Trail Notes: Bear encounters of a different kind

Trail Team 11

Labor Day and Carvers Gap just seems to not be in the cards for me. The plan was to hike up to Round Bald and camp overnight. With it being cooler and less humid, you couldn’t hardly find parking up there. Also, just the number of people made me itchy to view.

After trying the National Park Service’s first come, first serve campground at Linville Falls, I backtracked into Carter County. My intention was to hope and pray that the Dennis Cove Recreation Area campground had a site still available. (National Forest Service also did the first come thing for Labor Day.) However, I ended up just down the road from there.

It wasn’t the backpacking trip I wanted but the camping trip I needed – and a different type of bear encounter.

Black Bear Resort has a bunkhouse, small cabins and a multitude of campsites. The campsites range from tent-only along a sunken creek area to an open field with a view of the stars and a hilltop with spaces for RVs.

There’s also an event hall with a sort of amphitheater behind it that people can rent for weddings and such. It’s very cabin feeling but has a nice and newly remodeled kitchen for caterers and stall bathrooms for guests.

I decided to pitch my tent in the field area because I was really feeling some stargazing. Also, while it would have been nice to hang up my hammock by the creek, it was just too dark in that little hollow.

Not only is it nice to have picnic tables and fire rings, but the little bit of sunset I was able to see was so pretty. And – even though the moon was bright the weekend – it rose late enough that I saw a good amount of stars before the it affected things.

What makes Black Bear Resort especially nice is a well-stocked camp store with food and drinks. There’s also a small deck behind it from which you can watch the Laurel Fork rush.

Over among some of the small cabins is a fire ring. If you’re not expecting smoke, and the wind is just right, you may think someone’s backyard burn pile got out of control. There’s also patio-like spaces with comfy chairs to just sit and chat.

If you’re more of an explorer like me, there’s several paths around the resort and other nooks and crannies to check out! The campsite area in the creek area was particularly fabulous to just chill out in for a while. (It also has a playground for the kids.)

While it was nice to sit back there, I found myself on my blanket beside my tent, reading most of the time I was there.

HOWEVER, when I go back, I have other plans. Black Bear is the perfect base camp for hiking the Hampton area. Not only is it easy access to the Appalachian Trail, but to hiker-favorite Laurel Fork Falls and Coon Den Falls. It’s also a short drive out of Dennis Cove down to Doe River Gorge Trail and the Cat’s Pajamas and Hampton Watershed Pine Loops.

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