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God is God on the Mountain and in the Valley: The Great Smokey Mountains
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God is the God of the Mountain and the Valley:
The Great Smokey Mountains, Tennesee
Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg are located in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. The town of Sevierville is situated in Sevier county and is home to approximately 17,000 residents. Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are the most popular destinations because of their bustling attractions. All of these small towns are a part of Sevier county, TN.
The history of Sevier county dates back to the early 18th century when the area was first inhabited by the Cherokee people. In the late 1700s, the first white settlers arrived in the area, and it was established as a small farming community. The first town was named after John Sevier, a prominent figure in Tennessee's history who served as the state's first governor.
Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, Sevier county remained a small agricultural town, with tobacco and corn as the primary crops. However, with the opening of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1934, tourism became an important industry for the town. Visitors were drawn to the area for its scenic beauty, fresh mountain air, and outdoor recreation opportunities.
Over the years, Sevier county has continued to grow and develop as a tourist destination. Today, the town is home to a wide range of attractions, including outlet shopping malls, amusement parks, and dinner theaters. However, the area has managed to maintain its small-town charm, with friendly locals and a relaxed pace of life. Families find this area perfect for fun that interests all ages. My husband and I went on our first trip to the park a few months before we married, and since then, we have taken our family many times.
Sevier county has also become known for its thriving arts scene recently. The town is home to several galleries and studios showcasing the work of local artists and craftsmen. The Great Smokey Mountains Arts Council also hosts various events and exhibitions throughout the year, celebrating the area's rich cultural heritage.
The Great Smokey Mountains, Tennessee, experiences four distinct seasons throughout the year:
Spring: Spring in The Smokeys lasts from March to May, with temperatures ranging from the mid-40s to mid-70s Fahrenheit (7-24°C). This is a great time to visit for wildflower blooms, hiking, and fishing.
Summer: Summer lasts from June to August, with temperatures ranging from the mid-60s to mid-80s Fahrenheit (18-30°C). It can be very hot midday. Tubing is popular these days. This is the busiest time of year for tourism, and visitors can enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, and swimming.
Fall: Fall lasts from September to November, with temperatures ranging from the mid-40s to mid-70s Fahrenheit (7-24°C). The peak season for fall foliage is usually the second week in October. Book early, as this time of the year, is jam-packed.
Winter: Winter lasts from December to February, with temperatures ranging from the mid-20s to mid-50s Fahrenheit (-4-12°C). If you come after Thanksgiving and before Christmas, you will find Christmas lights twinkling everywhere. This is a popular time for skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports, and visitors can also enjoy holiday events and attractions in the area.
There are plenty of camping options near the Smokeys. Here are some popular ones:
Great Smoky Mountains National Park: The park has several campgrounds with different amenities, including flush toilets, showers, and electrical hookups. Reservations can be made through Recreation.gov.
Elkmont Campground: Located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this campground is known for its historic cabins and beautiful scenery. Reservations can be made through Recreation.gov.
Cades Cove Campground: Another campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this one is popular for its wildlife sightings and scenic drives. Reservations can be made through Recreation.gov.
Twin Creek RV Resort: This campground is located just a few minutes from Gatlinburg and offers full hookup RV sites, tent sites, and cabins. Amenities include a pool, playground, and laundry facilities.
Greenbrier Campground: Located in the mountains just outside Gatlinburg, this campground offers tent and RV sites along a creek. It's known for its peaceful setting and proximity to hiking trails.
Up the Creek RV Camp: This campground is located on the Little Pigeon River and offers RV sites and tent sites. Amenities include a pool, playground, and game room.
Townsend/Great Smokies KOA: This campground is located in Townsend, just a short drive from Gatlinburg. It offers full hookup RV sites, tent sites, and cabins. Amenities include a pool, playground, and laundry facilities.
There are many more camping options in the area, so be sure to research and find the one that best fits your needs.
Watch for Bears
Bears are not a myth in the Smokeys.
Black bears are common: Sightings in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and the surrounding Great Smoky Mountains National Park happen frequently. The black bear is the park's largest mammal, and estimates suggest there are around 1,500 bears in the park's 800 square miles. Here are some essential things to know about bears in the Gatlinburg area:
Bear Safety: It's crucial to practice bear safety when visiting the Smokeys and the surrounding area. This includes storing food in bear-proof containers or cars, never approaching or feeding bears, and keeping a safe distance if you encounter a bear.
Bear Encounters: If you encounter a bear, remain calm and do not run. Speak to the bear in a calm voice and slowly back away. Do not approach the bear, and give it plenty of space.
Bear Watching: If you want to see bears in the wild, the best way to do so is through wildlife viewing areas and guided tours. Do not attempt to approach bears on your own.
Bear Habitat: Bears in the area live in various habitats, including forests, meadows, and mountain ridges. They are active throughout the day and night but are most commonly seen in the early morning and late evening.
Bear Behavior: Bears are typically shy and avoid human interaction. However, they may become aggressive if they feel threatened or their cubs are in danger.
Overall, bears are an important part of the ecosystem and should be respected and appreciated from a safe distance.
Things to do for Free
Great Smoky Mountains National Park: The national park offers many free activities, including hiking, wildlife watching, and scenic drives. You can also visit the park's visitor center for free and learn about the area's history and natural resources.
Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Community: The arts and crafts community is a group of artisans who create and sell their works in a scenic 8-mile loop. You can visit the studios for free and watch the artisans at work.
Gatlinburg Trail: This trail runs from Gatlinburg to the Sugarlands Visitor Center in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It's a 2-mile round trip hike that follows the Little Pigeon River and is known for its scenic beauty.
Ole Smoky Moonshine: You can visit the Ole Smoky Moonshine distillery in downtown Gatlinburg and see how moonshine is made. You can also sample the moonshine for free.
Gatlinburg Farmers Market: The farmers market is open on Saturdays from May to October and features local produce, crafts, and live music. Admission is free, and you can enjoy the festive atmosphere and buy fresh produce.
Mynatt Park: This park is located in Gatlinburg and offers picnic areas, a playground, and a basketball court. You can also walk the nature trail for free and enjoy the area's natural beauty.
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail: This scenic drive takes you through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and offers stunning views of waterfalls, streams, and wildlife. Admission is free, and you can stop at several points of interest along the way. This one is one of my favorites.
There are many more parks, trails, and attractions to explore in the area, so be sure to do your research and plan your visit accordingly. It is impossible to see and do it all in one trip.
There are several historical sites that are worth visiting for a glimpse into the area's rich history. Here are some of the top historical sights in the area:
Great Smoky Mountains National Park: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a historic site in itself, with a rich cultural and natural history. The park features many historic buildings and structures, including log cabins, churches, and grist mills, as well as exhibits and interpretive programs that showcase the park's history.
Old Mill Square: Old Mill Square is a historic district in Pigeon Forge, just a short drive from Gatlinburg. It features a collection of historic buildings, including a working grist mill, pottery shop, and other craft shops. Visitors can tour the mill and watch as cornmeal and flour are ground, just as they were in the 19th century.
Cades Cove: Cades Cove is a historic valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It features a collection of preserved log cabins, barns, and churches that date back to the 19th century. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the area or join a ranger-led tour for a more in-depth look at the area's history.
Gatlinburg's Arts and Crafts Community: Gatlinburg's Arts and Crafts Community is North America's largest group of independent artisans. Many of the shops and studios in the community feature historic log cabins and other buildings. Visitors can watch artisans at work, purchase handmade crafts, and learn about the history of the area's traditional crafts.
These are just a few top historical sights. There are many more historic sites and landmarks in the area, so be sure to explore and discover the rich history of this beautiful region.
Most Popular Experiences
Dollywood: Dollywood is a theme park owned by country music legend Dolly Parton that features roller coasters, water rides, and live entertainment.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a vast wilderness area that offers opportunities for hiking, camping, wildlife viewing, and scenic drives.
Titanic Museum Attraction: The Titanic Museum Attraction is a museum that tells the story of the Titanic through interactive exhibits and artifacts.
The Island in Pigeon Forge: The Island in Pigeon Forge is a shopping and entertainment complex that features a variety of shops, restaurants, and attractions, including a Ferris wheel and a fountain show.
Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster: The Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster is a thrill ride that takes visitors on a scenic journey through the Smoky Mountains.
Hollywood Wax Museum: The Hollywood Wax Museum features lifelike wax figures of famous celebrities, movie characters, and sports stars.
WonderWorks: WonderWorks is an indoor amusement park that features interactive exhibits and activities that focus on science and technology.
Rocky Top Mountain Coaster: The Rocky Top Mountain Coaster is another thrilling coaster ride that takes visitors through the Smoky Mountains.
Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery: The Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery offers tours and tastings of its famous moonshine, as well as live music and events.
Pigeon Forge Snow: Pigeon Forge Snow is an indoor snow tubing park that offers year-round snow tubing and other snow-related activities.
You will never get bored in the Smokeys. Everywhere you turn, there is something new to explore.
Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Show: The Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Show is a comedic dinner theater production that tells the story of the famous Hatfield-McCoy feud. Because I am actually married into the “real” McCoy family, I recommend this show and the food! No affiliation :)
Country Tonite Theatre: The Country Tonite Theatre is a music and comedy show that features performances by some of the top country music artists in the area.
Smoky Mountain Opry: The Smoky Mountain Opry is a music and dance show that features a variety of genres, including country, pop, and gospel.
Comedy Barn Theater: The Comedy Barn Theater is a family-friendly comedy show that features music, magic, and live animal acts. The best family fun!
Magic Beyond Belief: Magic Beyond Belief is a magic show that features illusions, comedy, and audience participation.
Paula Deen's Lumberjack Feud Show: Paula Deen's Lumberjack Feud Show is a high-energy show that features lumberjack competitions, zip lines, and other outdoor activities.
Biblical Times Dinner Theater: The Biblical Times Dinner Theater is a religious-themed dinner theater production that tells the story of the Bible. Excellent!
Smoky Mountain Adventures: Smoky Mountain Adventures is a dinner theater production with acrobatics, music, and a high-energy storyline.
Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre: The Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre is a Vaudeville-style comedy show that features musical performances and sketches.
Murder Mystery Dinner Show: The Murder Mystery Dinner Show is an interactive theater production that allows audience members to solve a murder mystery while enjoying dinner.
I have a confession in 30 years. I haven't been able to do it all because the entertainment is constantly evolving. With so much entertainment to choose from, visitors are sure to find something that appeals to their interests and sense of humor.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an excellent place for families to explore the outdoors and enjoy nature. The park features hiking trails, scenic drives, and ranger-led programs perfect for families with kids of all ages.
Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies: Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies is one of the top family-friendly attractions in Gatlinburg. The aquarium features a wide variety of marine life, including sharks, sea turtles, and penguins, as well as interactive exhibits and hands-on activities.
Ober Gatlinburg: Ober Gatlinburg is a year-round ski resort and amusement park that offers a variety of family-friendly activities. Families can go skiing, snowboarding, or snow tubing in the winter, while in the summer, they can enjoy attractions like the alpine slide, chairlift rides, and mini golf.
Dollywood: Dollywood is a theme park located in nearby Pigeon Forge that country music legend Dolly Parton owns. The park features roller coasters, water rides, and other attractions perfect for families, as well as live entertainment and traditional crafts and exhibits.
Gatlinburg Space Needle: The Gatlinburg Space Needle is a 407-foot-tall observation tower that offers stunning views of the Smoky Mountains and the surrounding area. It also features an arcade and a variety of other family-friendly attractions.
These are the places your kids can be kids.
Ok, you found a place to stay, some nature, fun, and maybe even caught a show, but now it is time to eat.
The Peddler Steakhouse: The Peddler Steakhouse is a classic steakhouse in downtown Gatlinburg. It features a wide variety of cuts of steak, seafood, and other traditional American dishes. It also has a beautiful outdoor seating area overlooking the Little Pigeon River.
The Greenbrier Restaurant: The Greenbrier Restaurant is a historic fine dining restaurant just outside Gatlinburg. It features classic Southern cuisine and has been a favorite of locals and visitors for over 70 years.
Cherokee Grill: Cherokee Grill is a modern steakhouse in downtown Gatlinburg's heart. It features a variety of steak and seafood options, as well as unique appetizers and sides. It also has a great bar area with a wide selection of drinks.
The Wild Plum Tea Room: The Wild Plum Tea Room is a cozy, quaint restaurant in Gatlinburg's Arts and Crafts Community. It features homemade soups, salads, sandwiches, desserts, and a variety of teas and other beverages.
Crawdaddy's Restaurant & Oyster Bar: Crawdaddy's Restaurant & Oyster Bar is a fun and lively Cajun restaurant located in downtown Gatlinburg. It features a variety of seafood dishes, including crawfish, shrimp, and oysters, as well as other Cajun favorites like gumbo and jambalaya.
I saved the best for last. I mentioned the Old Mill and its surrounding shops and charm, but I should have told you about the food. It is my favorite, and I am not alone from the inevitable waitlist.
The Old Mill: The Old Mill Restaurant in Gatlinburg is a must-visit destination for delicious, home-cooked Southern food. From the moment you step through the door, you are greeted with warm hospitality and a charming, rustic atmosphere that makes you feel right at home.
The restaurant is situated in a historic mill dating back to the early 1800s. The building has been beautifully restored and is now home to a bustling restaurant and various artisan shops. The setting is absolutely gorgeous, with a rushing stream, a picturesque covered bridge, and lovely gardens surrounding the mill.
But let's talk about the food. The menu at the Old Mill Restaurant is chock-full of classic Southern dishes made from scratch with the freshest ingredients. Everything is absolutely delicious, from the fried chicken to the corn fritters to the buttermilk biscuits. The portions are generous, so be sure to come hungry! There will be leftovers, and you will want them later.
One of the standout dishes at the Old Mill is chicken and dumplings. This hearty, comforting dish is made with tender chunks of chicken and fluffy, handmade dumplings, all cooked in a rich, savory broth. It is the ultimate comfort food, which tastes as if it came straight from your grandmother's kitchen. Can you tell it is my favorite?
The Village Shops: The Village Shops is a charming shopping area located in downtown Gatlinburg. It features a collection of 27 unique shops and boutiques that sell everything from homemade fudge to handmade crafts.
Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community: The Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community is an 8-mile loop road in Gatlinburg that features over 100 shops and studios selling handmade crafts and artisanal goods. This is the largest group of independent artisans in North America, and visitors can find everything from pottery to woodworking to jewelry.
Mountain Mall: Mountain Mall is located in the heart of Gatlinburg and features over 36 unique shops and boutiques. It has a wide range of offerings, including clothing, jewelry, souvenirs, and gifts.
The Old Mill Square: The Old Mill Square is located in Pigeon Forge, just a short drive from Gatlinburg. It's a charming shopping and dining destination that features over 20 unique shops and restaurants. Visitors can find everything from handcrafted pottery to homemade candy to freshly ground grains. More Old Mill bragging.
Tanger Outlets: Tanger Outlets is located in Sevierville, about a 20-minute drive from Gatlinburg. It features over 100 name-brand stores, including Nike, Coach, and Gap, and offers great deals on clothing, accessories, and home goods.
These are just a few of the top shopping destinations. There are many more shops and boutiques in the area, so be sure to explore and find your own favorite spots.
God of the Mountain
As I think about mountains, I am reminded of Psalm 121:1-2 which says, "I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth."
Mountains are a symbol of strength, majesty, and stability. They are often used in the Bible to represent God's steadfastness and unchanging nature. Just as mountains are unmoving and unchanging, God is steadfast in his love, faithfulness, and promises.
But mountains can also symbolize the obstacles we face in life. Just as we must climb a mountain to reach its peak, we must often overcome obstacles and challenges to reach our goals and fulfill God's purpose for our lives. However, just as we can trust in God's strength and stability, we can also trust in his guidance and provision as we climb our own "mountains."
In my own life, I have faced many mountains – challenges that seemed insurmountable and obstacles that threatened to derail me from God's plan. But through each struggle, I have learned to rely on God's strength and guidance. These lessons have not been easy, nor are they over. He has been my rock and my refuge, and he has never failed me.
In Matthew 17:20, Jesus tells his disciples, "Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."
This is a powerful reminder that with faith in God, we can overcome any obstacle and climb any mountain. It is not by our own strength that we succeed but by relying on the strength of our Lord and Savior.
So today, let us lift our eyes to the mountains and remember that our help comes from the Lord. Let us trust in his unchanging nature and rely on his guidance as we climb the mountains in our own lives. And let us have faith that with God, all things are possible.
Remember, when you are standing on the mountain, you can see things around you more clearly.
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