Evidently, more people are willing to visit the ponds now that the state has opened up the first 3.2 miles of Gulf Brook Road to motor vehicles.
When my girlfriend Carol and I arrived at the new parking lot on Sunday morning, there were already seven other cars. We biked to Boreas Ponds, as allowed under an interim-access plan released last week, and then hiked for several miles on old logging roads in the vicinity of the ponds.
On our bike ride, we saw a group with two canoes hoofing it to Boreas Ponds, another couple riding mountain bikes, a man putting in a canoe at LaBier Flow, and a couple wheeling two kayaks back to the parking lot.
The couple — Geoff Day and Emily VanDerVeeken of Syracuse — had camped out the night before. They saw four or five others on the water the day before.
“We just wanted to check it out. We were planning the trip before they opened the road,” Day said.
The state opened part of Gulf Brook Road last week. Until then, hikers had to walk the full length of the road — 6.8 miles — to get to Boreas Ponds. Paddlers could cut off a half-mile or so by putting in and traversing LaBier Flow, an impoundment of the Boreas River (though the paddlers we saw this weekend who were wheeling their boats found it easier to skip the flow).
Mountain bikers are allowed to ride only as far as the dam at Boreas Ponds, 3.6 miles from the parking lot. The ride is easy on a hardened dirt road, with a few small hills. At the dam, you are rewarded with a view of the High Peaks.
Once at the ponds, Carol and I ditched our bikes and hiked up an old logging road on the east side of the ponds. The road offers no views of the ponds, but the walking is easy and mostly in the shade.
At 1.8 miles from the dam we came to a junction and turned left. This road offered occasional views of the North River Mountains and led us past the Boreas River, where it flows under a culvert into the northern tip of Boreas Ponds.
It was near the Boreas that we ran into three Forty-Sixers — George Sloan, Suzanne Lance, and her brother, Phil Lance. Suzanne, a former editor of the Forty-Sixer magazine, said she planned to write a blog about their hike.
“This is pristine wilderness, and we need to keep it this way,” she remarked.
Carol and I continued up the road in search of White Lily Pond, which lies about three-quarters of a mile northwest of Boreas Ponds. Our topo map suggested we’d find it soon after reaching an intersection of two logging roads. As it turned out, the facts on the ground did not quite square with the map. We never found the pond — though I figured out later that we came tantalizingly close.
On Monday, I returned to Boreas Ponds on my own and managed to find White Lily Pond as well as the headwater pond of the Boreas River. Both are worthwhile destinations for anyone hiking in the area. I’ll post a description of these hikes on the Almanack in the near future.
Incidentally, there were five cars in the parking lot when I got there Monday morning. On my bike ride to the ponds, I passed two guys wheeling a canoe and a day hiker with a fishing rod. I also met a kayaker coming out after spending three days at Boreas Ponds. I asked him if he was able to find a good place to camp.
“I just had a hammock,” he said. “No way you’d be able to put a tent in there.” The woods are thick.
Take his comment as a warning. Although Boreas Ponds is getting more use, the state has yet to put in amenities such as campsites, trail markers, and signage. Probably little of this work will be done until a management plan is approved. Meanwhile, you’re pretty much on your own. In my next article, I hope to give hikers advice on navigating the network of unmarked logging roads.
Top photo: Carol Fox with bike at LaBier Flow (and paddler on the water). Bottom photo: the new parking area on Gulf Brook Road. Both photos taken by Phil Brown.