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Memories of the Smokies

Anthony Adcock fell in love with the Great Smoky Mountains when he was a young boy on summer vacation with his family.  The Adcocks would drive from their home in the Nashville area to enjoy the grandeur of the misty mountains. It was a long ride for a young boy but Adcock knew the mountains would make it all worthwhile.

“We took most of our vacations to the mountains,” Adcock said. “When I went to college and then to work, I always went back to the Great Smoky Mountains.

There was about a 15-year span when Adcock was too busy doing one thing or the other to visit the Smokies. But the love of the place drew him back.

Around 1990, he was back in the mountains, back hiking the trails like a young man and basking in the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains.

This week, wildfires have severely impacted the Smoky Mountain National Park and the northern gateway communities of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Wears Valley.

Adcock, like millions of others, is concerned and saddened by the tremendous destruction that has occurred.

“Hundreds of acres within the park have burned,” said Adcock, who is a member of the Great Smoky Mountains Association. “Those areas include Chimney Tops, Mount Le Conte and Bullhead Trail. I have hiked those areas so many times going back to when I was in college and would take a week to hike during the Thanksgiving break.  Back then, I was not afraid of anything and would hike alone anywhere and in any kind of weather.”

Since Adcock retired in 2003, he and wife, Jo, have been spending a whole month each year at his favorite place in the Smokies, Townsend, Tennessee, the “quiet side of the Smokies.” 

“We never go into Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge unless we had guests and they want to go,” he said.

During one of the months, he hiked 108 miles and that’s a lot of miles in the mountains.  He braved hiking in six- to eight-inches of snow, in thunderstorms, in icy winds and loved every step he took.

Many of the trails that Adcock hiked are probably gone. Many beautiful mountain vistas are now charcoal gray. The trees are but charred matchsticks and the wildlife that “owned” the mountain has been killed or displaced.

“The park area had changed over the years as timber was cut,” Adcock said. “There have been tornados and windstorms but nothing like these fires. The virgin timber on Mount Le Conte that had never been cut is victim of the fires. It’s sad but the mountains will be back — in some other lifetimes. The ecology of the mountains will be changed but it will be beautiful again.”

Adcock said the town of Gatlinburg will probably recover quickly.

“It’s a tourist town,” he said. “People come for the restaurants and entertainment. Many of them never go into the mountains to hike, camp or just enjoy the beauty of the mountains. The town will come back quickly. The mountains will take time. We won’t ever see them again the way they were. That’s sad.”