A Whole New Jam

Have you ever been in a jam? A bear jam, that is.

Me either, until Monday morning. John and I headed to Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains in hopes of catching a glimpse of one of the black bears that call that area home. This is an 11-mile paved loop that you can drive, bike, or walk through during park hours. 

About a year ago, we took this drive, and while we didn’t see any bears, we did see the beautiful scenery and figured it was worth a trip back, bears or not. Within a few minutes of getting out of the car this time, we heard the chatter of people having seen a mama bear and her cubs. Needless to say, I did a poor job of containing my squealing excitement. After about an hour at the park, we saw what is known as a bear jam. It’s a fun way to say, many cars are backed up due to bear being in view and everyone stopping to get a look. 

On Monday, not only did about 25 cars stop, one woman even abandoned her car in the line to see the mama bear. (In case you are wondering, leaving your vehicle in the road to go see a bear is frowned up even in a park.) Bear sightings are highly monitored by park volunteers to ensure the bear’s safety, which by extension, keeps everyone else safe as well. When the mama bear came down to the road, she was more curious than anything. She wasn’t scared or aggressive. The volunteers simply bounced their bikes on their tires and hollered for her to get back to the woods. 

While it seems as close as we were to her that it was a tense situation, yet it really was not. It was exhilarating. I have never seen a bear in the wild. She scampered back into the woods to her cubs nearly as quickly as she had stumbled her way onto the paved trail. Everyone watching and waiting was left with a sense of awe. All I could think was, “We just saw a wild black bear!!!”

We continued on the loop, fully satisfied with our tour, yet it did not disappoint from there. The fall colors were already on display, and the sun was high and bright. Before long, we came to another slowdown. This doesn’t always mean another bear sighting, but on this lucky day, it did. John spotted another mama bear and her three cubs scampering across a field. They were much further from us this time, and soon they were disappearing into the wild grasses.

In about 2 hours, we saw 2 mama bears and 4 of their babies. 

There is a feeling you get when you encounter nature in its element. When it is just as it should be. It’s the sense that you have witnessed something magical, and by pure luck and happenstance, you were gifted with the moment. 

As we exited the park that day, still sticky with bear jam adrenaline, we passed a coyote just trotting along the side of the road. I think Mother Nature was showing off at that point, like, “yeah, we’ve got coyote too. No big deal!”

Sunshine & Sarcasm,
Lowi & G

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