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  #41  
Old Posted Jul 1, 2020, 1:46 PM
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And it's an International Biosphere Reserve that's directly connected to Columbia by means of the Congaree River Blue Trail.

Columbia doesn't do enough to build upon and promote its natural assets.
Preach, brother.
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  #42  
Old Posted Jul 1, 2020, 2:19 PM
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Are the Smokies worth a visit? Is it basically like the Adirondacks, but with more kitsch, or does it have an entirely different feel?
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  #43  
Old Posted Jul 1, 2020, 2:48 PM
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Are the Smokies worth a visit? Is it basically like the Adirondacks, but with more kitsch, or does it have an entirely different feel?
Only their hairdresser knows for sure:


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  #44  
Old Posted Jul 1, 2020, 2:52 PM
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I got the feeling (only passing through briefly) that the Smokies are much more remote and orientated around more traditional outdoor activities. More campgrounds and hiking trails and less urban weekenders. The Adirondacks feel more cottagey and jumping from small town to small town.
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  #45  
Old Posted Jul 1, 2020, 3:14 PM
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Are the Smokies worth a visit? Is it basically like the Adirondacks, but with more kitsch, or does it have an entirely different feel?
Definitely worth a visit and they have a very different vibe and feel from the Adirondacks. I spend a lot of summers up the ADK's and there's a huge relationship with the lakes, I didn't get so much that with the Smokies. Smokies are also more remote.
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  #46  
Old Posted Jul 1, 2020, 3:16 PM
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For what it's worth, I did a photothread on Cherokee, NC several years back. Cherokee is the gateway to the North Carolina side of Great Smokey Mountains National Park, while Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are the gateway towns on the Tennessee side of the park.

Cherokee, NC: The blood in my veins
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  #47  
Old Posted Jul 1, 2020, 3:46 PM
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Are the Smokies worth a visit? Is it basically like the Adirondacks, but with more kitsch, or does it have an entirely different feel?
I've done week-long backcountry hikes through both the Adirondacks high peaks wilderness and the heart of smoky mountains NP, so I feel somewhat qualified to compare and contrast them.

The mountains and terrain are not radically different, but the Adirondacks did seem to have a lot more mountain lakes and ponds (beautiful scenes like this: https://www.google.com/maps/@44.1134...!7i8192!8i4096, which i didn't find down in the smokies).

As for vegetation, the Adirondacks seemed heavier on the coniferous trees, smokies more deciduous, but you'll find plenty of both in each of them. I do remember the valley floors in the smokies being very heavy on ground-level vegetation, almost jungle-like, where the growth was so thick in spots you couldn't leave the trail even if you wanted to, whereas the Adirondacks had a more "open" northern forest type of feeling on the ground.

Both are relatively "wet" mountains with copious amounts of mountain streams, so finding potable water was never an issue in either of them. Both are bear country so you have to be sure to tree your food at night when camping in the backcountry.
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Last edited by Steely Dan; Jul 1, 2020 at 4:15 PM.
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  #48  
Old Posted Jul 1, 2020, 3:48 PM
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Kanab, Utah. Tiny town with one stop light, a couple businesses and motels. I was driving west from Page, Arizona. At the one T intersection in town with a stoplight you have a choice. Right, you go to Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon NP. Left will take you to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I went left, because I was coming from Page, Arizona, and before that the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Page is which another gateway city that will take you to the Grand Canyon to the southwest, Navajo Nation attractions to the east and Glen Canyon National Rec area to the north.

Streetview of the T intersection with options.
https://goo.gl/maps/5MgaE1GPtyKGH29cA
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  #49  
Old Posted Jul 1, 2020, 4:36 PM
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Estes Park, CO is another nice gateway town (Rocky Mountain NP) that actually does have a little downtown and some historic buildings.



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  #50  
Old Posted Jul 1, 2020, 4:39 PM
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Estes Park, CO is another nice gateway town (Rocky Mountain NP) that actually does have a little downtown and some historic buildings.
This brings to mind the question... Have any other national parks ever featured so prominently in horror fiction as Rocky Mountains National Park did in The Shining?
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  #51  
Old Posted Jul 1, 2020, 7:31 PM
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And it's an International Biosphere Reserve that's directly connected to Columbia by means of the Congaree River Blue Trail.

Columbia doesn't do enough to build upon and promote its natural assets.
Interestingly enough, perhaps because one's smart phone is ever vigilant and always listening, this popped up on Facebook for me today, what with all this talk about Congaree National Park:

The South Carolina Forest That Looks Like Melted Ice Cream: When conditions are right, the waters of Congaree National Park can look like bright scoops pooling on a sidewalk.


Source.
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  #52  
Old Posted Jul 1, 2020, 8:21 PM
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If you don't stay in town, rent a chalet, and really only venture to town for meals it can actually be enjoyable during winter. My brother and I were born in Knoxville and after we moved to North Alabama my parents, my brother, and I would visit Gatlinburg almost every December or January. I'm more of a mountain person, so cold nights in hot tubs and waking up to a view of snow covered Mt. Le Conte was always really nice.
I'm realizing now that I ought to try to visit the Great Smoky Mountains some day. My cousins in Cincinnati go to Nashville a lot and love it. My family just never went to Tennessee when we lived back east based partly on my mom's distaste for Gatlinburg. I'm no stranger to tourist towns (hell, I live in one). The furthest south/west I can remember going is Bowling Green, KY (Mammoth Cave)
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  #53  
Old Posted Jul 1, 2020, 9:33 PM
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I'm realizing now that I ought to try to visit the Great Smoky Mountains some day. My cousins in Cincinnati go to Nashville a lot and love it. My family just never went to Tennessee when we lived back east based partly on my mom's distaste for Gatlinburg. I'm no stranger to tourist towns (hell, I live in one). The furthest south/west I can remember going is Bowling Green, KY (Mammoth Cave)
You can avoid the miniature golf and escape rooms and laser tag if that's what you're looking to do and still have an amazing, memorable time. Hike up to Grotto Falls and then swim underneath it, zip line through the woods, go white water rafting or kayaking, go tubing down a mountain creek, go trout fishing, go camping, go horseback riding in Cade's Cove, pick up some barbecue from Bennett's and take a picnic, spelunk in one of the many area caverns, rent an all terrain vehicle and drive across a mountain side, observe bears from afar, or just rent a cabin on a mountain top and enjoy the serene silence and calm mountain air and smoky views from the comfort of a hot tub. Hell, you can even take the tram to the top of Ober Gatlinburg and go snow skiing during the winter months. Even if I didn't have deeply nostalgic feelings from my childhood about the place, I'd still highly recommend a visit for anyone who loves the outdoors.
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  #54  
Old Posted Jul 2, 2020, 5:45 AM
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And if you go hiking go early in the morning. It can get way too crowded in the afternoons. I did the Laurel falls hike once in the afternoon and that was more like walking through a stadium concourse it was so crowded. People forget that Smoky Mountains is the most visited national park in the US (not Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Yosemite..etc).
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  #55  
Old Posted Jul 2, 2020, 3:21 PM
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And if you go hiking go early in the morning. It can get way too crowded in the afternoons. I did the Laurel falls hike once in the afternoon and that was more like walking through a stadium concourse it was so crowded. People forget that Smoky Mountains is the most visited national park in the US (not Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Yosemite..etc).
Wise words!
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  #56  
Old Posted Jul 2, 2020, 3:57 PM
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Estes Park, CO is another nice gateway town (Rocky Mountain NP) that actually does have a little downtown and some historic buildings.
Estes Park is really fun. As a kid I always thought it was overrun with tourists, but now that I'm older I actually appreciate the kind of National Lampoon's Vacation-style kitsch that the the town offers (e.g. all of the stores hawking Colorado knick-nacks, old-timey candy stores, places to get sepia-toned photos in western wear, RV campgrounds, the spooky old movie theater, and that place with the giant rug-slide right by the park entrance).

I have always been partial though to RMNP's OTHER gateway town - Grand Lake. GL is quite a bit more restful. It's the kind of place where people check in for a week or more at a time rather than a quick daytrip from Denver and has more of a "retreat" kind of feel. The town is decked out in an Adirondack architectural style characterized by unfinished log siding and green or red metal awnings and roofs. This style was chosen in the early 1900s when Grand Lake became one of the state's first tourist retreats and is now associated with the area. This style is mostly not found in Colorado's mining towns or modern ski resorts (except perhaps for nearby Winter Park).

In between Estes Park and Grand Lake is the extremely famous Trail Ridge Road which stretches through Rocky Mountain National Park above treeline offering some of the very best views of the mountains that can be seen from a car anywhere. The road is closed in winter, at which point the drive between these two towns (only 18 miles apart as the crow flies) goes from around 45 miles to 150 miles!

The Grand Lake Lodge is the most famous historic landmark in town with its fabulous view from the ridge above town. The town main street looks like it is right out of a western movie complete with Boardwalk sidewalks.

Here are some pictures (images found from tourism webpages using Google):

Main Street


Grand Lake Lodge and View



Adirondack Style Cabin


Grand Lake and the town's most recognizable mountain - "Baldy"
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  #57  
Old Posted Jul 3, 2020, 7:56 PM
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Are there any gateway towns for the national parks in the Upper Midwest? Parks like Isle Royale, Voyageurs, Badlands, Theodore Roosevelt, Wind Caves, and Mount Rushmore?
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