Frum Outdoorsman: Rare but Possible

The wanderings and adventures of an orthodox Jew

My encounter with a bear in Harriman State Park

Posted by Frum Hiker on August 7, 2008

At about 6pm last evening I had the sudden urge to be hiking along a quiet trail in the woods, so I headed to Harriman State Park which is essentially my backyard- merely 15-20 minutes away depending on how many people are blocking traffic at the intersection of route 306 and maple ave.

I decided for the first time ever to hike the trails accessible from the first parking lot, I haven’t hiked up these trails since I was a kid, mostly because being the first trail head its always crowded- and the last thing I want to see in the woods are people, or mountain lions.

I headed in and hiked for a little over an hour until I reached a flattened area with some wild blueberries- Harriman has the most wild blueberries I have ever seen and I know of some great raspberry patches as well. I davened mincha and headed back down the way I came, rather then making it into a loop. I had forgot my headlamp and didn’t feel like navigating a down mountain trail in the dark.

The sun was giving off its brilliance as I ran and walked down the trail, I trail run uphill and walk downhill, to raise my heart rate. After dropping below the mountain line where I could see the sun it began to get pretty dark, it was already 8pm.

I have this fascination with the bracha asher yatzar, its one of my favorite things to say in the woods- I just like it. So I decided to take a piss even though I didn’t “really” need to. I finished draining the lizard and said the bracha. As I looked up at the trail I saw a medium sized black bear turn around about 50 feet up the trail from me and run away.

Oh man did that freak me out, I did let out a big “THANK THE LORD” but I stood there stunned for a several seconds and then looked where the bear ran, I thought I could see it standing behind a tree looking at me. The last thing in the world I wanted in the woods was a bear stalking me.

So I debated, I figured that I shouldn’t go down the trail I was headed, but it was getting dark and I needed to be away from that bear. I decided to bushwhack downhill to this creek I could hear and follow it out of the woods- I knew where it would take me.

I quickened my step and screamed out Mr. Bear every 10 seconds or so. How could this happen in Harriman of all places, this was the first time I ever met a bear on the trail. I have hiked all over in some of the most rural places on the continent and had never come in contact with a bear this close.

I saw bears on the trail in Alaska, but they were over a hundred yards away busy gathering berries for the coming winter, plus, I had a shotgun loaded with six 3inch slugs- way more then enough to take down a bear. I have seen Grizzlies in Montana, but also from several hundred yards away and that was from the road. The only other close call I have had with dangerous animals was when I was riding some ridge trail near Jackson , Wyoming when my buddy Jason and I came across several huge moose, moose are dumb and will charge and you don’t want a moose charging you.

So obviously I made it out, but I was scared- mainly because bears in such a crowded park are probably not as scared of people as they are in places like Alaska and Montana. In fact, its so unlikely to see a bear in these places because they smell you from miles away- depending on wind direction of course.

Anyway if I wouldn’t have decided to pee at that time or immediately said ahser yatzar which I sometimes forget to do, I would have walked right into the bear- which was obviously watching me- but I didn’t notice nor could I see that far in the fading light.

I find it good to document situations where Gods hand is present so we shouldn’t forget who is boss.

23 Responses to “My encounter with a bear in Harriman State Park”

  1. Phil said

    That’s pretty interesting, I was just havingthis conversation with my wife last night telling her how you’ll never see a black bear because they are afraid of us, and that most bear attacks are grizzlies out West. The one you saw is probably “urbanized” by either people feeding them or leaving garbage where they can eat it.

    Up here, the only time you’ll run into black bear is if you’re out bear hunting and bait them. All in all, I doubt you would have walked into it, it likely would have spooked, although you never know for sure.

  2. Frum Hiker said

    Well actually in Alaska more people are mauled by black bears then browns. Grizzlies in the lower 48 are only located in 3 areas- in any number. Glacier and Yellowstone and the Beartooth plateau in Montana.

    The bear I saw was in a park that is overcrowded on the weekend- hence the reason I was so scared. A bear in the west is nothing- or even in the north.

  3. Your article is much more informatics for all of the visitor or tourist.I am very
    happy to read it. This is really very nice. Thank you for it.

  4. Man, this is a bit freaky. I’ve been hiking in Harriman quite a lot the past few months, and always on the lookout for bears. I never ran into one yet, but a park ranger told me a few weeks ago there have been a lot of bears this season. Just the other week there was one at Hessian Lake, right by the Bear Mountain Inn and the picnic areas (!).

    BTW — good to see there are other frum outdoor lovers. I wonder if there are any chasidish ones too. Now *that* would be rare… 🙂

  5. Frum Hiker said

    Hasidic Rebel- I have seen a bunch of chassidim who kayak and fish, friday afternoons seem to be very popular. I met a guy last week who was fishing from his kayak in full garb- said its the best way for him to stay in shape without killing his knees.

    I’d be happy to hike with you if youd like

  6. Akiva said

    Great post. Anyone who hikes or even camps the Blue Ridge should keep an eye out for bears. Its been awhile, but I’ve seen them in populated areas.

    Also, ourdoorsfolk should take a look at R’Lazer Brody’s (LazerBeams)article of a couple of days ago about animal attacks world wide. Of course if you’re frum you have nothing to worry about.

    Shalom u’vracha

  7. mvs said

    Dude, encountering a bear in a berry patch is not exactly a novel experience. Every time you are in or near wild berries, you need to be making a lot of noise so you or a bear won’t encounter each other to your mutual surprise. When we hike or pick berries in the woods during berry season, everyone carries a “bear bell” and or a closed-top tin can containing a few small rocks and shakes it fairly frequently.

    I don’t suppose you ever read “Blueberries for Sal” when you were a little kid. Check it out.

  8. Andreas said

    I just saw a black bear on the US6 as I was driving from Harriman,NY to the Palisades Interstate Parkway. I spotet the bear about 1 mile west of the Lake Te-ATA, shortly before the intersection of the US6 and 293. I reported it to the Harriman police dept., just in case.
    (Aug 26, 2008, 10 am)

  9. Cathy Baughan said

    I hiked the Timp-Torn Trail to Dunderberg Mtn on Sept. 8, 2008 and at the top while eating lunch a black bear came over the ridge and only stopped because my dog started barking at him. The bear was down wind of us, and smelled us and our food and still came within 20 ft of us. He was not afraid of us. After banging a pot and shouting for about 2 min, the bear finally moved away, but not far enough. We packed up and headed back down toward Doodletown. I Hiked Harriman for years, and have never seen a bear, let alone one coming to try to join us for lunch. We reported this to the Park Rangers.

  10. B- said

    I’m not at all surprised at your encounter. I was warming up the grill (heating some corn and potatoes)for about 20 minutes outside my house in Ringwood, NJ–not too far from Harriman. Then I put nice steak on. Steaks cook quickly, so I went inside to get tongs and a plate. Just as I opened the door, I startled a huge (approx 600 lbs.) black bear just about 10 feet in front of me. The bear ran through the yard and disappeared into the night. I’ve always loved the outdoors and have been tent camping many times in the Catskills. But after having such a close encounter with this large, stealthy and fast moving bear, I’m still shaken months later and I don’t know whether I will ever view the great outdoors the same way again.

  11. Adam said

    I came across a young Black Bear in Harriman just the other day. It ran away and I walked quickly to the nearby road. It was a crowded day in the park, I had seen 6 other hikers in the previous hour, but I was headed out on the southern end of the Pine Meadow trail (Red Mark) past the visitors center going towards the Sloatsburg train station. I guess the bear was in the least trafficked park of the park, since most people drive to the visitors center and head north into the heart of the park from there.

  12. Phil Hiker said

    I was hiking what was probably the same area that frum hiker was in. It was The blue dot trail
    which southern terminus is the rotary parking area just west of seven lakes. I was about a half mile up the blue disk trail when I lost the trail. So I bushwacked for a while and I estimated
    I was about one half mile west of the blue dot trail. After i got my bearings I started wandering through this large patch of berries and came across a large pile of scat. From what I Know about bear dropping this could be nothing else but. I was getting nervous because I was a good distance
    from the trail and had no Idea if the bear was in the area. I made noise going through the area because it had a lot of vegetation and plenty of places for a bear to hide. Well after about 20 minutes I finally made it back to the blue trail and was glad I had no encounter.

  13. Bob said

    Yesterday, August 24th, 2009 I was hiking on the blue trail off Rt 9W/202 near where Seven Lakes Drive starts. I was about 30 minutes in when I spotted a black bear about 50 feet off the trial. We were both surprised and he ran off. Since the trail was turining away from where he had run I continued on my way. About 15 minutes later I spotted the bear (I presume the same one) again about 50 feet ahead of me. This time he did not run and just looked in my direction. Since I have no experience with black bears I decided it was time
    to turn around and hike out. I just figured that this bear seemed a bit too curious for my liking. I have hiked about 3/4 of all the trails in Harriman over the course of the past 3 years and this is my first encounter with a black bear

  14. Alex said

    Was hiking up from Tuxedo yesterday, and about 10 minutes after I got onto the trail, saw a very good sized black bear on the trail in front of me. I’ve seen bears before when backpacking, but in the past they’ve always run off when they noticed you. This guy didn’t. I stood there and shouted a bit so he knew where I was, but he actually came closer, and crossed the trail about 75 feet in front of me–then actually proceeded to flank me around a small hill to me left, to pop up on my left only about 50 feet from me. Quite startling. Implies to me that these bears are used to people, and given that I was only a few hundred yards from the houses at the trailhead, I imagine that he was used to munching on garbage and wasn’t startled at all by a few guys hooting and hollering on the trail.

    • temima said


      I also met a black bear on my trail near Sebago lake . he wa smunching on blueberries, and seem to notic eme but ignor eme. But he was on my path , right before sunset and I had to get out befor edark so I bushwacked 500 feet parallel to the trail.. more or less and made it out without the bear following me but I was alone and it was intimidating if not scary…

      on a different not I am looking for anyone with experience paddling a kayak on the Neversink river near Fallsburg. I want to know the paddling conditions around there…

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  20. Shimon said

    Last evening saw FOUR bears on the Nurian trail, just east of the junction with the Stahahe trail. I’d be happy to share the photos I took.

    P.S. to the person wondering if there are Chasidic hikers. I know of about ten serious hikers, myself included.

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