A homage to an overlooked, yet quiet place
By Bill Ingersoll
I can write about this wilderness hike because I know I’m not going to convince you to check it out. I’m about to gush about one of my favorite Adirondack hideaways, yet I have little fear I’ll see you there. The trail is long and flat, the terminus has a marshy appearance, and I am no influencer. But I am in love with this special location anyway.
Little Woodhull Lake—LWL for short—and its two existing trails have been seeking your attention for decades, alluring you with softly whispered promises of adventure and solitude as you peruse your trail maps and apps—and you, inattentive reader, have not noticed.
Little Woodhull is a homely place. No sand beaches, nor towering pines; great mountains cast no shadows on horizons. Few rock perches offer an elevated view of LWL’s waters, and even where they do exist the image is not what you expect. The trail from North Lake Road is in good shape now, but on my first visit in 1998 this was hardly the case. The last mile or so, an abandoned snowmobile trail, was gobbled by the unchecked growth of hobblebush and it never actually led to the lake anyway, only the moldering remains of forgotten campsites.
Nowadays, in the fullness of summer, Little Woodhull Lake makes a dismal first impression—in strictly anthropocentric terms. Boggy mats, like balls of eely roots knotted around clutches of mud, float to the surface with the annual return of warm weather, and what open water remains is likely to be choked full of lily pads and pickerelweed.
This little lake first appeared to me as an enticement in the southwest corner of the Honnedaga USGS quad, offered mutely in blue ink with no further commentary. My meticulously noted copy of that map records my first visit on April 29, 1998. The last section of the trail was non-existent almost, save for a few remnant snowmobile trail markers, circles of snowplow-orange plastic faded to white. A bridge across the inlet had long since collapsed.
The key thing for me was the solitude; it mattered not if the place was popular, only that it was inhabited by me (and my dog) alone. Here was a place within easy reach of home but away from any other spot people might care to be. There was an outlet channel to explore, and even a companion pond nearby to the north. In the summer I navigated through the bog mats, then marveled in the fall when the cold weather sank them all to the bottom. On a November trip, I camped beside the rippling of a liquid lake and awoke to the scene of otters bounding across the newly frozen surface.
Don’t miss out
This article first appeared in a recent issue of Adirondack Explorer magazine.
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Now, changes lurk: the North Country National Scenic Trail—distant cousin to the Appalachian Trail — is slated to enter the Adirondack Park north of North Lake Road and LWL may become a waypoint. I do wonder if interstate hikers will agree LWL’s quality of scenery lives up to the lofty expectations of “National Scenic Trail.” I suspect they’ll develop an allergy to its boggy flavor, pressing on a few more miles to something sexier.
Fine. I’ll take my favorite campsite, get the fire going, and sit back with a good book and a beverage. Every time I think I hear distant voices somewhere on the far shore, I will shake my head, realizing I’ve been fooled yet again by a barred owl. Once more I’ll have LWL to myself.
Bill Ingersoll, of Adirondack Wilderness Advocates, is a guidebook author in Barneveld.