Several years (ok, nearly a decade) ago, one of my former co-workers wrote a book that gave away the secret back way to Dollywood. That "back way" saved us hours of sitting in traffic when the kids were young, but now, suffice it to say that it’s been widened to four or six lanes, is dotted with mega shopping centers, and is now no good whatsoever as a shortcut to anywhere.
We spent the weekend camping in Pigeon Forge, but didn’t have to navigate the bumper-to-bumper mess — not on Friday morning, when HWTFM and I towed the camper up to look for a spot (Reservations? Who plans that far in advance??), nor on Friday evening when we returned to pick up the kids after school. We were foolish enough to venture out onto the Parkway once on Saturday, but opted for the bypass around Gatlinburg, negotiating only minor traffic headaches into the park.
Clingman’s Dome proved to be the ideal picnic spot for Saturday afternoon; it was raining in some places and sunny in others, but perched atop the state line we were above the weather — and the heat.
On Sunday, we stopped by Toobin ‘n Groovin to rent rafting tubes for the day, and spent the day on the river. Dog didn’t get a tube, but is quite the competent swimmer and proved more than able to keep up. At one point, he swam across a deep stretch pulling three tubes — HTWFM and the two youngest daughters.
For about $35, it was a full day’s fun. By evening, we all slept exceptionally well. It was a tough call to not drive back into Knoxville for Boomsday, but we ended up settling for watching it on TV.
So, the secret: it’s possible to get from Chapman Highway into the heart of Pigeon Forge without ever once venturing into the traffic snarls of Sevierville or Pigeon Forge. Yup, that sweet little back road took us right to the doorstep of our campground! Another branch of back roads leads to Wears Valley — beyond the congestion which peaks from Kroger back to the Parkway — whereupon there’s yet another back entrance into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Since I carefully recorded all the road names and landmarks, I could post the directions or even a map, but I still remember what happened to my shortcut of old once Randall’s book came out. So I won’t post it here or anywhere else. However, if anyone’s interested in making the trek with us on another fine Fall weekend, I’ll be glad to share with a select few, provided that you’re sworn to secrecy and will never, ever publish the directions or map.
We navigated Pigeon Forge and the Smokies over Labor Day weekend without the traffic. How much sweeter can it get?