Last winter Carol Fox and I skied from Averyville outside Lake Placid to Oseetah Lake outside Saranac Lake, following an old woods road that constitutes part of the northern boundary of the High Peaks Wilderness.
We had a great time. You will be able to read about our adventure in a forthcoming issue of the Adirondack Explorer.
On Labor Day weekend I returned to the old road with my mountain bike and rode about six and a half miles to Pine Pond, a beautiful body of water with a sandy beach.
As on our ski trip, I saw ample evidence of all-terrain-vehicle use. Although snowmobiles are allowed on the road in winter, ATVs are not permitted, according to a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
In truth, the road was mucked up by ATVs in only a half-dozen or so spots. Most of the road appears to be hardened or dry enough that it can withstand their use without a lot of damage.
I encountered the first mucky spot about three miles from Averyville, where ATVs have made large muddy circles in the woods. Evidently, ATVers ride up the road from camps near Oseetah Lake and turn around there.
I saw several other mucky spots on the road as well as on short detours off it, where the machines have made their own paths through the forest.
The status of the road is murky. It starts in North Elba and ends in Harrietstown, but it’s unclear whether it’s owned by the state or the towns. In the past, DEC has told me that ATVs are forbidden. At one point, however, I passed a sign with both snowmobile and ATV icons, suggesting both are legal.
The road is getting some maintenance. At the eastern end, in North Elba, a few swales have been filled with fresh gravel. Throughout its length, people have cut through blowdown—a benefit to bikers and skiers as well as ATVers.
Legal issues and muck aside, I had a ball riding my bike on the road. At the start, the road climbs over a hill. This stretch of the road is full of loose rocks and is tough going. I walked my bike on part of the uphill. Most of the rest of the ride to the pond was relatively mellow, though I often had to contend with rocks, roots, and mud swales, as well as the occasional hill. The return trip was a little harder as it entailed more ups than downs.
The road passes through a beautiful forest. In one of the more scenic stretches, it closely parallels the East Branch of Cold Brook. For most of the ride, I didn’t see any people. As I neared Pine Pond, I passed a few hikers. At the pond itself, more than a dozen adults and children were hanging out at the beach.
Pine Pond is in the High Peaks Wilderness, where bike riding is forbidden. However, it is just a stone’s throw from the woods road. I walked my bike along a footpath to the beach and went for a swim before riding back. The ride to and from the pond took me about 90 minutes each way. More experienced riders could do it faster.