Another Hike In Bear Country. Spectacular Views, Ticks And, Of Course, Bears.

Another Hike In Bear Country. Spectacular Views, Ticks And, Of Course, Bears.

Crystal Lake hike. (35 of 54)
Previous Post
Next Post

I decided to return to the State Gamelands in Dennison Township, Luzerne County  Saturday morning. I wanted to explore a new area of these gamelands.  I hoped to see some wildlife including another bear or two. The previous Sunday I parked at the entrance near Penn Lake. This time I parked on Tunnel Road and hiked up to the Black Diamond segment of the D & L Trail. It was also about 25 miles from my home. entrance to trail

I saw some trails on my AllTrails iPhone  App. and was going to try to hike them up to Crystal lake.  At first, I  had  a little difficulty finding the exact location of the first trail.  I finally realized there was a second trail running parallel with the Black Diamond and I followed it until it led to a trail I was looking for. While searching for the trail I heard, and was able to photograph, this American redstart. It would be one of the few birds I would be able to photograph on my nine mile hike. American redstart in tree

I followed the first trail and soon found it ascended a mountain with a fairly steep incline.  The surrounding woods were thick with large second-growth trees. I heard a lot of birds in the treetops but they were difficult to see and almost impossible to photograph. wooded trail in gamelands

There were still honeysuckle azaleas in bloom along the trail. pink or honeysuckle azalea

And I found a few lady slipper orchids or, as my dad called them duck flowers growing in the dense vegetation. These  are one of my favorite flowers. lady slipper orchid or duck flower

The trail continued upward and eventually intersected with the unimproved Hollenbach road that I parked in at the other entrance to the game lands. tree lined trail

The terrain changed now and I encountered a few streams and surrounding wetlands. Here I found some more wildflowers including stargrass, stargrass flowers

and starflowers. white star flowers

There was also an abundance of dwarf ginseng in the wetlands. +

The trail continued upward and the sun broke through a previously cloudy sky. I took a side trail and followed it up through a heath barren. 

The trail climbed upward and I began to have unobstructed views of the surrounding mountains. At the highpoint of the trail, I later learned it was at an elevation of 2093 feet, the view was spectacular. It was the highest elevation on this side of the county. I stopped and took in the view, trying to orientate myself  to the surrounding landmarks. I need to hike back up on a real clear day with binoculars. Here is a video of  the view from the trail I uploaded to my YouTube channel.

I followed the trail down to what I thought would be a better trail leading to Crystal Lake. I was wrong. The trail was wide and dry at first. It was nice walking under large hemlock and oak trees. 

The trail map I was following showed it transversed the Jimmy Kanes swamp. I now know why it got its name. The trail soon turned into a series of large puddles. It was hard to walk around most of them. I had to crawl in the surrounding tick infested  brush and briar. It was a struggle. 

I came to a quad trail and followed it, hoping it avoided the puddles and flooded trail. It didn’t it lead right through the middle of the swamp. I was attacked by ticks, mosquitoes and gnats. It was very scenic. There were many birds singing in trees but I couldn’t see them. 

There was some wildlife in the swamp. This deer stopped to have a look at me, before snorting and proceeding on its way.

And I did find  a new flower. At first I thought they pretty pink flower were more honeysuckle azaleas. On closely inspection I could see they were different. I believe they are rhodora. My hike into this messy swamp was worth seeing these beautiful flowers. 

I followed the quad trail back to the supposedly better trail and found more flooded puddles and a bear! Yep, another large male black bear. This time I saw him first, for a second or two. As I was reaching for my camera he saw me. He grunted as loud as any bear I have heard before and ran into the thick vegetation of the swamp before I could get a photo.  I walked on and soon encountered another obstacle. The trail turned into a small lake. I had no way of getting around it. I had to trudge through briars along one side still walking in water well over my ankles. 

Once I crossed this trail I came to a small lake and took a rest before proceeding onward.  

I hoped to see some water birds but there was nothing on the lake. I did see a few frogs in the puddles around the lake. 

I walked another half mile through more soggy trail and finally made it to Crystal Lake. It is a large lake that has provided water to the City of Wilkes Barre for well over a century. I have been here before and you can read about my prior visits in my blog archive. 

The skies clouded up again. I had hiked over four miles so I started the long walk back. This time I took another trail, further from the swamp. The path was much better but it  still passed through a few wetlands. In one of them I saw a black figure behind some scrub oaks. I thought it was a bear. I walked a bit closer and saw that it was.

It wasn’t aware of my presence. I clapped to let it know. Usually a male bear will look and slowly walk away. I have taken many nice photos of such encounters.  Not this time. This was a mommy bear. She stood up and I heard her cubs move to her side. She wasn’t happy.  A bear could easily outrun a human. However, I knew there were thick scrub  oaks and briars between us. I decided to run and show her I wasn’t a threat to her cubs. I am glad she didn’t chase me. Another close encounter with a bear. I love seeing these  magnificent creatures in their natural environment.  They will not attack unless provoked or protecting their young. If this happens it is my fault not theirs. 

It was a long hike back. At least most of the way was downhill.I was thirsty, hungry and tired when I returned to my car. And I was a bit disappointed I hadn’t seen more birds but the scenery was spectacular, I saw a lot of wildflowers and I met a few new bear friends. I hope to return soon, and, if I meet any more bear, to get better pictures.  Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike State Gamelands 119 hike May 25 2019

Of course we weren’t lost. We were merely where we shouldn’t
have been, without knowing where that was.
— T. Morris Longstreth