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Fresh Air and Asphalt

All roads lead home in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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The afternoon sun hangs low over the Foothills Parkway, a national roadway that runs on the ridges of Tennessee Valley and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Turning onto it from U.S. 129, there are wildflowers and trees lining a tributary that eventually leads to Little Tennessee River. For almost seventeen miles along Chilhowee Mountain, roadside look-outs provide stunning views of valleys on both sides as well as the opportunity to leaf-peep, birdwatch, or just lounge on a fold-up chair with a cooler of beer. At the parkway's terminus, there’s the option to drive towards Knoxville or venture inside the park.

On Laurel Creek Road, motels and gas stations give way to canopies of trees and families playing in the river. Everything comes into focus: The chirping of crickets, rippling of streams, and the forging of new paths into the unknown, even in the country’s most visited national park. As the sun sets, the other side of the road backs up with drivers slowly winding their way out of the park once more.

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