I remember the fiasco when they implemented an ill-devised plan for thru-hikers to make advanced reservations for shelter space during the Knoxville World Fair because someone thought the backcountry would be overrun with World Fair visitors. It didn't happen of course. The only result was a bunch of needlessly frustrated thru-hikers.
Such ill-conceived policies didn't work then and certainly won't work today. And to think we are paying these 'outdoor recreation specialists' a salary to come up with these ideas. It goes to prove that I'd rather be a professional amateur than an amateur professional.
And, wouldn't it be bold and principled if the ATC/NPS in Harpers Ferry, threatened to pull the AT out of the Smokies and put it on the Mountains-to-the-Sea Trail (connecting it from Mt. Mitchell to the Roan Highlands) to have one less National Park to deal with? At least the PATC has had a 'common sense' influence on the Shenandoah National Park bureaucrats.
In the meantime, here is how I will flow, as a migratory animal and as a pilgrim, through the GSNP on the sacred footpath (regardless of rules, regulations and fees):
1) sleep in bathroom at Fontana Dam (inclement weather); atop the visitor center roof (nice weather)
2) anywhere I want to sleep between Fontana Dam and Clingmans Dome
3) Clingman Dome tower (good weather); Clingman Dome bathrooms (inclement weather)
4) Newfound Gap - near parking lot; Newfound Gap bathrooms (inclement weather/heated in the winter)
5) Gatlinburg - miniature golf courses (good weather) hotel lounges behind sofas (inclement weather)
6) anywhere I want to sleep between Newfound Gap and Davenport Gap
As Whitman sort of said, "Afoot and lighthearted, I travel the open trail. Healthy, free, the world before me. The long brown path leading wherever I choose."
Happy free trails!