The recent announcement of the largest addition to the State Forest Preserve in 117 years in the former Finch Pruyn lands is excellent news for anyone seeking additional outdoor recreational opportunities in the Adirondacks. These new properties make over 69,000 acres of backcountry available to the public for the first time in over 150 years, including such exotic-sounding places as the Essex Chain of Lakes, OK Slip Falls and Boreas Pond.
The many new opportunities for recreational opportunities on these properties is often cited, typically including hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, etc. The implication is these new areas will be highly managed for human recreation, with a plethora of trails, campsites, signs, bridges and so on. Despite all the new outdoor recreational opportunities cited, one activity always remains noticeably absent: bushwhacking. » Continue Reading.
Bushwhacking, or off-trail hiking, requires many skills, acquired over many years. Few people begin their backcountry career as a bushwhacker, i.e. bushwhackers are not born, they evolve.
Typically, one commences as a mere hiker, transitions to a backpacker as the desire to travel farther afield gains hold, and, if the skills, temperament and desire form the correct concoction, finally becomes a bushwhacker. At least, that is how I got started. » Continue Reading.
A recent bear attack in Canada may have literally scared the living crap out of a man, in a story that should give every backcountry enthusiast pause before squatting in the woods again. Beware; reading further may just ruin one of nature’s most pleasurable experiences in the outdoors for evermore.
Recently, a Canadian man was attacked by a black bear, while minding his own business in an outhouse in central Canada. The bear pulled him right off the crapper by his pants, which were, naturally, down around his ankles. The man apparently fought back with nothing but his will to live, and some extra toilet paper. Luckily, his companion heard all the yelling and shot the bear before it had a chance to do any serious damage. » Continue Reading.
Hiking injuries happen from time to time. That is one of the many risks of journeying into the Adirondack backcountry while carrying a heavy, bulging backpack. The only thing worse than a hiking injury, is an unexpected and unrelated injury preventing one from the opportunity of getting a hiking injury. Despite the source of the injury, the recovery period can be very difficult.
How should an outdoor enthusiast spend their convalescence?
Although it is easy to descend into an abyss of negative feelings, avoid this at all costs. Instead of closing the window blinds, watching hours of Game of Thrones episodes, and listening to psychedelic Pink Floyd music, make the most of this down time and do something positive. Like preparing for future adventures, or at the very least, revisiting previous trips in an attempt to lift one’s spirits. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack backcountry can generate some very peculiar sounds. A bobcat crying, a coyote howling and a pine sawyer chewing are just a few of the strange natural sounds of the remote wilderness. These sounds are often easily identifiable as having a natural source. Unfortunately, the sources of many others remain a mystery.
I heard one of these mysterious sounds several times in different locations in the backcountry of the northwestern Adirondacks over the years. This strange sound turned up again this summer at Cracker Pond, located in the remote part of the Five Ponds Wilderness. The unexplained sound is a soft modulated hum. It is a subtle sound; often it is difficult to tell whether it is a sound or just a feeling deep down in the pit of the stomach. It is sometimes muffled, as if in the background, and therefore easily overlooked. The nature of the sound is hard to describe, but it is similar to the noise made by a boat crashing through a wave or wake of another boat.
This is not the first time I have heard such a sound. Similar sounds intruded upon several different backcountry trips over the last few years in the northwestern Adirondacks. The sound is not constant, as I have returned to the same locations multiple times without hearing it.
I heard this sound for the first time while visiting the Threemile Beaver Meadow in the western part of the Pepperbox Wilderness. At this time, I presumed the sound was from the turbines at one of the dams to the south along the Beaver River.
Unfortunately, my turbine theory appeared incorrect as I heard the sound at the top of Cat Mountain last year in the northern portion of the Five Ponds Wilderness. This mountain is way too far from the Threemile Beaver Meadow for such a sound to carry that far.
What could this sound be? Where is it coming from? Is it just in my head? If not, is it from a man-made source or a natural one? Does anyone have any theories about this sound? Unidentified flying objects? Clandestine hydrofracking operations? Any explanation from the absurd to the practical would be appreciated.
Strange sounds are a part of the backcountry experience in the Adirondacks. Usually these mysterious sounds have a natural source. Occasionally, an eerie noise is difficult to attribute to a natural phenomenon. Most of these remain a mystery; let us hope this is not one of them.
Photos: Cracker Pond, Threemile Beaver Meadow and View from Cat Mountain by Dan Crane.
There are many places in the Adirondacks where one can get away from the crowds but few as remote as the Cowboy Beaver Meadow in the northwestern corner of the Pepperbox Wilderness.
The Cowboy Beaver Meadow is a series of beaver swales along the Alder Creek. Nearby one can find a lovely unnamed pond and several beaver created wetlands. But if you expect to find any crowds then think again; this is a rarely visited place. Other than the occasional bushwhacker or hunters during the fall this place probably rarely gets many visitors. The Cowboy Beaver Meadow is an ideal place for those contemplating exploring the backcountry beyond the trails and trying their hand at bushwhacking. Bordered on the east and south by the Alder Creek, north by a dirt road south of Spring Pond and west by the Herkimer/Lewis county line this area allows for testing one’s navigation skills while providing enough natural/man-made landmarks to remain oriented on a map.
The origin of the name for these beaver meadows along the Alder Creek remains unknown. According to a posting on the Adkforum website, the beaver meadow was named after a mysterious cowboy who made his residence in the area around the time of the Civil War.
Gaining access to the Cowboy Beaver Meadow is a challenge. The easiest access is from the west out of Croghan via Prentice Road, a gravel road that eventually turns south and becomes the Main Haul Road. This is a fairly decent dirt road suitable for most cars but caution is required due to the occasional ATV traffic.
Although the Main Haul Road continues to the Soft Maple Reservoir, the Cowboy Beaver Meadow parking area lies at the end of Sand Pond Road located just south of the Sand Pond parking lot. Do not expect a sign or register here, although an old “Parking Area” sign nailed on a tree is present, it is now mostly obscured by new growth.
Historical topographic maps show the area once had a more significant human presence than it does today. An unimproved road once followed along the Alder Creek through the beaver meadow on its way from Long Pond to Crooked Lake. In addition, another road left the beaver meadow and headed up along Pepperbox Creek. A winding, low rock ridge resembling a beaver dam made of boulders that crosses the Alder Creek between beaver ponds is probably the remnants of this old road.
In addition to the rare human artifact there are numerous natural landmarks to investigate in this area, including the many beaver ponds along the Alder Creek, an unnamed pond and a hill with steep forested cliffs.
The unnamed pond provides an attractive place for camping while visiting the area. Several islands exist within the pond although they are merely muddy, slightly raised areas covered with semi-aquatic grasses, sedges and other vegetation. Beavers and hooded mergansers frequent this pond and its islands.
Many dead trees choke the shoreline of the pond. Along the west shore sits a large, stick nest located at the top of one of these snags near the shoreline. This nest may belong to either a great blue heron or possibly an osprey but remained unoccupied during the late summer.
An elevated area between the pond and the beaver swales along Alder Creek provides an opportunity to gain some perspective on the area. The forested cliffs provide a destination but do not expect much in the way of views. Although the hills to the east beyond the Alder Creek can be seen through the tree canopy these minimal views are merely a tease since a clear view of the Cowboy Beaver Meadow remains elusive. A better view may be available during the autumn months after most of the leaves have descended from the canopy.
The Cowboy Beaver Meadow is the main attraction of the area. This meadow is a series of beaver swales following along the Alder Creek as it meanders toward the Beaver River to the south.
The meadows range from wide and relatively dry open, shrubby areas to just a narrow corridor surrounding the creek. Most of the creek is slow moving with many pools along its length but at some points, the tannin-rich water flows swiftly over bare rock with frequent small waterfalls. Opportunities for crossing the stream and exploring to the east of the creek are plentiful in late summer.
For those wanting to experiment with bushwhacking in a seemingly remote area should consider the Cowboy Beaver Meadow area within the northwestern Pepperbox Wilderness. The area provides a beaver pond, a series of beaver swales along the Alder Creek and human artifacts from bygone days. So, saddle up and enjoy!
Photos: Beaver pond within Cowboy Beaver Meadow, unnamed pond and rocky portion of Alder Creek by Dan Crane.
Those looking for an area with outstanding bushwhacking potential in the Adirondacks would be well rewarded by checking out the Pepperbox Wilderness Area, located in the northwestern Adirondack Park just northwest of Stillwater Reservoir.
At only 22,560 acres, the Pepperbox is one of the smallest of the Adirondack’s designated Wilderness Areas. It is bordered roughly by the West Branch of the Oswegatchie River to the north, the Herkimer County border on the west, the Beaver River to the south and Raven Lake Road to the east. What it lacks in size, it more than makes up with in its remoteness, containing mostly forested rolling hills and extensive wetland complexes. The few state trails here are all located in the northern portion. The Pepperbox is named after one of its many scattered unproductive water bodies, which total about 270 acres. The remoteness, lack of marked trails and limited use makes the Pepperbox a bushwhacker’s paradise. The Pepperbox’s western half is characterized by extensive beaver meadows and small beaver ponds while its eastern half contains larger water bodies such as Sunshine Pond and the Moshier Ponds. The central part contains extensive unbroken forest with Moshier Creek roughly bisecting the wilderness down the middle. The northern portion, with its two miles of trails and in-holding access roads, is a more recent addition to the wilderness area and can be considered its “civilized” part. The bushwhacking opportunities here are less due to these trails and roads and therefore this part of the Pepperbox is given less mention in this article.
There are several points of access into the Pepperbox Wilderness. From the north there are several trails which enter the Pepperbox and allow access to the few water bodies located there. Such small lakes as Jakes Pond, Spring Pond, Tied Lake or Greigg Lake are all accessed via foot trail or dirt road mostly from Bear Pond Road. Trailhead parking is available for access from the east out of Stillwater Reservoir, in the west from Sand Pond Road near the county boundary (Lewis/Herkimer) and from the south via Moshier Falls Road. With a canoe one could access the southern border via the Moshier Reservoir along the Beaver River.
The northeastern portion of the wilderness area is characterized by a plentiful number of larger water bodies. This area is best accessed from a parking area at the end of Necessary Dam Road via the hamlet of Stillwater Reservoir. A trail register is located here for recording your planned trip, which is an excellent idea when bushwhacking through a trackless wilderness like the Pepperbox. Although the road continues over the Beaver River as a well-maintained dirt road, it is gated at the bridge and available for driving by the owners of an in-holding on Raven Lake only. The road, now referred to as Raven Lake Road, is a convenient jumping off point for bushwhacking adventures into the Pepperbox from the east. Raven Lake Road acts as a border separating the Pepperbox from the southern portion of the extensive Five Ponds Wilderness (the southern Five Ponds offers outstanding bushwhacking opportunities in its own right).
A perfect way to access the Pepperbox off of Raven Lake Road is an old hunting trail situated between the first main stream crossing and where the road turns east. Although this trail is unmarked it is easily followed along its southern end. It passes just south of a large beaver vly and then turns north following along the eastern side of the same stream crossed back on the road. The trail passes to the east of the beaver pond feeding the stream before taking a sharp turn to the northwest. At this sharp turn it is very easy to lose the trail as many dummy trails at this point can testify. While navigating over a bog along the south shore of a beaver pond south of Sunshine Pond watch for chicken wire nailed between two logs on the bog mat to avoid wet feet and guide you to the trail again on the opposite side. After several attempts I have yet to be able to follow the trail after reaching the western shore of this beaver pond. Despite the lack of a trail beyond this point a bushwhacker is well situated to explore the many water bodies in this portion of the Pepperbox. Sunshine, Deer, Moshier, Duck and Pepperbox Ponds and the surrounding area will provide days of exploring for the intrepid bushwhacker. Click here, here, here and here for my trip report in this area back in May 2010.
A parking area at the end of Sand Pond Road allows access to the northwestern portion of the Pepperbox. This area appears to get little use, evidenced by the lack of a register here. A short old logging road from the parking area provides access to a brushed-out state property boundary that can be followed east over a hill and through a fern-dominated wet area to the border of the Pepperbox’s western boundary.
This part of the Pepperbox is dominated by a single unnamed pond and the Cowboy Beaver Meadow. The Cowboy Beaver Meadow is a series of old beaver vlys along the Alder Creek with little evidence of human activity. There are numerous places to cross the Alder Creek if one wishes to explore the steep rise on the opposite side. Between the pond and Cowboy Beaver Meadow is a hill with some steep cliffs to the east which should provide impressive views into the Cowboy Beaver Meadow below during the autumn and winter months when the tree foliage is absent. Keep an eye on the Bushwhacking Fool this winter for a trip report on my adventure through this area on Labor Day 2009.
The southwestern portion of the Pepperbox contains the extensive Threemile Beaver Meadow, numerous unnamed beaver ponds and a series of unusual glacial ridges. A parking lot and trailhead register are available here along Moshier Falls Road. Although the sign in the parking lot implies the trail to the Pepperbox leaves the parking lot, the true trail is across the street where it crosses bridges on both the Sunday Creek and the Beaver River.
The trail continues across the Beaver River and through a power line right-of-way before reaching the Pepperbox’s southern border where a sign warns that there are no marked trails beyond. As if mocking this official sign there is a well-used trail marked with gray paint slashes winding north into the unbroken forest. This trail remains easy to follow all the way to a large beaver vly east of the largest pond in the Threemile Beaver Meadow. North of this vly the trail loses its gray slashes and becomes less distinct though rumor has it one can follow it all the way to Bear Pond. I have tried this myself in the past with only limited success though I did manage to reach Bear Pond by bushwhacking a significant amount of the way.
Along the trail before reaching the large beaver vly there are several side trails to the west which gives access to the extensive Threemile Beaver Meadow. The Threemile Beaver Meadow is a beautiful and extensive series of beaver ponds and meadows well worth exploring.
A good bushwhacker can find many old herd paths in the Threemile Beaver Meadow area and there are even a few hunters’ camps scattered about, some recently used and others vacant for many years. This area appears to be heavily used during hunting season, and for good reason, as I have never seen a higher density of deer in the Adirondacks. Click here for a trip teaser about my recent bushwhack through the Threemile Beaver Meadow in September 2010.
To the north and west of the Threemile Beaver Meadow are a series of beaver ponds scattered about giving a bushwhacker numerous opportunities for exploration. For those interested in glacial landforms there is a series of steep and narrow ridges to the west of the beaver meadow. These ridges tend to end abruptly so one should use caution to avoid getting stuck out on one. The remnants of an old fire tower exists on one the highest ridges. The site of this fire tower, now merely the foundation and a few scattered boards, makes an additional interesting destination while trekking through this area.
The combination of hunting trails and unbroken wilderness makes the Pepperbox an excellent area for the beginning and experienced bushwhacker. So if you are looking for an interesting area to explore via bushwhacking then you cannot go wrong with the Pepperbox Wilderness Area in the northwestern Adirondacks.
Photos: Alder Creek along Cowboy Beaver Meadow, Sunshine Pond and Threemile Beaver Meadow by Dan Crane.
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