Skylight Cave – or not, Tri State Peak and the Cumberland Gap

October 17, 2012

Frog Hunter makes his photographic debut

This morning we again woke up to a cool 42 degrees. We were on the way to getting going when the 12v outlets in the car stopped working. After a call to Mountain Man to locate the secondary fuse panel, I had to use steal a fuse from the AC but since it hasn’t worked since we left it wasn’t an issue and we were good to go. I was glad it was an easy fix as I rely heavily on the outlets to charge both phones, the camera battery and the lantern which is our sole light source after dark. Without that I would have had to factor in charging time directly off the car battery with the inverter every day. I don’t know if the fuse had anything to do with the small inverter catching fire but I’m keeping an eye on it for sure.

We took a ride into town to pick up some spare fuses just in case, some diapers and to take a swing into the Salvation Army. After a pass by we decided not to stop in the section of town with the Salvation Army, we’d already tried Goodwill with no luck so it looks like we will be making do with just the warm clothes we have. The laundrymat is in a sketchy area of town so I was hoping to avoid another visit by hitting the thrift stores but I think I’ll be handwashing the necessary items for a few days.

After the errands we decided to drive down to the memorial of James Boone. The oldest son of Daniel Boone, James was part of a small party following behind an expedition led by his father when Indians attacked and killed all but two of the travelers in the dawn hours as the party slept. I noticed the date of Oct. 10 and realized we were here exactly a week past the anniversary of the attack.

CW L: The memorial to the Indian ambush of James Boone and his party; The Cumberland Gap; “Daniel Boone’s road to North Carolina”

After our visit to the memorial we parked and headed up to Skylight Cave, we wanted to do the Gap Cave but children under 5 are not permitted at all and older children must be accompanied by an adult during the tour; I can’t do both at the same time. We reached the first fork in the trail when we found the sign alerting us Skylight Cave was closed due to White Nose Syndrome. We were disappointed not to see the cave and concerned with the disease that is killing large amounts of the beneficial bats across the country.

L to R: After all that, the cave is closed!; Young Rebel has low patience for the backpack, “I’m not going back and you can’t make me!”

After our failed hike to Skylight Cave we decided to check out some of the sites in Cumberland Gap itself. We started with Iron Furnace in the town of Cumberland Cap TN, the remains of an iron smelting industry based on the iron ore mined from the surrounding mountains. We made this our first stop on our afternoon of hiking. We continued up the Wilderness Trail, following in the footsteps of Daniel Boone. We learned how the Indians would use paths above the trail and ambush the explorers and pioneers, we remarked on the second and successful trip Boone took on this trail bringing his wife Rebecca who was 6 months pregnant at the time; his family and a few other pioneer families looking to reach fertile land in Kentucky. Halfway up we reached the Saddle of the Gap itself, the mountain range extends from New England to Alabama creating an effective wall separating the settlers from a new world beyond the eastern coast. During the time of the Revolutionary War when the eastern part of the country was becoming heavily populated those seeking a new frontier and liberty had no reliable pathway west. After the Cumberland Gap was discovered and partially explored by Thomas Walker and later Boone, the Gap became what was known as the “Gateway to the West” moving hundreds of thousands of pioneers to new homes and new adventures in what were Indian lands. The Gap is a natural break in the mountains first used by deer, buffalo and migrating animals. Although the climb is still steep and in some places quite difficult it provided one of the few reliable trails over the treacherous mountains.

CW L: Tri-State Peak Trail; Young Rebel reads about blowing up the Civil War Munitions Cave (in background); battle wounds – hiking is dangerous work!

After reaching the Saddle we took the pathway leading up to the Tri-State Peak, this peak which we had seen yesterday from Pinnacle Overlook is the exact spot where the states of Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia all meet. We spent some time taking pictures, enjoying the view and taking a breather from the steep climb. On the way back down we watched a young deer and a doe cross the road and hang out for a bit right at the Gap, this thrilled Monkey Do who had reminded everyone to be quite for a good part of the walk hoping to spot a deer in the woods, he was hoping so much to see one and seeing it right at the Gap couldn’t have been more perfect.

CW L: 2 deer in the Saddle of the Gap; Young Rebel points to where we drove earlier, the tunnel that takes the cars under the mountains; The kids standing where the Indians would watch and ambush settlers

After returning to camp we were cleaning up dinner when two of the kids came running into the tent to tell me they’d seen a skunk in the woods. The campers next door went with lights to check it out and verified a well fed skunk was just a few feet from my tent. Young Rebel got fed up waiting for the skunk to leave after it checked out my groceries, my car and most of the campsite, he went back to the dish cleanup and spent the next hour shooing the skunk out from under his feet as he tried to wash dishes and do camp cleaning.  Later in the early morning when it began raining and we jumped up to add the rain fly we realized the skunk was still hanging out.

CW L: The railroad tunnel under the Gap; Young Rebel carries Little Ladybug as they disappear from view on the trail; SKUNK!!

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