Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Trail Needed To Access New State Lands Near High Peaks

Allen Mountain is the 26th-highest peak in the Adirondacks, but it may be the toughest to get to. Not only is it an 18-mile round trip, but you have to ford the Opalescent River

In theory, the state’s recent acquisition of the 6,200-acre MacIntyre East tract could shorten the hike and eliminate the ford.

The parcel lies between the Hudson River and Allen. A logging road extends several miles into the tract. If the state opened the road to motor vehicles, hikers could begin their hike closer to the 4,340-foot peak.

I won’t offer an opinion as to whether making Allen easier to get to is a worthy object. I suspect many Adirondack Forty-Sixers feel it would detract from Allen’s reputation as a monster hike.

In the debate over how the state should manage MacIntyre East, the road could become an issue. Fred Monroe, executive director of the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board, has said he’d like to see at least part of the road open to vehicles.

Last Friday, I walked the logging road to see if it is passable by vehicles and to see the lay of the land.

MacIntyre EastThe dirt-and-gravel thoroughfare begins off County 25, the dead-end road that leads to Tahawus and the Upper Works trailhead. Almost immediately, it crosses the Hudson and reaches a kiosk and register maintained by the Opalescent Hunting Club.

The club’s members have a few dozen camps on conservation-easement lands owned by ATP, a Danish pension fund. The logging road starts on Forest Preserve, passes through the easement lands, and then re-enters the Preserve. The two Preserve pieces are part of the MacIntyre East purchase.

Before my hike I checked with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which oversees the easements, to make sure I had the right to walk along the road through the ATP lands. I was told I did.

As I walked past the camps, however, I was accosted by two club members who claimed I was trespassing. I told them that I had been informed otherwise by DEC. Believing them mistaken, I continued on my way.

Less than a mile from the camps, the road crossed LeClaire Brook on a bridge and re-entered the Forest Preserve. I hiked up the road a total of six miles before turning around, less than three miles from Allen’s summit. On the way back, I took side trips to the Opalescent River and a large, apparently unnamed pond (at least on my maps).

As I passed the camps on the walk back, I encountered four club members. They told me they had called the local forest ranger and hoped I got a ticket.

I never saw the ranger, but I called a DEC spokesman on Tuesday to straighten out the legal situation. As it turns out, the department had misinformed me last week.

So here’s the scoop: DEC is planning on building a parking area roughly 1.75 miles up the road, before the hunting-club camps. Until then, the public is not allowed to drive on the road (which is gated). And at the moment, the parking-lot site is as far as the public is permitted to hike.

DEC spokesman Pete Constantakes said the department plans to build a hiking trail leading from the parking area across the easement lands, giving the public access to the MacIntyre East tract north of LeClaire Brook. At that point, people could continue hiking up the road. Why not let the public walk (or drive) on the mile-long stretch of road passing through the easement lands?

“We are trying to provide access without infringing on the hunting camps,” Constantakes said.

Constantakes added that the department hopes to have the trail built sometime this summer. Meanwhile, DEC will put up a sign letting people know where they must turn back on the road.

Until the trail is built, there is little reason to hike on the logging road. You can’t get to Allen, you can’t get to the unnamed pond, and you can’t get to the Opalescent River.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAConstantakes cautioned that the plans for the parking lot and hiking trail are not set in stone, so things could change. Assuming things go forward as planned, though, what will that mean for people hiking Allen?

They’ll still have a long hike, perhaps 14 or 15 miles round trip. However, it will be mostly on logging roads, which will make the hiking easy and fast. Presumably, DEC would have to cut a trail to connect the logging road to the existing hiking trail.

Some people may be interested in visiting the unnamed pond. From the proposed parking area, it would be a hike of under two miles. I got to it by turning onto an old skid road or ATV trail soon after crossing the LeClaire Brook bridge. It’s a pretty pond, enlarged by beaver dams, with an impressive view of the High Peaks. Evidently, ATVs have reached it by driving through LeClaire Brook near the pond’s south end. Since the pond is now in the Forest Preserve, this is no longer legal.

I should add that I passed a few hunting camps of another hunt club, the East River Club, north of LeClaire Brook on the section of MacIntyre East that is now Forest Preserve. These camps will have to be dismantled in 2018. Until then, hikers should steer clear of the camps and respect the privacy of the lessees.

One final note: it’s a good thing I encountered those club members. Otherwise, I would have written a story describing a hike that I assumed was legal, and others might have made the same mistake.

Photos by Phil Brown: the logging road north of LeClaire Brook; the view over the unnamed pond toward the High Peaks.

Map provided by DEC. MacIntyre East is shown in red.



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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.

22 Responses

  1. James Bullard says:

    Perhaps the route has changed since I climbed Allen (June ’93) or my memory is faulty but I don’t recall having to ford any river nor did I mention it in my journal at the time. A friend from Tupper Lake and I did it as a day hike. We had been told it was a 3 day hike, hike to the end of the private land one afternoon, camp and climb the next day with a return to camp, then out the 3rd morning. We both had other commitments that weekend and hit the trail at 6AM. It was a long hike but not overly difficult as I recall. We were back at our cars by 6PM. I have no desire to revisit Allen but I might check out the pond if they get a trail built.

  2. Phil Brown says:

    Jim, Allen is the only one of the 46 High Peaks that I haven’t climbed. However, I understand the bridge over the Opalescent has washed out since 1993. Irene also knocked out the bridge over the Hudson. I need to check on its status.

  3. Phil Brown says:

    One other clarification: I say you can’t reach the Opalescent until the trail is built. I had in mind the piece of river I saw north of LeClaire Brook. But you can hike to the river just upstream of its confluence with the Hudson. A little past the register, you’ll come to an obvious trail on the left. Walk down it a few minutes to get to the Opalescent.

  4. scottvanlaer says:

    The club members are very diligent about keeping away stray hikers. You are not the first and won’t be the last. That’s too bad they are planning an interior parking lot. There is already a good spot to park directly across the road from the access gate. The beginning of the access road goes through a wetland that floods in spring and looks like it is constantly getting new fill. I don’t know the “new” lands well but the surrounding parts of the High Peaks are the most remote and have the greatest wild character in the entire unit. Some of the peaks there, other than Allen, are legitimately tailless. I found a small but really spectacular area of old growth Cedar and Spruce that just took my breath away.

  5. Phil Terrie says:

    “One final note: it’s a good thing I encountered those club members. Otherwise, I would have written a story describing a hike that I assumed was legal, and others might have made the same mistake.”

    Nice touch of irony

  6. Yana says:

    Thanks for the article! I am wondering (and apologies if this has been previously addressed), would there be an easier access to Cheney’s Cobble once the lease is up (currently, I believe either Caseybrook Valley Club or the East River Club (is it still in operation?) own the rights to the land that would allow access to it to be a lot easier than the current option if one stays on public lands. This mountain has held my interest for years but I am not to eager to attempt the very long way…

    • Phil Brown says:

      Yana, you can hike in that area now as long as you stay away from the camps and respect the owners’ privacy. The owners have exclusive rights to one-acre footprints around the camps (until the leases expire in 2018). However, you cannot reach the area by the logging road, so you have to wait for the new trail to be built or access the area via the Flowed Lands Trail (and fording the Opalescent). You also could bushwhack around the Opalescent Hunting Club if you stay on state land.

    • Christine says:

      Just like Allen, once the Boreas Ponds side opens to the public, climbers will reach North River, CC and Allen from the East, with or without a new trail. It will likely be much shorter and a fun new challenge. No matter how nasty a bushwhack in no time an herdpath will develop along Sand Brook!

      • Pete Nelson says:

        I agree with this. The route from the west to Allen will always pose routing/fording/slogging problems. Based upon my own bushwhacking I think there is the potential for some stunning routes from the east once the Boreas parcel is acquired by the State. These could include connection to other High Peaks trails to Haystack, among other possibilities.

      • Woody says:

        Only if the road to the Boreas Ponds is kept open for motor vehicle access…

        Which, heaven help us, it won’t be.

        • Pete Nelson says:

          I’m with you. By “stunning” I didn’t mean short. In my view there should be no short route to Allen. Let the Adks have at least one High Peak remote by Western standards. Put a trail head on Elk lake Road and let the distance be what it is. Let’s have to work for it a little.

          And let’s make sure Boreas is classified as Wilderness, as it unquestionably should be.

      • Yana says:

        I am all for this 🙂 always wanted to explore Sand Brook anyways…

  7. Dave Canavan says:

    One of the reasons DEC plans are not cast in stone is the road from the bridge(gate) to the RR tracks is in a flood zone..Cars have and could get stuck in there with water in their cars….

    • Phil Brown says:

      Dave, I suppose DEC would close the road in spring.

      • Christine says:


        The road is under water several times a year, like every time it rains hard and it can be quite too deep to drive. Halfway between the bridge and the potential parking site the Opalescent River hugs the road for a while.

        Actually once, when i was a member of the East River Club, the road was under so much water in the middle of the winter we had to walk the railroad tracks all the way to the bridge near Blue Ridge Road.


  8. Tim says:

    I was wondering if the area could be accessed from the south and a little east, beginning near Perch Pond. Is any of that private property/no trespassing?

  9. Robert Van Hise says:

    Last weekend, 2 friends and I hiked Allen Mtn.. While we were descending the mountain, a thunder storm struck, along with heavy rain. By the time we reached the Opalescent River (only inches deep in the morning), it was night and the river was raging impassable whitewater. Together with 3 other hikers who were also blocked from their intended exit route, we were forced to hike out on the private road. After miles of walking, we received a ride from one of the cabin owners, and observed the problem with using the Opalescent Club road as hiker access – it floods when the Opalescent rises. That issue would make the road a poor choice for public access, just as the present trail requiring a ford of the river is also a poor route. In the absence of a footbridge over the Opalescent, hikers need to either deal with high water like we did, be extremely conservative in trip planning on that route, or NYS should cut a new trail that reduces the likelihood of having to ford or swim across a dangerous river. As we were reminded last Saturday, a single misstep can prove disastrous.

  10. Rachel Walkden says:

    Great article – thanks for the research Phil. Do you know if there was any progress on the new trail / new parking area in 2015 or what the update is for 2016?

  11. Julie Moran says:

    It sounds like the members of the Opalescent Hunting Club tried to harass and bully you. Why be empathetic with people like that, given all you were doing was to go for a walk? These people have been overly aggressive to visitors for quite some time, I’ve been told. I myself would not have ended your story in such a conciliatory tone.

    I hope the state gets a hold of these beautiful lands, dismantles these camps as well and wrestles these beautiful lands from these unfriendly men, for the public’s use … as the Boreas purchases (and the governor) promise.

    • MAX says:

      Julie, You admit “you’ve been told” so you really don’t know us. Phil blatantly trespassed and refused to listen to anyone – his way or no way. We’ve been proud stewards of this land since the 1960’s; to suggest that Phil was/is a visitor is ridiculous. He’s known of our club, and was just opportunistic. Phil admits “it’s a good thing I encountered those club members. Otherwise, I would have written a story describing a hike that I assumed was legal”; but we never find out who told Phil it was OK to trespass our Club in the first place.

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