Private with public access but little publicity, “linear recreation corridor” is uncrowded
By Phil Brown
Of my many adventures in the Sable Highlands this year, perhaps the most memorable was a 17-mile mountain-bike trek with numerous views of mountains and wetlands, plenty of fun riding, and a moose.
I biked in a giant loop by linking three “linear recreation corridors,” or LRCs—logging roads open to the public—and a section of Wolf Pond Road, a dirt road maintained by the town of Bellmont.
I began at a parking area on Fishhole Pond on the D&H Road, which is designated LRC 9. I rode east for 1.25 miles to a four-way junction and made a sharp left onto Liberty Road, which is designated LRC 8.
In my explorations of the Sable Highlands, I had found that many LRCs were unmarked, so I was pleased to see a small “LRC #8” sign at the start of Liberty Road. Yet right above it was another sign declaring “No Trespassing/Private Logging Road.” Having read the state’s recreation plan for the easement lands, I felt confident that I had the right to continue, but I suspect many people would be deterred. A sign affirming the public’s right to use the road would remove any doubts.
Liberty Road ascends past Catamount, Lookout Mountain and the Elbow Range. At times, the pedaling can be tough, not so much for the grade as for the loose gravel and sand. On one hill, I stopped to rest and take notes. Soon a man in a pickup truck hauling a pair of all-terrain vehicles pulled up and asked what I was writing. When I replied that I was jotting down the names of nearby peaks, he hopped out and pointed them out to me.
We struck up a conversation. He belonged to a hunting club that leases land from the landowner, Chateaugay Woodlands. He questioned whether I had a right to be there. I told him about the recreation plan. He seemed skeptical, but he added that he doesn’t mind if people use the road as long as they are respectful. “Some people come in here and think they own the place,” he said.
We parted on friendly terms, but the incident exemplified the frustration I often felt in my travels around the Sable Highlands. Although the state Department of Environmental Conservation released its interim recreation plan more than a decade ago, in 2009, the agency has yet to implement much of it, and the lack of signage means visitors may not know where they can go and what they can do.
In 2008, New York State paid $10.8 million for conservation easements on 84,000 acres of commercial forest known as the Sable Highlands in the northern Adirondacks. The deal lets logging continue, but it also allows public recreation in 14 “public use areas,” totaling 21,100 acres, and on “linear recreation corridors” connecting them. The state so far has failed to implement much of its plan. This spring, the Adirondack Explorer spent many days exploring the Sable Highlands on foot, by car, and on a mountain bike. This is one in a series of articles meant to open a window on a land partly owned by the public but rarely seen.
At 4.3 miles into my ride, I stopped again to take notes. This time I was interrupted by a moose that wandered out of the woods and onto the road. We stared at each other for a half-minute before going our separate ways. You can read more about this encounter in an earlier article I wrote for the Explorer.
Overall, I had gained about 400 feet in elevation. Soon after the moose meeting, I began descending and passed some pretty wetlands. At 6.9 miles, I came to a marked junction with LRC 7, also known as Wolf Pond Mountain Road, not to be confused with the town’s Wolf Pond Road. Turning left, I enjoyed more descents and views before reaching Wolf Pond Road at 11.45 miles.
Turning left again, I immediately crossed the Salmon River, which rises in the Elbow Range and flows north to Canada and the St. Lawrence River. In less than a mile, I reached the eastern end of the D&H Road (LRC 9).
Liberty Road and Wolf Pond Mountain Road varied in quality from packed dirt to loose sand to rocks and ruts. The D&H Road, in contrast, boasts a relatively smooth, firm surface for its entire length, ideal for the five-mile cruise back to the car. At one point, I got off the logging road and followed a parallel power-line corridor for about a mile. The riding was not as good, but extensive wetlands afforded great views of the mountains to the north.
My trip took place on a clear Sunday in the first week of May, before trees had leafed. It’s a time of year when, given a nice day, many Adirondackers jump at the chance to get outside and leave their cabin fever behind. Yet I ran into few people on my long ride. Besides the guy in the truck, I saw a group of ATVers on Wolf Pond Mountain Road and again on the D&H Road. Of course, there also was the moose.
I later repeated the trip in July with my girlfriend Carol. Apart from an occasional ATV rider, we saw no people. Incidentally, Carol really enjoyed herself, despite the challenges. “The scenery was lovely,” she said. “The biking was tough but rewarding. It throws a lot at you.”
Mark Daby says
Thanks to articles like this, these remote places will soon be overrun with people, much like the High Peaks.
Sounds like a gravel grinder. When is DEC going to get behind building some new long singletrack?
Phil Brown says
Mark, I doubt the Sable Highlands will ever be nearly as crowded as the High Peaks. For one thing, there isn’t that much parking.
Phil Brown says
CK, what do you mean by “long” single track? DEC has been supportive of the single-track trails built by the Barkeater Trails Alliance.
Debbie Struve says
I often wonder when these areas are written about that the authors think about the potential environmental impact of new hot spots for human recreation and exploration.
Phil Brown says
Debbie, the logging roads on easement lands can withstand much more use than, say, a hiking trail up a mountain. And the easement lands see little traffic. So I would say the overall environmental impact is minimal.