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Contact: Carol Borneman, (606) 246-1070
Biking and Bats – A Day of Family Fun and Learning
Ever thought of combining biking and bats to make for a fun filled family day? Such a cool and unique opportunity will happen at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park and Virginia's Wilderness Road State Park on Saturday, September 12th. First, an afternoon bike ride along a section of the state park's Rails to Trails Greenway connecting the two will be offered. Then, in the evening, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park will offer its "Batty about Bats!"
The 3 p.m. guided bike ride will begin at Wilderness Road State Park. Biking enthusiasts will pedal 8.5 miles along the crushed gravel multi use trail which follows the former corridor of an abandoned railroad line. The trail parallels Cumberland Mountain and provides riders ample and fantastic views of the formidable and steep eminence which proved to be a barrier to westward migration. Ending at the national park's Daniel Boone parking area, riders will then be able to capture a glimpse of the Cumberland Gap, the natural break in the mountain, which served as the first doorway to the west through which 300,000 pioneers traveled.
While riders are encouraged to bring their own, bike rental at a nominal fee, is available at the state park. Questions on the first come, first serve bike rental should be directed to the state park at 276-445-3065; there is a limited number of bike rentals. Those wanting to ride but one way should drop their bikes early at Wilderness Road State Park and then drive their vehicles to the Daniel Boone parking area where a free 2:15 p.m. national park shuttle will deliver riders back to the starting point. Those renting a bike and wanting to ride but one way to the national park can have the rental bikes and if need be, selves shuttled back to the state park. All riders will be required to wear a bike safety helmet. Bikers are also reminded to carry plenty of water and snacks.
At 7 p.m. and again at 7:45 p.m. and at 8:30 p.m., Cumberland Gap will offer its "Batty about Bats! "Each bat program is limited to 20 visitors; bat program reservations can be made by calling the national park visitor center at 606-246-1075. Bat devotees or those simply interested in learning more about these wondrous winged mammals should meet at the Thomas Walker parking area no later than 10 minutes to their assigned times. Through videos and posters at the parking area, program participants will be given an introduction to bats and modern technology used by park staff to better understand these flying mammals which ultimately leads to better protection of bats and their habitats. Then, via park vans, participants will travel the Sugar Run Road to Davis Branch where park staff anticipates an abundance of bats due to water attracting a variety of insects. At Davis Branch, participants will move amongst three different stations. At station one, a video camera with TV hook up and infrared will help visitors more easily view flying bats. An anabat detector at station two will allow visitors to "hear" the bats' chirps which normally are at such a high frequency that they can't be detected by humans. Bat chirps can even distinguish bat species! Station three will be equipped with night vision goggles through which visitors will be able to peer into the darkness and make their own discoveries. There is a 1/10 mile walk between stations one and two which will be retraced as folks return to vans.
Visitors should bring flashlights and insect repellant and wear long pants and a long sleeved shirt during the hour and a half long bat programs.
Should visitors be participating in both programs, the period in between can be spent exploring the quaint town of Cumberland Gap, TN exploring specialty shops and enjoying its eateries. Visitors can also pop into Middlesboro, KY and choose from amongst a great array of restaurants and grocery stores, even allowing for a picnic dinner to be brought back to the national park.
In case of rain, the bicycle ride will be cancelled. The bat program will be moved to the national park visitor center auditorium with only one program beginning at 7 p.m.
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park Superintendent Sula Jacobs and Wilderness Road State Park Manager Scott Bowen are unanimous in their excitement about the upcoming day of programs. Both highlight "the exciting partnership which continues to evolve between the two parks. Through living history events and new program venues, we work closely together in showcasing the story of westward migration. Both parks also have an incredible array of natural resources.We invite all to immerse themselves in their national and state parks."
For more information, visitors can call the park visitor center at (606) 246-1075.