Return to Bear Heaven

Bear Heaven landscape

I last blogged about Bear Heaven in October 2006. This was my fourth visit to the highly scenic, ridgetop campground in the Monongahela National Forest.


It rained much of the time we were there, prompting some extreme tent-drying measures. We spent one day hanging out in a rock shelter, enjoying the fog-draped scenery and listening to the songs of black-throated green, black-throated blue and cerulean warblers. But such conditions aren’t ideal for photography.


I took advantage of a bright period one morning to wander over to the larger of the two rock cities and snap some photos, while my companions read and knitted back at camp. Perhaps it was the time of year — I’d never been there in May before — but the rocks seemed even more sentient than usual. (I shared a few other photos in the post “Alone Again.”)

red maple

I stumbled across a new-to-me tree, one of the largest red maples I’ve ever seen. This is not typically a long-lived species. The specimen here was more than three feet in diameter at breast height.

leg up

Snaky red spruce and hemlock roots drew my eye, as they always do.


The phenomenon of full-sized trees growing on top of boulders never fails to impress.

birth canal

At places like Bear Heavens, one feels in a visceral way how plants and soil give birth to one another on these ancient mountains, themselves repeatedly reborn through slow uplift and differential erosion.

hemlock birth

Worming my way through slot canyons and caves, I emerged as if from a birth canal into the light.

mountain mama

The clouds had pulled back enough to permit a view. A hermit thrush was singing.

7 Replies to “Return to Bear Heaven”

  1. Wonderful to read this first thing in the morning, Dave. You’ve captured perfectly why I love to be immersed with the rocks, mosses, trees and soil. Also, Monongahela and Atchafayala (that big swamp river and swamp in Louisiana) are two of my favorite words to say over and over again.

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