Saturday, September 24, 2011



  • THE PEOPLE are grand.  The park is small and not overly crowded, so the staff all know and like each other and we are so cute, they know us around here too.  The folks we meet in town, along the bike trail and the volunteers in the park make us feel welcome.
  • THE CAMPGROUND, to quote the superintendent, is "five star."  Where else have you found a National Park with hot showers, electrical hookups and 3G coverage?
  • THE VISITORS CENTER is really well done with world class movies and modern dioramas.
  • THE SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS CRAFT GUILD has a shop in the visitors center –- best craftsmen in the area.
  • THE BUFFET at Pine Mountain State Park deserves a mention -- great food and a double portion of friendliness.
  • THE HISTORY. The whole course of the American expansion into the West depended on the path through the Cumberland Gap. The story of the Gap from Buffalo path to the Modern Tunnel built to restore the terrain to the wild state is what you come here to learn and the Park personnel make that story unfold.
  • THE SCENERY!!! is spectacular.  Long, STEEP ridges with outcrops of stone, heavily forested with a real variety of trees so that Fall will be mind blowing. 


We started from Gibson Station and headed East.  (To the West the Rail has been taken over by the highway and the trail now follows the highway right of way.) 2011_0924CUMBERLAND_GAP_20007
The path is fine gravel but well pocked with hoof prints. We pass under this faux covered bridge and sight beautiful farms on both sides.  All day we saw only two parties of horsewomen and two bikes.  The horsewomen were warm and welcoming, told us more detail about the area.
  At one point we stopped to read a sign about the2011_0924CUMBERLAND_GAP_20041 Wilderness road’s beginning as a buffalo path and looked up to see –– BUFFALO. They go all out for authenticity around here.

wilderness road bike trail

The best part of the day was yet to come…Wilderness Road State Park has Ranger Billy who reenacts the role of Joseph Miller, frontiersman and founder of Miller’s Station.  The story is well told in another fine film shown at the visitor center.  The reconstructed fort is regarded to be the Most authentic in America.
We feel we know “Joseph Miller” from the film and shake his hand just as Daniel Boone had. Billy walks us through the Gunsmith shop where they have just fashioned a 1775 rifle in a shop  with only a forge and a hand made rifling machine made of wood. He slips in and out of character discussing the trade in deer hides destined to be fashionable pants for British dandies.  He walks us through the blacksmith shop and tells us just how the “pigs” of iron were carried to this point on the wilderness road.  Then the best part of the story… Billy was hired in 1999 to “build this fort.”  After several years of research, he came on the site with: two oxen, two horses, a wagon load of eighteenth century foodstuffs, some bedding, a very few iron tools,and thirty willing reenactors.  Six months later they left having completed the most historically accurate fort in the Americas.

 “In the first two days we made our wooden tools –mallets, handles for the froe….."
hHeumbly and carefully answered all our questions, invited us back for the reenactment of the “raid” in the Spring and might have stayed into the evening  if they were not closing the park.  We left amazed at the vision of this one man and his mastery of this era, but even more  thankful for his gracious manner.  They said that the real Joseph Miller could be gentle with children and fight fiercely to build and defend his dreams. We thought  Billy too might share those traits.


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