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Monday, January 9, 2017

Powder Play In The Five Ponds Wilderness

Carol Fox skis past a beaver meadow on the Dead Creek Truck Trail. Photos by Phil Brown

I have not been delighted with the skiing conditions in the Lake Placid area this winter. There is decent snow, especially at higher elevations, but we haven’t had a big storm. As a result, rocky trails at lower elevations often lack adequate cover.

And so last weekend I found myself driving west in search of deep powder. I found it in the Five Ponds Wilderness.

My girlfriend Carol and I skied from Wanakena, a hamlet on the Oswegatchie River, to Glasby Pond about five miles away. As soon as we hit the trail, we were in heaven. Snow weighed down the evergreen branches and coated the hardwoods. About six inches of fresh powder covered the ground on top of a solid base.

It’s not usual for Wanakena to have good snow when conditions are only OK or marginal near Lake Placid. The western Adirondacks often benefits from the same lake-effect snowstorms that clobber Tug Hill regularly every winter.

On the day of our ski, we followed the tracks of a party of three who were camping at the Janack’s Landing lean-to, located near the end of Dead Creek Flow, an arm of Cranberry Lake.

Crossing Dead Creek Flow on the ice.

At the outset, we followed the old Dead Creek Truck Trail. It’s smooth and flat, ideal for novice skiers. After a few miles, we got off the trail and skied across the frozen Dead Creek Flow to the lean-to, where we chatted with the campers.

Incidentally, we saw lots of snowmobile tracks while crossing the ice. Given that Dead Creek Flow is bordered by motor-free Wilderness, shouldn’t these noisy machines be banned from this part of Cranberry Lake? Essentially, the flow is a motorized corridor intruding into the interior of the Five Ponds Wilderness.

After leaving the lean-to, we followed a spur trail back to the main trail and headed to Sand Hill Junction, where we veered left to climb to Glasby Pond. We removed our skis to rock-hop across the outlet, intending to continue on the trail to the summit of Cat Mountain.

Here’s where I made a rookie mistake. Instead of sticking to the trail, I suggested we ski to the end of the pond, then get back on the marked route. However, we skied too far up the pond and could not find the trail. By the time I realized what we did wrong, we were running short of daylight.

We weren’t too upset. Skiing off-piste through the beautiful open woods in beautiful powder was one of the highlights of the day. I did feel sorry for the guy from Malone who followed our tracks, though. We met him as we were returning to Glasby Pond. He, too, was looking for Cat Mountain.

Carol and I had a wonderful ski out, especially the descents on the way back to Dead Creek Flow. We returned to the car just before dark and drove to the Thirsty Moose in Childwold for dinner. We were hungry as much as thirsty, but we raised a glass of wine to toast Cat Mountain. It beat us this time, but we’ll be back.

Glasby Pond in the Five Ponds Wilderness.

Phil Brown

Phil Brown has been editing the Adirondack Explorer since 1999. When he isn't at his desk, he's usually out hiking, paddling, skiing, or doing something else important. You can follow his adventures and his musings on the Adirondacks in the Explorer and on this blog.

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