Bushwhack gives extra edge to Hammond Pond Wild Forest hike
By Tim Rowland
Its main demerit is the trail clocks in at just under a mile, and that’s a short distance considering the investment of time it takes to get there for most of the hiking public.
But wait. A tenth of a mile before the pond is a trail junction, with a sign pointing to the way to HP. Where does the other trail branch off to? The sign offers no clue — there’s no home port painted on the stern, as Guy Clark would say.
To spoil the surprise, this unmarked trail goes on for another mile and a half before arriving an a second pond; this pond, ringed with stubby vegetation, is not as scenic as Hammond, but the appeal of the hike is the trail itself — a charming, wide and level (and most likely deserted) path through some hallmark Adirondack backcountry.
It’s excellent for kids, dogs and aging knees, and with a quick side trip to Hammond Pond, provides a thoroughly satisfying half-day jaunt. And for those who want a little more, a lively little bushwhack up Bloody Mountain can add to the adventure.
If you’ve hiked to Hammond Pond and guessed that the route is a little more developed than your standard logging road, you are correct. Nineteenth century maps show it as connecting North Hudson and western Crown Point, coming out between the historic mining communities of Ironville and Hammondville.
Ironville still exists, sometimes known as Penfield because of its excellent museum by the same name. Hammondville does not. After the ore was spent, the town and the railroad that reached it were not just abandoned but dismantled.
After diverging from the Hammond Pond trail, the old road runs along the west side of the water among large hemlock and in the deep shade of a western ridge. It is a dark, foreboding wood, where all this new talk of trees secretly communicating with each other in a mysterious, subterranean underworld seems not just plausible, but likely.
The trail itself remains wide and smooth, as the pond ends, replaced with the northerly flowing Black Brook. Heading upstream, the brook is crossed by two semi-civilized pieces of infrastructure, one a fairly easy rock hop, the other a handful of ample logs thoughtfully laid across a narrow spot in the stream. The rock hop is more in line with the trail, so if using the logs you’ll walk a few feet upstream to pick it back up again.
Some maps show the trail ending here, while others have it jogging 90 degrees to the left after a couple tenths of a mile and ending at Bloody Pond. Instead, just stay on the obvious road as it passes through cascades of mossy rocks, beds of fern and hemlock boughs backlit by a low, late fall sun.
The road reaches the second pond in 2.4 miles. To get to its shore requires negotiating some marshland and pine thickets, and may or may not be worth the effort/risk of wet feet. No matter, the fine trail, which would make for excellent skiing when the time comes, is reward enough.
However — if you still have a little more light in the day and gas in the tank, Bloody Mountain, an 1,880-foot bump, offers some excellent and unique views of the High Peaks to the north and west. For reference, Bloody Mountain is the hill that dominates the horizon as you look out over Hammond Pond from the wooden dam.
Northwest of the little pond you will notice on your map an emphatic drainage that separates Bloody and Hale mountains. The ascent is as simple as staying the Bloody Mountain (left) side of the drainage for the majority of mile-long climb through open woods, until bearing left for the final summit scramble.
Poking around the summit will earn you many fine views, but the best is north to the Giant wilderness, which rises dramatically from the low woodlands like a mountainous archipelago out of a gray sea. The notch at Chapel Pond is clearly visible, from which, to the west, the Dix Range dominates the horizon.
To save a little time, you can descend in the direction of Bloody Pond, a pretty little sheet of water that was a popular fishing spot when the road to Ironville made it more accessible. Where the name “Bloody” came from I don’t know, except that if you walk the circumference of the pond you are likely to end up that way, given all the uneven rocks and snags hidden below a deceptively smooth mat of aquatic grasses.
Still, the pond is pretty enough to make this route worthwhile, even if it is a little more nettlesome than the open route along the drainage. Even with a long lunch, this loop can be completed in four hours. Wearing orange this time of year is also advisable.
KEY STATS: Bloody Mountain
- Distance: 6.5 miles
- Elevation: 1,880 feet
- Elevation gain: 1,003 feet