I was kicking myself when I realized that I would be driving through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and hadn't planned any time to stop. So I did some quick research and realized that "auto-touring" the park is very popular so off I went. This trip was basically a repeat of Shenandoah. Lots of pulling over, lots of "wooooo!" as I passed scenic view after scenic view. I must've pulled over 50 times to take (what looks like) the exact same picture.
Clingman's dome is the highest point in the park and you can drive right up to the base of it. The views from the parking lot alone were absolutely insane. From there, you can hike .5 miles to the actual dome to get 360 degree views of the mountains. I did this in my birks since the road was paved and I used to walk .6 miles to the train every day (admittedly, it was cocky of me.) This was a very steep .5 miles.
The Smoky Mountains are the most visited national park in America and nowhere is that more evident than taking this walk up to Clingman's Dome. I was being trailed by a group of bikers decked head to toe in Harley Davidson gear. Everyone was complaining about the walk (dad jokes abound, my friends.) By the time all of us had reached the summit, the dome itself was so crowded it was hard to really take it all in. This group of bikers had clumped together to take a celebratory picture, a family with the last name "Clingman" (no joke) was clamoring for a group picture as well. I stayed for a total of 30 seconds due to general unpleasantness. The hike down was even more beautiful (probably because I wasn't huffing and puffing) and I made frequent stop for more of the same picture.
Okay, so... the mountains were gorgeous but the route to Nashville spits you out of the park in a little town called Pigeon Forge. This place is insane, people. I was driving down what felt like a highway where the side of the road was littered with pancake houses, amusement rides, motels, people in camping chairs hanging out. It was so confusing and amazing. Later, I found out this town is home to Dollywood. Makes sense? At first, I was terrified that this was what Tennessee was like. I thought, "Oh god. Is this it? This is where I live now?" I told that to a few folks who have lived here for a while and they were cracking up. They joyfully referred to Pigeon Forge as "Cracker Barrel, the town."
Highlights of insane things I saw:
"Biblical Times Dinner Show"
The Jurassic Park boat ride
Road-side ferris wheel and roller coasters
A life size King Kong scaling a real building
Here is a terrible video I took while driving through. I do not recommend doing this but I had to capture some of the insanity. This video makes it seem tame, but I promise you guys, it is nothing of the sort.