By PHIL BROWN
The road to Boreas Ponds just got a lot shorter, which should enable more paddlers to enjoy the spectacular views of the High Peaks this fall.
Last Friday the state Department of Environmental Conservation opened Gulf Brook Road as far as the Four Corners near LaBier Flow, allowing the public to drive to within a mile of the ponds. Before this, people had to park about 3.5 miles away.
DEC has built a parking lot for 15 vehicles at the Four Corners, an intersection of four dirt roads (once used by logging trucks). It has almost completed a smaller lot located just a tenth of a mile before Boreas Ponds, but that one is not expected to be available until next year. For now, the road beyond the Four Corners is gated.
The department also has greatly improved Gulf Brook Road, grading the surface and laying down tons of gravel, and built a put-in and takeout on LaBier Flow. (Much of this work was done last year.)
Unless you visit DEC’s website or receive its weekly outdoor-recreation bulletin, you may not have heard about the road opening. I learned about it from Ron Konowitz, a Keene resident who happened to drive up Gulf Brook Road last Friday. On Monday, Ron and I returned to Boreas Ponds and spent a few hours paddling around and hogging down the scenery.
On the ride in, I was impressed by the smoothness of the road. When I had driven up Gulf Brook Road in 2018, there was an army of boulders poised to attack my car’s undercarriage. On Monday, we drove to the Boreas Ponds area in Ron’s Jeep, but I would not hesitate to drive up the road in my low-clearance Subaru.
When Ron and I reached LaBier Flow, we unloaded our canoes and packs before hopping back into his Jeep and continuing a tenth of a mile to the Four Corners parking lot. There were five or six other cars. Most of the people signing in at the LaBier register were Adirondack residents, but one party had come from Vermont.
At the Four Corners, paddlers have two options: carry their boats about a mile to Boreas Ponds or paddle up LaBier Flow a half-mile, cutting the carry in half. No doubt most day-trippers will opt for the latter, but canoe-campers wheeling their boats and gear may choose to skip LaBier.
LaBier Flow is a shallow impoundment of the Boreas River. Though no match for Boreas Ponds, the small waterway offers stellar views of its own. As soon as we put in, we found ourselves looking up at nearby Boreas Mountain, which is just short of 4,000 feet. Rounding a bend, we came face to face with several High Peaks: Allen, Skylight, Marcy, and Haystack.
DEC’s takeout on the northwest shore was easy to spot. A short gravel path took us to the road that leads to Boreas Ponds. After a carry of a half-mile or so, we came to the smaller lot still under construction. It will accommodate six vehicles. Two of the spots will be reserved for the disabled. The other four will be available to the general public, but permits will be required. DEC is working with Reserve America to establish a permit system.
The spaces at the Four Corners parking lot are marked by posts and numbered. The spaces at the smaller lot also are marked by posts, but they have yet to be numbered. Otherwise, the lot appears to be finished. However, DEC still has other work to do. Its management plan calls for a wheelchair-accessible trail leading from the lot to an accessible put-in at Boreas Ponds. The department also plans to build a lean-to on a bluff overlooking the ponds next month. On Monday, the lumber for the lean-to was piled at the small parking lot.
We continued portaging a tenth of a mile to the Boreas Ponds dam. After launching our canoes we paddled to the north end of the ponds, gawking at the scenery, watching loons, and soaking up the sunshine. It’s hard to describe the beauty of the place. The pictures are worth a few thousand words. I will say that the vista of the High Peaks from Boreas Ponds is unique in the forest preserve. If possible, the views will get even better once the leaves start to change.
We saw three other canoeing parties—six people, in all—during our circuit of the ponds. Another paddler had left his canoe at the north end and gone for a hike. When Ron and I returned to the dam, we saw two anglers who had walked in from Four Corners. Everyone we talked to was overjoyed to be there. I imagine Boreas Ponds will get busier once word gets out about the easier access.