July 9, 2017

We Saw a Bear || July 4th Hike Up Mt. Tammany

New Jersey, the Garden State - home to deer, the Jersey Shore, outlet malls, Six Flags, good schools, and oh, that's right, bears.

While I adore wildlife, I've learned to develop a healthy respect for creatures big and small. My coworker gently warned me against going for a sunrise hike when I brought up the potential for bear sightings, and I'm glad she did. The night before our highly anticipated hike, I spent some time watching videos about black bears, trying to prepare myself in case we ran into one. Both my parents were concerned about me driving to a new place further away, but I assured them that I'd be fine and we'd be back before noon.

The morning of, I dragged my brother out of bed at the crack of dawn ("I thought you said take your time", he said when I woke him up for the second time), and we headed up north to the Delaware River Gap. After five minutes of driving, I looked over at Wilson, who had fallen fast asleep. Eyes back on the road, I watched the watercolor pinks and oranges of the sunrise bleed slowly into the sky as the radio hummed softly in the background. We drove on empty highways, past countless vintage diners, farm stands advertising fresh blueberries and pies, and car dealerships flying incredibly large American flags.

When we arrived, I was glad to find that we had the company of a few other hikers. A couple alerted us that they had seen a bear cub and its mom, and not too long afterwards, other fellow hikers reported seeing a bear cub walking in the opposite direction.

When we reached the peak, we all took a stop to enjoy the view. Hawks circled the sky, the bright blues contrasted the verdant greens and pale grays of the mountains.

"What's that noise?" Wilson heard rustling in the bushes about two feet to my left. I backed up and peered over, not seeing anything. Now alert, we all slowly waited for the continued rustling to manifest into an image as the noises grew louder. Lo and behold, a smiling black bear cub tumbled out. The poor guy who had seen the bear cub and mother earlier, still spooked from his first encounter, instantly started hooting and backing away. The rest of us, stunned, hastily shuffled back uphill to the trail, never taking our eyes off the bear - mama bear was apparently 5x the cub's size, and she was probably close by.

Of course Wilson wouldn't budge...he wanted to wait for everyone else to clear out so he'd get a good photo. He was perfect bait for a protective mother bear. I was freaking out, and the urgency in my voice (mixed with panic) was more than evident: "Wilson!...Will! Get your butt back up here! Mom is go-ing-to-kill-me!"

After several minutes, Wilson eventually shifted to where the nine of us stood, exhaling, anxious about whether or not mama bear would follow and how she'd react to us. All was well in the end; we never saw the mother, the cub rambled down the other side of the mountain, and we trickled back down to the outlook point. I was still spooked from the heart attack my brother gave me for the rest of the hike (and for part of the day), but you know what?...he got the photo:
Getting there: For those of you looking to hike Mt. Tammany, enter in "1 Old Mine Road, Columbia, NJ 07832" if your GPS isn't up to date and you can't enter in coordinates. This'll get you to the area, and just keep your eyes peeled for the signs directing you to Mt. Tammany and its trails. (You'll start seeing signs about 20 miles away).

I recommend hiking up the red dot trail on the way up for the best views (a little bit harder than the blue and white trails), and the blue dot/white Appalachian trail on the way down! The red dot trail can be accessed via the first parking lot, but you can easily walk to it from the parking lot closer to the blue dot/white trails as well.

1 comment:

  1. You understand my GPS/coordinate woes! It's tough to find the good spots sometimes. This hikes looks lovely. Great photos!