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ADVENTURE 6b: Endure the Crowds (and meet A.J.) (Great Smoky Mountains NP & Andrew Johnson NHS)

Updated: Jun 15, 2022

Wednesday, 27 April 2022, Greenville TN and Great Smoky Mountains NP

Which President had this popular song composed, honoring him?

"If you want the girls to love you

To love you good and true

Come down to Andy's tailor shop

and get a long-tailed blue!"

If you replied, 'Andrew johnson', you win!

Last month I'd visited the U.S. Grant National Historic Site and learned the real backstory of that 'drunk and corrupt' president. Today I got the chance to discover the nuances in the story of his predecessor, who survived impeachment by a single vote.

Andrew Johnson NHS in Greenville TN honors the local boy made good. Born in North Carolina, he found himself apprenticed to a tailor at age 9 when his father died, leaving his family destitute. At 15 he ran away from that contract, eventually settling in Greenville and opening his own tailor shop. That original shop still stands, preserved inside a brick building built to protect it in the 1910s.

Exhibits in the hall detail his rise from political debates in his shop, to town alderman, to Senator, to Tennessee governor, all the way to US Vice President - and taking over after Lincoln's assassination.

He adhered to Lincoln's plans to bring the rebel states back into the Union, stressing leniency. However, a group known as the Radical Republicans controlled Congress, and they wanted to exact revenge. They passed laws placing military governments over the southern states. Johnson, claiming the Constitution gave the states' the right to choose their leaders, vetoed those bills, but Congress overrode him.

Eventually Congress passed (and overrode his veto on) a bill banning Johnson from dismissing any of his Cabinet members - people appointed by Lincoln. When he did so anyway, they impeached him. Not only did they end up one vote short (an outcome in doubt until the end), but the Supreme Court vindicated him years later when they ruled that act unconstitutional.

His bad rap, then, was due largely to toxic politics. Though he lost in his bid to be re-nominated for President, he stayed in public life. In 1875, he became the only former President to serve in the Senate, again representing Tennessee.

After a short visit there, I moved on to Great Smoky Mountains NP. In Gatlinburg TN outside the park, wall-to-wall people lined the sidewalks, headed into trinket shops, and visited tourist traps - just like I remembered when we stopped there during our Litterwalk. I followed the traffic creeping through town and into the park - easy to see see that this park gets far more visitors then any other National Park in the country. At the Visitor Center, cars lined up waiting for a parking spot - on a weekday in April!

The ranger there, as expected, recommended a trip to Cades Cove, a collection of buildings and meadows from pre-park days when families called this area home. Of course, the throngs also headed there, slowing traffic on the twisty, 24-mile road to the cove. As I followed the sinuous road, I thought, The cove probably sees more visitors every day now than it saw in a year, pre-park.

When I finally reached the one-way loop road through the cove, I stopped to ask about the Abrams Falls trail. "That's five miles into the loop," she said. "It'll probably take you an hour to get there. Traffic is backed up right now, because someone spotted bears." (Given such traffic, no wonder the park closes that road to cars every Wednesday between May 5 and September 1, letting bicyclists and hikers enjoy it with worrying about cars to endanger them.)

She got the backup right. Traffic inched for a while, then flowed, then stopped.

I stopped at a pullout by an old church to take a photo: no reason to hurry here!

Luckily, I reached the trailhead after only 40 minutes.

Finally a chance to escape the crush of the crowds and stretch my legs - one more practice hike before tomorrow's main event.

I couldn't have ordered better weather for this five-mile (roundtrip) hike - sunny and around 70. The trail followed the creek, though it did climb over three saddles before reaching Abrams Falls.

Given my late start (nearly 3:00), I power-hiked the 2.5 miles in, but took a leisurely stroll back.

I returned to the car after 5:00, and continued to the heart of Cades Cove. The Visitor Center had closed for the day, but people still wandered about the preserved structures - homes, barns, a mill.

On the loop road, traffic still inched along, so I took my time and stopped at a few more pullouts, reading about the families of yore.

Finally, I headed off to Pigeon Forge to my hotel, to rest up for my headline event of the next two days: Leconte Lodge.

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