I had lots to do on Saturday, but just couldn’t say ‘no.’ The blue sky and 40 degree weather was too much of a siren call, so I grabbed my skis and headed to the Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area. This may be my last chance to ski for the season, so the errands will just have to wait.
The Siamese Ponds area is deservedly one of the most popular spots in the southern Adirondacks for backcountry skiing, containing routes for skiers of all abilities. My late start and the impending darkness meant that today’s choice would have to be short and fast, so I picked Botheration Pond as my destination. I started at the Old Farm Clearing parking lot, where skiers compete each weekend for the 30 or so parking spaces, but today there are only a few other cars. I won’t see any of their occupants though – for the next two hours, I’ll share the trails with only chickadees and an occasional squirrel.
I started out on the trail, an old logging road that was well packed over the last few weeks by other skiers. This is a wide, gentle trail that’s perfect for those wanting to try backcountry skiing for the first time. A few days earlier, the snow had been like Rocky Mountain powder. My attempt to build a snowman with my young niece Mina was futile as the snow crumbled apart like dry sand. Today’s warm temperatures changed all that, producing moist, cohesive snow that had the perfect combination of grip and glide for my waxless backcountry skis.
A one-mile glide over a uniform ribbon of white brought me to Old Farm Clearing, the site of a 19th century homestead, but now simply a spot in the woods where multiple trails converge. Taking a left turn, the trail became narrower and more intimate, a hiking trail instead of a road. A gradual ascent for the next mile brought me to the East Branch of the Sacandaga River. A few weeks ago, I could ski across the snow-covered river, but today I used the rustic bridge, the first of two build four years ago by the Siamese Ponds Trail Improvement Society, a group of volunteers that have greatly improved the area. Another mile and a half through the hardwood forest brought me to the second bridge at the outlet of Botheration Pond.
I had planned to turn around when I got to the pond, but when I arrived, I couldn’t resist a short ski along the ice-covered surface for the spectacular view. As is typical, the warm temperature had awakened the snow fleas and I saw large patches of them throughout the trip, but I was surprised to see them on the pond as well. The general wisdom is that they live in the soil and leaf litter, venturing to the snow’s surface on warm days. The pond I was skiing on was a solid layer of ice topped with 14 inches of snow, far from the soil that the fleas call home. They shouldn’t have been on the pond, but they were there nonetheless.
Although I was now at the midpoint of the Botheration Pond Loop, I decided to turn back and return the way I had come rather than continue forward. It’s 3.5 miles either way, but completing the loop would entail a trip across narrower and steeper trails, slowing my speed and potentially preventing me from getting back to my car before dark.
To get to the Siamese Pond trails, take Rt. 28 to North River, turn onto Thirteenth Lake Rd, then right onto Old Farm Clearing Rd to the parking lot. The area is bordered by Garnet Hill XC Ski Resort, so you can carpool with your ski buddies who prefer machine groomed trails.