All Stories in: ‘Central’


February 01, 2016
Coney, Adams and Treadway

Coney, Adams, and Treadway reward snowshoers with spectacular views for only moderate effort.

By Spencer Morrissey

Modern snowshoes are lightweight. Photo by Nancie Battaglia

Modern snowshoes are lightweight.
Photo by Nancie Battaglia

Snowshoeing in the Adirondacks has a long history. Originally a means of travel, it is now a popular recreational pastime. The French called snowshoes raquettes because the paddle-shaped contraptions of earlier times resembled rackets. They were used by hunters and trappers.

Today’s snowshoes are more rugged and lightweight than the wooden raquettes of yore. They’re usually made of aluminum, plastic, and nylon and come equipped with crampons that allow us to climb over ice, bare rock, and deep snow—that is, almost anywhere except up a tree.

If you’re new to snowshoeing, though, you probably don’t want to start out on a High Peak. Below are three trips up smaller mountains that are only moderately difficult. The round trips range from 2.2 miles (Coney Mountain) to 7.8 miles (Treadway Mountain). The elevation gains range from 515 feet (Coney) to 1,800 feet (Mount Adams).

Snowshoeing is not a sport for everyone, but everyone should give it a go at least once. As with any winter outing, you should not travel alone and, in the event of a mishap, you should be prepared to spend the night outside in subfreezing temperatures.

Snowshoers reach the open summit of Coney Mountain near Tupper Lake. Photo by Nancie Battaglia

Snowshoers reach the open summit of Coney Mountain near Tupper Lake.
Photo by Nancie Battaglia

Coney Mountain
Coney Mountain’s dome, with its receding hairline, rises right above Route 30, making it an ideal short hike for passing motorists. The trail used to follow a survey line and was quite steep, but a more user-friendly trail that winds around the back of the mountain was created a few years ago.

The summit remains the same. It’s largely open, with stunning views of Tupper Lake and the Horseshoe Lake Wild Forest. Goodman Mountain lies directly to the north. Other conspicuous peaks in the neighborhood include Mount Arab and Mount Morris.

I have a deep memory of climbing Coney with my dad in 1995. We didn’t know about the trail (it was an unmarked herd path), so we just parked along the road and bushwhacked to the top. We skirted cliffs, clambered over slabs, and grabbed trees to pull ourselves up. When we reached the summit, we discovered the herd path. The new trail passes beneath the cliffs and open rock, and you’ll see our route wasn’t the easiest way to get up this little peak.

With the new trail, Coney is a fairly easy snowshoe hike. It’s just 1.1 miles to the summit, with an elevation gain of 515 feet. From the register, the route follows the base of the mountain, ascending gradually, and then curls around the north and east sides of the mountain. In places you may encounter rocks protruding from the snow, but overall the trail is relatively smooth. The woods on the east side, especially, are quite open.

Just below the summit, the trail joins the old herd path. Bearing right, you face a short, moderately steep climb up snow-covered slab to the open summit.

Coney Mtn. Map by Nancy Bernstein

Coney Mtn.
Map by Nancy Bernstein

DIRECTIONS: From the village of Tupper Lake, drive south on NY 30. At 8.3 miles after crossing the bridge over the Raquette River, look for the trailhead parking area on the left. If coming from Long Lake, the parking area will be on the right 11.2 miles after crossing the bridge over Long Lake.

Treadway’s summit looks down on Pharaoh Lake. Courtesy of Adirondack Mountain Club

Treadway’s summit looks down on Pharaoh Lake.
Courtesy of Adirondack Mountain Club

Treadway Mountain
Treadway Mountain lies in the 46,283-acre Pharaoh Lake Wilderness Area in the eastern part of the Park. Because nearby Pharaoh Mountain is taller, it sees more visitors, but Treadway isn’t that far behind. Winter, though, is a quiet time in this neck of the woods.

The round trip is 7.8 miles, but much of the hike is on mellow terrain. It begins at the Putnam Pond State Campground. If the ice is safe, you can walk three quarters of a mile across the pond to shorten the trip. As for me, I am not a fan of crossing frozen water even if the ice is two feet thick. Perhaps my phobia comes from the time I fell through the ice on the Boreas River or the time I found the bottom of Crane Pond. But you might not share my fear. If you cross the ice, you will cut in half the approach to the Treadway trail.

For those preferring the landlubber trek, start up the trail leading to Grizzle Ocean. It begins at the south end of the parking lot at Putnam Pond and parallels the southeast shore. The trail is mellow, passing through an attractive hemlock forest. The snow usually isn’t that deep as it gets collected on evergreen branches.

After 1.4 miles, you come to an intersection soon after crossing the outlet of Grizzle Ocean. Take a right here and follow a trail paralleling the west shore of Putnam Pond. After 0.4 miles, you come to a four-way intersection. To your right is a short trail to Putnam Pond. Those who choose to cross the ice should aim for this trail when leaving the pond. Those taking the land route will turn left at the junction.

Now begins a 2.1-mile climb to the summit of Treadway Mountain, with an elevation gain of nine hundred feet. Though the climb is long, the grade is mostly moderate. As you ascend, the evergreens open up and the snow becomes deeper. Views start to appear when you reach the ridge, well before the summit. The vista from the top is spectacular. On a clear winter day you can see the High Peaks to the northwest as well as countless other mountains. To the east, you can see over Lake Champlain to the Green Mountains of Vermont.

Treadway Mtn. Map by Nancy Bernstein

Treadway Mtn.
Map by Nancy Bernstein

DIRECTIONS: From I-87, take Exit 28 and drive east on NY 74 toward Ticonderoga. After 13 miles, turn right onto Putts Pond Road. Follow Putts Pond Road to the end at the Putnam Pond State Campground. The campground is closed in winter. You may have to park at the tollbooth and walk to the parking area. From the tollbooth, go straight and up a small hill to the parking area on the left.

Henderson Lake and the Santanoni Range lie west of Adams. Photo by Nancie Battaglia

Henderson Lake and the Santanoni Range lie west of Adams.
Photo by Nancie Battaglia

Mount Adams
Mount Adams now has a rehabilitated fire tower that offers an amazing panorama of the High Peaks. I have been up Adams many times to enjoy the view. My wildest memory of this mountain dates to 2003 when I bushwhacked up the peak in fall from nearby Popple Hill. A windstorm in the late 1990s made Popple Hill a disaster field of blowdown. I was hiking on trees that were on top of trees that were on top of trees. At one point I must have been more than ten feet off the ground in an acrobatic act without a net. I’d advise you to take the trail instead.

The hike to the 3,520-foot summit is a 4.8-mile round trip, with an elevation gain of 1,800 feet. From the parking area, you descend briefly to the Hudson River, which is crossed on a new suspension bridge. At 0.3 miles, you reach Lake Jimmy. In winter, snowshoers and skiers usually can safely cross the shallow lake on the ice. Because it’s so shallow, I don’t mind crossing this lake despite my phobia of ice. If you feel more comfortable on land, the trail skirts the north shore of the lake.

After the lake, you begin a mellow climb to a restored fire observer’s cabin. Just beyond the cabin, you come to an intersection with the Mount Adams trail at 0.75 miles. This is where the snowshoeing gets more serious. Over the next 1.6 miles, you ascend about 1,700 feet. The climb is easy at first, but you soon reach steeper terrain, though for the most part it’s only moderately difficult. As you near the mountaintop, the trail becomes much steeper. Eventually, you crest the summit and see the fire tower rising above the evergreens. The tower steps can be very slippery. After removing your snowshoes, you might want to put MicroSpikes or other traction aids on the soles of your boots.

Mount Adams’s fire tower offers a panorama of the High Peaks. Photo by Johnathan Esper

Mount Adams’s fire tower offers a panorama of the High Peaks.
Photo by Johnathan Esper

The tower’s cab offers a panoramic vista of the High Peaks, including Mount Marcy, Mount Colden, the MacIntyre Range, the Santanoni Range, and the Seward Range. It also gives you a bird’s-eye view of the old iron and titanium mine at Tahawus.

Mt. Adams Map by Nancy Bernstein

Mt. Adams
Map by Nancy Bernstein

DIRECTIONS: From I-87, take Exit 29 and turn west onto County 2 (also known as Boreas Road or Blue Ridge Road) toward Newcomb. After 17.8 miles, turn right onto County 25, the Tahawus Road. There will be a sign for the High Peaks at the intersection. Take the Tahawus Road 5.5 miles to an intersection. Bear left and go another 3 miles to a parking area on the right, just past an old blast furnace.


March 05, 2015
Upper Hudson Ski Loop

DEC creates a trail for skiers that loops through former Finch, Pruyn timberlands near the Goodnow and Hudson rivers.

By Phil Brown

Since the state purchased the Essex Chain Lakes a few years ago, I had been meaning to try out the ski touring in that region. My initial idea was to ski on old logging roads to the Essex Chain, but then I got wind of a new ski trail created by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. In mid-January, my neighbor Tim Peartree and I checked out the 4.2-mile route, and we had a ball.

Tim Peartree starts up the Upper Hudson Ski Loop. Photo by Phil Brown

Tim Peartree starts up the Upper Hudson Ski Loop.
Photo by Phil Brown

DEC calls the trail the Upper Hudson Ski Loop. At different points, the trail parallels the Goodnow River and the Hudson River. The department regards the trail as “intermediate” in difficulty, but advanced beginners should be able to handle it. Most of trail is easy, but there are a few hills that require more skill.

The trail goes through timberlands formerly owned by Finch, Pruyn & Company. In 2007, the Adirondack Nature Conservancy bought all of Finch, Pruyn’s land, some 161,000 acres, and later agreed to sell the state sixty-five thousand acres, including the Essex Chain, OK Slip Falls, and a stretch of the Hudson Gorge.

The Upper Hudson Ski Loop, which lies just north of the Essex Chain Primitive Area, was laid out and cleared by DEC with help from the Student Conservation Association. Since the route follows old logging roads and ATV trails, no trees needed to be cut. (Because the land is now part of the Forest Preserve, logging and ATVs are verboten.)

Tim and I got to the trailhead about noon. We left our cars in a small parking area along Goodnow Flow Road in Newcomb, just before the bridge over the Goodnow River, the flow’s outlet. From the parking area, the trail parallels the road for a few hundred feet and then turns left onto a former logging road.

When we arrived at the register, we encountered Corrie O’Dea, a DEC forester who worked on the trail. She told us that the local ranger had recently cleared the route of blowdown. When I mentioned that we planned to ski the loop clockwise, she said DEC recommends people travel counterclockwise. It’s supposed to be easier that way.

Tim and I were among the first outsiders to sign the register. DEC had opened the trail to the public just a few weeks earlier. Only ten parties skied it before us, and except for one person from Schroon Lake, all were Newcomb residents or DEC personnel.

For a half-mile beyond the register, the trail is flat. We were on a ridge about a hundred feet above the Goodnow River. Although we could hear rushing water, we saw only occasional glimpses of the river through the trees.

At 0.65 miles from the parking area, we came to a split in the trail where a DEC sign directed us to bear right. This is the start of the loop proper. Judging by a topographical map, I thought the descents would be more fun going clockwise, but we decided to go the way most people presumably will go.

From the junction, we glided slightly downhill past a beaver meadow on the right, then ascended a bit to a height of land. From here, we dropped in two pitches nearly to the Goodnow River (the most difficult downhill in the loop, and it wasn’t that difficult). Again, we could see the Goodnow through the trees. As we skied along the flats, I kept hoping we’d come to a clear view of the river, but we never did. If you want to see the river up close, you’ll have to leave the trail.

Tim Peartree stops to admire the scenery at the mouth of the Goodnow River. Photo by Phil Brown

Tim Peartree stops to admire the scenery at the mouth of the Goodnow River.
Photo by Phil Brown

At 2.1 miles, we saw the frozen Hudson River on our right. We skied through the brush and onto the ice. Although we saw open water upstream, where there was some current, the ice where we stood seemed solid. We skied along the shore, heading downstream for a quarter-mile to the mouth of the Goodnow, where we saw more open water. The views on the river were superb, but you must be careful not to stray onto thin ice. We stayed close to shore at all times and tested the ice frequently by jabbing it with our ski poles.

Once back on the trail, we enjoyed a number of small ups and downs, with frequent views of the Hudson filtered through the trees. This is one of the most scenic stretches. At 2.75 miles, just before the trail pulled away from the river, we got off the loop again to bushwhack a short distance to the river, this time to take in a vista of a frozen slough.

Returning to the trail, we climbed 0.15 miles to a logging road. The sign directed us to turn left, but we chose to go right and enjoy a short descent in unbroken snow to a creek. We crossed the creek on an old bridge, but the road on the other side was overgrown, so we turned back.

We climbed back to the junction and continued climbing easily to a pull-off on left with perhaps the trail’s best view of the surrounding terrain. Through the hardwoods we could see the Hudson below us and a number of peaks on the other side of the river, including Polaris Mountain and 3,385-foot Vanderwhacker Mountain. In summer, I imagine, most of the view would be obscured by leaves.

A frozen stillwater on the Hudson River. Photo by Phil Brown

A frozen stillwater on the Hudson River.
Photo by Phil Brown

A quarter-mile past the pull-off, the trail started to level. We skied on the flats for a half-mile (excepting a short downhill) to a junction with another old logging road. I had noticed this one on the topo map, and it looked like an interesting diversion. The map showed it rising 620 feet over a mile or so to a saddle between two hills. If skiable, it promised an exciting descent, comparable to the best hills on the Jackrabbit Trail, which runs from Saranac Lake to Keene.

And so Tim and I left the loop one last time, turning right onto the logging road. At first, we ascended ever so gradually until reaching a clearing after 0.4 miles. Here the road bent left and began a steeper climb. The route also became overgrown. As we ascended, we had to climb over, duck under, or go around several fallen trees. About three-quarters of a mile from the loop, we decided to turn back, in part because we were running out of daylight.

Because of the fallen trees and brush, the side trip cannot be recommended. If the route were cleared, however, it’d be a nice descent. I later determined, using GPS data, that we had climbed less than half of the way to the saddle, ascending roughly 250 feet.

After Tim and I returned from our detour, we enjoyed a short, mellow descent back to the start of the loop and then followed our tracks back to the parking area. “I liked the variety, the ups and downs, the scenery. It’s a terrific trail,” Tim said after our trip.

Tony Goodwin, author of Ski and Snowshoe Trails in the Adirondacks, likes the trail enough that he likely will include it in the next edition of his guidebook. “This new loop is very pleasant, easy skiing,” he wrote me in an email. “Unfortunately, for most potential users it is a long drive compared to the actual amount of skiing available.”

Goodwin said he would suggest that people combine it with a snowshoe or ski up nearby Goodnow Mountain.

DEC might add to the appeal of the loop itself by opening the secondary logging road to skiing. I imagine it would be fairly easy to extend the downhill trail all the way to the Hudson, making use of other logging and skid roads in the area. This would entail a drop of eight hundred feet over 1.25 miles. From the river, skiers could return via the ski loop (in either direction). Such an exciting descent no doubt would attract more backcountry skiers to Newcomb. The combination of scenic loop and thrilling downhill would be hard to beat.

Map by Nancy Bernstein

Map by Nancy Bernstein

DIRECTIONS: From the entrance to the Adirondack Interpretive Center in Newcomb, drive east on NY 28N for 0.8 miles to Pine Tree Road on the right. Turn here and then make an immediate right onto Goodnow Flow Road. Go 5.5 miles to a junction, bearing left to stay on Goodnow Flow Road. Continue roughly a mile to a parking area on the left, just before the bridge over the Goodnow River.


November 14, 2013
Raymond Brook Ski Trail

Tony Goodwin delights in the bounty of snow on the Halfway Brook Ski Trail. Photos by Nancie Battaglia

Tony Goodwin delights in the bounty of snow on the Halfway Brook Ski Trail.
Photos by Nancie Battaglia

By Nancie Battaglia

WHEN THERE’S deep snow in your own backyard, you might be reluctant to venture off to someone else’s stash, but that’s what we did last January. And we’re glad we did.

Caravaning from Keene on a sunny Saturday morning, we drove to North River on the edge of the Siamese Ponds Wilderness. Our goal was to try out the new Raymond Brook Ski Trail, among others.

Heidi Roland braces for a twisty descent on the Raymond Brook Ski Trail.

Heidi Roland braces for a twisty descent on the Raymond Brook Ski Trail.

The ski trails here date to the 1930s, before the advent of lifts. In those days, people traveled to North Creek from downstate in ski trains. Once here, they’d ride uphill in trucks and ski down the rugged trails and old logging roads. The slogan was “Ride Up, Slide Down.”

Over the past ten years, the Siamese Ponds Trail Improvement Society, whose members include retired Forest Ranger Steve Ovitt and like-minded volunteers, has been reviving the trails—clearing, sometimes rerouting, building bridges, putting up signs. As a result, these historic trails once again offer plenty of backcountry and glade skiing.

From the Old Farm Road trailhead near Thirteenth Lake, we skied eight miles to the North Creek Ski Bowl, where we had left a second vehicle. First we followed the Halfway Brook Ski Trail to William Blake Pond, a sunny spot for our lunch. Next we continued to Barton Mines Road, which we crossed to pick up the Raymond Brook Ski Trail, also marked by blue disks.

Skiers traverse the height of land on the Raymond Brook Ski Trail.

Skiers traverse the height of land on the Raymond Brook Ski Trail.

A short climb brought us to the height of land, the start of a much-touted downhill. In all, the trail descends 1,400 feet over about four miles. No problem for talented, agile, fearless schussers or cautious intermediates with good survival skills. A tricky, twisty first drop brought us to the old-time sled shed—the cultural highlight of our wilderness excursion. It’s a tin structure on six-foot stilts that housed rescue toboggans in days of yore (a sign explains its history). The shed is a good place to rest, refuel and gawk. The height of the stilts attests to how deep the snow can get here. Deep.

We took the Raymond Brook trail as far as a three-way junction. Daredevils can continue left here, following those blue markers, to descend the steepest part of the trail, ending on Route 28. We opted for a gentler finish. A trail marked by yellow disks led us to the Ski Bowl, where we glided downhill into the evening alpenglow.

Everyone in our crew—which included Tony and Bunny Goodwin, Scott and Tracy McClelland, and Heidi Roland—had a great day in the woods. If you’d like to follow in our tracks, I recommend Steve Ovitt’s map “13th Lake to North Creek Trail System.” It can be purchased in North Creek at the Hudson River Trading Company and Izzy’s Market and Deli for about $3.

Map by Nancy Bernstein

Map by Nancy Bernstein

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March 01, 2011
A peek at Peaked Mountain

Though turned back short of summit, snowshoers find trek in Siamese Ponds Wilderness is the height of adventure.

By Susan Bibeau

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I lived in the Adirondacks for close to fifteen years without owning a pair of snowshoes. My husband and I have been such avid skiers that I never considered giving any other mode of winter trekking a try.

“Why snowshoe when you can ski?” was always my pretzel-logic excuse. In a moment of clarity, I finally came to my senses and purchased a pair this winter. I am now kicking myself for not doing so sooner. Continue Reading…


November 01, 2010
Botheration Pond ski

Volunteers create a scenic loop that’s ideal for winter fun

By Tom Woodman

The trail reaching into the Siamese Ponds Wilderness from near Thirteenth Lake can be a bustling, merry place on a good weekend in ski season. Residents of the homes around the lake and visitors to nearby Garnet Hill Lodge augment the supply of day-trippers, so there can be a healthy stream of people gliding into the woods from the Old Farm Clearing Trailhead. Continue Reading…


March 01, 2010
Blue Ridge Wilderness

Lake Durant, Cascade Pond and Stephens Pond cross country ski loop

By Phil Brown

durant-lake

Phil Brown and Jeff Oehler cross a frozen Lake Durant with Blue Mountain in the background.

It’s barely above zero, and we’re skiing across Lake Durant into the wind. After pulling on my balaclava, all I can hear is my breathing. In fact, the world has been reduced to my breathing and my cold fingers. I start to wonder what I’m doing here. And then I look up at Blue Mountain, the big guy in this neighborhood, encrusted in white, thrust up against a blue-gray sky, and the sight reminds me: This is fun. Continue Reading…


March 01, 2009
OK Slip Falls ski

A place to gush about

By Phil Brown

 

OK Slip Falls-1

OK Slip Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in the state. Photo by Carl Heilman II.

We’re taking a ski trip into the future, following old woods roads and trails to the brink of a gorge that overlooks OK Slip Falls, one of the biggest cataracts in the Adirondack Park.

OK Slip Falls, at least to my mind, borders on the mythic. With a drop of 250 feet, the cascade ranks high among the Park’s natural wonders, yet it has long been a forbidden place. The timber company Finch, Pruyn & Co., which owned the falls for decades, kept the public out. Continue Reading…


March 01, 2009
Trails and tales at Camp Santanoni

Santanoni-1

Skiers pass the stone creamery of the Santanoni farm.

By Tom Woodman

How does one account for the coincidence that on a relatively easy ski in good conditions, two members of our party have their boots come apart? Probably the fact that they have not used their ski equipment in some time. Their spirit is willing but the leather is weak. Continue Reading…


January 01, 2009
Siamese Pond Wilderness

On the path unbroken

The old wagon road is now a ski trail. Photo by Alan Wechsler

There are times when you want the mountains to yourself, with no trace of your fellow human beings. And there are times, by God, that you hope there have been cross-country skiers in front of you.

That thought crossed my mind when we were driving to the trailhead to begin one of the great ski adventures of the central Adirondacks – an 11-mile traverse of the Siamese Ponds Wilderness, starting on Route 8 in Bakers Mills and heading north, ending at Thirteenth Lake near Garnet Hill Lodge.

The trail near the lodge is usually tracked. You can do the route in reverse, but you may find yourself breaking trail when you’re most tired. Also, you’ll have a difficult downhill at the end. Some parties split up, starting at opposite ends, and swap car keys in the middle. This avoids a long shuttle, but what happens if one party runs into trouble?

Continue Reading…


January 01, 2009
4 snowshoe delights

Guidebook author shares four favorite snowshoe trips

Hour Pond. Photo by Bill Ingersoll.

By Bill Ingersoll

Having lived in the western foothills of the Adirondacks since I was born, snow has been a major part of my life. As a kid I’d spend hours steering my plastic sled down the hill behind the house or building forts in snowbanks. Both of my feet became frostbitten at age 11 when I got too carried away with a day’s worth of snowball fights and other games.

Nowadays, I view snow as something that transforms familiar landscapes into new territories, bestowing new personalities to the wild places I know well. There is no experience quite like walking through a conifer forest the day after a fresh snowfall, with all of the balsam firs and spruces looking like conical statues under their heavy burdens. Or viewing the surrounding mountains from a forested trail when all of the leaves are off the trees. Or walking across a frozen pond to explore shoreline coves. Continue Reading…