True North Blog

Exploring the Bear Claw

Exploring the Bear Claw

Despite all the rain and mud, I enjoyed a fun two days exploring the Laurel Run section of Quebec Run Wild Area (QRWA).  It is hard to describe, though, what was the best part.  Could it be because of the two terrific people who accompanied me?  Or was it because we hiked through woodlands that are little visited by others?  Tough call.  It must be both!

True North recently received final approval of its permit application that I filed about six months ago with the Pennsylvania Department of Forestry to teach outdoor skills courses, like wilderness survival and land navigation, at QRWA.  The Rangers in the Laughlintown District Office worked with me to assign a section that they thought would best serve our student’s needs while minimizing impact to the land, plus other public use.  Ultimately, we decided that the Laurel Run section would be the best setting.  The only problem for me, however, was that I had never before been there.  As I have taught numerous courses at QRWA over the years, I am extremely familiar with it, but since there are no marked trails in this particular section, I had never crossed into it.  Happily, I saw this as more of an opportunity.

Better yet, Edie T. and Celeste C., two of the most adventurous people that I know, agreed to join me in my first exploratory hike.

With an overcast sky, and light rains falling, at 12:04 on Friday afternoon, we stepped around the gate that guards an old logging road leading down to Laurel Run.  This road is the only marked trail on my topographic map (and it is not even marked on the QRWA maps).  Per my reading of it, the road was supposed to lead southwest down towards the run for about 1/2 mile, then turn sharply north along it for about another 300 meters.  To our surprise, just as we were supposed to approach Laurel Run, the trail simply led into a what looked like a small lake … and which definitely did not appear on the map.

Scratching my head as I tried to find the trail, we walked north looking for a way around these wetlands, but it proved rough going.  The water pressed almost completely against the eastern hillside and the vegetation was dense, and the water clearly looked as though it reached to the western hillside too, almost 100 meters away.  And still no sign of any trail.  So we decided to turn south.

Changing direction proved to be the best decision.  The hiking not only was easier, but we found the reason for all the water.  A beaver dam!

I cannot describe how impressed I am still by this incredible engineering effort.  Beavers have built a wall of sticks and mud that rises about 1 meter high and stretches about 25 meters across Laurel Run to hold back almost all of the water except for “relief valves” on either side which direct water back into the run on the downstream side.

After admiring all of their work, the three of us then began hiking up to the first ridge line west of the run.  Once on it we hiked north towards the top of the “Bear Claw.” This ridge is one of four that lead towards the summit of Devies Mountain, making it look much like a bear’s paw print on a map.

It was beautiful up on the mountain.  The trees and vegetation beneath look primeval.  There is much wildlife, from striking orange salamanders who, unlike us, were enjoying all the rain, to chipmunks, to deer popping up ahead of us and sprinting off.  It was so inviting that we decided to set up camp there for the night.

Still, we only saw a small snippet of this section of Quebec Run Wild Area, so I will be definitely heading up to Laurel Run again soon to explore some more.

If you would like to see some of our photographs from this trip, please visit our Facebook page:

Do you have any thoughts or comments about our trip?  Then please feel free to click the “Leave a comment” link located just below.

Or, if you have any questions about planning your own visit to Quebec Run, please feel free to contact Erik directly.

Erik Kulick leaning aginst wall with True North badge on blue shirt

About the Author

Erik is the founder of True North Wilderness Survival School. He is a police officer, EMS provider, a Wilderness EMT, and a Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine. He has been featured in national and international media, including CNN, the Associated Press, and Backpacker. To learn more about Erik, visit him on LinkedIn and be sure to follow him on Facebook and YouTube.

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