By BRANDON LOOMIS
Sometimes it pays to wait until the crowd thins out at the latest attraction.
The first hint came when my son Theo and I started gearing up at the trailhead to Wolf Pond, a new path and lean-to accessed from the Blue Ridge Road between Newcomb and North Hudson, south of Boreas Ponds. As we loaded water and other essentials into our dog Chili’s doggy backpack, a couple from Canada emerged from the trail with a warning.
“Lovely,” one of them said of Wolf Pond, but way too buggy for them.
They were the last people we would see that early-summer Saturday. The crowd we faced wasn’t human. After winter and spring had loaded the Adirondacks with more moisture than we had seen last year, people were complaining of a big mosquito population around the park.
Fortunately, we had come prepared: bug spray, head nets for both of us humans, and a couple of body-length nets to hang over our sleeping bags in the lean-to, and we remained comfortable. Unfortunately, we had no protection for Chili, and that would be a problem come evening.
Beyond the bugs, though, the place was lovely as advertised. The trail, cleared and bridged for the state by the Student Conservation Association Trail Crew, was solid and dry as it rolled up and over a ridge beyond which the highway noise of motorcycles faded and tiny frogs emerged here and there. At less than 2 ½ miles, it was an ideal length—with just enough elevation gain and loss—for a 9-year-old’s first backpacking experience.
The log lean-to, built by Lean2Rescue, was solid and clean, mouse-free, set back from the water with a nice rock fire pit and cooking grate nearby.
Then there was the waterfront view, across a pond long enough that we couldn’t see its end, where a beaver swam and slapped the surface before diving. Across the water to the north were the High Peaks—all ours. Through the evening we spoke to each other through a chorus of chirping and sometimes bellowing frogs.
With DEET on our clothes and nets over our heads, we would have forgotten about the mosquitoes if not for Chili’s suffering. His eyes and lips swelled by dinner time, and he slunk under the rock-elevated floor of the lean-to. Like a lot of dogs he wants to be with his people, and we couldn’t get him to remain in the safety of the netting over the sleeping bags while we cooked and ate. Next time I bring a dog camping in mosquito season—if I do—I’ll consider the merits of dog-friendly repellents. We coaxed him under the nets while we slept, though, and the next morning, sunnier and warmer, was less buggy.
For me, the trip’s greatest prize arrived at 1:30 a.m., when a loon somewhere far across the water wailed in a pitch that started high and descended. Both Theo and I had awakened moments before it, and it thrilled us. The howl made me wonder if whoever named Wolf Pond had misidentified a creature’s call. At 3:45 a.m., a pair of loons erupted into a ululating frenzy much nearer to us, but somehow I was the only one awakened.
The Department of Environmental Conservation planned this trail and lean-to in part to expand fishing opportunities, as the 59-acre pond is stocked with Adirondack-native brook trout. We brought rods and fished around the outlet for a time in morning, and I caught a pan fish on a wet fly, but no trout. There’s a makeshift bridge of logs across the brook, but no visible path beyond it, and we were not there to bushwhack. The state does not plan to build a trail around the pond, because of the wetlands there.
My hunch is that Wolf Pond will draw more visitors in drier years, or in late summer and autumn, when the bugs dissipate. But for those who value solitude and lonely views, and who don’t have sensitive dogs to consider, maybe this sort of buzzing crowd isn’t so bad.