Bryson City, NC

“Base Camp for the Great Smokies”

Bryson City is becoming one of the most interesting day trips in the Smokies. Home to the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad the towns downtown area is full of railroad memorabilia.  And besides being on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Bryson City is also located near the Nantahala Gorge and all the great outdoor activities that happen there on a daily basis.

Bryson City, NC

What is today Bryson City was once part of an Indian Reservation owned by a Cherokee Chief named Big Bear.  Big Bear sold part of the land to two different settlers and the resulting area became known as a Bear Springs.  The county seat of Swain County was originally the town of Charleston which was located along mina street in current day Bryson City.  In 1889 the name of the town was changed to Bryson City, after Colonel Thaddeus Bryson one of the early land owners.

Two big changes happened to Bryson City in the first half of the 20th century:  the founding of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the establishment of Fontana Dam.  The GSMNP provided millions of visitors to the area each and every year.  Bryson City has garnered these visitors into a thriving tourism trade that has become the main economic stimulus in the area.  Fontana Dam flooded the valley near Bryson City.  The creation of Fontana Lake brought people to the area that wanted to spend time playing in the water – these visitors soon found Bryson City a nice day trip from the lake.


Most Recent Posts

  • The AT in the Smokies - The most hiked section of the Appalachian Trail The 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 … Continue reading "The AT in the Smokies"
  • Great Smoky Mountain Railroad - The Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s history is forever tied to the nation’s railroad industry. So much so that the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad is still one of the best ways to re-live the history of the Smokies while getting an up-close view of its natural beauty at the same time. Obviously, the scenic train … Continue reading "Great Smoky Mountain Railroad"
  • Cooper Creek Trout Farm - From trout tournaments to just recreational fly fishing, the Smoky Mountain trout brings many visitors to the National Park each year.  However, trout fishing is not necessarily the easiest way to spend a day in the Smokies.  It actually takes time and lots of patience to become good at and requires a lot of gear … Continue reading "Cooper Creek Trout Farm"
  • Bryson City, NC - “Base Camp for the Great Smokies” Bryson City is becoming one of the most interesting day trips in the Smokies. Home to the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad the towns downtown area is full of railroad memorabilia.  And besides being on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Bryson City is also located near … Continue reading "Bryson City, NC"

History of Cherokee, NC

Cherokee, North Carolina is synonymous with such word s as casinos, gambling, and resort town, but it wasn’t always like that. The now sprawling vacation spot was once as heavily forested as other parts of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and once consisted of about 135,000 square miles of land owned by the Cherokee Indian Nation spread out over eight southern states.

The Cherokee Indian Reservation, also known as the Qualla Boundary, now only encompasses 56,000 of those acres. It’s also classified as sovereign land held in trust specifically for the Cherokee Indian tribe by the United States Government. The land was purchased by Will Thomas, who is not of Indian descent, in the late 1800s and was presented as a gift to the Cherokee people.

Over the past 100 years, thousands of non-Indians have moved into the area and developed the region, though it’s still home to the Cherokee. The tourism industry makes up about 75 percent of the tribe’s revenues – the mainstay of their economy. Cherokee businesses hold “trader’s licenses” and collect a six percent tribal levy on sales.

The Indians that currently live in Cherokee are a part of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. They are descendants of the Cherokee Indians who hid in the Great Smoky Mountains to avoid forced removal to Oklahoma on the infamous “Trail of Tears” during the late 1830s.

Cherokee’s tourism boom, as previously mentioned, exploded in the late 1940s, around the same time the Great Smoky Mountains were designated as a national park. The Blue Ridge Parkway was also in the early stages of development. As the park opened and construction on the parkway got underway, two highways were bringing out-of-towners into Cherokee – US 441 and US 19, and assistance to support the influx of visitors was imperative.

The businesses and services that developed out of the construction of these roads played a large part in Cherokee’s formation as an incorporated town. Today, the assumption that the Qualla Boundary and its businesses are Indian-owned is for the most part still true but, by the authority of the Tribal Council; Indians are allowed to lease their businesses or buildings to non-Indians. The Cherokee people rightfully can continue to claim the status of “original inhabitants” of the vast and beautiful Smoky Mountains, even as the Reservation continues to grow and develop.

Still, whenever Cherokee is brought up, people have a tendency to delve into the history of the Cherokee Indians and the way they have been treated over the years, especially by the U.S. government. You can speak with a number of people with a slew of different titles that say the Cherokee removal might have been avoided, if the U.S. government had played a different role in the beginning, and if English settlers had tried a more peaceable approach to living with the Cherokee.

The Cherokee enjoyed a pretty high quality of life up to the early 1800s. They basically governed themselves and their many communities through their own form of government. Sequoyah, one of the Cherokee’s most prominent leaders, spent 12 years developing the Cherokee Alphabet and he was never able to read or write another language – he is the only known person to be able to carry out such a feat.

Generations of Cherokees have been told the story of how their ancestors were removed from their homelands. Numerous books have been penned and films made about the subject. Two outdoor dramas have been made as well – “Unto These Hills,” which has played to four decades of audiences in Cherokee, N.C. and “Trail of Tears,” which is performed annually in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. There is no doubt that the designation of the Trail of Tears as a national landmark has enhanced awareness of the tragedy. The designation of the trail as a national landmark was the culmination of four years of planning on the part of the Eastern and Western Cherokee Tribes, the National Park Service and several states “to protect and identify the historic route, artifacts and remnants for enjoyment and public use.” A comprehensive management plan was developed by a 35-member advisory council. From Cherokee, NC, to Tahlequah, Oklahoma, a trail logo was adopted and placed along the extending land and water route. Interpretive centers have been planned for each state the trail passes through – North Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, and Oklahoma – with state, local, and federal governments participating.

Bristol, TN

“The Birthplace of Country Music”

Two states, two cities, one community.  Bristol, TN is the sister city of Bristol, VA and they share not only their border but they also share the visitors that flock to the area every year.  With plenty of history, lots of outdoor activities and the fastest half mile in NASCAR, Bristol is a destination that you don’t want to miss.

Bristol (both the Virginia and the Tennessee side) grew in the shadows of the Smokies.  Bristol first took the national spotlight when Ralph Peer began recording the ‘local’ sound of the folk music in the area.  In 1927, Peer recorded the Carter Family and then a young man named Jimmie Rodgers and from these recordings, country music was birthed.  Bristol is now officially the birthplace of country music due to these visionaries.

The 20th century saw lots of change in the Bristol area.  Increased traffic through the area due to the location of the Smoky Mountains and the establishment of Bristol Motor Speedway have brought thousands of people to the area each year.  Bristol has embraced its history to expand their futre and have festivals that celebrate their past.


Most Recent Posts

  • Bristol Caverns - It 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 … Continue reading "Bristol Caverns"
  • Bristol, TN - “The Birthplace of Country Music” Two states, two cities, one community.  Bristol, TN is the sister city of Bristol, VA and they share not only their border but they also share the visitors that flock to the area every year.  With plenty of history, lots of outdoor activities and the fastest half mile in NASCAR, … Continue reading "Bristol, TN"

Maggie Valley, NC

Maggie Valley is not only a stop along the Blue Ridge but a bustling tourist town with plenty of activities for your day in the mountains.  Whether you are coming in the colder months to ski at Cataloochee or if you are looking for a quick bite to eat after a trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Maggie Valley might just be the place to stop for you and your family.

Maggie Valley, NC

Maggie Valley was named after Maggie Mae Setzer, whose father was Jack Setzer who founded the first post office in the area.  This town became the a stop on the Blue Ridge Parkway after its founding and of course the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has brought visitors to the area ever since.  Maggie Valley has embraced its role in the Smoky Mountains as a tourism town and great, quiet place to stop while you are in the Smokies.  Plenty rooms and cabins for lodging and several great attractions make Maggie Valley a destination.


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Knoxville, TN

Gateway to the Smokies

Knoxville is one of the largest cities in the Smokies.  Home to more than 175,000 people, this city offers activities to fit almost every taste.  From culture to museums, outdoor adventure to sports, Knoxville is a tourist destination unto itself.  If you are staying in the mountains and you are looking for a night out or just something a little bit different, Knoxville welcomes you to come experience the Gateway to the Smokies.

Knoxville, TN

In 1786, James White built a fort above what was to become downtown Knoxville.  From that point until the Civil War, Knoxville became a traveling point for people heading west.  The town grew as more people decided they liked the area and it became a transportation mecca as the railroad began to take over the south.  During the Civil War, Knoxville became a highly contested prize and was the site of several major battles.

As the industrial age grew, the railroad system in Knoxville made it the home of a thriving textile industry.  Though a lot of the manufacturing companies have moved on since then, Knoxville has reinvented itself into a town that welcomes all types of commercial opportunities and is even reinventing its downtown area into a tourism draw full of boutiques, galleries and eclectic food choices.  Knoxville is an every changing example of the character of the people of the southern Appalachians.


Most Recent Posts

  • Three Rivers Rambler - The Three Rivers Rambler is a train excursion that runs along to the Tennessee River.  This 90 minute train ride starts from the waterfront near downtown Knoxville and takes you on a ride through the foothills of the Smoky Mountains.  You will pass a lot of the history that has formed not only Knoxville but … Continue reading "Three Rivers Rambler"
  • University of Tennessee Football - Go Vols! Looking for some fun in the Smokies on a football weekend.  Plan your visit for a home game weekend and get those tickets early.  plan to sit with over 100,000 of your closest friends and cheer on the UT Volunteers (or their opposition) at one of the best football venues in one of … Continue reading "University of Tennessee Football"
  • McKay Used Books - One of my favorite places to shop in Knoxville is McKay Used Books, CDs, Movies & More.  Imagine, if you will, a library sized store selling every type of book imaginable at hugely discounted rates.  Add to that, shelves of music and movies, videos games and more and you have a shopping trip that might … Continue reading "McKay Used Books"
  • Mast General Store – Knoxville - In 2006, a Smoky Mountain tradition joined the newly renovated downtown area of Knoxville, TN – the Mast General Store.  The Mast General Store is what it was to people back in the turn of the century a store, carrying general merchandise and those things from our homespun past that bring back tons of great memories. … Continue reading "Mast General Store – Knoxville"
  • Tennessee Theatre - On October 1, 1928, a landmark was opened on Gay Street in Knoxville, TN – The Tennessee Theatre.  The first movie they ever played at this grand old theater was The Fleet’s In with Clara Bow.  From that time until today, this theater has been a cornerstone ofthe culture and history of Knoxville and East … Continue reading "Tennessee Theatre"
  • East Tennessee Historical Society - The East Tennessee History Center If you are looking to learn a little bit more about the history of the Tennessee side of the Smoky Mountains, then you might want to make a trip to Knoxville, TN.  In the middle of downtown, right on Gay Street is the home of the East Tennessee Historical Society … Continue reading "East Tennessee Historical Society"
  • Tupelo Honey Cafe - Fluent Flavor Spoken Here One of the premier restaurants in Asheville has recently expanded to the other side of the mountains.  Tupelo Honey Cafe strives to take southern cuisine to the next level.  They take the traditional and the extremely southern, you know soul food, and they turn it on ts head and put their … Continue reading "Tupelo Honey Cafe"
  • Knoxville Ice Bears - The ice glows as you walk into the arena.  You can feel the coolness of the rink seep into your bones.  You take your seats and get ready for the action.  The Ice Bears take the ice, the adrenaline starts pumping through the crowd.  The puck starts flying and if you are lucky, you might … Continue reading "Knoxville Ice Bears"
  • Haunts and Haints at Marble Springs - Two days before Halloween, the former home of Tennessee’s first Governor, John Sevier put on a new face and had some Halloween fun.  Marble Springs was the home of John Sevier from 1745-1815.  It has been kept as a historic landmark of the history of Tennessee.  Throughout the year, living history and educational tours happen daily.  … Continue reading "Haunts and Haints at Marble Springs"
  • Puleo’s Grille - It is nice to find a local chain of restaurants that you love.  One of those places in East Tennessee is Puleo’s Grille.  Puleo’s bills themselves as having ‘Southern Roots with Italian Heritage’ and they live up to that concept.  Their food is simply amazing, the atmosphere and the service is second to none and … Continue reading "Puleo’s Grille"

History of Gatlinburg

Despite how they may appear, the Great Smoky Mountains weren’t built around Gatlinburg, Tn. Still, when you come through town, it might seem as if the mountains were strategically placed on the outskirts of downtown, surrounding it like a fortress.

The beginnings of Gatlinburg are two-fold – the actual first settlers of the area, and the first business that brought about the booming tourist town that many have come to know and love. The first settlers that are said to have laid claim in the area were Martha Jane Huskey Ogle and her family (five sons and two daughters, her brother, Peter Huskey, and his family) in 1807 when they settled what is now Gatlinburg to honor her recently deceased husband William.

In 1802, William Ogle had selected a piece of property to build a home for his family, telling them that he had found “The Land of Paradise” in the mountains of East Tennessee. While preparing to bring his family here, he fell ill, most suspect malaria, and died in 1803.

Over a century later in 1916, Andy Huff built the Mountain View Hotel in Gatlinburg, Tn to house timber customers. Upon completion of the hotel, Gatlinburg was unofficially incorporated. Huff later expanded the hotel to provide food and lodging for tourists coming in to vacation among the Smokies. From there, it’s all been written about as stores sprung up along the parkway like wildflowers and tourists came in droves.

When Huskey Ogle’s family settled the area, it was known as White Oak Flats. This is largely due to the numerous white oak trees native to the region. Her late-husband described it as a “Land of Paradise”. Soon after, families with familiar last names like McCarter, Reagan, Whaley, and Trentham began settling the area as well and many of their descendants make the Gatlinburg area their home today.

Gatlinburg itself derived its name from Radford C. Gatlin – owner of White Oak Flats’ second general store. Despite the name recognition, the flamboyant Gatlin was eventually banished from White Oak Flats in 1854 for his Democratic Party affiliation.

Over the next century very little changed in Gatlinburg, even with the onset of the Civil War. The first public school didn’t form until 1912 and it wasn’t until the formation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that the area started to feel some of those much-needed tourism dollars. A number of mountain-dwelling families began moving closer to town to take advantage of jobs in new hotels and restaurants brought about by the burgeoning tourism industry. Though World War II brought a bit of an economic slowdown, by war’s end the tourists had returned and Gatlinburg had to grow or get run over, literally.

Following the town’s incorporation in 1945, Pi Beta Phi, in conjunction with the University of Tennessee, established a program for emerging Tennessee artists during the summer. What came out of it was the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. Arrowmont is now nationally regarded and offers year-round classes and workshops for college credit. Areas of study include: ceramics, fibers, metals/jewelry, painting, drawing, photography, warm glass, woodturning, woodworking, sculpture, and book and paper arts. The public is welcome year-round to visit the school’s five galleries, resource center and book and supply store.

Elijah Lawson Reagan established a woodworking business in Gatlinburg in the early 20th Century. It’s pertinent because it’s believed to be the oldest working business of its kind in the history of the Smokies. Up until the 1920s he worked with simple hand tools before harnessing the power of the Roaring Fork to operate with electric power. Of the instruments he used, a water-wheel was built and he installed a turbine and generator which powered his operation. He also furnished electricity to his neighbors until the Tennessee Valley Authority supplied the valley with electricity. The shop is still making fine furniture in the Reagan tradition today.

Religion also played a large part in early Gatlinburg, Tn beginnings and was important to its settlers. Most settlers attended services outdoors or in neighbors’ homes. Although this area was settled by Presbyterians, their first church was Baptist. The Sevierville Baptist Church reached all the way to White Oak Flats at the time convening in the early part of the 19th century at Baskins Creek. Many assume that this is the present day location of the Ogle cabin. A second church was built on River Road under the direction of Reverend Richard Evans, near the mouth of Mill (now Le Conte) Creek.

In 1837, a new church was formed and named White Oak Flats Baptist. The congregation met in a log cabin on Baskins Creek. The cabin also served as a school. The congregation later changed its name to the Gatlinburg Baptist Church in 1932 before constructing a stone church at the same location in 1951. As the town grew, Gatlinburg First Baptist decided to move in 1991 to its present location on Highway 321.

One other notable businessman was Noah Ogle. By most accounts Ogle was Gatlinburg’s first merchant when he established a business in 1850. The site is now home to the Riverside Hotel. Ogle later moved the store to the intersection of River Road and the Elkmont Highway in 1910 before his son took it over in 1916. Officially, the E. E. Ogle and Company store housed the Gatlinburg Post Office until 1925. Grandson, Charlie A. Ogle, and great grandson, Charles Earl Ogle, took over operations respectively, expanding the business through any means necessary downtown. It was said that if you needed anything, Ogles’ was the place to get it. Today, Gatlinburg’s Mountain Mall now stands where the general store once did, and still offering most anything tourists could want.

To get to Gatlinburg coming from Interstate 40 (Nashville, Knoxville, Asheville), take exit 407 toward Winfield Dunn Parkway for 8.5 miles. Continue to US 441 and follow it 13.2 miles to Gatlinburg.

Coming from the south (Cherokee, NC), head west on US-19, turn right onto US-441 N/Tsali Boulevard and continue to follow it 34.8 miles to Gatlinburg, Tn.

National Forests

Nantahal National ForestOutside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there are a number of national forests and state parks.  The national forests are maintained by the federal government and they offer many recreational opportunities and facilities.  These national forests border the National Park and extend the boundaries of the recreational reach of the area.  As soon as you leave the GSMNP you might just find yourself in a National Park that allows you to keep the fun going in another environment.

Nantahala National Forest (NNF) – This national forest was established in 1907.  Nantahala is the largest of the four national forests in North Carolina.  At 531,270 acres, this area is full of waterfalls, natural wonders, beautiful vistas and plenty of recreational opportunities.  The Nantahala area has hiking trails, ATV trails, horseback riding, fishing, camping and much more.  Well maintained roads and access to these facilities makes the Nantahala National Forest a perfect place to spend part of your vacation to the Smoky Mountains.  This national forest covers an enormous portion of Western North Carolina and is the only national forest located there.

Cherokee National Forest (CNF) – This particular national forest was created in 1920 and takes in 655,598 acres of land in Eastern Tennessee.  The area it covers runs from the northeast portion of the state to the GSMNP and from the southeast corner of the state to the GSMNP.  Though it is divided into two pieces this huge tract of land gives you lots of options and encompasses many of the surrounding towns.  The opportunities in the Cherokee National Forest include but are not limited to: picnic areas, beaches, lakes, swimming rafting, hiking, fishing, snorkeling and much more.   CNF’s campgrounds are incredible and might even be worth a vacation by themselves while you take in the great outdoors.

Pisgah National Forest (PNF) – On the Western North Carolina side of the Smokies, Pisgah National Forest is another great place to spend a few days of your vacation.  Camping, tubing, hiking, kayaking, biking, historical sites and all kinds of other activities are open for you to enjoy in the PNF.  Pisgah surrounds the city of Asheville and is nestled in the corner of the Blue Ridge Mountain chain.  If you are used to driving to Asheville on I-40 then you have passed through the Pisgah National Forest and you will be hard pressed to find a pretty spot in the southern Appalachians.

Asheville, NC

“Any Way You Like It”

Asheville is one of the most exciting cities in the Smokies.  Combining a very cosmopolitan feel with the beauty of the Smoky Mountains gives Asheville a different culture when it comes to shopping, dining and attractions.  From the Grove Arcade shopping complex to the Biltmore Estate, the upscale look and flavor of Asheville lures thousands of people to the area each year.


Named after Governor Samuel Ashe, Asheville (originally called Morristown) was settled in the 1790s.  Of course, before this point the Cherokee tribes had held sway in this area of North Carolina for generations.  The European settlers found that they loved the valley that Asheville sits in and in the census of 1790 it is reported that over 1000 people lived in what would become Asheville.  Through the years, Asheville has kept growing and adding to both the population and the economy.

Asheville has had a very colorful history.  It was heavily involved in the Civil War.  In the late 1800s it got a shot in the arm when George Vanderbilt built the magnificent Biltmore Estate which employed countless people.  Even through the time of the Great Depression (Asheville was one of the hardest hit cities in the country by this disaster), Asheville fought back to establish itself as a cultural gem in the Smokies.  By the turn of the 21st century, Asheville has established itself as not only a tourism driven city but also a strong economy based on the service and industrial fields.


Most Recent Posts

  • Deerpark Restaurant - One of my favorite places to eat, when I visit the Biltmore Estate is the Deerpark Resturant.  A trip to the Biltmore is not complete without good food and the Deerpark puts on a culinary show like you would not believe.  A buffet like no other, the Deerpark is something wholly different for the person looking for … Continue reading "Deerpark Restaurant"
  • Biltmore Estate - One of the most visited attractions on the North Carolina side of the Smokies is the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.  The largest private residence in the United States is located right in the heart of the Smokies and it is a wonder to view.  From room upon room decorated as they would have been back in the … Continue reading "Biltmore Estate"
  • Grove Arcade - The Grove Arcade is one of the most interesting shopping locations in Asheville, NC.  Boutique shopping and galleries line the Grove Arcade building and the eateries bring some of the best food to the foodie scene in Western North Carolina.  The Grove Arcade building also has a delightful history and this building that at one point was meant to … Continue reading "Grove Arcade"
  • Asheville Tourists Baseball - Much like their counterparts on the Tennessee side of the Smokies (The Tennessee Smokies), the Asheville Tourists were the 2012 league champions in the Class A South Atlantic League.  This championship team with the odd name supplies the people of Asheville and Western North Carolina with some of the finest baseball that you will ever … Continue reading "Asheville Tourists Baseball"
  • Tupelo Honey Cafe - Fluent Flavor Spoken Here One of the premier restaurants in Asheville has recently expanded to the other side of the mountains.  Tupelo Honey Cafe strives to take southern cuisine to the next level.  They take the traditional and the extremely southern, you know soul food, and they turn it on ts head and put their … Continue reading "Tupelo Honey Cafe"
  • Corn Mazes - What’s better than the fall colors cascading down the mountains as summer slowly turns into crisp autumn nights? I know what most of you were thinking and that’s nothing really, especially when you’re talking about fall. And that’s OK, but for some fall brings the outdoor fun of corn mazes in all different shapes and … Continue reading "Corn Mazes"
  • North Carolina Arboretum - If you’re from Gatlinburg, or East Tennessee, you’ve likely made the short day trip over to Asheville, NC to eat, shop, visit Biltmore, etc. If you’re an outdoors-type person, or more specifically, if you’re into trees and plants, one place you should know about is the North Carolina Arboretum, if you don’t already. To become … Continue reading "North Carolina Arboretum"
  • Grove Park Inn - One of the most recognized and historical hotels in the United States, the Grove Park Inn rests in the Blue Ridge Mountains, in Asheville, North Carolina. Over the years it’s garnered such accreditations as being named to the National Register of Historic Places and features a world-renowned spa that vacationers flock to year round. Edwin … Continue reading "Grove Park Inn"
  • Asheville Art Museum - In the heart of the metropolis that is Asheville, NC there is a bight spot of culture in the downtown area:  The Asheville Art Museum.  Right off Pack Square, the Asheville Art Museum is packed with art of every shape form and fashion.  With a hugely popular permanent collection and traveling shows that change the … Continue reading "Asheville Art Museum"
  • Asheville, NC - “Any Way You Like It” Asheville is one of the most exciting cities in the Smokies.  Combining a very cosmopolitan feel with the beauty of the Smoky Mountains gives Asheville a different culture when it comes to shopping, dining and attractions.  From the Grove Arcade shopping complex to the Biltmore Estate, the upscale look and … Continue reading "Asheville, NC"