I've been hiking in Harriman State Park and adjacent Bear Mt. State Park regularly since 1996, until my transfer to the cornfields of Illinois this past summer. 3 days of Salesian activities at the Marian Shrine have brought me back for a long weekend, and today I took advantage of a break to make a dash into Harriman--only an hour's jaunt up the Suffern-Bear Mt. Trail from Gate Hill Rd. to the abandoned fire tower, and back.
And I had a first-time experience.
Until now, my black bear sightings had been confined to the zoo at Bear Mt.
and one bear dashing across Seven Lakes Drive in August 2008 as I was driving up the parkway.
This afternoon, maybe 10 minutes into my hike, still short of the ruins of Orak, I saw in the brush alongside the trail what I thought was a large, dark-haired dog off its leash. I thought it unusual that I didn't hear his master or mistress coming down the trail, or that the "dog" didn't hear me approaching. I guess I was about 40 feet away when I whistled to get its attention. As it turned around, 2 more, smaller heads popped up from the brush. These weren't dogs!
I turned around quickly and walked quickly back up the trail about 15 feet before looking back. I'd also been removing the lens cap from my camera, but when I turned around it was already too late to shoot. Mama bear and her 2 cubs were scooting away into the woods. While it was a little disappointing not to get a photo, it was a better thing that Mama ran off.
Then a hiker did come into view from the other direction, armed with a short, heavy tree limb and pointing silently toward where the bears had just gone. He'd seen only 2 of them and was relieved that I'd spotted 3, meaning there wasn't an unaccounted-for cub somewhere nearby. So he dropped his weapon onto the trail, and we went on our ways, he toward the parking lot and I toward Orak and the fire tower.
No more critters sighted bigger than chipmunks, except more day hikers.