Black Bear Mountain was the last of the three Fulton Chain Trifecta peaks Frankie and I needed to climb to complete the challenge, so we've been eager to get back up north since returning from our trip. My car troubles are sorted out, and we finally got some nice weather. Seize the day!
This hike starts from the same parking lot as Rocky Mountain, but the trailheads are separate. There was some group event going on, and the parking lot was jammed with vehicles belonging to swarms of people in matching shirts. I got one of the few remaining parking spaces, about as far from the Black Bear trailhead as is possible within the lot. I got a spot, though, and that's all that matters, right? The extra 0.1 mile each way didn't bother me one bit, and it was especially easy to be sanguine about it once we determined that the hordes were headed up Rocky, and not chasing us up Black Bear. Whew! Tragedy narrowly averted.
Like Rocky, this trail has some wide muddy sections, especially early on. However, there are many fewer wallows overall. This trail is a bit longer, and the increased distance doubtless keeps some folks away.
There is a junction approximately 0.7 miles along the yellow-blazed trail, with the yellow trail continuing straight and a blue-blazed trail turning right. Both trails lead to the summit, but the blue trail is short and steep, while the yellow trail is longer and gentler. We did both, making a lollipop loop by ascending the blue trail and descending the yellow trail.
The blue trail is still pretty mellow, for the most part, with some fun scrambles near the top.
The summit is partially treed, but has several open ledges affording nice views.
|approaching the summit|
We arrived shortly after noon, but Frankie wasn't very hungry; he'd eaten a big breakfast. He refused his sandwich, but agreed to eat his veggie snacks (peppers, cucumber, celery), which seemed reasonable.
|snacking on a ledge|
After eating, Frankie got out his camera and thoroughly documented the scene, including the toys he had carried in his pack.
|Charmander and Wortle joined us for this hike|
All told we were on the summit for an hour and a half before packing up and starting down the yellow trail.
|heading down the yellow trail|
We hadn't gone far when Frankie started asking about his candy. He wanted some of the new gummy candy we bought yesterday. We purchased it specifically for this hike, so I would have been OK with doling it out, except that Frankie still hadn't eaten his sandwich. Once I explained that, he was suddenly all about eating his sandwich -- and he sat down to do so, right in the middle of the muddy trail. Ha! Not so fast, kid... I'll pick the spot.
We were still pretty high on the mountain and I was sure we could find another, more scenic seat. Sure enough, the trail soon crossed a rock spine, which we veered onto and followed out to a marvelous ledge. The views here look to the northeast, over a wetland-lined drainage towards Blue Mountain and the High Peaks beyond. It is spectacular, far more interesting to my eyes than the views from the true summit, lovely as they may be. [The views from the summit look to the southeast, which was into the sun at mid-day, over smaller mountains, and are devoid of charismatic sedge meadows.] Anyway, this new spot also had the benefit of being deserted -- we were there for another 20 minutes and had it entirely to ourselves. It felt really special, and I was happy that Frankie had resisted eating his sandwich so we could end up there.
I started passing out the candies one-by-one when we left the ledge and began the descent in earnest. The yellow trail is very charming, passing through tunnels of deep moss. The greens were super-saturated. There is nothing difficult, nowhere requiring me to assist or spot Frankie. We turned left at another junction to follow the yellow trail back to Route 28, and from here is was even easier. A bit muddy of course, but entirely flat or gentle downhill grades all the way back to the car.
My tracker put the hike at 5.4 miles roundtrip with about 600 feet elevation gain, but the Fulton Chain Trifecta website lists the loop we did at 5.0 miles with 700 feet gain. I know the our additional mileage came from parking at the wrong end of the lot and our bonus ledge explorations, both clearly evident in the track log. Not sure about the elevation though. Either way, this is a real gem of a hike, my favorite of the Fulton Chain Triefecta. Take the loop! You won't regret it.