By Tim Helms, Long Lake & Raquette Lake Events Coordinator
With the return of winter and a decent snowpack in the Adirondack backcountry, this is the perfect time to explore a new trail or area that you have never experienced before. For this outing I chose the Powerhouse and Cascades Trails in the Historic Great Camps Special Management Area, which is part of the Blue Ridge Wilderness located in Raquette Lake, NY. To access the trailheads head south on Sagamore Road for approximately three miles, the first trailhead will be the Cascades Trail on the left side of the road. The Powerhouse Trailhead is another quarter mile on the left just across the bridge over South Inlet. The Cascades Trail has a very visible sign marking the parking lot, the Powerhouse Trail does not have a sign marking the parking lot, but the lot is very obvious and is just across the bridge and hard to miss.
The Indian Lake Theater is set to show the documentary All Things Bakelite: The Age of Plastic by John Maher, a provocative story about the “father of modern plastics.”
Belgian-born chemist and inventor Leo Hendrik Baekeland invented Velox photographic paper as well as what is considered the world’s first synthetic plastic which has been used for everything from jewelry to communications equipment. » Continue Reading.
Camp Sagamore is one of several historic Great Camps located in the Adirondack Park. Part of the Historic Great Camps Special Management Area, it includes nearly seven miles of scenic trails along the shores of Sagamore Lake and the South Inlet of Raquette Lake in the 47,177-acre Blue Ridge Wilderness.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced the completion of the 135-foot Big Slope Bridge and improvements to the Big Slope Trail and Powerhouse Trail, part of the Great Camp Sagamore trail system in the Blue Ridge Wilderness in Hamilton County.
The new bridge is located over wetlands on the Big Slope Connector Trail between the Sagamore Lake Trail and the Power House Trail. » Continue Reading.
I attended the hearing and made comments. I was the only environmentalist among the crowd of 40 or so snowmobilers, local government officials, local residents and representatives of the NYS Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). » Continue Reading.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced they are seeking public input regarding a proposal in an amendment to the Blue Ridge Wilderness Unit Management Plan (UMP) to develop a Community Connector Snowmobile Trail in Hamilton County.
The proposed trail extends the Seventh Lake Mountain Trail to Sargent Ponds Multiple-Use Trail and will be maintained as a Class II Community Connector Snowmobile Trail. Establishing a connecting trail between Indian Lake and Long Lake was included as community connection goal in the 2006 Snowmobile Plan for the Adirondack Park and the 2011 Moose River Plains Wild Forest Unit Management Plan. A press release from DEC said the agency is working to relocate designated snowmobile trails away from water bodies for safety reasons. » Continue Reading.
My last article identified the most likely location of the original cabin built by Matthew Beach and William Wood in the mid-1830s on Raquette Lake. Wood remained on Indian Point until 1859, but sometime between 1844 and 1846 he had a falling out with Beach and built a separate cabin (shown in this 1851 sketch from Jervis McEntee’s diary). » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Council sent the following statement to the press Monday reviewing Adirondack issues from the last session of the NYS Legislature:
Aside from authorizing the addition of 12 acres to the Adirondack Forest Preserve last week, the NYS Legislature did little in May and June to help the clean water, wilderness and communities of the Adirondack Park, the Adirondack Council said today.
“The Legislature and Governor passed a pro-Adirondack budget on April 1, but didn’t accomplish much for the Adirondack Park after that,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway. “Lawmakers did pass a bill that will add 12 acres to the 2.7-million-acre public Forest Preserve and we are grateful to the sponsors for guiding it through both houses. » Continue Reading.
It’s slow work for the forest to take back a road, but once the forest gets started, its work is relentless. The State of New York has owned the Burn Road on the north side of Little Tupper Lake (part of the William C. Whitney Wilderness area) since 1997 when it bought the 14,700-acre north end of the larger Whitney tract. It was classified as Wilderness soon thereafter, though the road remained open for several years to honor access agreements with neighboring landowners to haul out logs.
Fifteen years later, young maples, white pines, alders, white birch, and striped maples, among other trees, work daily to break apart the long-packed gravel road bed. Leaf litter and the detritus of perennial ferns, grasses, and sedges bury the road in many places. The thick forest edge grows inward to narrow the road corridor as trees unpruned and unfettered grow laterally as they grow higher. » Continue Reading.
Smart hikers know what to do when they come upon a black bear in the woods: wave your arms, yell, and stand your ground. Yet that didn’t work for Amy Stafford.
Stafford, who is twenty-two, was forced to stab a bear in the face when it charged her in the woods on the Northville-Placid Trail.
“The whole time I kept thinking, if this bear wanted me, it could have me in a heartbeat. I considered throwing things at it, running at it, but I was afraid it would provoke aggression. I didn’t react until I had to,” said Stafford, who graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology last spring and is a member of the Army Reserves. » Continue Reading.
The Red Horse Trail is a prime example of an Adirondack wilderness trail. Located in the southern portion of the Five Ponds Wilderness this trail stretches from Big Burnt Lake along the northern shore of Stillwater Reservoir to Clear Lake five miles to the north. The trail provides numerous opportunities to experience the wilderness from secluded lakes to wild streams and everything in between.
The Red Horse Trail is one of the oldest Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) established hiking trails dating as far back as 1922. At that time the trail went from Wanakena all the way to the Beaver River with a bridge traversing the Oswegatchie River at High Falls. Today the middle portion of the trail has been long abandoned but its course can still be found on a historical topographical map. Only the southern-most section of the original trail remains today. The limited access to this trail probably has a lot to do with its wilderness character. The typical access is by boat via either Big Burnt Lake or Trout Pond. Both of these water bodies are inland bays of Stillwater Reservoir although at one time before the Beaver River was dammed they were independent water bodies in their own right.
There are many interesting sites to see hiking the Red Horse Trail. Along the trail are 3 large secluded lakes (Salmon Lake, Witchhopple Lake and Clear Lake), a lean-to (at Trout Pond), numerous wetland-crossing boardwalks, several beaver ponds, a northern whitecedar lined stream, old-growth northern hardwood forests and majestic towering eastern white pines. All in a length of only five miles!
Although the southern terminus of the trail is along the northern shore of Big Burnt Lake, Trout Pond appears to be the most popular access point due to the presence of the trail register and the nearby lean-to. A couple of sizeable designated camping sites exist along the trail in the direction of Big Burnt Lake.
The Red Horse Trail can be broken up into three different sections. The first consists of the section from Trout Pond to the southern edge of Salmon Lake. The second traverses along the edge of Salmon Lake and beyond until reaching the western shore of Witchhopple Lake. The third section stretches to the north and ends at the southern tip of Clear Lake. The amount of use of the trail appears to decrease with each succeeding section.
From Trout Pond it is only one mile to the southern edge of Salmon Lake. This section of trail is mostly level and parallels along the stream between Trout Pond and Salmon Lake. Unusual for the Adirondacks this stream is bordered by large eastern white cedars whose roots invade the trail and provide a hazard to the distracted hiker.
The trail meets Salmon Lake at its southern end at an old lean-to site. Although the lean-to burned down years ago an outhouse and two fireplaces still stand at the site. Since Salmon Lake lies north-south the view of the entire lake here is stunning.
After leaving the southern end of Salmon Lake the trail parallels the eastern shore of the lake although rarely in sight of the lake. Except for a couple wet areas (a legendary one is just north of the old lean-to site) the trail is mostly dry as it weaves its way through a mature hardwood forest. After about one more mile the trail rejoins Salmon Lake at its very northern end.
After leaving Salmon Lakes’ northern end the trail weaves through several wetlands via boardwalks before finally arriving at Witchhopple Lake. Some of the boardwalks here are half-submerged in water and can be quite treacherous due to their slipperiness.
At Witchhopple Lake the trail bisects a large camping site with plenty of open places for tenting. A large fire ring lies here and there is typically a plentiful supply of cut wood. This site appears to get a lot of use, probably during the hunting season. Litter is often plentiful here too with garbage, Styrofoam, old tarping and half burned rubbish strewn about. Despite the often filthy condition of this campsite the view of Witchhopple Lake is outstanding. Expect to be serenaded by loons and legions of frogs if you chose to camp at this site.
Beyond the Witchhopple Lake campsite is the most harrowing portion of the entire trail. The crossing of the outlet here is one of the most convoluted I have ever seen in the entire Adirondacks.
A series of small streams weave their way through tall gasses and reeds making it difficult to discern dry land from flowing water. Usually a maze of different trails weaves their way through the vegetation only some of which provide boardwalks over swift running water. The key to a successful crossing is to use a large downed tree located in the center of the vegetation as a bridge to make it over the widest stream at the northern edge of the confluence.
The northern most portion of the trail is the most remote and appears to get much less use than its southern segments. Some bridgeless minor stream crossings exist just beyond the Witchhopple outlet but should pose no difficulty for the intrepid soul who reached this point on the trail. This portion of the trail continues to gain elevation for the majority of its length through mostly hardwood forests with an occasional beaver pond passing.
The southern end of Clear Lake functions as the northern terminus of the trail. After a very slick crossing on a boardwalk the trail ends at a large camping site. Typically an old metal rowboat is located here. Summit Mountain can be seen looming over the northern end of the lake.
The trail provides addition opportunities beyond just hiking and backpacking. Canoeing and kayaking opportunities abound along the Red Horse Trail. In addition to accessing the trail via Stillwater Reservoir the three large wilderness lakes remain close enough to one another that the trail can be used as a canoe carry. Both Clear and Witchhopple Lakes provide access to even more secluded bodies of water to the north and east, respectively.
Although most visitors to the Red Horse Trail arrive by boat bushwhacking to the trail is always an option. I have bushwhacked from both the west (starting at the end of Necessary Dam Road) and the north (off the Sand Lake Trail). This option requires days of aggressive travel through remote wilderness with the northern route being the more difficult due to the plethora of scattered blowdown from the 1995 microburst.
Whether reached via boat or through bushwhacking the Red Horse Trail provides a true wilderness experience with plenty of natural beauty to satisfy even the most ardent outdoorsman/outdoorswoman. If one is looking for quiet and solitude far from the more popular trails within the Adirondacks then it is impossible to go wrong with the Red Horse Trail. Giddy-up!
Photos: Sign at Trout Pond, Salmon Lake and log crossing at Witchhopple Lake outlet by Dan Crane.
Today, the experiences, views and outlooks of wild land advocates and foresters are often pigeon-holed as necessarily antithetical to each other. I don’t hold that view, and neither does Adirondack Wild’s Dan Plumley. For evidence, read Dan’s “December Wood” essay. We were both mentored by Paul Schaefer, one of the most effective advocates for wilderness conditions in the Adirondacks during the 20th century.
Paul had many outdoor debates during the 1950s with former Finch, Pruyn executive Lyman Beeman. The two men saw a tract of forest and viewed its potential quite differently, of course. Yet, they both respected each other’s point of view and recognized, as we do today, that foresters of all kinds share with wilderness advocates a deep love for the land, for productive soils and for stewardship over a long period of time, on a human time scale anyway. Good wood grows on good wood, some say. And sometimes a conservationist has got to make some money cutting trees. What brought this to mind is one of the most interesting stories I ever heard from Paul Schaefer. One day in January, 1991 he was reminiscing about the great depression and World War II, when the bank withheld his assets from his construction company. Then his bank closed, and would not allow any withdrawals, forcing Paul to take on odd jobs in order to feed his family. Then came severe restrictions and shortages on the building materials he used as a homebuilder, and the cost of a house became very dear, preventing him from doing a lot of building.
One day during WW II, Paul read in the daily newspaper in Schenectady that the county airfield, mostly undeveloped at the time, needed to be transformed into a bombing range and military airport. Trees had to be cleared there, pretty big ones at that. Paul read this and went over to Scotia to take a look. He found about ten state or county workers clipping goldenrod with handclippers. He went in and spoke with the person in authority and asked “you want someone to cut trees for you don’t you?” Yes. “What are they cutting goldenrod for?” “They don’t have the skills to cut trees,” came the answer. “Well, you’ve got your man here,” Paul replied.
Paul needed the help of some Adirondackers, so he got in touch with George Morehouse in Bakers Mills to come down and give him a hand with the tree cutting. Each week, Paul would drive up Route 9 to Bakers Mills (at least a 2.5 hour trip one way in those days), pick George up and drive him down to Scotia and the two of them would cut for days at a time. George would stay at Paul and Carolyn Schaefer’s home at night. There were no chain saws available. They required a cross-cut, two-man saw.
“We worked together really smooth,” Paul told me. They cut and they cut. One day, Paul and George got a saw wedged in the tree. They left it, took up another saw and went on cutting. Years later, Paul recovered that wedged saw, all rusted except the blade in the bole of the tree, which was gleaming. “If you want your blade to remain nice and shiny, keep it in a piece of oak or something,” Paul advised. That blade was a part of Paul’s memorabilia destroyed when his barn burned down in the early 1960’s.
One day, after many hours of cutting, George Morehouse said he had to get home. Paul offered to let him stay overnight and drive him home tomorrow. No, I got to get home today, George said. Paul, dead tired, drove George back to Bakers Mills and all the way back. He was so tired on his return journey that he almost failed to stop at a railroad crossing. He put on his brakes a foot before the train roared past him.
So that’s the way Paul Schaefer, the wilderness advocate, guide and homebuilder, got by several years during World War II by selling some of this wood from the airport as lumber and firewood, and turning the little airfield in Scotia, NY into a military facility.
Photo: Paul Schaefer at his Adirondack cabin, c. 1960, courtesy of the Paul Schaefer Collection, Adirondack Research Library.
A reroute of the Northville Placid Trail has been completed by Adirondack Mountain Club professional trail crews (under contract with DEC) to move the trail off Cedar River Road and into the Blue Ridge Wilderness; the trail has been constructed, marked, and is now open for public use. Although others are planned, this is the first of the DEC’s road-to-trail projects to be implemented on the Northville-Placid Trail.
Previously, the trail followed the Cedar River Road for 6.6 miles between Wakely Dam and the former McCane’s Resort in the Town of Indian Lake, Hamilton County. The new trail section – eliminating all but 0.7 miles of road walking – passes through old growth forest of sugar maple, yellow birch, hemlock and red spruce. » Continue Reading.
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