A Speed Date with Cades Cove

Old May 17th, 2020, 11:57 AM
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A Speed Date with Cades Cove

Travelers: Myself, DH, DD and DDog. DS has now decamped for quarantine in his field office location, so the nest is re-emptying.

Transportation and Amenities: My Swedish wagon, a picnic packed in the wayback.

Tennessee began its phased reopening on 24 April for 89 of its 95 counties; the remaining 6 counties, those with high coronavirus numbers, remained “shutdown” until 11 May. Most of our state parks opened on 24 April, too, and that is to where we have been escaping on weekends for hiking, sunshine, and forest bathing. The National Parks began their opening a week or so ago; and with our forecast temperatures expected near 90F today, we banked on a triumvirate: the early hour (we were driving in by 0830); the season (Spring, when Mama and Cubs are out); and the fact that animals across national parks became more active when the parks were closed and humans were not around in our fingers-crossed quest to spy the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s mascot, the American Black Bear.

“Cove” is Appalachian vernacular for a flat valley between two mountain ranges; the Cades Cove Loop Road is an 11-mile one-way driving tour along the former road of the 120-ish homesteaders who made the cove their home in from the 1830’s. There are quite a few trailheads from which to enjoy more of the beauty of nature, but because dogs are not permitted on the trails, we focused on the driving loop.




The road leading to the loop was quiet, the sun dappling the leaves and making us all quite satisfied that we were up and out of the door early. Early on the loop we met brake lights, certainly a sign of a SIGHTING! Indeed. In my excitement I hopped out of the wagon and did not grab my tripod; thankfully a most kind gentleman offered his shoulder upon which I could rest my lens. A “meh” first shot at the stretched end of the telephoto, but enough to excite us nonetheless.




Along this loop road are 17 points of interest; historic structures, trails and the like. No hiking on this outing (See, dogs not permitted); and we only visited structures that were accessible without a hike-in. Next time. We did, unfortunately, see too many fools taking their four-pawed with them on the hike-ins. They will ruin the park for the rest of us.

One structure is the Primitive Baptist Church, built by some of the earliest settlers to Cades Cove. From the Official Church Correspondence: “We…do show the public why we have not kept up our church meeting. It was on account of the Rebellion and we was Union people…”


The Visitor Center to the park remains closed, but it being at the half-way point made for a good spot for all of us to stretch our legs, while watching wild turkeys do their thing in the adjacent field and admiring the beauty around us. Approaching Tipton Place we were compelled to stop. Colonel Tipton served in the Mexican War; his homestead was among the “fanciest,” with multiple glass pane windows, several rooms; as well as a bee shed and cantilever barn on the acreage. A woman walking past informed us of a cub sighting just behind the barn, playing in the stream. We set forth to snap the teddy bear, but reversed course when she followed up with, “I didn’t see its Mama.”



Tipton Place is near the end of the driving loop. We were pretty excited with having spied, to this point, eight bears. Some were much easier to observe than snap, though we still counted them. And then. A serious car jam, the clue that SOMETHING was being sighted. DD and I hopped out of the wagon to walk ahead whilst DH rolled up the windows, lest DDog start baying his fool head off and scare off said SOMETHING.

Several candidates for Darwin Awards, and wearing inappropriate outdoor footwear were clustered around a spot along the road, dangerously close with their iPhones. DD spotted the ears first. A Mama Bear! And waaayyyy too close for comfort for us. We hot-footed it back to the wagon.

As we made our way forward in the vehicle Mama Bear came ever closer to the road, at one point being about 6 meters away. Safely ensconced and from my window, I snapped away. Isn’t she beautiful?



Coming down from our bear-sighting high we left the Cades Cove loop and pulled into the picnic area. An adjacent stream offered DDog cooling refreshment while we noshed on our lunch, watching the stalled queue of visitors to enter the loop grow ever longer. Timing is everything, and we had the triumvirate. On our first visit.

Thank you for reading.
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Old May 17th, 2020, 01:31 PM
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Dogs are not allowed on trails to protect the dogs as much as anything from the wildlife.
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Old May 17th, 2020, 01:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Gretchen View Post
Dogs are not allowed on trails to protect the dogs as much as anything from the wildlife.
Yes, we understand the reasons and totally agree. Our fat old Foxhound is not exactly an apex predator; he just likes to come along with us on outings.

If you read my report, I applied sarcasm to those who were taking their four-pawed on the hike-ins to some of the historic sites. "They will ruin it for the rest of us who follow the rules."

Last edited by fourfortravel; May 17th, 2020 at 01:44 PM.
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Old May 17th, 2020, 02:03 PM
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Cove is unique to the Appalachians? I didn't know that. Maybe the word came over from Scotland or Ireland.

Glad to see the bears are out and fat. I grew up camping there and they were plentiul then. Too plentiful. They were encouraged, or at least not discouraged, from coming into campgrounds. I often see one near the Cherokee side of the park.
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Old May 17th, 2020, 02:23 PM
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Originally Posted by starrs View Post
Cove is unique to the Appalachians? I didn't know that. Maybe the word came over from Scotland or Ireland.

Glad to see the bears are out and fat. I grew up camping there and they were plentiul then. Too plentiful. They were encouraged, or at least not discouraged, from coming into campgrounds. I often see one near the Cherokee side of the park.
I am paraphrasing only from the literature we picked up at the entrance. If one believes the Internet, then, "Cove" is Germanic or maybe Middle English, but that does not preclude its use in the vernacular in the Smokies. We were thrilled, obvs, that the bears were out! Not so much that many visitors were not abiding by the rules, alas.
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Old May 17th, 2020, 03:39 PM
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No, it's used a lot in the Smokies. "Holler" too, but IMO a holler is more narrow than a cove. Just didn't realize "cove" was specific to the Appalachians.
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Old May 18th, 2020, 02:45 AM
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I just didn't understand the "ruin it for the rest of us". I DO despair when people don't follow the rules in a Park which are there for their own good.
When the weather gets a bit warmer that side of the Park is great for tubing on the river.
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Old May 20th, 2020, 01:43 PM
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Fourfortravel, we really enjoyed you photo report from Cades Cove! Over the years, we have spent many week-ends in the Smokies, mostly in early spring and fall, and love Cades Cove. (In the Mtns. of New Hampshire, we learned that a "cove" is a "gulch".) . We've seen our share of bears, but it's still exciting to encounter them (at a distance!) We've never posted a trip report, so we especially appreciate yours. Thanks!
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Old May 24th, 2020, 04:00 AM
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Thanks, Tom. Obviously we're planning to return and tour more thoroughly. The loop is open only to cyclists on two mornings each week, so DH is tuning the bicycles this weekend in anticipation of a return before the weather becomes too unsavory.
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Old May 25th, 2020, 11:42 AM
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Love Cade's Cove. One Spring we went there when it was raining early in the morning. The forecast was calling for rain most of the morning, however, it stopped early and we were the ONLY one we saw driving it. It was divine. We saw some beautiful scenery. We have been probably 10 times and it never gets old. Lovely pictures, thanks for sharing.
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