This past week my husband, daughter, and I went on a short four day vacation to the Great Smoky Mountains. We stayed at a lovely resort called the Sunrise Ridge Resort just out of Pigeon Forge. It was close to the Great Smoky Mountains, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg, Tennessee. What a wonderful place to stop and reconnect with your family!
We were anxious to see the damage done by the fires from the past year. Several times as we drove through this iconic area, we saw signs that said, “Smoky Mountain Strong.” We saw lots of black areas of burned trees in the Smoky Mountain park and on the road into Gatlinburg, but Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg seemed unaffected now over 7 months after the fires.
Some attractions were not open yet like the Gatlinburg Sky Lift. It sustained a great deal of damage during the fires. Everything at the top of the lift, and even the huge poles that held the cables, had to be replaced. They are set to reopen before summer. Most other attractions are up and running.
It rained constantly for two of our 4 days of vacation. It was too wet to visit the park, so we went to some shows in Pigeon Forge. The two we saw were The Hatfields and McCoy Diner Theater and The Comedy Club. I would recommend them to anyone as both were family friendly. We also visited my husband’s favorite place, The Smoky Mountain Knife Works. He bought a few knives and even two skillets for me! Driving around in Pigeon Forge, you would have never known that a fire had been near that area, but once we got on the road to The Great Smoky Mountain Park we began to see the evidence that had been left behind.
Cabins built into the sides of the mountain were destroyed with only the stone fireplaces showing. Black trees, and areas cleared by the fire, were very near Gatlinburg proper. Some trails, used for a hundred years, were littered with charred trees, yet Cade’s Cove looked to be totally unharmed.
The spring had produced some budding in trees that were only black at their bases. Grasses and flowers sprang up through the park. All of the trees that were not affected brought forth the glory of God. The park was Smoky Mountain strong because our God is strong! The picture above is Laurel Falls. A three mile hike through both burned and beautiful landscape brought us to this falls. Once there, you cannot help but think of the God who crafted it all.
In spite of the destruction we witnessed, there was so much hope everywhere. Shops and restaurants opened their doors and welcomed everyone in like they had done for years. This area of Tennessee is not shutting down because of a careless act. They are rebuilding, renewing, and forging ahead. They are “Smoky Mountain Strong” and God is applauding their efforts of renewal! Make the Great Smoky Mountains a part of your vacation plans this summer. You won’t regret it.
Mary T. Wilkinson, a retired elementary teacher, lives with her husband, Paul, in Indiana. She writes inspirational fiction and non-fiction, but most days you will find her babysitting her young grandchildren. Mary is a public speaker and does Author Visits in elementary schools. Please “Like” Mary on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Mary-T-Wilkinson-700254123347586/ and “Follow” her on Twitter at twitter.com/MaryTWilkinson. You can buy her books: Call Me Lizzy, Henry Listens Harder, and Sober by the Grace of God on Amazon.com and Lulu.com.