Smith Pond shelter at Bear Brook State Park is one of my favorite places in the universe. Six years ago–a day that changed my life–we had hemlock tea and a smokey fire while the winds whipped across the pond. A high school student said, “I will remember today forever.” 5 1/2 years ago I fell asleep under the shelter to the sounds of spring peepers and snoring on my very first backpacking trip (It’s only about a mile from the Spruce Pond camp, where I lived at the time). 4 years ago, I camped there again, this time it was the sound of barred owls caterwauling across the pond that serenaded me to sleep. 3 years ago, I shrugged off the winter blues by jumping on the ice with friends. As of this weekend, it had been nearly two years since I was last there.
From the cross country ski parking lot on Podunk Rd, it took us about an hour and a half to snowshoe in a meandering way to the shelter. The day began with dramatic overcast skies, but in an hour they soon cleared away and became that perfect winter blue. We set off on our journey down Podunk Road, which is groomed for snowmobiles and nicely compacted for an easy walk. It’s also very wide, so you have plenty of room to let snowmobilers pass.
After a while we took a left onto Bobcat Trail that we would follow until its junction with Broken Boulder Trail. It’s an easy walk on flat terrain that takes you through classic hemlock-beech-oak-pine forest. You’ll also start to hear the sound of snowmobiles fade away as the trail leads you deeper into the heart of the park. Snow fleas or springtails were abundant in the tracks of previous snowshoers and skiers. We also saw plenty of nipped hemlock twigs along the trail, which is sign that porcupines have been munching in the trees. Did you know porcupines climb trees?
I recalled a time when my friend Camille and I were walking with her dog on the Beaver Pond Trail at Bear Brook when suddenly she grabbed my arm and froze. “Is that a bear?,” she whispered urgently. Camille was worried that her dog might get a whiff of the furry-looking creature, maybe 15-20 feet up (or higher) in the tree. My heart leapt in my chest, but we soon realized there was nothing to fear from that little silhouette up high in the branches.
Walks in the Bear Brook woods always bring me surprises and so much joy. And now, so many memories, too.