With all the news stories about the confederate statues being torn down, it got me to thinking about my recent visit to the South.
Recently we went on our next National Park quest to the The Great Smoky Mountains!!! It was beautiful, just like people said it was. The name “The Smokies” made so much sense after being there for only an hour. A gentle fog covers the mountains most of the time. It’s so humid, if it isn’t raining, it’s foggy and the leaves are wet from the moisture in the air. And man, does the moisture STICK. Once you sweat, you’re soaking for the rest of the day.
This photo is from the drop off, a point of interest off the Appalachian Trail. It literally looks like you’re going to fall off the Earth. It was probably my favorite place of the trip…
And then the Ramsey Cascades. Difficult hike, don’t do it if you are not at least reasonably in shape. This hike was amazing. Almost like walking through a rain forest or exploring unchartered territory. Go early though. Later in the day it gets slightly crowded. And the trail is small so pressing your sweaty body up against someone else’s sweaty body in an attempt to avoid falling off the trail into the rocks below is almost 100% guaranteed…and gross.
Pictures don’t do it justice. It was a gorgeous end to a long and gorgeous hike.
The Smokies aren’t my favorite National Park, but they were damn beautiful. Oh, btw starting a fire in there is a nightmare. The wood, no matter where you get it, is thick with humidity so getting it started was a chore. We’ve started campfires in snowstorms, rainstorms, and freezing temperatures and nothing was harder to get started than a fire in broad daylight in the Smoky Mountains. Bring an approved starter log…you’ll be happy you did.
There was one thing that bummed me out the most. So there are two towns on the two main entrances to the park. Cherokee and Gatlinburg. Cherokee is a smaller town that is in the Cherokee Indian Reservation, so many of the tourist stops and stores there sell Indian artifacts. Gatlinburg is a bigger town, with a more touristy feel to it and more dining and hotel options. Me and my Hispanic partner were there walking through the shops trying to find a Smoky Mountains Shirt, as is our tradition to buy one from every National Park we visit. Every shop, every single one, had confederate flags in them. They had confederate flag towels, vests, jackets, blankets you name it. Now here’s the thing. I know some people believe they stand for “preserving the Southern Way”. Whatever. People’s beliefs are their own. I believe it stands for racism. That’s just my personal opinion and I’m not about to get in an argument over the confederate flag with a shop owner I’ll never see again. The thing that bothered me the most was how my Hispanic counterpart was treated. Clerks and salespeople would smile and chat with me, then regard my partner with a markedly different attitude. Suspicious glances, grimaces, and hesitation. It was the first time I’d been so exposed to it and I wanted to cry. On the way home a few days later, my partner mentioned that in North Carolina they “hunted Mexican’s down here” for sport, referring to a news story aired some time ago. It broke my heart.
I wanted to go to the Great Smoky Mountains because it was listed as the most visited National Park and I’ve heard many people say it’s beautiful. And it was. The park was so pretty and I’d recommend people to go see it if they were in the area. But the confederate stores as the “gates” to the National Park was just a hard pill for me to swallow. None of the other National Parks gave me a sinking feeling in my stomach when walking around their outlying cities.
I’m disappointed that something so pretty was surrounded by something so…hmmm…what’s a good word for it…
Contentious. There we go…that seems to fit. And because of it, I felt like we didn’t fit. And that’s the first time a National Park, or an area surrounding it, has made me feel that way.
Until next time.
The Chubby Cubby