First Aid Kit for the Trail

One of the things that most people say that you ought to take with you when you hit the trail for a day or several days of hiking, is a first aid kit. You need to have a small kit with you so that you are prepared for those odd accidents that occur on the trail while you are hiking.  This kit should be small enough to fit in your backpack and should be sized in direct correlation to the length of time you are going to be spending on the trail.

Things to make sure you have in your first aid kit (this is a place to start not the end-all-be-all):

  • first aid kitSelf-Adhesive Bandages – Seems like it is obvious but a box of multi-sized, self-adhesive bandages is a must.  If you get a scrap or a cut, you will be prepared to stop the bleeding.
  • Disinfectant Spray – Another easy to explain item. It is nice to have something to disinfect those cuts when they happen.
  • Gauze  & Gauze Tape – Good for cuts and abrasions that need a little more treatment than a BandAid. Carry enough gauze rolls to treat a wound and at least 4-5 4 inch gauze pads.
  • Alcohol Swabs – Great for cleaning a scrap or a cut.  These sting a little but they are small and easy to carry. Remember though your goal is to leave no trace – pack out what you take in.
  • Aspirin – A no brainer. Pick your favorite painkiller and keep some in your first aid kit.
  • Triple-Antibiotic Ointment – First line of defense for any cut or scrap whether you are on the trail or at home. A little tube of this in your first aid kit does not take up much room and is perfect for easy the pain on that cut, keeping it clean and making it feel better.
  • Tweezers – Splinters, bits of wood, glass, whatever may have found its way into your body, a simple pair of tweezers can remove that object quickly and easily.
  • Moleskin – For blisters, this si the best relief ever invented. Keep a roll of it in your pack even if it is not in your first aid kit.
  • Water-Proof Matches – A good rule of thumb is to pack for your day hike as if you might end up spending the night.  Waterproof matches are have coated heads that will allow them to light even if you are caught in a downpour.
  • Magnesium Based Firestarter – If you have to start a small fire, you will not be able to depend on finding enough tender to make a fire or that the tender you find will be dry enough to light.  A magnesium firestarter comes with a bar of magnesium that can be shaved off into your tender or campfire.  With a waterproof match or with a strike of flint on soem steel you will have a nice fire going without any problem.
  • Signal Mirror – A small highly polished mirror that an allow you to signal passing aircraft or people that you see on other trails.
  • Reflective Emergency Blanket – This reflective blanket harnesses the light and your own body heat to form a temperature barrier between you and the cold.  Staying warm when you find yourself on the trail, stuck overnight.

The best thing is that you can buy small pre-made first aid kits with almost everything you need.  Stop by your favorite big box store and pick up those first aid supplies that you think you might need on the trail .

Great Smokies Flea Market

One of the great shopping destinations in the Smokies!

great smokies flea market 1

Who doesn’t love a flea market?  In Sevierville, and in fact in the Smoky Mountains, one of the best and in fact one of the biggest is Great Smokies Flea Market! Located right off of exit 407 in Sevierville, this is a shopper’s paradise with tens of thousands of products and hundreds of vendors this is one of those spots.  Everything from housewares to clothing and everything in between can be found beneath the roof of this retail paradise.

great smokies flea market 3When you walk in the front door of the indoor part of the Great Smokies Flea Market, you are stepping into one of the best organized and best maintained flea markets in the southeast.  The owners of the flea market keep out the riff-raff and and the vendors keep the consumers in the merchandise that they want.  The booths in the inside section are well lit, handicap accessible and clean.  This is not a dank, outdoor flea market, this is an indoor, heated and cooled mall.  Once you are inside, pick a row and start browsing.  A lot of the vendors on the inside are there weekend after weekend, month after month and they have been there for years.  There is literally everything under the sun, under this roof: collectibles, movies, books, housewares, furniture, everything you can imagine and all at low cost prices.

great smokies flea market 2Then you might want to venture outside.  During season, you are looking at a place for lots of outdoor vendors and a farmers market.  Aisles of produce, straight from the farm, landscaping, lawn furniture and outdoor tools.  Along with all of these wonderful vendors, this is also the place where you will see vendors that might only be at the flea market for one weekend or for a series of weekends during the season.  These outdoor areas are roofed and have clean wide walkways between them.  The outdoor booths are a revolving door through which the Great Smokies Flea Market brings lots of new merchandise and even locals that are looking for a place to have a makeshift yard sale in a bigger venue.

Of course, as in real estate, the best part about Great Smokies Flea Market is location.  When you come off of I-40 on exit 407 into Sevier County, you will take the first right hand turn.  This puts you on Dumplin Valley Dr in Sevierville.  Follow this road until you see the Great Smokies Flea Market, it will be on the right hand side of the road, don’t worry you will not miss it!  Add the Great Smokies Flea Market to your places to stop while you are in the Smokies, don’t miss the shopping experience.

Great Smokies Flea Market
220W Dumplin ValleyDr
Sevierville, TN 37864

The AT in the Smokies

The AT in the Smokies

The most hiked section of the Appalachian Trail

at logoThe southern tip of the Appalachian Mountains, with its temperate climate, slow changes in elevation and lush greenery, is a haven to hikers from around the world.  People flock to the Smokies especially to spend time on any number of trails, but the trail that is most popular and the one that a lot of people want to tackle part of is the Appalachian Trail. One end of the AT starts in the Smokies, in northern Georgia.  From that point you can work your way north to the heart of the Smokies in North Carolina and Tennessee, passing through state parks and national parks along the way.  It is a gradual climb that will inspire both awe and a renewed sense of respect for the mountain folk and Native Americans that hiked these trails season after season in the time before their were European style cities in the area.

North Georgia

In North Georgia, you will start at Springer Mountain, one of the southern most areas of the Smokies.  Technically you are in the foothills of the Smokies at this point.  The gentle slopes, the gradual climb, the verdant landscapes will help to build your anticipation as you progress north.  In this area, you will pass near towns and civilization.  The hike takes you near several state parks with facilities that are open almost year round, depending on the weather.  The North Georgia part of the AT is some of the easiest hiking that the trail has to offer.  Even if you start here when it is late spring you will find that the elevation is not high enough to give you the extremely cold temps that you will encounter in the highest elevations.

Fontana Dam

fontana damOne of the next high points on the trail that you will come across is Fontana Dam.  At this point on the AT you have made your way into North Carolina, your second state if you are heading north from Georgia.  Fontana Lake is one of those TVA created lakes that took in the small towns of Judson and Proctor (near present day Bryson City) when Fontana Dam was established in the early part of the 20th century.  As the trail winds around Fontana Dam, you are going to start to gain some serious altitude.  The elevation change will start to reveal a change in the wildlife and the flora around you.  Just north of Fontana Lake and Dam, yes you follow the dam as you start up the mountain, you will climb until you are walking the ridge of the Great SMoky Mountains in the GSMNP.  You are  also walking the Tennessee / North Carolina line at this point on the trail.

Clingman’s Dome and Newfound Gap Road

The top of the world in the Smokies is Clingman’s Dome.  You will go all the way to the top of this part of the mountain as you progress northward on the AT.  The climb to Clingman’s Dome will take some time even for the most seasoned of hikers but the breath taking views from these peaks are like no other you will find east of the Mississippi River.  As you reach the summit of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you will immediately start back down again.  Soon you will arrive at the most visited portion of the GSMNP, the piece of the Appalachian Trail that starts at the Newfound Gap parking area and trailhead.  From this point you can hike almost 2 miles of the AT, the most hiked portion of the 2,200 mile trail.

Roan Mountain State Park

tn nc state lineIf you were to hike from the Newfound Gap trailhead and continue northward the next focal point you are going to come to is Roan Mountain State Park in Tennessee.  If you happen to plan your hike through accordingly you can spend some time at the top of the mountain in the rhododendron garden while it is in bloom.  Bring a camera and prepare to take a lot of pictures.  With the Catawbas in bloom it is a pink and purple wonderland of color.  Roan Mountain also has lots of facilities that a Thru-Hiker might need to take advantage of like campgrounds and other amenities.

Hike the various pieces of the Appalachian Trail int he Smoky Mountains.  Take in the terrain and the sights and the sounds of nature from the trails that make up the AT.  Hike the most hiked portion of the trail and then you too can say that you hiked the AT!

Appalachian Trail – A History

Appalachian Trail

A History

The Appalachian Trail is one of the big draws for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Conceived in the 20s, this brain child of Benton MacKaye had the first section established in 1923 and now it is one of the three big trails in the United States.  Starting in Georgia and ending in Maine, this 2,200 mile trek is one of the accomplishments that makes a Thru-Hiker drool.  The first part of the Appalachia Trail starts in Northern Georgia inside the Smokies and the most hiked portion of the Appalachian Trail is the 1.7 miles that starts at the Newfound Gap Trailhead.

at logo on trailThe Appalachian Trail, or AT as it had come to be known, was thought of by Benton MacKaye and fellow hiking enthusiasts in New England.  They had been kicking around the idea of a national trail, an eastern trail that would cover the beauty of the Appalachian mountains for years.  Trail blazing started in the north, with trees and trails being emblazoned with the familiar diamond shaped logo that still marks trails to this day. As the years progressed people got more and more into the idea of a trail that covered most of the Appalachians.  Eventually this movement culminated in the idea that the trail would stretch from Georgia to Maine.  The AT grew in both fame and length as the years went on until it reached its current length of 2,200 miles from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt Katahdin in Maine.

Since the establishment of the AT, not only has the trail received national attention but it has received national funding too.  A national Appalachian Trail Conference was established in the 30s, which later became the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.  This organization helps to track the number of people that are hiking the AT each year and also spends time making sure that the trail stays maintained and usable by guests.  Maintaining over 2,000 miles of trails is a huge undertaking but one that the AT Conservancy delights in.  Along with this, they provide tools and resources for Thru-Hikers, those people that take the time to hike from Georgia to Maine, a trip that might take 5-7 months depending on how many miles you are hiking a day.

at newfound gapThru-Hikers make up a huge number of the people that hike the AT each year.  These Thru-Hikers depend on the people that visit the area and the locals alike to keep them going as they cover the miles.  The people that hike the trails, especially the Thru-Hikers find themselves at the mercy of the elements and the conditions on the trails.  The brief respite that they get are jaunts into town in the back of a pickup to pick up supplies and get a break from the rigors of the trail.  They are hiking history on the AT.  They are covering the ground that was hiked by the frontiersmen, pioneers and the Native American people that inherited the land before white settlers arrived.  As Thru-Hikers make their way from Georgia toe Maine, or from Maine to Georgia, they pass through some of the most beautiful land that the country has to offer – the Smokies, the Blue Ridge the Shenandoah Valley and of course through the gorgeous landscape that is all of New England.

Elvis Museum

Everyone loves the King of Rock & Roll!  In Pigeon Forge, TN, there is no shortage of Elvis memorabilia and places to get into your Elvis groove.  One of those places is the Elvis Museum in Pigeon Forge.  Combining both a museum and a theater this venue is all things Elvis and the fact that it is located right on the Parkway makes it a quick stop on the way through town.

elvis1The museum at the Elvis Museum is one of the most wonderful small venue museum that you will ever find. Mike Moon started collecting Elvis memorabilia in 1971 when he had a chance to meet the King at a party in Las Vegas.  The belt that he got from Elvis, himself, that evening is still in the collection and it started a passion for all things Elvis that has continued to this day.  Though Mon has since passed away, his family still carries on the tradition of this museum that has been in the heart of Pigeon Forge since 1979. Here are just a few of the highlights that you might see at the museum:

  • 1973 Lincoln Continental Limo – the last personal limo that Elvis owned
  • TCB Ring
  • TCB Necklace
  • Gold Nugget Watch
  • Karate Gui
  • Shotgun
  • Jewelled Lamp
  • Artifacts from Elvis last tour
  • much, much more…

elvis2Along with the museum, there is a theater at the heart of the Elvis Museum, This theater is home to some of the best Elvis tribute artists that are found in the area.  In fact there are three Elvis tribute artists working out of this theater:

  • Will Reynolds – At 17 years old, Reynolds is known as Teen Elvis.  Reynolds takes on all of Elvis’ various career phases throughout his show from young Elvis to the Vegas years.  He has only been performing for a few years but he is at a level that does not match his years.
  • Matt Cordell – An Elvis tribute artist for more than 20 years, Cordell entertains at the TCB Theater on Mondays.  Over his two decades of entertaining, Cordell has won several prestigious awards:  Elvis Presley Enterprise’s Ultimate Elvis Contest in 2010 and he placed fourth in the Ultimate Elvis Finals in Memphis.
  • Robert Keefer – A fan and a tribute artist, Keefer has been performing for years and has also worked backstage at the Elvis Museum in Pigeon Forge.  He believes that being able to get closer to the King by handling and caring for the various memorabilia in the museum.  He focuses on Elvis 70s career in Vegas and his collection of jumpsuits bring that era of Elvis bigger then life lifestyle to the stage.

For that Elvis fan that is traveling with you on your vacation to the Smokies  there is no other stop that will mean as much to them as the Elvis Museum in Pigeon Forge.  The incredibly well maintained museum and the theater with the three different take son Elvis by the tribute artists are something you are not going to find anywhere else in the Smokies.  Stop by their location on the Parkway in Pigeon Forge and spend sometime with Elvis – The King of Rock & Roll.

Elvis Museum
2638 Parkway
Pigeon Forge, TN

Highlands Playhouse

highlandsplayhouse1Highlands, NC has one of the best repertory theaters in Western North Carolina.  The Highlands Playhouse puts on countless shows throughout the year, using both professional and amateur actors.  They stage productions that range from one man shows to full stage productions to the delight of both the local and the tourist alike.

In 1938 a group of dedicated Highlanders presented a version of Kaufman and Connelly’s Dulcy. They put the show on in the local school auditorium.  Thus, the Highland Playhouse was born.  Over the years they have been under many different artistic directors and have seen many different actors on the stage.  They have performed everything from comedies to drams and everything in between.  This quaint theater has moved several times over the years but it is now in its own theater, near downtown and within easy walking distance for all of those tourists that enjoy Highlands throughout the year.

highlandsplayhouse2The Highlands Playhouse – whose legal name is the Highland Community Theater – is a non-profit organization that is funded by the people of Highlands, by companies in the area and of course by ticket sales to the shows they put on each year.  The monies they collect go to pay for the professional actors and actresses they bring in and of course to maintain the theater that they perform in.

Visit the Highlands Playhouse website and see what they have to offer the next time you are in town.  Plan your visit around taking in a show.  Sit down in an audience with towns people and tourists alike.  Especially, if you are in Highlands for a romantic getaway, there i snothing better for a night out with that special someone then to take in a play or live show.

Highlands Playhouse
362 Oak Street
Highlands, NC

Harrisburg Covered Bridge

There has been a covered bridge in the Harrisburg Community of Sevier County since the mid 1800s.  The bridge was used by the locals to cross the East Prong of the Little Pigeon River and connected the two separate parts of the community.

Originally, the Harrisburg Covered Bridge was named the McNutts Bridge but in 1875, the bridge was washed away during a storm and was completely destroyed.  Later that same year, a Sevier County Court established a committee to oversee the construction of a replacement bridge.  $50 was raised privately and $25 was donated by the county.  The people of the Harrisburg community donated all of the lumber that was needed and the labor.  The people of Harrisburg built the bridge and made sure they would be able to get back and forth to town easily and that they would be able to further grow their part of the county.

While other covered bridges around the country were being torn down, the people of Sevier County kept the Harrisburg Covered Bridge up and going.  IN the 1950s, the bridge was renovated, but by the 1970s the bridge had fallen into disrepair and was nearing the end of its life.  At this point in the bridges history, the Great Smokies Chapter and the Daughters of the American Revolution raised the money to keep the bridge up and to make sure that it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Today, you can still go visit the Harrisburg Bridge, take some pictures and drive through a bridge that has been around since 1875.  The bridge is 83 feet long, 14 feet wide and has 11-1/2 feet of clearance.  A true wonder of not only architecture but also of a people that wanted to keep their history alive.  Pencil the Harrisburg Covered Bridge into your next trip to the Smokies.  Drive a a little out of the way.  Head down Dolly Parton Parkway and follow it to Old State Highway 35.  Once you turn left on 35, follow the signs, the bridge is just a few miles down the road.  Get out and take some pictures and spend some time in real, living history.

Unto These Hills

untothesehills1If you only have time to take in one attraction while you are in Cherokee, NC, that one attraction needs to be Unto These Hills.  This show has been part of the attraction scene in Cherokee for more then sixty years and it is the second oldest running outdoor drama in the US.  Combining the story of the Cherokee people, the music and sounds of the mountains and of course all of it under the stars in the Smoky Mountains, this action packed presentation has been bringing the people back year after year.

Unto These Hills opened to a crowd in Cherokee, NC on July 1, 1950.  Since that time, the show has run at the Mountainside Theater from June through August each year.  And though the script and the information has changed some over the years, the power of this drama has not changed at all.  Focusing on the people that called the Smokies home, Kermit Hunter, the original author was hoping to capture the spirit of these noble people that refused to be forced out of their land and stayed, even though they were told to walk the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma.

untothesehills3The story starts with the people that lived in the Smokies before the European setters came.  It tells a story of a cultured, civilized people that embraced their new neighbors from across the ocean.  They helped the settlers that came to the area and though some of the leaders realized that the Europeans were not going to reciprocate the good feelings, they still helped the white man establish their towns. Over time, as the Cherokee lost land and were forced higher into the mountains, Andrew Jackson – President of the United States – decreed that they would be removed to a reservation in Oklahoma.  Some of the Cherokee decided that they would not leave.  They stayed, hidden in the mountains until a time when they could be embraced by a different attitude and government.  All of this history and the culture of the Cherokee is contained inside this wonderful outdoor drama.

Since 1950, Unto These Hills has been performed in the same theater – the Mountainside Theater above Cherokee.  It is located in the same place as the Oconaluftee Indian Village, in fact they share a parking lot.  This 2800 seat amphitheater is all outdoors but the temperate weather in the Smokies and the elevation make it pleasant outside for all of the performances.

Next time you are in Cherokee, NC, or just on the North Carolina side of the Smokies, call ahead and make reservations.  Take the whole family to Unto These Hills, let them learn some American history, let them get a better appreciation for the people that lived in the Smokies before Europeans settlers came to the area and of course, remember that you are seeing a show that has been running since the middle of the 20th century.

Unto These Hills
688 Drama Road
Cherokee, NC

Bristol Caverns

bcaverns1It is no wonder that with the beauty of the mountains and the great outdoors around the Smoky Mountains that there is beauty under the earth as well.  In Northeast Tennessee, Bristol Caverns has been giving visitors the chance to see that kind of hidden beauty for decades and has become a huge draw for the twin cities of Bristol, TN and Bristol, VA.

The waters of an underground river and other natural forces conspired to form the beauty of Bristol Caverns.  Over time the water and the forces of nature carved the rock causing beautiful formations and features to be developed deep underground.  At this point, the Underground River is 180 feet below the surface and it is continuing to have effects on the formations as it flows through the cavern.  Ancient people and the early pioneers and settlers to the area found the underground chamber, they found these formations and gazed in wonder as they used the naturally cooled chambers and shelter of the caverns.  In modern times, the cavern is now a protected area and tourist attraction.

Some of the formations and features you will see include:

  • Mayor Preston’s Chamber
  • The Underground River
  • Lover’s Leap
  • Bridal Veil
  • Entrance Hall

bcaverns2Guided tours leave from the gift shop area every 20 minutes.  You get walked through the caverns by a trained tour guide, someone that knows the caverns like the back of their hand.  They will make sure that you don’t miss a thing while you are in the caverns.  Bring your camera, listen to the tales of how people have used the caverns over the years, how the rock formation were formed and of course marvel at the beauty of this underground wonderland.

The Bristol Caverns are easy to find.  Get on 349E past the Bristol Motor Speedway.  Stay on 349E for about 6 miles past the speedway.  You will come to the traffic light, travel through the traffic light where the road becomes 435N which is Bristol Caverns Highway.  You will find the caverns on the left about 2.5 miles past the traffic light.  Enjoy your vist!

Bristol Caverns
1157 Bristol Caverns Highway
Bristol, TN 37620

Christ in the Smokies

cits1One of the perennial attraction sin Gatlinburg, for years, was Christus Gardens.  Several years ago, Christus Gardens closed and it was thought that the location where it had been for years, was going to become a set of condominiums.  Well, that deal fell through and the management team of Christus Gardens opened a new attraction:  Christ in the Smokies Museum and Gardens.

Much like Christus Gardens, Christ in the Smokies depicts various scenes from the bible and life of Jesus in life-sized dioramas, with painstaking detail.  From the architecture to the clothing that is one by the models in the dioramas, the artists at Christ in the Smokies have made sure to be as historical as possible in an attempt to let people get a better feel for the heroes of their faith.  You get to walk scene to scene and experience the various parts of the bible like never before.

cits3One of the most moving and emotional exhibits is the depiction of the Last Supper.  The Christ in the Smokies staff has duplicated the Leonard da Vinci fresco in every detail.  From the items on the table to the colors on the clothes of the Disciples and Jesus, they have copied the entire scene.  You get t a better sense for the meeting of these friends for the meal they were sharing and for the emotion of the scene.  As you take in the scene you feel like you are there, like you are actually taking part in the least meal that Christ took with the disciples before he was arrested.

Another highlight of the tour is the gardens.  In the center of the garden is the face of Jesus carved into a marble block.  This marble sculpture has been carved to give the impression that the face of Jesus follows you wherever you stand in the garden.  It is a trick of the eye and a true testament to the artists that designed it.  This amazing piece of art has been in the same spot in this garden for decades. It has become a tradition for people of all ages to bring their families back for this unique experience.

cits2Christ in the Smokies Museum & Gardens is one of the most wonderful museums of its type in the southeast.  There are always new exhibits going into the museum and you will find something new every time you walk through the doors.  Add Christ in the Smokies to your itinerary next time you are in the Smokies, you might just find that you are blessed by the experience.

Christ in the Smokies Museum & Gardens
510 River Road
Gatlinburg, TN