3 Heartwarming Smoky Mountain News Stories You Have to See

great smoky mountains national park

While watching the news can often be a downer, there are lots of great things happening right here in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains! When we saw the following news stories on TV, we knew that they were simply too good not to post about. To help you get in the mood for your next vacation, Hearthside Cabin Rentals is sharing three heartwarming Smoky Mountain news stories from the last few weeks.

1. 11-Year-Old Girl Discovers 475-Million-Year-Old Fossil

East Tennessee Girl Finds 475 Million-Year-Old Fossil

An East Tennessee youngster's discovery turned out to be an artifact of a time gone by. Ryleigh Taylor, 11, spotted a 475-million-year-old fossil when she was walking along the shore of Douglas Lake.Full WATE 6 On Your Side Story: https://bit.ly/2w7JxmF

Posted by WATE Amanda Ketchledge on Thursday, May 3, 2018


11-year-old Ryleigh Taylor was walking along the shore of Douglas Lake, a popular boating and fishing destination in the Smokies, when she spotted what she initially assumed to be a rock with strange markings. Upon further inspection, Ryleigh was convinced that she had found a fossil, since the stone had a deep imprint, as if something was embedded within the rock.

At Ryleigh’s insistence, her mother reached out to Colin Sumrall, an associate professor of paleobiology at the University of Tennessee. After examining the rock, Sumrall confirmed Ryleigh’s hunch; she had found a 475-million-year-old fossil!

The fossil was the exoskeleton of a trilobite, a horseshoe crab-like creature that lived in the Smoky Mountains during the Paleozoic era. Trilobites lived on Earth for 270 million years before suffering a mass extinction around 252 million years ago.

According to Professor Sumrall, the fossil Ryleigh found is quite rare. Typically, when trilobites shed their exoskeletons, they would crumble into hundreds of pieces. A completely intact exoskeleton fossil is an impressive find!

Ryleigh plans to donate the fossil she uncovered to a public museum so everyone can enjoy her discovery. Professor Sumrall sees a bright future for Ryleigh, telling local news station WATE, “To find something like that, it could spark this youngster into a whole career. Maybe she’ll become a great paleontologist one day.”

2. Man with Autism Hikes Every Trail in the Smoky Mountains

Another one of our favorite Smoky Mountain news stories comes from WBIR. The NBC affiliate profiled Garan Moore, a 25-year-old man who recently became the first person with autism to hike all 900 miles of trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Garan originally got into hiking in order to lose weight. In 2012, Garan visited Dollywood, but he was too heavy to ride the roller coasters at the theme park. This heartbreaking experience was a wakeup call for Garan’s mother, Theresa, who decided that her son needed a new activity to help him slim down.

Soon after their disappointing trip to Dollywood, Garan and his mother started taking hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. For the past six years, the Moores have hit the trails nearly every week. By the end of April 2018, Garan had lost 80 pounds and hiked a total of 1,723 miles! Garan recently returned to Dollywood and was able to ride all of the coasters at the park.

Theresa told WBIR that she and Garan now share so many wonderful memories from hiking in the Smokies. She also added that Garan is her hero because he “just keeps going.”

3. Dolly Parton Makes Surprise Visit to the Senior Center in Sevierville

Visitors to Sevierville’s senior center got the surprise of a lifetime on May 7, 2018, when the Queen of Country Music stopped by to make a big announcement! Dolly Parton was in town to rededicate the facility as the My People Senior Activity Center, in honor of her late parents Robert and Avie Lee Parton. As Dolly explained, she has long used the phrase “my people” to refer to her family and friends, and she considers everyone in the Smoky Mountains to be “her people.”

In addition to speaking at the dedication ceremony, Dolly visited a number of classes offered at the senior center and chatted with participants. During a senior aerobics class, Dolly stepped right up on the teacher’s platform and started dancing and lifting weights!

Dolly’s signature sense of humor was on full display during her visit. Parton, who is 72, quipped, “When I was over in Sevier County High School, I couldn’t wait to be a senior, and now that I’m in my second childhood, I’m a senior again.” Dolly also joked about running into one of her old boyfriends from high school, “He said ‘Dolly, you look like a million dollars.’ I said, ‘Well, thank you. That’s just how much it cost to make me look like this.’”

Where to Stay in the Smoky Mountains

When you stay with Hearthside Cabin Rentals, you will have the perfect home base for enjoying a spectacular vacation in the Smoky Mountains. With everything from 1 bedroom cabins to 18 bedroom lodges, we are sure to have the perfect property for your escape. To start planning your getaway, browse our selection of cabins in the Smoky Mountains!

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