SI Vault
Virginia Kraft
July 07, 1958
For summer travelers in search of unexpected vacation adventure, Sports Illustrated explores the South's most impressive valley
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July 07, 1958

Discovery: The Tennessee Valley

For summer travelers in search of unexpected vacation adventure, Sports Illustrated explores the South's most impressive valley

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But the greatest boon to vacationing families is Gatlinburg's KINDERKAMP on Cherokee Orchard Road just off the highway. From June to September the Kinderkamp opens at 7 a.m. and closes at midnight for children (3 months to 12 years) of tourists. Rates are 50¢ an hour during the day; 75¢ an hour in the evening.

The Mountain View Hotel has the best restaurant in Gatlinburg. In the center of town is the GATLINBURG SKY-LIFT, first in the South, which runs 1,800 feet up to the crest of Crockett Mountain. (In spite of his humble beginnings, Davy was well-traveled. Like Kilroy, he seems to have been here too!) A road also winds up to the top of Crockett Mountain, but the curves are all hairpins and the incline very steep. Check brakes before driving anywhere in the Smokies.

A big attraction at Gatlinburg, for parents and children alike, are daily nature hikes which the National Park Service conducts free of charge through the Great Smokies. Even tourists who have never considered themselves naturalists will find these hikes fascinating. For the real outdoor enthusiast, well-maintained and marked sites are scattered throughout the park for overnight camping. Trout season runs until August 31 and there are 600 miles of trout streams in Great Smoky National Park.

If sleeping out holds no appeal, there is a unique lodge, reachable only on foot (about a three-hour hike) or by horseback, perched right on top of triple-peaked Mt. LeConte, which towers a mile above Gatlinburg. Trails to the lodge wind past Rainbow Falls and Trillium Gap through some of the wildest and most beautiful portions of the Smokies. An overnight stay at LECONTE LODGE, including lodging, breakfast and dinner, is only $7 per person.

The best time to make the mountain drive from Gatlinburg to Fontana is early in the morning or toward late afternoon when the famous Smoky Mountain bears are most likely to be foraging in roadside refuse cans. Take a side trip on the way to 6,643-foot Clingmans Dome, highest peak in the Smokies. As a matter of fact, this mountain is the "Old Smoky."

Cherokee, at the southern extremity of the park, is the largest Indian Reservation in eastern America. The Indians, alas, have gone 20th century, and although they dress in full feather and buckskin for the tourist, the village is actually a honky-tonk of souvenir stands, red-skinned barkers and candy-apple stalls. This doesn't bother children, so expect to stop at the CHEROKEE INDIAN MUSEUM and the OCONALUFTEE VILLAGE where for $1.20 admission you can watch beads being strung and baskets being woven.

Cherokee also has an open-air theater, the MOUNTAIN-SIDE, which nightly, except Monday, presents Unto These Hills, a drama of the Cherokee, which is well worth the $1.50 to $3 admission.

It's only an hour's run by car from Cherokee to 480-foot Fontana Dam, on the North Carolina side of the park. FONTANA VILLAGE, originally built to house dam construction personnel, is now operated as a resort which accommodates 1,200 people daily. Make reservations early because last season as many as 400 visitors were turned away in a single day.

If you like the real thing—not a jazzed-up tourist version—semiweekly square dances to the Fontana Village Square Dance Band are held in the large recreation hall. The village also has concerts, lectures, handicraft instruction and art lessons. A children's playground and pony ring provide entertainment for young fry. In addition, there is free group baby sitting Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and private sitters are available for 65¢ an hour at all times.

Accommodations at Fontana Village are moderately priced. Double rooms in the 56-room lodge rent at $7 a day; huge three-bedroom six-person cottages with kitchens for $102 weekly. The air-conditioned two-line cafeteria serves only cafeteria-quality food.

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