Another Hike In Bear Country. Spectacular Views, Ticks And, Of Course, Bears.
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.
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.
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.
There was also an abundance of dwarf ginseng in the wetlands. +
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.
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.
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