Mountain Springs Hike with the Kids (and three bears)

Christian at Beech Lake

On July 4, I took my niece Kaitlyn and nephew Christian on a hike to Mountain Springs and Beech Lake; we also met up with my friend Ed Kintner.  This hike follows a portion of the route in hike number 29 in Hiking the Endless Mountains.  It was going to be a hot day, so we got an early start.  I picked up the kids at 8 a.m. with their backpack filled with eight or so water bottles.  No one was going to be thirsty on this hike.

We parked near The Meadows, where several mountain bikers were putting their gear away after a morning ride.  We began with a side hike to Beech Lake, a favorite place of mine.  The lake is untouched and secluded.  It can only be reached by hiking and unofficial trails circle the shore.  Plump berries dotted the blueberry bushes, but it was clear other animals also invited themselves to the bounty.  We also saw the remnants of turtle shells and their nest, but we weren’t sure if the turtles hatched or faced a more unfortunate fate.

The trail meandered through the woods as the temperatures rose under a bright sun.  We passed a deer and flushed out several grouse.  The kids were doing well, with relatively few complaints, other than not taking enough time to pick berries.

The trail led to a series of cliffs with fine views; here, we took a break to enjoy the panorama and more importantly, the breeze.

Kaitlyn at the overlook

While Christian made certain to pack plenty of water, he seemed to forget to bring enough food.  Their meager supply of granola bars were soon gone, so Ed and I shared some of our food with them.

The trail followed the cliffs and then dropped, passing below huge boulders and cliffs.  I was hiking with Kaitlyn when I saw a black mass torpedo through the ferns and then hugged a tree- it was a bear cub!  We told Christian to hurry up so he could see.  Then there was another bear, the mother, who ran up the slope.  And then a second cub ran from the right and also went up a tree.  The cubs came down part way, and then climbed to near the top of the trees.  The mother bear was hidden.  What an incredible sight.  I have never seen three bears on one hike.  But this also posed a problem, the trail went right under the trees where the cubs sought refuge.  After looking at the cubs, we circumvented them by scrambling up the ledges to the left, and then came back down.  We made a lot of noise to avoid startling the bears, but I did announce I was willing to spare one of the kids, and possibly both of them, as an appropriate sacrifice for safe passing.  Kaitlyn gave me a dirty look.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a good picture of the bears.  Plus, I didn’t know how many more would be popping out of the ferns.

We hiked down to Bowmans Creek where we took another break under the hemlocks.  The heat was becoming a concern.  We crossed the creek on some old railroad tracks and began hiking up the creek, passing ruins from the ice making days, when all these lakes were used to harvest ice in the winter.  This industry supported entire towns, which have been enveloped by the forests.  We all could’ve used some ice on this hike, except we were about 80 years too late.

We reached another trail, a shortcut, and I decided to take it.  The kids did very well, but it was getting too hot.  We hiked back to the car along a dirt road.  The kids are looking forward to their next hike.

Click here for a few more pictures.





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