The Gaps and a video interview by Times News

Day three
Walking began at 8:23 a.m.


When the colonists looked west all they could see was a wall of rock that kept them hugging the Atlantic Coast. This 1500 mile obstacle ran from northeast to southwest; from Newfoundland to Alabama. The Appalachians offered very little in the way of travel routes toward the setting sun. The Ohio River was a break in the wall and an option to reach the Mississippi and eventually the Gulf of Mexico but paddling against the current to get back home kept this option undesirable. This mountain range is not just a single spine to climb over, but a series of ridges and valleys that run parallel causing a westward traveler to repeatedly climb and descend so many times that they might as well be paddling against the current.

What the pioneers needed was a door, or more precisely several doors. But even then, if there was a door or gap in one section of the wall it may be several hundred miles north or south to find the next gap. Then again several hundred miles in the other direction to find the next door. In this age of dynamite and bulldozers we can make a door whereever we want, but the pioneers needed some divine intervention if they wanted a practical path to the western 75% of the continent. Hallelujah! 4 doors, or gaps, in a east-west line were found!

The first is Moccasin Gap, which is a water gap. Just as the classification suggests it is a passage where the Big Moccasin Creek flows through a break in Clinch Mountain near Gate City, Virginia.

The second gap heading west is Kane Gap. This is a wind gap ( just wind, no water this time ), which is a break in Powell Mountain near Duffield, Virginia. Kane Gap was a popular resting spot due to the “pioneer hotel”. No mini fridge and indoor pool here, it is a small rock outcropping which forms a shallow cave for shelter from the night.

Kane Gap    Photo Credit: Dr. John Fox

Kane Gap Photo Credit: Dr. John Fox

Moving on we get to the grandest of the gaps. The parting of the Red Sea for our American Moses, Daniel Boone, as he leads his people to the promised land. Cumberland Gap. This is a wind gap that indents Cumberland Mountain. It was first written about in the 1670’s and then brought to the attention of pioneers in 1750 by Dr. Thomas Walker. However, this passage was known for generations before the first white man landed on this continent. Native Americans from many tribes, and herds of buffalo and deer, all used Cumberland Gap to traverse the wall of rock that separated the east from the west.

Finally the last door to the west is Pine Gap, also called Cumberland Ford. Near present day Pineville, Kentucky, this water gap is where the pioneers forded the Pine River through Pine Mountain. In the river, there is a large rock that the pioneers used to gauge the depth of the water. If the rock was exposed, the water was low enough to wade. If the rock was under water the pioneers knew they had to build rafts or find another way. The rock is still there today but is under water in all but the driest of seasons.

With Moccasin Gap behind me, and Kane Gap ahead of me, I checked in last night at the Blockhouse at Natural Tunnel State Park. Great accommodations including room service by a friendly mouse.


Video: Hiker following footsteps of ancestor, Daniel Boone

March 11, 2015

by Marci Gore

Times News,Kingsport, TN

Read more: Video: Hiker following footsteps of ancestor, Daniel Boone | Kingsport Times-News
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