Cumberland Gap, the Town in Tennessee

The closest town to where Tom and I are living is Cumberland Gap, Tennessee.  It is a tiny little place, surrounded by Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.  If it were a little more touristy, it would remind me of Ohiopyle in the Laurel Highlands.  But the town hasn’t bought in to being a tourist destination – at least not yet – and it retains its historical small town charm.

The town of Cumberland Gap from the Pinnacle

Tom and I spent a couple of afternoons in Cumberland Gap exploring.  We wanted to check out the restaurants and the shops.  We have to drive into Cumberland Gap in order to get to the parking lot for the Gap Cave Tour or to the parking lot for the Iron Furnace.

Cumberland Gap has three restaurants, a juice bar, three antique shops, an artist co-op, and a convenience store.  There is a mechanic, a tire place, and a post office.  A hotel and a historic bed and breakfast round out the offerings to people who come to town.  Everyone who visits the Pinnacle gets a great view of the town.

Tom and I visited for the first time the week after we got here.  We hiked a trail from the Iron Furnace and then walked around town.  We saw the Daniel Boone Trail marker and read the historical signs.  Two of the antique stores held mostly household goods like linens, clothing, and vintage toys.  The third antique shop was closed and the sign on the door said about its hours:  “If I’m here, I’m open.  If I’m not, I’m closed.”

Old Mill Bed and Breakfast
Old building being renovated
Whistle Stop antiques
Berkau Park where they show the movies
Artist’s Co-op
Hillhippy jelly

We stopped in at the artist co-op which had a selection of paintings by various artists and other items.  There was some crocheted items, some carved items, and I found a couple of handwoven towels.  I was especially interested in the towels because I would love to meet another weaver.  The most interesting thing in the shop was the freeze-dried candy from the Doomsday Candy Company.  There were bags of candy such as Milk Duds, Skittles, and Reisens that had been freeze-dried.  The artist running the shop said they candy was a best-seller.  I asked him what it tasted like and he said “air.”

We returned to the artist co-op with our Ohio and South Carolina visitors a couple of weeks later.  The selection in the store hadn’t changed, although I did spend more time looking at things.  The jams made by Hillhippy Hollow were especially interesting.  The label says “Homegrown, handpicked, pesticide and hatred free.”  With a group of us to try the freeze-dried candy, Sandy bought a bag of freeze-dried Milk Duds.  As soon as we were out of the store we each tried one.  They did taste like air.  Interesting.

Cumberland Gap is linked to Harrogate by an asphalt bike trail.  There are two covered bridges for the trail in Cumberland Gap.  It looked like a nice trail if you wanted to get from Cumberland Gap to Harrogate.  There is a small bike museum in Cumberland Gap but we haven’t been in it yet.

Cumberland Gap is a nice little town that is trying to be welcoming to tourists.  On Friday nights in the summer there is a free movie shown in the town park.  Last week it was “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and this week it is “Mama Mia.”  The first Friday of every month there is a Farmers’ Market.  When we went in July we got some good produce and also knew a couple of the vendors.  One was Ranger Olivia!

Before the end of the summer we plan on trying all the restaurants.  How many towns have you visited where you can say you have eaten at every restaurant?  If the town is small enough, it isn’t hard.