I just got back from a trip to the Great Smokies with my family yesterday, and we rented a cabin in the town of Townsend, Tennessee, about 20 miles from Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Townsend was the production home of the "Christy" television series (we knew this before we went), and we asked around the town where we could find the filming location (Hint: don't ask for directions to the site at the visitor's center...they won't tell you!), and a person who owns a cavern business gave us directions, and we found it very easily about two miles off of the main highway to Pigeon Forge. The first thing we saw was the "El Pano" Blacksmith barn, which is the most obvious remnant of the filming days. A few hundred yards later we found the schoolhouse behind some trees in a distant corn field (you can't actually drive up to the school or go near enough to any of the buildings to peek in...but it's still fun to enjoy them from the road!), and it was easy to get the "stock" shot of the school house from the road. The Mission House and another unknown large wooden building were all but hidden from sight, obscured by a large grove of pine trees (you could only see the roof of the mission house, and very little of the unknown building). After we turned around to exit the area (after snapping a few shots of the school and barn, of course), we noticed in the weeds just off the road the less obvious decaying Doctor's House, as well as another log house that was used in the "Sweetest Gift" episode (and likely others). Fairlight's cabin was not seen at all, but my family and I believe that the Doctor's cabin may have doubled as her cabin, with the cameras shooting from the back instead of the front. After seeing the site first hand, the great talents of the camera crew are more obvious than ever: the El Pano barn, the Doctor's House, and the log house were mere feet from the road...one poorly planned camera move, and the audience may have discovered these buildings weren't as remote as portrayed!
We also discovered one other building that was used in the show (albeit only in stock footage): the log house that Christy sees from the train when she is pulling into El Pano is located in the Cade's Cove region of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, about 10 miles away. You can tour this cabin, although it is vacant and badly vandalized (there were also bats sleeping in the rafters...lol!).
At the Townsend Visitor's Center (where, as I said, they will NOT tell you the directions to the filming location because it is on private property), you can find information about Del Rio and Chapel Hollow, the REAL El Pano and Cutter Gap, respectively. My family also took the time to drive the fifty odd miles to this site, but were sadly disappointed. Only the church remains, and it has been moved from it's original location. The 5 miles or so of dirt road from Del Rio to the Chapel Hollow mission is really not worth the trouble (and neither is the 50 mile drive to Del Rio)...the only thing you will find are a few signs that denote the respective locations of where the buildings once stood. Even though it IS interesting to know where the "REAL" story took place, once you see how narrow and tortuous the road is, you will KNOW that it isn't worth it...especially when there aren't even any historic details on the signs! We decided that this must have been a clever ruse of the Townsend Visitor's Center to throw "Christy" fans off of the trail to the TV location, and very little more than that.
Since I personally don't want to exploit the owners of the filming property, I will only give you one hint: Dunn's Hollow to the end.
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