An October trip to the Smokies was a mix of happy and sad. The government shutdown had closed our beloved Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Lisa Duff, center, with Walter, left, and me
One of our happy times was meeting Lisa Duff, marketing and membership director of the Great Smoky Mountain Association. Her colorful and well done e-newsletter and email updates keep association members, including Husband Walter and me, informed of news and opportunities related to the national park and ongoing projects that the non-profit Association funds for the park.
We met Lisa at one of the Association’s visitor centers that was outside the park and therefore not subject to the shutdown. Not so happy was the fact that the government shutdown closed all visitor centers inside park boundaries, laying off more than 40 Great Smoky Mountain Association employees who work the Association’s gift shops.
The closures coincided with the fall color season, the heaviest weeks of visitation during the entire year. It is also among the busiest gift shop sales weeks and fuels a significant income stream for the Association’s mission to preserve the park and to promote public understanding and appreciation through education, interpretation and research.
In addition to the visitor centers inside the park, other closures included our favorite picnic areas, beautiful Cades Cove, most other scenic park locations we like to visit, and Little River Road that is our usual route to the Cove and Townsend, Tennessee. The park was reopened about five days after we headed home, with official Association stores opening, too.
No regrets, though, about sticking with our original travel plans. We knew of the closures before we left home, and we arrived prepared to enjoy the many other opportunities to relax and explore in the region.