August 22, 2013 by Dr. G
For the past several days, I was able to explore the wonders of one of our country’s natural national parks, the Great Smoky Mountains. This was a planned vacation that I was looking forward to for a long time. Each year, my husband and I visit a different national park, ideally one that neither of us have been to before. I had spent a very brief amount of time in the Great Smoky Mountains when I was an undergraduate student on a geology fieldtrip, and I knew this was one of those sites I wanted to get back to again.
I know Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited of all the national parks in the United States, and I can certainly see why. Although we traveled to the park in August, I can only image how much more spectacular the park is when the fall foliage is at its peak in October. Although this was a vacation that involved lots of hiking and wildlife viewing (including wild turkeys, deer, and black bear), I was also collecting as much as I could in the way of geology and history of the park. I am hoping when I return from sabbatical I can teach a new course currently going through approval at Penn State, a course on sustainability and global national parks. Great Smoky Mountains will make for a great case study in the course, especially as it is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List and the Man and the Biosphere Programme.
One part I found fascinating about this park was how the local people were the ones that came together to protect the landscape from major deforestation efforts, that both the states of Tennessee and North Carolina came together and purchased 520,000 acres of private lands (at a cost of $12 million, with $5 million donated by J.D. Rockerfeller, Jr.) to not only establish this region as a national park, but established that the park would always remain free for everyone to access, forever. Talk about civic engagement and grassroots efforts!
These are the kind of “working” vacations I certainly don’t mind!