A trip to Boreas Ponds, the picturesque ponds near the Adirondack High Peaks that the state purchased in 2012, has been on my list of places to visit for a few years now. My wife and I finally put aside some time to go there Friday, coordinating the hike in with a weekend camping at nearby Lake Harris in Newcomb.
I knew that there has been some work on the roads into Boreas Ponds on-and-off for years, so I checked with the DEC on Thursday before we planned our trip to make sure we could get to the ponds. I was referred to the DEC High Peaks Backcountry Information webpage, which is updated weekly, detailing trail issues, closures, etc.
The webpage read that Gulf Brook Road was open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, which was perfect for our Friday trip.
We pulled onto the road shortly after 9 a.m. Friday, and were met with two small signs atop orange cones near the Blue Ridge Road intersection that read it was "closed because of mud/snow."
Now winter comes early to Essex County, but not that early. Knowing what the DEC website told me, we drove north, and ran into two women driving out who flagged us down as we passed. The driver said that contractors told her the road was closed. And as we talked, two dumptrucks barreled down the road behind her, coming to a stop as we talked. She drove off, and the truck driver opened his window to tell me the road was closed.
I explained that the DEC's website said otherwise, and that I planned to drive to the Fly Pond Gate as the state indicated could be done on a Friday. (The walk was 14 miles round trip from Blue Ridge Road, 7 from the Fly Pond Gate. We didn't have time for 14 miles.)
He said his understanding differed, but I told him I was going to go with what the DEC website told me, and I wouldn't block the Fly Pond Gate. He warned me to watch out for truck traffic.
So ours was the only vehicle in the spacious, gravel-lined main lot, we geared up and did the 3.5-mile walk in under an hour, swatting a blood-thirsty population of deerflies as we went. The views were all that they were billed, loons were calling on the pond, and we saw fresh moose prints in the dirt on the road. (We knew they were fresh because they weren't there on our way in, but were on our way out. Never saw the animal that left the prints, unfortunately.)
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We saw one other person, a mountain biker, on the trail. We hiked just under 8 miles after some bushwacking around First Pond and Second Pond to get some different views. It turned out Friday was the nicest part of the weekend, as rain arrived Friday night, and lasted for much of Saturday.
Unfortunately, because of misinformation, the two women we talked to did not get to enjoy the trail or ponds while we were there. We stopped at Cloudsplitter Outfitters in Newcomb later that day, told the staff we had been in to Boreas Ponds, and were told that a lot of people had been getting "mixed messages" about the status of the road.
On another note, the road in is coming along nicely. Contractors from Paul Mitchell Logging are using stone from the Tahawus mines, which Mitchell bought last year, to rebuild the road. Parking areas are being developed, signs and paths to ponds are being built. When it's done, the access will be much improved for those who can't walk seven to eight miles.
But I worry about that.
It's nice that more people will enjoy the land, but it is close to unspoiled. And unfortunately more people always equals more litter and more abuse of the land.
UPDATE -- I heard Monday afternoon from the DEC's regional spokesman that the agency had planned to close Friday, and the next few Fridays, so more work could be done. The Backcountry information website will be updated to reflect these additional closures.
-- Don Lehman