Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Backcountry Skiing: The Seven (or Eight) Carries

Google satelliteIf you know cross-country skiers, by now you’ve heard the complaints about the lack of snow. After last week’s thaw, the Adirondack Ski Touring Council reported that no part of the 24-mile Jackrabbit Trail between Saranac Lake and Keene could be recommended for skiing.

I’ve done a fair amount of the complaining myself, but I enjoyed perfect conditions this past weekend on the ponds in the St. Regis Canoe Area.

If you’re skiing across ponds, you don’t need deep snow. Indeed, the skiing is best when there’s just a few inches of light powder on top of solid ice. That’s what I found on Sunday when I skied the route of the famed Seven Carries.

The carry trails were another matter. In the hardwoods, there was just enough snow for kicking and gliding. In the evergreen stands, the cover was sparse, often leaving dirt, stones, and roots exposed. I had to remove my skis a few times, but only for short distances.

The Seven Carries was used by nineteenth-century paddlers traveling between Upper Saranac Lake and Paul Smith’s Hotel on Lower St. Regis Lake. Back then, people traveled by wagon from Upper Saranac to Little Green Pond and then began paddling. Nowadays, people usually start the trip at Little Clear Pond, or end it there if they’re going in the opposite direction.

Perhaps we should rename the route the Six Carries.

Not so fast. A case can be made that it should be renamed the Eight Carries.

While researching my guidebook Adirondack Paddling last year, I was surprised to learn that the nineteenth-century writer Edwin R. Wallace included in his description of the route a pond that’s no longer on the modern itinerary. It lies between Little Long Pond and Bear Pond. It’s not named on modern maps—or, for that matter, on older maps that I checked—but Wallace said it was known as Turtle Pond or Middle Pond.

Although I had looked at maps of the St. Regis Canoe Area many times, I never took notice of this pond. Wallace aroused my curiosity. So when I got to the end of Little Long Pond on my ski trip, instead of taking the carry trail to Bear, I bushwhacked a short distance to this forgotten water—an easy affair, in open woods, that took only a minute or two.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The pond is not remarkable. It’s maybe 350 yards long. Like other ponds in the Canoe Area, it’s bordered by a mix of evergreens and deciduous trees. What caught my attention were the tracks of a bobcat that had walked part way across the ice, thought better of it, and turned around.

I took a few photos, then skied the length of the pond, walked down a slight hill to Bear Pond, and continued skiing to Upper St. Regis Lake, where I had parked.

I’m not sure why we now skip this pond on our paddling trips. It would be an easy carry coming from either direction. I suppose people came to think that the pond is too little to bother with. In my view, an extra pond is a good thing. I’m looking forward to paddling it this year.

Illustrations: Google map shows  the unnamed pond between Little Long Pond and Bear Pond. Photo by Phil Brown: the unnamed pond late in the afternoon.


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Phil Brown is the former Editor of Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, the same topics he writes about here at Adirondack Almanack. Phil is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing. He is the author of Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, which he co-published with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the editor of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings.Visit Lost Pond Press for more information.

5 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    There you go giving away all the secrets again! Probably should build a small carry trail.

    Phil, my wife gave me your new paddling book for Christmas. Very well done.

  2. Phil Brown says:

    Paul, glad you like the book. I mention this pond in the chapter on the Seven Carries.

  3. John Marona says:

    I stopped by that pond last summer, won’t mention here what I saw there, easy access but I guess it will no longer provide the solitude now that we’ll all be heading back. Still enjoy your writing even though you occasionally publish some of my favorite places, guess that’s why I like your writing,

  4. Phil Brown says:

    John, I’m hoping that, like most of my writing, this article will be forgotten.

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