East Falls Traveler: Down Yonder

UPDATE (October 2018)

Home for the Holidays

It took seven months and more than 2250 miles, but Michael finished hiking the Appalachian Trail. He marked the feat by posing on Mount Katahdin in northern Maine (a very loooooong way from where he started at Springer Mountain in Georgia). Jim and his wife Dana met him at the finish and were happy to provide good food, clean sheets, and other comforts from home. Congrats Michael and welcome home!

(Original post May 2018)

Slices owner and devoted dad Jim Williamson travels to the Smoky Mountains with his wife Dana to help their son conquer the Appalachian Trail (and sneak in some Gatlinburg nightlife)

It wasn’t all a tourist adventure for Jim Williamson (co-owner of Slices Pizza, with Jimmy Joyce) during his Tennessee travels last month – in fact, the idea to travel south began as a way to meet his son Michael during a break in the latter’s hike of the Appalachian Trail. Jim and his wife drove the 10 hours from Philly to meet their son near the Tennessee/North Carolina border. And what a reunion it was.

The Appalachian Trail

It was great to see Michael and his hiking buddies. We fed and re-supplied them, did their laundry, and gave them a chance to shower and sleep in real beds.” After six weeks of backcountry shelters and strenuous hiking, it must’ve felt like heaven, if only for a short while.

When Michael’s crew returned to the trail a day later, Jim could hardly believe it “the forecast was for multiple inches of snow with a low temperature of 15 degrees – oh to be young again!

What were some highlights of Jim’s trip? We had a few questions —

Where did you stop on your drive to Gatlinburg?

We powered right through. Timing was the key so we left Philadelphia at 3AM drove through the early morning and arrived in Gatlinburg at 1:30PM. We were meeting Michael at a specific time and place near the trail – we didn’t want to be late. My 10 year-old Prius required only one pit stop during the 600+ trip each way (my wife and I required a few more!)

Biggest surprise in Tennessee?

I was floored just how developed and happening the little town of Gatlinburg was! Hotels, convention center, Main Street packed with restaurants, activities, excursions, Dollywood, and much more.

Favorite moment?

Our favorite moment was meeting our son after he’d been 6 weeks hiking on the Trail. He was walking towards us with a 40-pound pack on his shoulders, a big bushy beard, grimy from head to toe — but a big broad smile on his face. He looked great!

Biggest challenge?

It definitely was hugging Michael when we first saw him. He was a little “gamey” after a few weeks without a shower, so it was hard not to wince. What parents do for our children!

Slice Pizza?

Did you hit any pizza places? How did they compare to Slices?

We passed a “Slice Pizza and Bakery” and had to try a slice, of course. No comparison!

Favorite food?

We had an authentic Tennessee bar-b-que complete with outside smokers that had your mouth watering before you even stepped inside. I had a brisket sandwich that was awesome!

Least favorite food or drink?

Moonshine bars/distilleries are everywhere, so we had to check one out. No matter how you dress it up, Tennessee moonshine tastes like lighter fluid to me.

What’s the one thing in Tennessee we could use more of in the Falls?  


Tips for first-timers visiting Tennessee?

Get outside of the car and explore the trails, the town, the mountains, the people. (More info here.)  So much to see and do and everyone we met could not have been nicer.

Gatlinburg at night. Photo courtesy of visitmysmokies.com.

Anything during your trip remind you of the Falls?

Gatlinburg is at an entry point to the Smoky Mountains and has beautiful rivers and creeks running right through town. Just like East Falls, the river is a focal point of the town with folks walking, fishing, and picnicking along its trails, canoeing and rafting in the water and restaurants overlooking its banks.

What’s on the top of your travel bucket list?

I’ve never been to California and would love to drive the Pacific Coast Highway, take a tour through Napa Valley, visit San Francisco, San Diego, and check out Hollywood – a couple more college tuitions to pay and we will be on our way!

What do you love most about travelling?

I love the planning, organizing, and researching a new place to try and get the most out of our stay. I like meeting new people, going to local restaurants and making it an adventure.

Five things you never travel without?

  1. My wife. 25 years, 3 kids, and still going strong!
  2. A good book. I am an early riser and nothing better than exploring a new town, getting a cup of coffee and doing some reading while watching the sun come up.
  3. My iPod. It helps me to fall asleep on a plane or in the car.
  4. Phillies or Eagles hat. Great conversation starter when far from home. Other Philadelphians come right over and say hello. Locals can see you’re from out of town and most are surprised that not all Philadelphians are the brash, cynical, mean spirited folks they hear about on TV.
  5. My journal. I always document our travels and try to include as much detail as possible – fun times, interesting people we met, unexpected experience, great dinners…It can be a blast recounting these diaries with our kids (years later) reminding them of their excitement and awe the first time in Disney World, or the thrill of skiing a Black Diamond trail in the White Mountains of New Hampshire or the incredible view of Central Park from the top of Rockefeller Center. More than pictures – it helps to capture the excitement of the moment and how it means something a little different to each one of us.

Welcome back Jim!

Slices Pizza
4249 Ridge Ave.

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