By Joe Sebastiani, Seasonal Program Team Leader
Each August, the Delaware Nature Society Teen Naturalist club embarks on our annual adventure. Dave Pro, my co-leader, and I love the Adirondacks. It is relatively close to Delaware, and offers boreal and alpine ecosystems, lakes, and some of the tallest mountains on the east coast. This is the fourth year in a row that we have visited New York’s Adirondack Park with the Teen Naturalists.
The Teen Naturalists meet once per month for hiking, paddling, camping, wildlife watching, and volunteering for the environment. During the course of the previous year, we have gotten familiar with one another and trained for the challenge of the Adirondacks.
This year, we backpacked into the High Peaks Wilderness, which is an area with over 40 peaks over 4,000 feet. We backpacked into an area called the Flowed Lands and picked a nice campsite near Colden Dam. This is a popular area for backpackers to spend the night and for Black Bears to visit at night. It is also one of the most beautiful areas in the park, with a string of lakes and ponds, and mountains that surround you.
We set up a base camp and spent the next few days tackling the summits of Mt. Marcy and Mt. Colden. Hiking in the Adirondacks is a challenge, despite the gentle, rounded look of the mountains. Paths are usually rock-strewn and muddy, and in places, defy the definition of a path. “Bare rock mountain wall” is probably a better term for what we traversed, especially on Mt. Colden. The group enjoyed the challenge of scaling these vertical slopes and pulling ourselves up with hands and feet.
Through the week we were treated to some of the best mountain scenery on the east coast, crystal clear streams, waterfalls, chasms of unknown depth, rare alpine vegetation, boreal birds, and yes…Black Bear sightings. I must say, we really enjoyed being visited by a number of bear each night at the campsite…NOT! Even with food, toothpaste, soap and gum stashed in bear cans far from camp, the bruins investigated each night anyway. They weren’t particularly afraid of us, and after shouting at them to scram, they usually just toddled off, sometimes after barking and growling back at us in protest. The growling part isn’t very comforting when you are standing 30 feet from them in the dark wearing just your underwear holding a flimsy stick to defend yourself.
On our last night, two Black Bear decided they needed an even closer inspection of our gear. The smell of a forgotten granola bar wrapper in a pack was enough to bring them in, tearing 3 bags, breaking a camera, and puncturing a hole in my water bottle in the process. (The bottle is now proudly displayed on my desk). They woke us three times that night, and one brushed against a Teen Naturalists tent, and generally snorted and shuffled around the campsite.
It was a trip we won’t forget. If you have a few minutes, take a look at the slideshow below. Sorry, it doesn’t include bear photos, but does show bear-clawed day-packs.
If you know someone who is 13 to 17 years old, and would like to join the Teen Naturalists, registration is open now for the 2010-2011 season.