Cumberland Gap

This is the kind of history we mostly forget and scramble what we remember. Like the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Cumberland Gap is something we learned about in school and vaguely remember. But, I had seen signs for it and put it on my list of places to see while we are here waiting for books. I asked Spence about it last week and he said he and Sharon made many drives to the Cumberland Gap when she was well enough. I invited him to come along with us and it happens to be his week of vacation.  He said he would call on the day he wanted to go. This was the day.

It was very impressive to see the gap in the mountains from a long distance away.  I probably would not have noticed without Spence in the back seat to point it out.  I was driving and did not take a picture.  This was the best representation I found to snatch off the web. This was a picture from during the Civil War.


We stopped atop Clinch Mountain at the Veteran’s Overlook.  A number of people had placed flowers, memorials, and trinkets there.

Veteran’s Overlook on Clinch Mountain

This is a bit of zoom on the view of Cherokee Lake.

Cherokee Lake from Veteran’s Overlook on Clinch Mountain

I did not take this picture either, got it off the web.  The road US25E does not follow exactly on the old Wilderness Road, but cuts through the mountain, preserving the historic mountain pass.

Entrance to Tunnel Under Cumberland Mountain

This small cabin sits outside the visitor center at the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.


Andy and Spence were getting information and chatting it up with the young lady behind the counter.


There is a small museum telling the history and significance of the gap. Dr. Thomas Walker was the first white man to explore, describe, and document the gap in 1750. Of course, animals made a path  and native Americans had traveled through for centuries before.

Daniel Boone, born in 1734 in Reading, Pennsylvania led a team of men to clear the Wilderness Road  through the gap in 1775. Then settlers streamed through the gap and into the Ohio Valley on the western side. Between 200.000 and 300,000 people crossed through the gap in the years from 1780 to 1810. Kentucky became the first state west of the Appalachian mountains in 1792.

This was an interesting exhibit in the museum.  It gives the price, in buckskins, for European goods bought by the Indians in 1716.


There was a fine movie in the museum with the story of Daniel Boone leading pioneers through the gap.  He lost two sons to Indian raids. This picture is on the park brochure.

Daniel Boone Leading Pioneers Through the Cumberland Gap

This map indicates the significance of the Cumberland Gap to the westward expansion of the United States in that time period. People walked or rode wagons and horses all the way from Philadelphia  to pass through the Cumberland Gap!

Wilderness Road

This is what the Wilderness Road through the park looks like today. When the park service bought the land, they removed any modern structures and even the pavement on the old road that went through the gap to return it to its historic state in 1810. It was just wide enough for a wagon and a team of horses, mules, oxen (whatever they used).


We did not hike on the old road, but drove up the mountain, near the top and walked the rest of the way to the pinnacle.  Unfortunately, the trees have grown up so much that there is not much of a view.  We looked out at Fern Lake, in Kentucky.


This view from the end of the trail is looking southeast, I think, to US25E approaching the tunnel.  We could not look directly down and see the old path through the gap.



There is a Civil War era embankment up there used by both the Union and Confederate sides to control the gap. They had cleared a large area at the top of the mountain to give them a good view of the gap from both ends.

On the way home, I pulled over at the Clinch Mountain Restaurant to find out first hand about Vinegar Pie.  What?  Spence mentioned it as we passed by and said Sharon and her mother both ate some in the past but, he did not try it.  I never heard of it and could not pass on the opportunity to discover something new.  This is the view from the restaurant.


Sure enough, it said vinegar pie right on the sign on the front of the building.


This time Andy declined a slice.  Spence and I each had a slice and we all had coffee. We sat at the prime table overlooking the valley below. The pie did taste a bit like lemon pie, but I did detect a vinegar flavor.  Now we’ve tried it, we probably won’t again.  It wasn’t bad, we would just choose something else over it. Spence said he would prefer apple; I’m choosing cherry next time.

Andy, Spence, and Vinegar Pie

It turns out the vinegar pie was only new to me and not new at all.  I found a blog post on Sandy’s Chatter about vinegar pie and other forgotten recipes. According to her post, vinegar pie is a adaptation of lemon pie (created in Philadelphia by Elizabeth Goodfellow).  Pioneer women did not have access to many lemons so they substituted vinegar.  I say, go for the lemons if you can afford them!  If not, vinegar pie will do.