Sunday, June 29, 2008

New Route For Northville-Placid Trail

The Schenectady Gazzette is reporting some good news today – the rerouting of the ten mile hike along Route 30 from Northville to Upper Benson that starts the Northville-Placid Trail. In the process DEC is adding six miles to the trail.

Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, said work could begin next year on the planned new southern section of the trail starting in Gifford’s Valley, closer to Northville.

On the planned route, which awaits final approval of the Shaker Mountain Unit Management Plan, a switch-back trail would lead hikers over the mountains framing Giffords Valley before descending north to the West Stony Creek, across the Benson Road at Little Cathead Mountain on the east side of Woods Lake, and then northwest to the existing trail, making a junction very near the North Stony campsite.

The new section would save the hikers who want to walk the entire trail from starting on Route 30 near the Northville Bridge.

From a parking area in Giffords Valley, the entire hike would be about 125 miles, and all in the woods.

The original 133-mile trail was laid out by the Adirondack Mountain Club in 1922 and 1923, during the heyday of Adirondack trail building in the 1920s and 1930s. A old ADK Guide for the NPT noted that “the primary reason the Adirondack Mountain Club was formed in 1922 was to create hiking trails. The first project W.G. Howard and his Trails Committee took on was the cutting of the Northville-Placid Trail. by the end of 1923 the trail was essentially in operating order.”

The terminus of the trail were chosen for their local New York Central Railroad stations. In 1923 Robert Wickham hiked the trail into the High Peaks – he arrived there by steamer, train, and hiking the “new” NPT. His experience was published as Friendly Adirondack Peaks.

Camping spots along the trail were heavily used near populated areas and in the 1940s crib-work behind some lean-tos was used to hold trash. As plastics became more popular these became enormous trash dumps. Food waste and cans had rusted away over the years – not so with plastics, nylon, rubber and the like.

Bill White (who had hiked the trail in 1947 and again in 1971) took up the problem of littering along the trail. In the ten years between 1972 and 1982 he organized the removal of over 3,000 pounds of trash. During an interview with Sharon Brown in 1982 for Adirondack Life, White recalled his 1946 trip: “The trail is wilder now [in 1982] than it was then,” he says, explaining that there was a lot more lumbering activity in the heart of the Adirondacks.”

It just got a little wilder.

From South to North the Northville-Placid Trail crosses the Silver Lake Wilderness Area, Jessup River Wild Forest, West Canada Lake Wilderness Area, Moose River Plains Wild Forest, Blue Ridge Wilderness Area, Blue Mountain Wild Forest, and High Peaks Wilderness Area. It also passes through the villages of Piseco, Blue Mountain Lake, and Long Lake.


John Warren

John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for more than 45 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John's Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on North Country Public Radio and on WSLP Lake Placid.

He is also on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute and edits The New York History Blog. He is the author of two books of regional history.




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