In honour of Thanksgiving, this week we’re travelling to the US and the state of Tennessee.
My other half has lived in the States twice – once in Tennessee and another in Connecticut. He also fondly remembers family trips to California and north of the border to Canada. All of which were supposedly native to bears, but he had never seen one.
Until 2011 when we made a road trip to Tennessee and visited the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, staying in the delightful yet rather odd, pseudo-alpine village of Pigeon Forge.
We decided to start the day with a drive up to Clingman’s Dome, which at 6,643ft is the highest point in the park.
This was a bit of an error in all honesty as it was above the cloud line and so misty we couldn’t see anything. So we headed back down the mountain.
Winding down the quiet hilly road, Ian suddenly hit the breaks as we saw a large black bear jump down off the road and into the forest below, followed by what we can only assume was its offspring. Ian was delighted. Misty-eyed himself he muttered: “We saw a bear.”
Returning beneath the clouds we then headed along the Cades Cove loop road, a hiking or driving route which takes in a lot of the park’s historic buildings, including houses, churches and a working grist mill from settlers past.
And then we hit a traffic jam, which seemed a little odd in a national park.
Pulling over and a looking a little closer we realised that the park rangers had stopped all vehicles and when queried as to why, just pointed to a tree about 50m away.
Apparently the area had seen some unseasonable weather that year and, it being autumn, much of the wildlife was not being as shy as usual in a bid to find food before hibernating.
So not only was the bear rather nonplussed about the various visitors that had gathered to watch him in the tree, he then climbed down, strolled across the field, through the parked cars and into a tree on the other side of the road.
And that was the time we saw a bear.
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