Anyway, we had a few days of flip-flopping because of the terrible fires in Gatlinburg last week. It was hard to believe the magnitude: 14 dead, more than 100 injured, something like 14,000 displaced, and about 1,700 buildings destroyed. Then it was hard to accept that driving into the aftermath wasn't a good idea. We were thoroughly looking forward to some winter hiking and holiday festivities downtown (not to mention the aquarium!).
While we were trying to decide, it was particularly concerning that most of the touristy websites and the information we received from our resort said absolutely nothing about the fact a disaster was taking place. Even the lively person we spoke to assured us that the resort was open and the surrounding area wasn't affected by the fire, although they had experienced some wind damage from the 75+ m.p.h. winds that came through.
It was decidedly weird to receive cheery "we're looking forward to your visit" e-mails when the pictures we were seeing were of buildings consumed by flames and people having just enough time to jump into their cars and drive down a burning mountainside to safety. Or, sad to say, not having enough time to do that.
|The view from the resort, via the Integrity Clubhouse Facebook page|
In the end we decided that even if the resort was undamaged, it felt selfish and wrong to drive into the recovery effort in search of a good vacation.
We'll go back early next year to support the area with our tourist dollars. Meanwhile, Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies asks for letters of support while they remain closed; I'm happy to let them know I'll see the sharks and penguins and poison dart frogs another time, and to make a donation to help the community recover. Being disappointed about a vacation is nothing compared with what they're going through.