Bear Scat at Cumberland Gap

Bear Scat at Cumberland Gap TN

Two weeks ago, on October 25th, Jim and I decided to take a short 3-4 mile hike at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park (on the Cumberland Gap TN town side, not the Middlesboro KY side).  It is one of our favorite places to go because it is only 45 minutes from Sharps Chapel, has a lot of variety in terms of hiking options, and we always like to stop at Gap Creek Coffee Shop for a coffee before or after.

On this particular hike, we started at the Boone trailhead and walked east and picked up the Colson Trail.  On both trails, we saw bear scat!  There was no denying what it was.  The diameter was a good 2 1/2″ and had seeds all throughout it.  The first sighting was less than a half mile from the National Park parking lot.  The second sighting was closer to the park’s campground.  It seemed older as it was not as “well defined” in structure as the first sample.  Needless to say, we were more alert after that and it was always a relief to see another hiker coming over the crest instead of a bear.

In doing a little research, I have learned that bears choose a denning site with the coming of cold weather. Dens are usually hollow stumps, tree cavities, or wherever there is shelter.  Bears in the Smokies are unusual in that they often den high above the ground in standing hollow trees.

I told a friend about seeing bear scat and she said that she avoids bears by hiking in the winter.  I hated to break it to her, but bears around here do not literally hibernate like the ones in colder climates do. They “den up” for a short period of time, but they do not technically hibernate. That said, you rarely see them past November until usually March or so. The moms and cubs stay in the dens until the cubs are of decent size.  They may leave the den for short periods if disturbed or during brief warming trends.  So, they could be out and about any time throughout the winter.

I do remember a hike a few years back to Sand Cave in January where we saw a holly tree that had been decimated — all its leaves were on the ground, as if something big was eating its berries.  I am sure it was visited by a bear.

I wouldn’t let this deter you from taking this trail. We certainly plan on going back. It is a very nice trail that actually follows the original Cumberland Gap path that Daniel Boone took when he lead travelers over the Gap. There are some places where you can still see the black top from where an asphalt highway went over the Gap before they put in the tunnel and restored the original route to its natural state.

Jim gets the prize for spotting some interesting things on this hike. He found a really pretty leaf with concentric circles and better yet, he spotted something moving on a tree trunk that looked like lichen. Upon closer inspection it was an insect whose body camouflage perfectly mimicked the lichen on the tree on which it was living.

Life is an Adventure!

Cumberland Gap National Park

Blacktop Remnant of Old Road to Cumberland Gap

Jim on Boone Trail at Cumberland Gap

Jim on Boone Trail at Cumberland Gap

Bear Scat at Cumberland Gap

Mary on the Colson Trail

Bear Scat on Colson Trail at Cumberland Gap

Leaf with Concentric Circles

Insect that looks like a lichen