Thursday, April 5, 2012
A Three-Pond Bushwhack
Wednesday, April 4:
Deep in the Adirondack forest near Indian Lake lie three ponds that Evelyn Greene just HAD to get to. An intrepid explorer of Adirondack wetlands and waterways, Evelyn knew they were there, but she did not quite know how -- or if -- she could haul her canoe to their shores, so she wanted to test the route. You can see the three ponds on the map above: Stonystep, Rock, and Big Bad Luck. But don't let that road into the center of the three cause you to think she could just drive in, because that's a private road with a gate across, and she did not have permission to even walk on it. However, most of that green stuff on the map is New York State Forest Preserve, which the public IS allowed to access freely, so off we set, a group of seven friends and one dog, compasses, maps, and GPS devices in hand, plunging into the trackless forest to bushwhack our way to the ponds.
After what seemed a long time of pushing through cheek-clawing balsam boughs and scrambling over impenetrable heaps of blown-down trunks, at last we caught a glimpse of open water through the trees. Our first destination: Stonystep Pond.
When we reached the shore of Stonystep Pond, we discovered an extensive sphagnum mat, populated by many of the plants that are typically found in bogs.
There were many Pitcher Plants, still crowned with the remnants of last year's flowers and with their red urn-shaped leaves filled with water.
There was also a large population of Labrador Tea, its leathery undercurled leaves densely covered with hairs, sharing its turf with other heath-family plants like Sheep Laurel and Leatherleaf.
After stopping at Stonystep to eat our lunches, the guys in our group got out their maps and other devices and plotted our route to our second destination, Big Bad Luck Pond. (I wonder how the pond got that name. There's gotta be a story behind it, doesn't there?)
We didn't have such a scramble to get to that pond, since we happened upon some old logging roads and snowmobile trails that led us right to the shore of this lake-sized body of water.
When you're back in the trackless woods, it isn't always easy to tell where state and private land meet, so we entertained ourselves along the way with stories we would tell if we were accosted for trespassing on private property. Then, when we reached the pond, we discovered 10 privately owned rowboats illegally stored on state land, including at least one that was junked. So who were the trespassers here?
Our doggy companion, Brio, a 13-year-old Golden Lab, didn't care who owned the land we were standing on, as long as he could reach the water and take a nice long drink.
Retracing our steps the way we had come, we planned to branch off through the woods to reach the third point in our day's destination, Rock Pond. But first we stopped to take measurements of some of the huge White Pines we had passed on the trail, including this giant that Evelyn measured at more than 12 feet around.
To reach the shore of Rock Pond, we had to negotiate some tricky footing over a beaver dam. I didn't make it, myself, since I had got stuck to my knees in mud and was still cleaning my boots when my friends returned my way. While Evelyn stood there on the shore, I wondered if she was figuring out how to get her canoe into water so difficult to access.
Or maybe she was just studying this leafy liverwort that she bent down to gather a sample of. Did I know what this was, she asked me, and of course I didn't, since I had never seen it before. But I do know now, since Evelyn informed me that this is Pallavacinia lyellii. She then pointed out the fruiting body, which I tried to get a clear photo of. Failing that, I've circled the fruiting body in red.
I always learn really cool stuff when I go on adventures with Evelyn. And wonder of wonders, we always get back alive, if maybe a little scratched and sore. Our round-trip trek today was something over 5 miles and we walked it in about 4 hours. Not too bad for a bushwhack.