Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sitz Pond In The Five Ponds Wilderness

Sitz PondThe Adirondack backcountry contains a plethora of natural gems, such as ponds, lakes, mountains, bogs and beaver meadows. Although many are reachable by trail, the vast majority are islands of remoteness, surrounded by a sea of near-impenetrable forest, just waiting for a human bold enough to venture away from the marked trails to discover them. Few humans ever visit these gems, which undoubtedly suits both the gems themselves and the meager number of visitors just fine.

One of these gems is a small pond found in the southwest corner of the Five Ponds Wilderness. Sitz Pond is its name, and as attractive backcountry ponds go, it ranks up there with the best.

I had the good fortune of finally visiting Sitz Pond last year. It became the last stop on a five-day trip through an area seldom visited, and rarely mentioned in an area filled with natural wonders like few others within the Blue Line. It did not take long for the pond to win my affection and become my favorite place on the trip, which is quite a big deal given the trip’s highlights included the Carpet Spruce Swamp, a confluence along the Middle Branch of the Oswegatche River and the irregularly shaped Crooked Lake.

The pond’s scenic beauty was not what won me over however, although its remoteness certainly does not lack in that department. An attractive line of a few scraggly white pines stands along its eastern shoreline, like ancient sentinels towering over the surrounding canopy and guarding the attractive waterbody. Nearby, in the pond’s northeast corner, several large eastern hemlocks join their pine brethren, providing a respite from the witchhopple that crowds much of the understory along its northern shore.

Sitz Pond is a good-sized water body for the area, roughly oval shaped, with two inlets and a single outlet that eventually feeds into Sand Lake to its north. Its surface area is 8.9 hectares, with a maximum depth of 9.2 meters and a watershed of over 166 hectares, according to the Adirondack Lakes Survey Corporation. However, I knew none these facts as I whiled away the day near its shore, so they did nothing to help the pond earn my affection.

Dawn on Sitz PondLikewise, its history had little impact on my feelings toward the pond. Information about the origin of its name is scant, though chances are an individual with a similar sounding name was involved. This person must have made some significant contribution to the area (or had friends among the wealthy and powerful elite in the capitol), since the name is also attached to a mountain and creek nearby.

Sitz Mountain lies just northwest of the pond that shares its name. A humble mountain, which would be considered no more than a knoll most anywhere else, has little of any noteworthy characteristics to warrant a name, except for perhaps the degree confluence along its northern slope.

Nearby, a small creek shares the Sitz name, where it flows north and eventually feeds into Sand Lake. Surprising, the creek drains a beaver vly along the mountain’s shoulder, and not the pond that shares its name, whose outlet stream remains nameless, at least on the topographic map.

The abundance of wildlife, while impressive, was not the reason for my great fondness of this backcountry pond. The bird life, plentiful as it was, did not seem out of the ordinary for a pond of its size. A common goldeneye made the pond its home, raising a family of at least five chicks, seen frequently floating on its surface during the day. A blue-headed vireo serenaded me constantly during my stay, frequently investigating my presence whenever I mimicked its sweet song.

A large mound of feces, left behind by what I imagined was a hefty and apparently well-fed black bear, reminded me every time I nearly stepped in it who was the visitor here.

The two resident beavers drove this notion home more than any pile of feces ever could. While one continuously harassed me with its tail splashing, the other set about collecting branches and moving them from one end of the pond to the other, frequently fooling me into thinking I discovered a swimming tree. Preventing the evitable boredom from doing the same job for too long (yeah, they suffer from that too!), they switched tasks while I stood in full view on a bare rock near shore.

Camping at Sitz PondSitz Pond’s remote location, picturesque beauty, mysterious history, nor its abundant wildlife won my affection though. Instead, it was the simple and practical fact that it provided me one of the best campsites of my entire trip. The relatively flat terrain, shaded by large hemlocks with little understory provided me with a complete stress-free campsite selection that remains one of the best I have ever found in all my bushwhacking adventures in the Five Ponds Wilderness.

Although level areas along the north shore were not rare, the area in the northeast corner was ideal not only for its lack of understory vegetation. It provided convenient access to the precious and surprisingly clear water of the pond. Several large rocks, arrayed nearly close enough to provide steps, allowed for not only obtaining water untainted with the muck along the pond’s murky bottom, but provided gorgeous views of nearly the entire pond. That is, if you can fight off the deer fly horde long enough to appreciate it.

Like finding a woman that can not only cook and clean well, but enjoys doing both, and always looks good doing it, one never lets such an outstanding campsite go unappreciated. If I could find the words, or had the skill, composing a love sonnet would not seem overly outlandish.

My love for this camping site kept me from exploring the other portions of the pond’s shoreline and thus the conditions along the southern and western shore of Sitz Pond remain unknown. From viewing the map, the southern shore appears more level, and therefore the chances of finding even more campsites appears likely, plus the view of Sitz Mountain to the northwest might provide an even more scenic view across the water. This provides an excellent excuse for a return visit some day in the near future.

If a remote and scenic pond nestled within an infrequently visited part of the Five Ponds Wilderness sounds like somewhere you might want to spend a pleasant and sunny summer day, then Sitz Pond may just be the place for you. Just be warned that you may fall in love with a place that is already taken. However, if lucky, the bear and the beavers will not object to an overnight stay as long as you behave yourself.

Photos: Sitz Pond’s eastern shore, dawn on Sitz Pond’s western shore and camping near Sitz Pond by Dan Crane.

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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.

11 Responses

  1. Bill Ingersoll says:

    According to Wallace’s “Guide to the Adirondacks,” 1889 edition, Sitz Pond was originally Sid’s Pond.

    “Named from its discoverer, Sid Snell. To him and his father, Esq. Snell, the distinguished Adirondack surveyor, we are indebted for valuable mapwork on this section.”

    Entries is Wallace’s book aren’t always the gospel truth, but it is often the best source that we have about place name origins.

    • Dan Crane says:

      Sounds likely to me. I looked on the topographic maps going back to the early 1900’s and it was still called Sitz Pond.

      I’ll have to get a copy of Wallace’s book, it could come in handy.

      • Bill Ingersoll says:

        Google has multiple editions available for free downloads as digital e-books. They are in a PDF format so you can read them on any computer… until you get lucky enough to find an original print version someday.

  2. Pete Nelson says:

    “Like finding a woman that can not only cook and clean well, but enjoys doing both, and always looks good doing it…”

    And I thought I was being bold with all the diversity stuff!

    • Dan Crane says:

      I almost editted that section out, but then I thought, I haven’t been beaten up on here lately, so I let stay. I expect a sound thrashing later.

      • Andy Ball says:

        Our family had the hunting camp on South Pond for many years before the state bought Watsons East Triangle. Love your stories about that area!

        • Dan Crane says:


          I am glad you are enjoying my stories from the South Ponds area. The remoteness and lack of visitors makes that area one of the more intriguing in the northwestern Adirondacks. I definitely want to spend more time in that area.

          Was your hunting camp at the clearing at the end of trail from Bear Pond Road? You must have some great stories to tell about the area yourself.

          Check out my own blog where I am detailing my trip from last summer in that area.

  3. Bill Ott says:

    Please, where DID you find that woman?

  4. Andy Ball says:

    Dan, we hiked into Sitz pond this last May. The south west side of Sitz mountain has some nice rock caves, actually large slabs of granite that are supported only by small rocks seemingly ready to roll off the side of the mountain. Pretty sketch but certainly cool. We started at Bear Pond rd, camped at Sitz then hiked over to Sand. After two days at Sand we then hiked back to Bear Pond rd via Grassy Pond. Nice trip hope to do it again. And yes our camp was at the clearing at the end of the trail to South Pond.

    • Dan Crane says:


      Sounds like a nice trip. I didn’t think anyone camped at Upper South Pond anymore; the place looked completely undisturbed when I was there in 2013. I never went to Sitz Mountain, I might have to try it sometime. I was just at Sand Lake via the Grassy Pond Trail a few weeks ago; that is a beautiful hike.

    • Andy Ball says:

      I should have said our old hunting camp was at the end of the trail to South Pond before the state bought Watsons East Triangle.

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