Rub a dub dub, three bears in a tub.
Wait. That’s not how that goes.
Some visitors to Gatlinburg got their fairy tales all mixed up when a trio of bear cubs decided to work out some kinks, get a little relaxation going and kick back and enjoy the scenic mountain life from their rental cabin’s hot tub.
Chris Casazza, then-owner of Bear-Foot Lodge, a rental cabin in Chalet Village in Gatlinburg, said he will always remember the call from some guests one fall asking about the procedure for cleaning the hot tub.
Casazza asked why, explaining the tub had been thoroughly cleaned prior to the guests’ arrival.
Of all the possible answers he could have received, bear cubs was probably furthest down the list.
Turns out, guests love seeing black bears
The guests, he said, had been really hopeful about seeing bears. They’d asked the owner several times if he thought they might encounter a black bear during their stay.
Casazza couldn’t promise anything but said bears are frequently spotted near the property.
He believes they live down at the bottom of the ridge and come past the cabin on their way to the other side of the ridge.
“These particular guests were very excited about the possibility of seeing bears. They kept asking,” he said. “Are we gonna see? Are we gonna see? And I was like, ‘hopefully.’”
Oh they saw. They came, they saw and the bears swam.
Three little bear cubs in a hot tub
Casazza said the guests were in the hot tub when their daughter, who had been especially keen to see bears, got her wish.
“They just kept coming closer and closer and closer and a little one hopped up on the railing,” he said.
The family wisely retreated to a safe spot and watched as the little one got in and took a dip, soon joined by two other cubs. Momma bear stayed close but chose not to soak her ursine footsies in the warm water.
“They were there 10 minutes or so and moved on,” he said.
Casazza said it isn’t shocking that the three bears decided to pull a reverse Goldilocks, saying he’d seen scratches on the hot tub cover, which at the time was brand new.
“They’re constantly trying to get into the tub,” he said. “That cover has been ripped up. Apparently, they try to get in all the time.”
Why are bears attracted to hot tubs?
Ignorant of the bathing habits of bears, I asked Casazza why he thought they were so interested in the hot tub water. Surely, the chemically treated water would bother them, right?
Casazza went with an Occam’s razor sort of answer.
“I think they want to take a bath in the hot water,” he said. “It’s nice. That’s why we get in, right?”
The bear’s visit has proven a popular talking point among subsequent guests and there have been other visits since. They’ve climbed the deck, peaked into windows and explored the area.
“They get super close,” he said.
Casazza admitted that while most guests want to see bears, some are nervous, even a little scared of bears willing to get so up close and personal.
He gives each guest tips on the do’s and don’ts of bear encounters. There are significantly more don’ts.
“I give pointers to every guest,” he said. “I go over that specifically. Some of them are [nervous], but they all definitely want to see bears.”
The beauty of the Smoky Mountains
Casazza, who is from Maryland, is a relative newcomer to the area. His son is a Titanic buff, so they came to Pigeon Forge on vacation to see the museum. They fell in love with the area.
“I had no idea of the treasure that’s out there,” he said.
“… We drove out not knowing what to expect and fell in love with the area. I thought it would be a great place to invest in some real estate.”
He oversaw the construction of the cabin and found the inspiration for the name Bear-Foot Lodge on site.
“While I was there putting it all together, all I saw was bears,” he said. “I think it sort of named itself.”
Today, that cabin is now available on VRBO.
This particular cabin averages $412/night and sleeps up to eight guests.
Bear safety in the Great Smoky Mountains
While we all enjoy a good bear sighting (and especially a cub sighting), you must keep your distance from the wildlife when visiting the Smokies.
In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it is illegal to approach a bear within 150 feet, or any distance that disturbs the bear.
Always lock up your trash, your doors (car and cabin), and keep your distance to protect yourself, your family and the bears.
Have you seen a bear when renting a cabin in the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee? Let us know in the comments!