Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Five Ponds Wilderness: Oven Lake

There are many places well off the beaten path in the Adirondacks. But there are few as remote or as difficult to get to as Oven Lake in the Five Ponds Wilderness. But for those willing to put the effort in, Oven Lake can be well worth the trouble.

Oven Lake is a highly remote wilderness lake located near the eastern edge of the Five Ponds Wilderness in the northwestern Adirondacks. The lake is nearly a mile long, oriented roughly southwest to northeast and has a unique shape. An undulating shoreline partitions the lake into several different parts. The lake’s inlet is a half mile long, straight channel connecting it to its southeastern neighbor Grassy Pond.

Oven Lake’s wild character is greatly enhances by its remoteness. The lake is located several miles from the nearest trail in the Five Ponds Wilderness. It is approximately two miles north of the terminus of the Red Horse Trail and over three miles east of the Sand Lake Trail. The lake’s distance from any marked trail is a significant reason for its lack of human visitors.

Oven Lake’s remoteness is not the only reason for its lack of visitation. The lake is nearly surrounded by significant blow down from the 1995 Microburst. The forests along both the lake’s eastern and western shores were highly impacted by the intense wind of the 16-year old storm.

The impact of this storm along the shoreline of Oven Lake can clearly be seen from aerial photographs available via Bing or Google maps. These blow downs make a nearly impenetrable barrier keeping all but the most ambitious or insane backcountry adventurer from visiting its shore.

The lake’s many unusual features make it ideal for exploring with a kayak or canoe. Unfortunately, its remoteness and surrounding aggressive terrain are difficult hurdles to overcome in getting a boat onto this wilderness lake.

I made the effort to bushwhack through some of the most arduous backcountry conditions to camp near Oven Lake for two nights this past summer. This trek required hiking into the Five Ponds Wilderness using a network of herd paths, and unmarked and marked trails before bushwhacking several miles through the vast interior. The off-trail portion involved bushwhacking through hardwood, conifer and mixed forests, over hills and around cliffs, avoiding thick blow down, crossing the Robinson River on an abandoned beaver dam and following along a series of stygian beaver swales.

On this trip I gained access following a series of beaver swales from the Robinson River located between Toad Pond and Crooked Lake. The beaver swales were fed by a boggy wetland located just a short distance from the southern portion of Oven Lake. This route allowed me to avoid most of the worst of the blow down along the eastern and western shoes of Oven Lake. My exit from the lake was via the northern end of the lake as I headed northeast toward Cracker Pond.

I spent two nights in the Oven Lake area; one night near the southern portion of the lake and the other near its northern terminus. The remoteness of the lake was accentuated by the presence of common loons, beaver, several river otters and a prodigious amount of moose droppings. The only evidence of human activity in the area was the remnants of a Mylar balloon found near its shore to the southwest.

Oven Lake is a perfect place to explore for a backcountry enthusiast looking for a true wilderness experience unlikely to be disturbed by the presence of other people. With its remote location and difficult surrounding terrain there is little chance of seeing another soul at Oven Lake except for the truly dedicated bushwhacker.

Photos: Southern portion of Oven Lake, hardwood regeneration along eastern shore of Oven Lake and River otters near northern terminus of Oven Lake by Dan Crane.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking adventures at Bushwhacking Fool.

Dan Crane

Dan Crane

Dan Crane writes regularly about bushwhacking and backcountry camping, including providing insights on equipment and his observations as a veteran backcountry explorer. He has been visiting the Adirondacks since childhood and actively exploring its backcountry for almost two decades. He is also life-long naturalist with a Master of Science in Ecology from SUNY ESF and 10+ seasons working as a field biologist, five inside the Blue Line.

Dan has hiked the Northville-Placid Trail twice and climbed all 46 High Peaks but currently spends his backpacking time exploring the northwestern portion of the Adirondacks. He is also the creator of the blog Bushwhacking Fool where he details his bushwhacking adventures.


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3 Responses

  1. catharus says:

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  2. Ed Reese says:

    Dan,
    Oven Lake is another spot on my list to see. There is a Verplanck Colvin account, that includes a drawing of a portion of Oven Lake. In 1873, he and a team of men went through there with a lot of heavy survey equipment and supplies. They dragged in, as unbelievable as it may seem, two large and very heavy wooden boats. The article states (a copy of the manuscript from an original old copy) that one of them sunk in Oven Lake, supplies also. I think remnants of this may exist. It is not clear where in the lake it went down.

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    • Dan Crane Dan Crane says:

      Ed,

      Oven Lake is a beautiful lake, but it is not easy to get there. It appears surrounded by blowdown, except to the north. The east shoreline looked completely devastated by blowdown; the west shoreline was not as bad, until heading a short distance into the forest and then it got much worse. It is definitely worth going though, just expect it to be quite an effort.

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