Going on Faith

Spring 2017

The Magazine for faith-based travel planners.

Issue link: http://digital.goingonfaith.com/i/798762

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Page 15 of 39

going on faith [ spring 2017 ] SMOKY MOUNTAINS BY S AVA N N A H O S B O U R N TENNESSEE'S A fter a man-made fire dev- astated the Great Smoky Mountains region last November, resulting in 14 deaths and over 1,000 damaged or destroyed structures, many people watching the repetitive news clips of burning trees and homes wondered if there was anything left to visit. But today, little evidence remains of the disaster, and the national park is growing back more vivid and beautiful than ever. When visitors drive along the winding stretch between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Tennessee, known as The Spur, they will see vibrant lime-green grass covering the adjacent slopes, which erosion experts planted using hydroseed- ing. With so much underbrush cleared by the fire, many locals expect to see wild- flowers this spring that have not appeared in the area for a long time. "The outpouring of support and dona- tions has been incredible," said Ami Johns, senior sales manager at the Courtyard by Marriott, who recalls seeing volunteers from California to Alaska flood into the hotel. "When I asked how long they wanted to stay, many of them said, 'as long as needed.'" With residential areas primarily affect- ed by the fire, all the beloved attractions and shops in downtown Gatlinburg still await visitors with open doors. This year, the 232,000-square-foot LeConte Event Center in Pigeon Forge will continue hosting some of the country's largest religious conferences. Located next to the river walk, this state-of-the-art facility features stunning woodwork and moun- tain themes to give attendees the impres- sion of relaxing in nature, even while indoors. Last October, the beautiful Courtyard by Marriott opened in Pigeon Forge, quickly becoming a favorite hotel choice for travelers from around the world. The indoor pool has retractable glass walls with views of the mountains and river; guests can also enjoy three fire pits and an on-site Starbucks. In Gatlinburg, the Park Vista hotel is perched on a big hill overlooking the lights in the city. It is one of the few hotels where every room has a view, and visitors can access the national park from the foot of the hotel driveway. As the region continues to rebuild and inspire travelers with breathtaking attractions, groups should be sure to stop by the following highlights. SNAP T R A V E L S H O T Courtesy Ober Gatlinburg Top: The Ober Gatlinburg aerial tram offers groups stunning views of the Tennessee Smoky Mountains. Bottom: The Old Mill in Pigeon Forge By Savannah Osbourn

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