By Dulcie Flaharty, formerly Executive Director of Montgomery County Lands Trust (which merged with Natural Lands Trust in 2012)
Dulcie’s “Daytrip Discoveries” represent her quest to visit all 17 of Natural Lands Trust’s publicly accessible nature preserves within one year–an adventure she hopes will inspire others to do the same!
Because of its size and growing trail network (nearly 20 miles have been readied for visitors since the property was acquired by Natural Lands Trust) the 3,412-acre Bear Creek Preserve, in the Pocono Mountains, rose immediately to the top of my list for a daytrip adventure.
Being able to tag along with a group of avid birders for a late-spring walk provided the enticement I needed to venture north on RT #476 (about an hour from the Quakertown toll plaza) to see why birding has gone epidemic among colleagues and friends.
On the trip north, the flyover of a Pileated Woodpecker and a Common Raven set the tone for good birding, according to my trip buddy for the day Debbie Beer, engagement manager for Natural Lands Trust.
The magic of Bear Creek Preserve enveloped us as we pulled off the road and onto the winding, gravel drive. The recently constructed Management Center provided a great trail-head and information resource. Opening the car door, we were greeted by sweet-smelling breezes and a cacophony of bird song.
Debbie and the other birders I was traveling with readied for our walk by sharing information on local winged visitors and residents.
The first great surprise of the day came when I learned that bird watching is more often bird listening. Tackling the use of binoculars and schooling my ears in support of my eyes brought additional senses to the ready.
As our walk continued, I found myself routinely distracted from birding by the abundant wildflowers and darting butterflies and insects. Pink mountain laurel and fly poison plant (Native Americans mixed it with sugar to control insects) could be spotted close by.
The new, simple bridge built recently by Preserve Manager Joe Vinton made crossing a small creek less of a challenge. The sound of moving water added another dimension to our multi-sensory hike.
A family with young children along for the walk enjoyed helping scout out an American toad and a salamander, which elicited ooooos and aaahhs from the young naturalists.
The geology of Bear Creek Preserve is as fascinating and beautiful as its flora and fauna.
Ambling back to the Management Center, we had time for a quick visit inside to see the newly completed facility, which is warm and welcoming. I loved the “feather paintings” created by Force of Nature volunteer Paula Fell!
Four of the five senses—smell, sight, touch, and hearing—were engaged during our morning walk at Bear Creek Preserve. As midday had already passed, it was time to satisfy the fifth sense with a picnic at the nearby Francis E. Walter Dam Park. (Many local eateries are closed on Sundays, the day of our visit.) Next visit we might try to schedule a stop at the Bear Creek Café, which looked very quaint and had a nice menu.
Our three-hour hike yielded 27 bird species for the avid birders in the group. For all others who take pleasure just from the multitude of sensory experience in being outdoors, there were a myriad of other natural delights to keep us smiling.
Want to plan your own visit? Preserve details and highlights can be found here.