Crowfoot Pond: A jaunt that shines before leaves are out
By Tim Rowland
Adirondack beauty is a pageant with many entrants, but a brook flowing over mossy stones in a hemlock forest is a classic scene, and one that is particularly dramatic in early spring.
While many flee the park in April, or stay away entirely, it’s become one of my favorite months to hike. The streams are full and fast and the forest floors are just beginning to blush with 50 shades of green. Some trails that are nondescript at other times of the year are jaw-droppers in April.
One such trail is Crowfoot Pond on the North Hudson-Moriah town line, a trail that is easily reached, yet for all the use it gets might as well be on Pluto. The trail register only boasted about two dozen names since Thanksgiving.
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You get there by jumping off the Northway at Exit 30, and instead of heading west toward Keene Valley with everyone else, go east for a couple tenths of a mile and turn left onto Tracy Road toward Mineville. In 1.7 miles, the trailhead appears (barely) on the right, down a steep embankment.
I confess to being underwhelmed with Crowfoot Pond in previous hikes. The pond itself is not memorable — half of it is private and lined with camps — and the forest is typical of many other Adirondack trails.
But I’d never hiked it in the early spring, before summer has dried the streams to trickles, or the cold and snow makes them indistinguishable from the general landscape. But in April? Oh my. The trail follows an abandoned improved road, so it’s mostly dry and easy on the knees, notwithstanding a fair number of blown-down trees that have to be hopped.
It gains a sneaky amount of elevation, but it’s spread evenly over the space of 2.5 miles so it’s not that noticeable. It does, however, give energy to streams and rivulets running high from spring rains and snowmelt. Another advantage of April is that the pre-leaf season allows for views of streams charging down chasms and swales below, beautiful scenes will be hidden in a couple of months.
Along the length of the trail, one stream will disappear only to be replaced by another; you are seldom away from the sound of rushing water for long. And for those who aren’t feeling like a five-mile round trip, no worries. You can stroll along the trail for half that distance and still be the beneficiary of the overall effect.
For the more adventuresome, Crowfoot Pond is, as the crow flies, less than three-quarters of a mile from the lip of Broughton Ledges, a dramatic wall of 400-foot cliffs that can be viewed from below by a new trail accessed from Ensign Pond Road. From the bottom, it looks like getting to the top would be quite a chore, but half of the needed elevation gain is provided by the gentle Crowfoot Pond trail.
The final approach involves a bushwhack through open woods and minimal blowdown. The hardest part is negotiating the spongy outlet of the pond, which is sub-optimal for humans, but for your dogs is a celebration of the black ick, soft logs and decaying carcasses that make life truly worth living.
South of the pond, the topo map shows two little knobs, like goalposts, with the cliffs just beyond. It’s easy enough to split the wickets, although there are some bands of ledges that may require the occasional backtracking. When I got to the top the sun was out and it was snowing. Yup, must be April.
By the numbers, the trail alone is 5 miles round trip with an elevation gain of about 450 feet. Adding the bushwhack will put you at 6.5 to 7 miles, with an elevation gain of 900 feet. The whole shebang took me about four hours, lunch and ill-advised detour included. Also keep in mind that we are coming up on falcon nesting season — you won’t want to get too close to the cliffs anyway, believe me, but tread lightly, or maybe save the bushwhack for fall.
On the way back, I deviated from my original path, thinking there might be an easier route to the east. There isn’t. Descending, I aimed for the middle of the pond, in hopes there might be a fisherman’s trail around the shore. There wasn’t. But I did, in the middle of the wilderness about a hundred feet from the pond, find five fairly new golf balls scattered on the forest floor.
I kept them. It’s too chilly out on the links now, but it won’t be forever.
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