Bear Creek Preserve, Another Gem In Our Midst.
The preserve is located along the southern side of Route 115, about 5 miles east of the borough of Bear Creek, about a half hours drive from my home in HazleTownship.
It was a chilly for a June morning but the sun was shining making for perfect hiking weather. After parking near the gate to an access road I hiked up the access road to the marked yellow/red loop trail. As soon as I entered the woods on the narrow trail I was overwhelmed and delighted by the amount of mountain laurel surrounding the trail. I have hiked many years and miles in Northeastern Pennsylvania but never saw as much mountain laurel as I did today. The mountain laurel was just beginning to bloom but it was still heavenly. . It will be spectacular in a few days when they are in peak bloom. I have always loved our state flower and here it was in it’s full glory. It was abundant everywhere on my 7 mile hike this morning.
I followed the yellow/red loop trail to the green loop trail and hiked down a fairly steep grade , passing a few creeks bubbling out of the ground and a coning nice little waterfall. Here is a Youtube link to a video I took at one of the streams I crossed . https://youtu.be/Yi-buXwZ7YA. I sat for a bit at the waterfall and continued on the green/red loop trail until they separated and I followed the red loop trail.
The trail got a little wet and rocky as it descended downward. It ran along a rock ledge for a bit and it looked like perfect rattlesnake habitat. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any rattlers but did encounter a few garter and eastern brown snakes. The trees and mountain laurels along the trail were filled with the songs of birds. The heavy tree cover kept me from getting good photographs of these birds scampering in the tree tops and laurel bushes. I did see warblers, thrushes, robins, sparrows and a large hawk flying overhead but only manage to get a photograph of this, one of my favorite birds, the scarlet tanager.
I continued mainly downward, crossing a gas line and then into some more rocky terrain. The path got a little hard to walk and also was wet in spots. Still enjoyed the beauty of the deep woods and was hoping to run into a bear because these woods sure looked like bear territory. No bears, only a lot of chipmunks scurrying about on the ground as I walked by and disturbed their morning.
Finally I heard the roar of running water and walked down to Bear Creek and took a rest. Little did I know I would how much I would need it. The trail was wider now, it looked like an old logging road, but it was all uphill . I didn’t realize how much of a descent I had made. It wasn’t easy hiking up this steep grade but it was a pleasant trail, again lined with mountain laurel. There weren’t as many birds on this trail, they seemed to prefer the safety of the thicker woods that were found along the lower ridges near streams. This trail hiked upward above the rocky ledge that was above me on my hike down.
But there still were plenty of robins and song birds singing in the trees and I was able to photograph a northern brown snake. I noticed the deep blue eyes and learned, when got home, that this means he was about to shed his skin. A fluid builds up causing the snake to lose its’ vision and turning its’ eyes blues. Here is a link to some more detailed information about this process. http://animals.mom.me/snakes-blue-eyes-8098.html And this is a link to some more photographs of the snake. https://keepyoureyespeeled.net/pennsylvania-amphibians-and-reptiles/nggallery/pennsylvania-amphibians-and-reptiles/northern-brown-snake
The trail widened even more as it entered into a recently logged area. From the looks of some of the stumps there were once some very large trees in this area. it is sad they are gone but it is good to know that now they will have a chance to regrow into a mature forest without the fear of being logged when they reach their prime. We have to be grateful to organizations like the National Land Trusts for preserving this beautiful areas for us to enjoy.
The trail, now covered in a thick grass.descended back down to the parking area. The thick grass is perfect tick habitat and I did pick up a few today. it is important to always do a close inspection for ticks when you return from a hike in the woods.
I had one more surprise in store for me before I reached the car. I heard a roar in the sky and was surprised to see this huge military jet flying overhead. It made a few passes above me. It was a great day to hike this wonderful area. .
I fell in love with this place and will be back, maybe as soon as next weekend, when the mountain laurel will be at its’ peak. Once again I found a gem in my backyard that I never even knew existed. Northeastern Pennsylvania is a great place to live if you love nature and the outdoors.
Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike this morning. https://keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-5/nggallery/blog-photos/bear-creek-preserve-june-7-2015