CADES COVE BEAR SIGHTING
Although we travel to the Gatlinburg/ Pigeon Forge area on average of twice a year, it had been several years since we had driven out through the Cades Cove area. We used to drive out through every time we came down when the boys were young. They loved to hang out the windows and point and shout when they were the first to spot a deer or an elk. But in all of those trips we never did encounter a Cades Cove bear sighting.
For those of you who are not familiar with Cades Cove it is an isolated valley surrounded by the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. Once inhibited by a small group of mountain settler, now only a few of the small cabins they lived in and a church where they worshipped still exists.
It is an incredibly beautiful area with an eleven mile paved loop that circles the valley. Sight seers line bumper to bumper to get a first hand look at life from an earlier by-gone day and to possibly encounter a black bear sighting in the wild. On our last trip down we decided to take the loop and drive through Cades Cove once again.
Stuck in a stand still with four miles to go before we even entered the loop we were really debating if we had made the right decision. But since we were mere inches from the car in front and behind us we had no choice but to continue on. Eventually traffic began to move and we were once again enjoying a two mile per hour flow. About half way through the loop we were again at a stand still which can only mean one thing…wildlife sighting ahead.
People started climbing out of their vehicles to stretch cramped legs, get coolers out of trunks and scan the the area with binoculars. Suddenly to our left we spotted movement through the grass. An excited chatter began up and down the trail as people pointed and raised cameras in that direction. We noticed across the field a black blob – up and down – visible not visible. As it moved across the tall grass in front of the tree line the land dipped downward and led to a small dry creek bed. It was at that point we got our first glimpse of a full grown black bear in the wild.
He trotted along the tree line then down into the creek bed and followed it as it made an “L” turn straight toward the road we were on. As he came closer people scurried back into vehicles, grabbing coolers and cameras.
Directly in front of us was a small bridge and when the bear reached it he jogged up the bank and crossed the road right in front of our truck! I raised my camera and frantically began snapping away through the front windshield. He didn’t seem to be in any hurry – didn’t seem to mind being the center of attention – just kept his head up and sniffed the air as he headed across the road and on towards another line of trees before he disappeared from sight.
Almost, as if on cue, the second he disappeared a thunderous roar of cheers and clapping erupted along the road. I’m pretty sure we were cheering and clapping the loudest as we had been the lucky ones he had ran in front of giving us by far the best view.
We finished the loop – two miles an hour – but that didn’t matter. The sun was shining, it was cool outside and we had seen a black bear. Doesn’t get any better than that.
If you have never driven through Cades Cove I highly recommend you take the time to drive out through. It never fails to clear my head when I just need to escape into nature for a while. And who knows, maybe you will be lucky enough to have a Cades Cove black bear sighting of your own. I hope so!