By Brandon Loomis
I picked the right day to skip work and travel to Potsdam on some personal business this Wednesday—a brilliantly sunny day immediately following a substantial snowfall.
I loaded my Nordic skis into the car, thinking I’d find some trail on or around the Santa Clara Conservation Easement Tract in the northwestern Adirondacks. As I drove up State Route 458, though, I realized that the snowstorm had been a little too generous for my plans. Snowplows had walled off the trailhead parking areas to depths that I wasn’t about to test in a sedan.
Instead, I took the slower scenic route on my way home, heading east out of St. Regis Falls on County Route 14 until it crossed State Route 30 and became County Route 26. My goal was the Debar Pond/Loon Lake area, but as I passed through Duane Center, I noticed the words “X/C SKI TRAIL” on a sign next to a cleared little parking lot in the woods. Good enough for me.
This was the Town of Duane’s nature trail, and it was exactly the kind of side trip I sought: beautiful and quiet, but not an all-day adventure.
The trailhead is just east of the “Little White Church,” or Duane Methodist-Episcopal Church, and the generally flat trail loops behind and within clear sight of that landmark. Someone had stamped out the route in snowshoes earlier in the day, so I didn’t even need to watch for the little reflective markers placed here and there to keep me on track and on public land. About 10 minutes in, I came to a covered overlook with a couple of benches and an educational placard about a floating bog there on Duane Pond. The snow-covered ice on the pond obscured the plants and amphibians noted on the sign—including pitcher plants—and I decided I should make a return trip in summer to see the place in full bloom.
The trail loops through pines and spruces. Again, it felt like the right day to be out there, as the sunlight filtered through the evergreens to brighten what I imagine would be a fairly dark landscape on a cloudy day.
I found no distance markers on the trail, but the full loop took me only 40 minutes at a leisurely pace, including a brief stop at the pond overlook.