I remember as a child visiting the Great Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee. My family and I would spend hours driving around in the mountains, pulling over at the multiple viewing areas, taking pictures of the seemingly endless scenery. Sure, the towns around the mountains contained many touristy shops, restaurants, and family attractions, but it seemed like you could always go far enough into the mountains to escape this culture; you could always be transported back to nature just by driving (or even climbing) a few winding, curvy trails.
Now everything seems to have changed. Understandably, as travel becomes cheaper, the demand for lodging and attractions will increase, but at what cost? A trip to the mountains this past March revealed an alarming number of “private, mountainside cabins.” When my family and I were looking for a place to stay, there were at least thirty different “neighborhoods” full of cabins to rent, all within a few miles of one another. Not only were these neighborhoods full of cabins, but there were also many more developments in the works. These cabins, while convenient and comfortable, take away so much. As cabins are built, natural habitats and environments are destroyed. Animals and even some humans are driven away from the homes they have known for many years. Instead of taking a leisurely mountain drive to look at scenery, people now are driving around looking for their cabins.
Cabins are not the only things that have taken away from the mountains natural environment. Many hotels have now jumped on the trend of trying to build mountainside lodging to be provide a unique experience. When my brother and I were on an observation tower that gave us a view of one section of the mountains, we counted twelve different mountainside hotels that we could see, and there were probably more in other sections of the mountains that we could not see. The landscape and views of the mountains were ruined by seeing all of the hotels, dotted with rooftop pools and decks.
The loss of beautiful views and natural scenery is not the only price we pay for modernization. There were many points at the base of the mountains that were beginning to erode. It seems that in severe weather, it would be possible for a mudslide to come and wipe out the cabins, hotels, and other businesses that call the mountaintops home. I am a modern person who enjoys modern conveniences and comforts, but there is a point where we have gone too far. Is it worth losing huge sections of the Great Smoky Mountains, simply to build more chain motels? Are people really more interested in staying in cabins that wipe out chunks of mountainous forests? Unfortunately, based on my recent visit to the mountains, the answer looks to be yes.