Photography / Travel

Day 11: The Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee and back home

from Photographs of the American Southeast, May 2001 by Tim Darling ((click for email))

Saturday, May 18

I had to rent an entire house for the night from a Best Western (it was a monstrous $95) in the mountains after deciding to stop there for the night, because all their single rooms were taken. I walked on a few trails in the mountains in the morning (the picture on the right is from Laurel Falls), and drove through the 30 mile stretch that they inhabit. One of the most amusing things I saw was a store outside the mountains with a sign out front: 'Customers wanted'. It's so simple and obvious, yet completely unexpected.

After a couple hours of small, isolated roads through the woods, I have to say I was surprised to emerge from them into a large, lively city thriving on the far side of the Smokies called Gatlinburg. It was a long beach-type town that has a Hard Rock cafe and many other interesting-looking restaurants, not to mention Dolly Parton's Dollywood, a Chapel of Love (where a wedding was taking place), and swarms of people. I had never heard of its existence, but it seemed like I was the only one. Apparently Bill Bryson wrote about it in his book, A Walk in the Woods where he hikes some of the Appalachian Trail (which by the way forms the North Carolina / Tennessee border in the middle of the Smoky Mountains). So I threw out the mountain-climber trail mix I'd saved for lunch and had fajitas at the Hard Rock cafe. Gatlinburg is funny town: sitting in the corner of the mountains, it feels a lot like a little Ewok village.

A couple years later, I found these other thoughts in my journal:

What does the world owe us? Does it owe us all a house, a car, fast roads and endless cheap gas? Does it also owe us clean smog free air?
In the mountains I saw a lot of men standing on rocks by rivers fishing.

And finally, the long drive home...

I was driving back into Washington DC at 10PM that night when I hit the first traffic jam I'd seen in almost two weeks. Did I have any great revelations in my 11 days on the road? Sadly not, except that I was finally convinced that most of the world managed to live their lives happily without me. But maybe they were happy too, that I stopped by where I did.

The End.


Your Comments

Tim, you rock. Sounds like a great trip over some really nice countryside. I'd like to hear more about it.

-- Kim, May 30, 2001
Some really brilliant stuff here.

-- Mark, May 30, 2001
Great photos Tim! It looks like you had a great time :)

-- Georgina, May 30, 2001
If/When I make an on-line journal of my travels, this will be my model.

-- Phil, May 30, 2001
Tim Darling, the Kerouac of photography... nice work.

-- Christi, Jun 7, 2001
I appreciate being able to read and view the documentation of your eleven day excursion.

-- Curtis Garner, Nov 15, 2002
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All text and pictures copyright © 2001 Tim Darling.