Several times during my childhood, we went to visit my grandfather at his cabin in the mountains of North Carolina. I found the Smoky Mountains to be breathtakingly beautiful, a feeling that comes over me every time I return (which my son and I did in 2013). I also don’t know if this is cause and effect or just my own personality, but I also now gravitate towards temperate rain forests. If I am ever able to retire, I may well end up in the Smoky Mountains for the Pacific Northwest or, if I am truly financially independent and can go anywhere I want, somewhere abroad such as Ireland or Cornwall.
Looking through our old photo albums (I’m now up to 3,511 pictures scanned in, which is about to become 3,512), I so far have only found two places that we stopped on our way from Chicago to North Carolina.
One of these was the Knoxville Zoo. As fate would have it, my now-ex-husband (maybe I should give him a pseudonym) and I attempted to go to the Knoxville Zoo in 1992, but the zoo looked like it was closed when we were there. There didn’t even look to be anyone in the ticket booth. I don’t think I’d ever seen a zoo that was closed before or since. The San Antonio Zoo is open 365 days a year. They have to feed the animals anyway, so they might as well take in a few dollars from visitors. And lots of people do go to the zoo that day. Upon digging farther, I see that the Knoxville Zoo is not open on Christmas. Perhaps this is because Knoxville is in the Bible Belt?
I don’t remember the Knoxville Zoo. We have photos of it and one has a note saying that I was particularly fond of the bears there, so I know that I must have been there, but other than that, I’ve got nothing. Perhaps if they had looked to be open on our 1992 visit and we’d gone in, I would have been hit by some kind of sense memories. While researching this part of the post, it looks like they’ve since remodeled, so even if I returned today, I doubt that I’d see anything that I recognize. As it is, as with the next two items, I hardly have enough to base an entire blog post on. One can rent wheelchairs at the zoo, and one TripAdvisor review from 2012 says that the zoo is wheelchair accessible, but nowhere that I can find on the official site does it say whether the zoo is wheelchair accessible.
We also stopped in Gatlinburg on our way in or out on every visit. This is the only way I know for certain the years we went to North Carolina. My dad and I would always take the ski lift and then purchase the automatic photo of us that is taken on the way up. I know that at least one time we stayed in a local hotel while we were there. all I remembered was the name of the motel — the Dogwood Motel — but until I started my photo-scanning project I didn’t know that it had been in Gatlinburg. And I do mean “had been,” Google Street View doesn’t show anything in that location anymore, not even a newer motel.
As to things we did while we were in North Carolina, we at some point, went to an amusement park called Frontier Land, which was organized around, just as the name implied, a western theme. The park was in Cherokee, on or near the tribal lands. From what I can tell, the park was on the site where the Harrah’s Casino is today. All I remember of Frontier Land was a train ride and a roller coaster called, I believe, the Mad Mouse.
We also spent time in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on every visit and we went to the Biltmore Estate at least once in my childhood (Alex and I also went to the Biltmore Estate in 2013). I remember enough of those, though, to base an entire blog post on my memories, which will follow in (if things go as scheduled) another six and twelve days.