Most families have their favorite vacation spots.
Ours has always been somewhere near the beach.
But not far behind is the Great Smoky Mountains.
Pam, when talking retirement, has always said “a condo on the beach” and “a cabin in the mountains.”
To which I’ve always replied, “Dream on.”
We’ve had some wonderful family trips to the Smokies. We took Emma and Andy when they were young – one of our most relaxing trips ever in a secluded mountain cabin.
My side of the family celebrated Mother’s 75th birthday there. It was her favorite vacation spot – bar none.
Erin and I took the most recent trip there – going with my mother and sister and brother-in-law in 2013, the summer before my mother passed away in December.
In late November of last year, when the wildfires struck Sevier County, Tenn., it affected us all, but particularly those who take regular trips to the Smokies.
I know a few local families who have made trips there since the fires.
Last week, I received a press release that caught my eye about the popularity of the Smoky Mountains, and urging vacationers to schedule a trip this year in support of the area.
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, in the press release, praised employees and volunteers at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for their work in welcoming a record 11,312,785 visitors to the park in 2016, the U.S. National Park Service Centennial.
“Documentarian Ken Burns said the national parks are ‘America’s best idea,’ so the Great Smoky Mountains National Park must be ‘America’s very best idea’ because each year it attracts nearly twice the visitors of any other national park – and last year it broke its own record with more than 11 million visitors,” Alexander said. “The park’s dedicated employees and nearly 2,250 volunteers – who donated over 100,000 hours of service – had a busy year and deserve a lot of credit.”
Alexander continued, “The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of America’s greatest treasures – and it has a tremendous economic impact in East Tennessee. In 2015, visitors to the park spent more than $874 million and supported nearly 14,000 jobs in surrounding communities.”
Alexander said he hopes even more visitors will come to the park in 2017 which will help the area recover from the deadly wildfires that spread through Sevier County and Gatlinburg in November – “Having even more visitors come to the Smokies in 2017 will increase tourism revenue and support more jobs – which will help the area rebuild and recover.”
Alexander marked the 100th anniversary of the U.S. National Park Service by hiking in the Smokies with Tennessee students and honoring the service of park employees.
Here’s hoping the Burlesons can work in another vacation to the Smokies this year – after a spring break trip to the beach.