, and I say welcome to it. If you like Gatlinburg, I would paraphrase Forrest Tucker, a bank robber and escape artist, and say, “You can love civilization in spite of what it does to you.”
Next up is Pigeon Forge and Sevierville, where our route makes a right turn onto the Dolly Parton Parkway. Dolly, entertainer, businesswoman and humanitarian, is cool. Nonetheless, both Pigeon Forge and Sevierville are even more commercialized than Gatlinburg, with less soul, if such a thing is even possible. Lisa called the sights on Highway US-441 a “big giant carnival.” She is much less critical than I am.
That being said, what can you find along this retched 15-mile strip?
. a mechanical bull, enormous gorillas, giraffes and prehistoric creatures, none of which are alive or have ever been
. gigantic pink studded boots
. Country music, everywhere
. a boulevard named Cowboy Way
. the No Way José Cantina
. Davy Crockett Mini Golf, Old McDonalds Mini Golf and Hillbilly Golf
. an aerial tramway / gondola
. jewelry, tattoos, a space needle and a chair lift
. Dollywood, which means more than 40 amusement park thrill rides, shows, festivals and concerts, Southern-style dining and the Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame
. an Elvis Museum
. a kid sized Nascar Park
. a Hard Rock Cafe
. a psychic, an old time photo studio, arcades and race tracks
. the National Knife Museum and
. the vile smell of exhaust for 18 miles
. also a road sign that bids you goodbye…
You gotta admit, this is overkill.
I know I run the risk of annoying, even insulting, some people with my opinion of the depravity of this place. These attractions are called attractions because… they attract people. Heck, you might be one of them. You know, don’t you, that this is only this writer’s perspective and if you don’t agree with it, please go to this place and I sincerely wish you a sublime and enchanting experience. As they say in the South, “Bless your heart.”
I wonder if part of the reason the Smokies is the most visited park in the National Park system is because of all these nearby attractions. There is no way in or out of the Park without being exposed to all this nauseating, bilging twaddle. But have fun!