I had a wonderful drive up, even if I did miss my family some of the time. I made it to the Oconaluftee Welcome Center at around 11:00, bought a T-shirt, and drove to Clingman's Dome--which was very, very busy. I made the whole walk to the observation tower (there are some pictures below), which is no mean feat for a guy in my shape. (I need to work on getting in better shape so I can do that walk with my kids someday, hopefully in two or three years.)
After that, I drove north through GSMNP to Gatlinburg, which was insanely busy. I had thought I might stop, but the number of cars and people and shops all crammed into a relatively small space filled me with anxiety, so I kept going towards Pigeon Forge.
Pigeon Forge was also busy, but is more stretched out and has a four-lane road, so it doesn't seem nearly as crowded. Still, I didn't stop anywhere except a place called Book Warehouse.
I did stop at the Books-A-Million in Seveirville, where I bought Robert A. Heinlein's The Star Beast, a novel I read thirty years ago and remember loving. I've been looking for it for a while, actually.
I spent the night at the Quality Inn in Clayton, Georgia, which is where I am right now as I type this. Since I need to check out in 20 minutes, I'll end here, with the addition of 15 pictures I took yesterday: