Gatlinburg, Great Smoky Mountains, Hiking, History, Staying Active

MOUNTAIN TIME: GLENN CARDWELL OF THE SMOKIES

By Arthur “Butch” McDade

Butch and Glenn
Arthur “Butch” McDade, left, and Glenn Cardwell, right, outside of Sugarlands Visitor Center in 2014. Photo courtesy of Arthur McDade.

In Greenbrier there’s a path that leads to an old homesite. The house is gone but you can still spot foundation stones and a stone springhead nearby. And, if you really look around, you can find an old automobile frame.

I had the honor of hiking to this homesite several times with Glenn Cardwell. The last time was in 2014, two years before his death. Hiking there meant a lot to Glenn; it was where he entered this earth on a cold Christmas Eve in 1930, four years before his birthplace and the surrounding forest became part of the new Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

As we hiked, Cardwell would talk and point things out. He had a soft voice and was one of the kindest folks you’d ever meet (I once asked his wife Faye if Glenn ever got mad—she said, “No.”). He told me everything about his life, from his humble beginnings in Greenbrier to the 34 years he spent as a national park ranger in the Smokies.

A sense of place permeated Cardwell’s life—he never forgot where he came from. He attributed this to his mother “Pearlie,” who took him into the forests of the Smokies on long walks along Hills Creek. Cardwell attended school, but he believed he got his real education by following his mom in the woods. She was an “herb doctor” familiar with healthful native plants.

Glenn Cardwell
Glenn Cardwell on a footbridge in Greenbrier during a hike with Arthur “Butch” McDade in 2014. Photo courtesy of Arthur “Butch” McDade.

His mother’s teachings served him well when he became a ranger in the Smokies in 1961. With his knowledge of the woods, he became a go-to authority on plants and animals. In the Smokies, he mentored well over one hundred park rangers during his career and guided thousands of park visitors on nature walks. He directed visitors to family cemeteries and assisted on “lost person” cases. He became a “ranger’s ranger” and was later honored by Great Smoky Mountains Association as one of the 100 most influential people in the history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Cardwell once mentioned that after he left this job in 1995, he intended to retire, but his retirement didn’t quite go as planned. In 1998 he became mayor of nearby Pittman Center, Tennessee, a position he held for nigh on 18 years. He also authored two history books on the area. He stayed busy, he said, because “if you rest, you rust!”

Cardwell was a man of the Smokies. He never wanted to leave these mountains, turning down jobs from other parks. He only temporarily left while in the Navy during the Korean War and while attending the University of Tennessee. He said that while in the Navy, half-way around the world, he vowed that if he ever got back to the Smokies he’d never stray farther than the local co-op store in Sevierville. And to cement his attachment to the area, he married his childhood sweetheart and they lived permanently in Emerts Cove, only three miles from where his mother brought him into this world.

On my last hike with Cardwell, I asked what the most memorable thing was that his mother taught him. He said he learned a lot from her, but she gave him a saying he remembered to that day. She’d told him, “Glenn, once you fall in love with nature, you’ve got a friend for life.”

Arthur “Butch” McDade worked 30 years for the National Park Service at several sites, ultimately retiring from Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He currently works as a freelance writer.

I just love to hear stories of people who lived in the Great Smoky Mountains before it was the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. I had the honor to meet Odis Clinton Abbott when at the primitive church in Cades Cove. I also really enjoy the Walker Sisters story.

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Food, Gatlinburg, Great Smoky Mountains

Best hole in the wall restaurants in Sevier County

When we are in town, we always ask the people behind the counter where they eat. Or, where would they go if they want a good burger.

Some of the best restuarants we have found have very odd hours. So, call before you go.

Delauders BBQ (Gatlinburg)

Barbecue joints are meant to be holes in the wall. Sure, you’ve got a couple of high-enders like Calhoun’s which has built an empire on smoked meat, but by and large, the best barbecue you will ever have in your life comes from places that invest in smokers and meat, not decorations and seats.

Listen, you want an authentic Tennessee experience to go back and tell your friends at home? Go to Delauders, get the Holy Bologna Sandwich or the Sneaky Pig with sweet habanero sauce and thank me later

Bigfoot Cheese Steaks

There is a small gray cart between a winery and Tennessee Shine on Wears Valley Road. We got the best burger there. The owner Kevin tries to keep the meats authentic and buys only the best. You won’t be dissapointed. While we waited, we played some corn hole. There is also a fire pit.

Chubby’s Deli Restaurant (Sevierville)

This one is right outside of Pigeon Forge.

Chubby’s is located in a Citgo on Newport Highway in Sevierville. Meatloaf and two sides, taters and gravy and fried okra for $8 includes bread. This is the authentic art of simple Southern dining that has been swallowed up by the usurpers and the pretenders. Go to Chubby’s and go home happy.

Paw Paw’s Catfish Kitchen (Wears Valley)

You want authentic Cajun cuisine? Maybe some red beans and rice? Sure you might find it in some fancy place down in New Orleans or maybe some high-end joint in Atlanta.

But if you want real Cajun cooking, start looking for the places off the beaten map. The restaurant is on the right of Wears Valley Road as you go out of town. It looks like a little single wide trailer up a little hill.

They have a sample plate, two boudin balls, one crab cake, four fish nuggets and four gator bites and you’ll be talking like a Swamp People cast member in no time.

The holy trinity of gumbo, Jambalaya and etouffee are all accounted for but – as our No. 1 rule of dining states: If you’re in a place with a particular food in its name, you must eat that food. In other words, get you some good fish, son. And don’t forget the hush puppies.

Monster Mash Burgers (Sevierville)

Located in a strip mall next to a TJ Maxx, Monster Mash is a burger joint that works a dark alchemy in the pursuit of the best burgers.

Like a plain ordinary burger, maybe a pickle, a slice of cheese? This isn’t the place for you.

Leaning into the Monster Mash theme, these are unholy amalgamations that seem wrong on the menu and oh so right on the plate.

My recommendation? Try the 14-lb Frankenstein for $50. It feeds 4-6 people but if two of you can take it down, along with bacon, chili, sausages, etc. and a bowl of fries in an hour, that sucker is free.

It’s fun for the whole family and at least two of the seven deadly sins right there at the table.

Preacher’s Smokehouse (Sevierville)

Located in what can accurately be called a shack and some kind of building beside it, Preacher’s is owned and operated by a man named Sam Steele, a pastor who opened a restaurant with his wife, Kathy.

This small hole in the wall is the kind of place you remember for the rest of your life and tell wistful stories about. Pork, chicken, burnt ends, brisket, it’s all good.

I recommend the three meat combo dish but, I mean, close your eyes and point at the chalkboard menu. You’re gonna get something good. The stew is awesome.

Tennessee Jed’s (Gatlinburg)

You had me at craft sandwiches.

Located between God’s World Religious Goods Store and a Claire’s Boutique, Tennessee Jed’s is likely the best place you’ll ever eat that directly abuts a Dollar General Store. There’s just something about a perfectly made sandwich.

I love a Rueben, a ham and Swiss, my favorite is probably the Cubano but there are no bad choices. Tennessee Jed’s also does some serious breakfast sandwiches.

If you’re in Gatlinburg and the line at the Pancake Pantry is too long, walk across the street and grab a coffee and a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich from Jed’s. And go ahead and try the brown butter mini cake for dessert.

Lil Black Bear Café (Pigeon Forge)

If you’re looking for something small, out of the way and delicious, you can’t do better than the Lil’ Black Bear Café.

Open from 8 am to 2 pm, the café does breakfast and lunch only. They offer soups, salads and sandwiches, as well as the best coffee. All of which are made to order.

The menu isn’t complicated but it doesn’t have to be. The sausage, egg and cheese sandwich on the breakfast menu is the food of the gods. And you could do a lot worse than the patty melt for lunch.

Excerps taken from an editorial on Smokies.com By John Gullion  

Attractions, Gatlinburg, Great Smoky Mountains, Hiking, History, Parks

Gregory’s Cave

Gregory’s Cave is along the Cades Cove Loop.

Most caves are formed when limestone and sandstone fracture and weather over time. Gregory’s Cave is one of the largest caves in the Cades Cove area. The entrance to the cave is 10 feet wide and 4 feet tall. The cave is primarily a single large passage that ranges from 20 to 55 feet wide and 15 feet tall. There are quite a few side passages in the cave as well. In one of the side passages, there are pick marks along the wall, which indicates mining activity happened in the early 1800s.

Gregory Cave was actually the only cave in the national park that was developed as a commercial cave. In 1925, the cave was opened to the public by the Gregory family, who still lived in Cades Cove at the time. There were planks in the cave to walk across certain areas, and they installed battery powered lights. Gregory Cave was even used as an emergency shelter that would hold a maximum of 1,000 people when people still lived in the Cades Cove area. The cave was still open to the public in 1935, but when the national park bought the property from the Gregory family, it was closed. Today, the cave entrance is securely closed to the public.

Finding Gregory’s Cave

The John Oliver Place in Cades Cove.

You may be wondering how you would find the entrance to Gregory’s Cave. First, you have to drive down the Cades Cove Loop! Then, you’ll stop and get out of your vehicle when you reach John Oliver Cabin. There is a dirt road with metal bars in front of it to block cars, and you should follow it. On the right, there are two picnic tables, and you’ll continue going forward. Then, you’ll see the cave on the right around trees with boxes on them.

Taken from Visitmysmokies.com blog

Gatlinburg, Great Smoky Mountains, Pigeon Forge

17 top webcams to see live views of Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg

1. Anakeesta

With its new AnaVista tower, Anakeesta now offers some of the tallest views in downtown Gatlinburg.

And now, you can take in the views of Anakeesta from anywhere in the world! You can also get a view of Firefly Village.

View Anakeesta’s webcam

2. Cabins USA

Cabins USA offers a live view of the Parkway in Pigeon Forge.

This view shows the area near the Titanic Museum along the main strip and is a great way of getting a glimpse of the traffic in Pigeon Forge.

View the Cabins USA webcam

3. Clingmans Dome (GSMNP)

Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, reaching an elevation of 6,643 feet.

With the Clingmans Dome webcam, you can view current conditions and compare the difference between a good visibility day compared to a bad visibility day.

On a clear day, guests can see a view of the mountains that spans over 100 miles.

View the Clingmans Dome webcam

4. Dollywood Eagle Cams

Dollywood is home to the largest exhibit for non-releasable Bald Eagles in the United States.

The eagle cams at Dollywood are one of my personal favorite views around the Smokies, because if you’re lucky, you might just be able to watch a baby eaglet grow up before your very eyes.

The Dollywood eagle cams are presented by the American Eagle Foundation.

View Dollywood’s eagle cam

5. Gatlinburg SkyLift Park

The SkyLift Park webcam offers a beautiful view of the mountains.

Watch guests at SkyLift Park board the lift with a beautiful bird’s eye view of the mountains in the background.

View the SkyLift Park webcam

6. Gatlinburg Space Needle

The camera at the Gatlinburg Space Needle overlooks the Gatlinburg Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains.

This camera gives viewers an insight to current Gatlinburg traffic conditions.

View the Gatlinburg Space Needle webcam

7. Hearthside Cabin Rentals

Hearthside Cabin Rentals offers views of the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge areas from a few of their cabins.

Get a sample of a beautiful mountain view from your cabin before you go!

View the Hearthside Cabin Rentals webcam

8. Newfound Gap

Newfound Gap, according to the National Park Service (NPS), is the lowest drivable pass through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The Newfound Gap camera shows a live view to the Southeast as well as current weather conditions.

Digital images from web-based cameras are updated about every 15 minutes.

View the Newfound Gap camera

9. Look Rock (GSMNP)

Get a beautiful view of the mountains from Look Rock. This site also shows current air quality, visibility and weather conditions.

This camera is located on the edge of the park at mid-elevation with potential views of iconic landmarks such as Mount LeConte and Cades Cove.

View the Look Rock webcam

10. Ober Gatlinburg

Ober Gatlinburg offers not one, but two views of The Smokies. One view shows activities at Ober Gatlinburg, and the other shows a mountain valley view from Ober.

View the Ober Gatlinburg webcam 

11. Patriot Getaways

The Patriot Getaways cameras offer two views. One view shows Knotty Nest, which overlooks Pigeon Forge.

The second camera is above Smoky Mountain Escape Games. The Wheel at The Island in Pigeon Forge is visible in this live view.

View the Patriot Getaways webcam

12. Purchase Knob (GSMNP)

The camera from Purchase Knob looks northeast and shows the mountain view along with current weather conditions.

View the Purchase Knob camera

13. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

If a penguin cam doesn’t bring a smile to your face, I’m not sure what will.

Watch these flightless birds play around in the water at Ripley’s and check in on your friends if you can’t make it to the aquarium in person.

View the Ripley’s penguin cam

14. Rowdy Bear Mountain Coaster

The panoramic view from Rowdy Bear gives viewers an up close and personal view of the track at Rowdy Bear Mountain Adventure Park in Gatlinburg.

A panoramic shot of Rowdy Bear shows viewers the track as well as nearby landmarks.

View the Rowdy Bear webcam

15. Twin Creeks (GSMNP)

The Twin Creeks camera offers a view of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at an elevation of about 1,932 feet.

This view is updated about every 15 minutes.

View the Twin Creeks camera

16. WATE

WATE also offers views of Pigeon Forge from their towercam, which is a great way to check current weather conditions of the area.

View the WATE webcam

17. WonderWorks Pigeon Forge

The WonderWorks webcam is a view of their building and its parking lot. So, if you’re considering a day at WonderWorks, the WonderWorks webcam can offer some insight to how crowded it might be.

View the WonderWorks webcam

What’s your favorite live view of the Great Smoky Mountains and Sevier County? Let us know in the comments!

Courtesy of the Smokies.com

Attractions, Gatlinburg, Great Smoky Mountains

Skylift Park Scenic Trail

North America’s longest pedestrian simple suspension bridge nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains also has a new scenic trail.

The Gatlinburg SkyTrail is a scenic walkway that will connect each end of the SkyBridge along Corockett Mountain. The trail will provide guests the opportunity to take a leisurely walk in the mountains along the half-elevated boardwalk, half paved walking path while enjoying new views of the famous SkyBridge. At just over one-third of a mile in length, the SkyTrail is an enjoyable walk for adults, kids, and even dogs and offer three distinct sections.

The Boardwalk is an elevated wooden walkway leading from the SkyDeck back along the hillside of the ravine that cuts under the SkyBridge.  Along the way, interactive signage provides information about the engineering of the SkyBridge, the history of iconic Gatlinburg SkyLift, and the wildfires of 2016 that swept across Crockett Mountain where the SkyTrail stands today.

The Lookout will is a steel tower set in the back of the ravine accessed by rope bridges and featuring elevated viewing platforms

At 680 feet across and 150 feet high, the Gatlinburg Skybridge is the only attraction in the downtown area where you can see the three highest peaks in the Smokies: Clingman’s Dome, Mount Le Conte and Mount Guyot.

The bridge may look bold at first, but when walking at a “normal pace” it takes only 3 minutes to get from one end to the other. However, visitors will no doubt want to stop along the way to take in that fresh mountain air an epic view.