Monday, Labor Day, was in the area of Cumberland Gap Nat'l Historical Park
I started at Cumberland Gap Nat'l Historical Park, with a reservation for
the 10AM ranger-led tour of the Gap Cave.
There's a short hike to the entrance of the cave.
This is along a corridor that used to be the roadway of US Highway 25E
until 1995 when the Cumberland Gap Tunnel opened.
Since then, the National Park Service has worked to restore Cumberland Gap
to the appearance it would have had in historical times before the highway
went over it.
Cumberland Gap is of historic significance as one of the three places the early
American colonists could get through the Appalachian Mountains to the west.
Hundreds of thousands of settlers passed through it in the
late 1700's and early 1800's.
Cumberland Gap is within half a mile of the tri-state border point of
Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee. The KY/VA border crosses the gap itself.
I knew I was near the state lines all the time.
When I looked at the map afterward, I found out that I had been crossing
back and forth across state lines all morning even more often than I thought.
The tour of Gap Cave was a lot of fun. I highly recommend it.
There are a lot of fascinating and elaborate cave formations with
stalactites, stalagmites, columns and curtains.
There's a creek several levels below where the public tours go.
But it's visible far below from one vantage point.
There are also a lot of signs of abuse the cave got before the
Everywhere there are stalactites which are broken, indicating people
took souvenirs home.
It takes 150 years to grow each inch of these formations.
So the rangers train everyone before even starting on the need
to avoid touching anything but the provided railways.
There's also some graffiti from 1900's locals but also as far back
as Civil War soldiers.
The rangers pointed out the name drawn with a candle's flame which they
recognized as the name of the Union Colonel who captured the gap from
the Confederates. Well, that was from the second time the Union captured it.
Cumberland Gap changed hands several times during the war.
After the cave tour, I drove up to Pinnacle Overlook. I got pictures of
Civil War earthworks and canons as well as the Gap itself.
There's a nice view.
I think I'm spoiled coming from California where we have the terrain for
spectacular views. But I can see how this would have stunned people who
weren't used to that.
Since it's all green out there
the view from Pinnacle Overlook is nice all on its own.
US Highway 25E introduced the car-driving public to the history of
Cumberland Gap and attracted people to see these views.
And undoubtedly settlers before them must have stopped to appreciate it too.
In the afternoon, I headed into the town of Middlesboro.
(There's no travel involved there - the National Park visitor center is
I had started exploration of the Middlesboro Crater the evening before.
Now I had the afternoon to finish.
I also stopped by the Middlesboro Airport.
This is the place where the P-38 Lightning (WWII fighter)
renamed "Glacier Girl" was restored to flying condition after being
recovered from the glacial ice of Greenland.
I saw Glacier Girl fly at Oshkosh in July.
This is extremely rare - for some years there were no P-38s still flying.
Now Glacier Girl is one of two.
There is a sign on the terminal building telling people that "the P-38"
isn't there any more.
(Obviously, it flew away.)
I talked with one of the local pilots.
He let me in to take pictures of an F-86 Sabre early Cold War jet on display.
Interestingly, when I mentioned that I'm a flight instructor
(either when he asked what I do or when I gave him my card),
he said Middlesboro needs one.
Talk about friendly - that was practically an invitation to move there.
I'll help spread the word for them.
For finding signs of the impact crater,
the scientific papers say the center is at the golf course.
They also say that one needs permission to explore, and that
it is only acceptable to take pictures, not take rocks.
OK, fair enough.
(Consider yourself informed that's the acceptable behavior.)
I asked permission and found the friendly people there are used to this
They directed me to the area near the club house where the rocks
in the ground are what I was looking for.
And that's where the papers said to look.
The rocks have "shatter cones", branching fractures which show the
rocks have been exposed to pressures beyond what any volcano can do,
and must have been in a meteor impact.
With that, I decided it was time to declare victory.
As the daylight was fading away, I continued to my overnight stop at
Lake City, Tennessee, a little outside of Knoxville.