The Maddron Bald trailhead on October 3, 2013, during
the government shutdown.
Today we did our last hike in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As I described yesterday, we decided to go to a place where we could park on private land and easily hike to a trail in the park. That way, we would reduce the level of power any fascist-minded ranger from the National Park Service might have over us should they confront us for being in our park.
As it turns out, there was no evidence at all of a shutdown at the trailhead we choose. We went to the Maddron Bald trailhead, just off state route 321. The parking area here is small, capable of holding no more than 5 or 6 cars. When we arrived there were three cars there, so we had no problem finding room, as you can see from the image to the left.
There were also no signs indicating the park was closed. Nor were there any barricades or cones. As far as we could tell, it was a normal day in the national park, which to me proved that the restrictions the park service is imposing on New Found Gap Road (as well as elsewhere across the nation) has absolutely nothing to do with their lack of funds. This particular trailhead is not as well known or visited, and is off the beaten track. Moreover, it would be hard to monitor. Thus, the park service chose to make believe it wasn’t there. Smart tourists could come here and enjoy the park, as intended, despite the shutdown.
If the shutdown really required the closure of the park, the park service would have sent a ranger here as well. They did not, proving that their obnoxious efforts are really aimed at causing problems for as many Americans as possible, not securing the park as they dishonestly might tell us.
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See my October 3, 2013 update here.
The veterans in DC might be keeping the World War II memorial open by defying the Obama administration, but here in the Smoky Mountains the National Park Service has apparently succeeded in shutting down most access to Great Smoky National Park.
In my post yesterday I described how the park service appeared to be setting up barricades at the various lookouts, parking pull-outs, and trailheads along New Found Gap Road — a public highway through the park which they cannot close — in order to prevent access to the park. Such barricades are inappropriate, unnecessary, and are certainly being done for political reasons. The Obama administration is trying to pressure the Republicans to fold in the budget battle by hurting the American public. By blocking access to these pull-outs the administration is increasing the risks to hikers still in the park and to drivers on the road while damaging the local economy.
Today we drove back up to New Found Gap to see how things were developing and found that my suspicions were correct. While yesterday many of the major trailhead pull-outs were not yet blocked, this evening they all were. As we drove past the New Found Gap parking lot the barricades had been moved into place, preventing our entrance. I also noticed some cars trapped in the lot, as well as some people by the barricades. When I had turned around and returned, I found that a wide enough section of the barricade had been shifted, allowing me to pull into the lot. I immediately drove up to two guys standing by their car to ask them what had happened.
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I must admit I did not expect this. When we made our reservations to stay in a timeshare motel in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, I imagined the town would resemble the small West Virginia towns I am very familiar with from my many years of caving in that state. There would be a relatively quiet main street, with some restaurants, a supermarket, one or two gas stations, and some basic shopping.
What I found instead is a wonderfully energetic example of American capitalism, a carnival amusement area reminiscent of the amusement spots of the past and most epitomized by Brooklyn’s Coney Island.
When I was growing up in Brooklyn in the late 1950s and 1960s, Coney Island was a shadow of its grand past, but it still carried with it much of its old glory. You could stroll along the boardwalk or Surf Avenue and visit hundreds of shops, stores, and amusement rides, most of which were independently owned. In addition, the island also had several larger private amusement parks, such as Steeplechase Park, Astroland, and Luna Park (which unfortunately had closed before I ever saw it), each of which had a collection of their own rides and amusements. With some, like Steeplechase and Luna, you had to pay a separate admission price to get in.
This is exactly what I discovered here in Gatlinburg and the adjacent towns of Pigeon Forge and Sevierville.
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