Great Smoky MountainsHappy birthday! The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is 75 years old this month and if you’ve never been, make this the year. For one thing, it’s free. It’s one of the few major national parks that doesn’t charge an entrance fee. For another thing, it’s breathtaking. From ancient mountain ridges that seem to unfold into infinity to the tiniest and most perfect wildflower, nature is giving you her best here — and it would be rude to refuse. The best part is that you can choose how natural you want to go: You can drive through the park and venture out of your car for a few minutes on paved and civilized paths that will invigorate and amaze you. Or, you can strap on the hiking boots and hoist the backpack and immerse yourself in nobody-for-miles wilderness. Your choice. And there’s even a middle-ground: Day hikes where you can start and end in civilization but still feel as if it’s just you and the trees and the pounding sparkling waterfall. Plus, there’s park gateway Gatlinbug, Tennessee — a tiny mountain village turned classic American tourist town where you can ski, buy stuffed black bears and Watch Candy Made By Hand! But, see, I even love all the tacky touristy stuff. It’s part of the experience. I first went to the Smokeis as a mere babe almost 50 years ago (yikes!) and it’s been one of my favorite places ever since. Check it out at