Bear hollow divides the eastern end of Mount Magazine into two large legs. With no roads or trails it is a pristine and rugged wilderness where very few people venture. For seven years I have walked its rim, overlooking the virgin forest below. Recently, I developed a plan to explore the heart of the hollow. This scouting trip was to seek out scenic beauty, rare plants, turkey, and possible campsites for a party of trekkers. Like an early 1800ís naturalist, I wanted to explore new territory. I carried proper gear and food for an overnight adventure.
I started near highway 309 at the upper reaches of the hollow. Big Shoal Creek digs slowly through the mountain as it has done for millions of years. Its slopes are steep, rocky, and brushy. A recent prescribed fire has thinned the brush considerably making my decent easier.
The rising sun reflected off the water like a silvery ribbon meandering through greening trees and gray rocks. Tumbling over hundreds of ledges the creek cuts through a bluff line. A curved sandstone staircase leads down to a shallow pool. The narrow gorge offered only one side path over slick rocks. My bed roll cushioned my fall.
On the north side of the creek, above the pool, a natural overhang offered a shelter large enough for several explorers. Unfortunately, it was very wet from dripping water. There was no sign of any previous human visitors but I could image a hunting party using it many moons ago. The only animal sign suggested that a pack rat could prove to be a nuisance.
Water seeping out of the opposite bluff nourished small hanging gardens clinging delicately to narrow shelves. The gorge narrowed and the creek fell over a steep cascade about fifteen feet high.
Below the falls the hollow begins to widen. Large boulders made following the stream difficult. A narrow bench along the base of the bluff made an easy and nearly level route, but led away from the creek.
Dropping down from one bench to another I kept the creek within sight and sound. This led me away from the bluffs. Iíll have to make another exploration of the bluff area for I suspect there are some other possible shelters.
I did find a nice campsite if natural shelters were not needed. A broad bench above the mouth of a tributary to the main creek offered and clear spring water and more soil than rocks under large trees. Plenty of sticks and twigs could easily be gathered for a fire. There were no insects to worry about due to the burn. Big Shoal Creek was just far enough away to create a soothing sound for a night of slumber.
Unfortunately, I found that campsite by noon and was not ready to stop exploring. I decided to ascend up to the head of this tributary to see if there were other campsites higher. That was my big mistake of the day. Climbing over 500 feet I found terribly rocky conditions. Exhausted from the climb and the narrow strap of my over loaded haversack, I decided to end this adventure and headed home.
This first exploration of Bear Hollow was a learning experience. Mount Magazine continues to surprise me with hidden treasures. Amazingly, it is within walking distance from my house. There is more to explore and I should share this with like minded adventurers.
There are many squirrels but I saw no sign of turkey or deer. Perhaps some COHT members would be interested in a fall expedition.
Post script: A few days after this exploration I bagged my first turkey.