Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

A Bear Bonanza: My Last Visit in Cades Cove

Saturday August 18, 2018                                                                                Most Recent Posts:
Great Smoky Mountain National Park                                     Baskin Creek Falls and The Place of a Thousand Drips
Tennessee                                                                                                Can’t Get Enough of those Bears



Today turns out to be my last trip to Cades Cove before heading to Virginia.   The bears give me a seven star send off.

It’s a cloudy day as I park my car and walk down the loop road past the fields and barn.  The horses are no where to be seen.  It’s 7:30am.



I follow the road through the woods headed for the bear trees.


A group of women runners passes me as I head toward Sparks Lane.

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I turn left on Sparks Lane and find it gated.  Hmmm, that’s odd.  I put up my camera zoom and look down the road toward my destination tree near the stream.

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It seems bear #1 is cleaning up berries from a branch that was broken off the tree.  Perhaps he broke it.


He’s not a big bear.  Would he stil be called a cub?



From my zoom, I don’t see any more cherries on the branch but there are some on the road that he appears to be checking.  Since this is a very long distance for pictures or for watching, I leave him to it and return to walk further down the loop road.  There are two trees not too far away to check.

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Sure enough, when I get there, I burst out laghing.  Look at this big bear #2 weighing down the branch.  At least he won’t have far to fall if it breaks.

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I look more closely and it’s even funnier.  He’s hunkered down around the branch.  How in the world is he holding on?

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People are told to walk, not run, including their bikes.  He’s hanging pretty low in that tree.

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I can just barely see the tiny little black berries he is after on the ends of the twigs in his front paw.  I have to say I don’t get why they are willing to go to so much trouble for so little reward.  The berries aren’t that tasty at least to my palate.  I tried some last week when I was here and they were VERY tart with a huge seed.  Almost nothing but skin and seed.


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I had to include this picture of his cute little ears as “sitting” on the scrawny branch.


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He’s up there quite a while so there must be enough to keep him happy.  I just don’t see how the limb doesn’t break under his weight pulling it so far down.  He sure drew a croud of bikers.  Here’s a video of this “hanging bear”

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He’s finished here and headed back up toward the trunk.

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Peole are  not heeding the warnings to walk not ride or run as he moves up the limb.

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I thought he was heading for another area of the tree but he climbs down to the road.


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And heads across.

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Stopping traffic of course.

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He inspects some downed branches.

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Not much there so now what?

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Hmm, how to get to the tree beyond this fence seems to be the question.

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At this point he’s straddling the fence.  All of the fences in Cades Cove are wire.  None are barbed.  Many are broken by bears and by some people.  Replacing them is a nuisance for park staff.

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He’s stepped back outside the fence.  Perhaps he figured out that climbing further down the limb he was on wasn’t wise so he’s attempting to make a ground run at low hanging berries.  Here is a video of him eating.


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There must be a way over there.


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He did it so fast, I didn’t see how.  That’s what I get for watching through my camera.

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Holding on to the fence is good for balance.  Seems he’s thinking “I can smell them”.

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But to get them he’s got to use his paws.  How does he balance his heavy body?

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Heading back to the other side.

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A short video of the “audience” reaction to “the bear crosses the road”.  You just have to wonder.

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I think he’s very handsome.

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He’s looking up at the tree next to the one he was nearly hanging from on the road.  Considering it?

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But look what’s there already.  Bears #3 and #4.

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Based on the fact that they are so close together in the tree, I’m thinking they are related.  One is a small bear and the other larger.

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When you are little you have to hold on tight.

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Looks like a nice seat.

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Snacking away.

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Time to move on I guess.


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The little guy is watching.

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They are even closer together when I decide it’s time to move on.  I’ve been here watching these three for more than an hour.

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I look across the road and see Bear #5 coming through the field in front of the John Oliver Cabin.   I don’t don’t to see where he’s headed.  The morning is getting away from me.


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Bear #2 remains under the tree but now blocking the road.  Guess I’m not going anywhere just yet.

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Up in the tree, they are making some moves.

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Big bear decides that the way to get to the berries is to chew the branch below.  Glad I didn’t leave.  This is great to see.


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Working every angle.  Live action gnawing video.

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So what happens when you are chewing a branch you are sitting on?

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Pretty amazing!

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At this point bear #4 on the ground decides to head off  in a different direction and I do too.

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I walk  up the road to near the barn on my way back to the car.

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I find the horses in the field.

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This fella was rolling over and over on the grass.  I remember my horses doing this and it was always amazing to me that such big animals got themselves down to roll around.  My Appaloosa was over 1200 pounds.

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After some vigorous rolling back and forth he rights himself and is back up on his feet in no time.

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Part of the resident turkey flock is around as I walk by.  Glad to see them too before I go.  I know they are wild but this was a very domestic area of the park before its creation and they give the pasture that feel somehow.



Besides I really love their colors and feathers.  I am disappointed that in my entire two months here I never saw a Tom in display.  That is really something to see.



As I am almost to my car, I look down toward the barn and see a carriage being brought out.  I head down to take a look.

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I’m not sure if there are going to be rides some time today or not.  I didn’t get down to the spot before the man who had brought it out stepped away.  With 3 bench seats, this may qualify as a wagon but those are pretty fancy wheels.

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I decide I’m not quite ready to leave Cades Cove for the last time so I take the trail from the barn over to the back end of the loop road and think I’ll just finish the loop around to my car.


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I cross a pretty stream that runs through the valley

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Once the trail brings me to the road I’m again greeted by bikers and women runners. 

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And then, another bear, #6 for today.  Just standing right up there.  Who knew you could ride your bike right under a bear in Cades Cove.

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Turns out she’s on her way down.  To see how, watch this.

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She’s decided to hed across the road.  I’ve seen this before not very long ago.  Bikers stopped by bear and taking pictures.

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When I take this picture, I think she may be here for a long time given the number of those little black berries on the pavement.

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She moseys along to the other side of the road.

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She stops, turns around and heads back.

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I’m wondering why she’s abandonded the berries when I see this up in the tree.  Bear #7 is the smallest cub I’ve seen today.

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I’m a little concerned about these people so close.  Black Bears are really not dangerous unless they feel frightened, cornered or the need to protect their young.  She’s a young mother  Will she see so many people as a threat?  Glad I’m on the other side at a much farther distance.


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I guess this just seems like regular paparazzi behavior for the these royals.  But I sure wouldn’t take the chances these folks are.  If something happens, she’ll be blamed of course.  Luckily, she ignores them and heads back to a new tree.


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In a flash they are up the tree.

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Looks like a tree pruner in a bear suit..

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So cute!

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Pretty well camoflagued for a bear.  Look at that face.

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How do they do this?  The branch isn’t that wide.

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They make me laugh.  I have such a good time here watching them all.

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Last looks, and then I really do have to go.

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I decide not to take the road around as the cars have already started.  I head back to the creek.

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Walking along its side I’m treated to more of nature’s wonders.


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It’s very hard to say goodbye to a place I’ve visited so often and come to love.  If you want to see bears in the Great Smokies, Cades Cove is the place.  But you’ll have a much better chance if you get out of your car and walk.  Even biking won’t give you SEVEN BEARS in one day.   

Absolutely amazing!

My heart felt thanks to the Bears, Cades Cove and the Great Smoky Mountains.
I’m going to really miss you all.


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