Labor Day at the park

A sweet medley of park programs illuminating Cumberland Gap as a legendary land will reach their crescendo during the Labor Day weekend. During a three day celebration – Aug. 31 to Sept. 2 — a unique mix of activities will open visitors’ eyes to the land, how it shapes the nature it nurtures, how it shapes us and how we shape the land.

Superintendent Sula Jacobs invites all to this fun filled and free event. She shares the 1792 journal entry penned by pioneer James Smith which serves as the weekend’s mantra.

“We started just as the sun began to gild the tops of the high mountains. We ascended Cumberland Mountain, from the top of which the bright luminary of day appeared to our view in all his rising glory; the mists dispersed and the floating clouds hastened away at his appearing. This is the famous Cumberland Gap…”

The apex of the celebration will be the opportunity to explore CaveSim, the world’s only cave simulator built in the back of a semi-trailer. Throughout the three days, young and old alike will be able to sandwich themselves between and perform twister like gyrations amongst artificial cave formations and cave creatures as they maneuver through CaveSim.

The fabricated cave is perfect for those not wanting to go underground. A 12-foot tall A-frame tower will also allow youngsters to experience vertical caving techniques and have a better grasp on physics. CaveSim will be located in the lower level of the visitor center parking area; Friday hours are 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. while Saturday and Sunday hours are 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

“Batty about Bats” will be another highlight of the weekend, being offered on Saturday evening at 7:30 p.m. at the Bartlett Park picnic area. Visitors “can fly” into this night which will be packed with cool games and activities. Anabat detectors will allow bat chirps to be heard. Night vision goggles will allow visitors to better see bats as they swoop through the air.

Carved deep within the park’s karst topography are almost 40 caves, including Gap Cave, which provides drinking water for many local residents. Using a groundwater model, Dr. Terri Brown of Lincoln Memorial University, who is also a member of the Cave Research Foundation, and students in her chemistry and physics classes will “fluidly” demonstrate how our actions affect ground water – and ultimately the water which we drink.

The unveiling of a virtual tour of Gap Cave is in perfect harmony with this weekend. In the making for a year, this armchair visit will allow everyone to see the beauty of and understand the dynamics of Gap Cave. Just a couple of clicks on the park’s web site and visitors are on their way into the cave. Interviews with members of the Cave Research Foundation and park staff will help all see the cave in a new way.

While Cumberland Gap is known for its karst topography, other mineral resources in the area began capturing attentions in the late 1800s. Harvard University professors and students gathered at Camp Harvard which was located at the present day Fort McCook parking area. On Saturday, from 11 am – 1 pm, visitors will be able to chat with several of these “rockhounds.”

Lincoln Memorial University mammalogy students under the tutelage of Dr. LaRoy Brandt will be using skins and skulls to showcase the diverse animals which thrive in the park, one of the most biologically rich and diverse ecosystems found in the eastern United States.

Additional program offerings throughout the weekend composition will accentuate Cumberland Gap as a legendary land. For a complete listing of the weekend events, please call 606-246-1075 or request via cuga_interpretation@nps.gov.

CaveSim is made possible through a generous donation from park partner Eastern National. Eastern National and the Friends of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park have also generously supported other activities throughout the weekend. Eastern National supports the interpretive and educational mission of the National Park Service; learn more by visiting www.easternnational.org. For more information on the Friends of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park and how to become involved, find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/friendsofcumberlandgap.