New trail in town of Chesterfield highlights progress toward creating wildway corridor
By Tim Rowland
It’s easy to find poetry in trails such as the gentle new footpath that glides artfully around Clear Pond near — near nothing really, which is another point in its favor. But just to emphasize the concept, three preservation groups invited poets Sylvia Karman and David Crews to add verse to a celebration of wilderness conservation.
At the Sept. 28 event, the poets read from their works (viewable at writingtheland.org), beneath towering hemlock and white pine, to about 20 hikers, putting words to nature as part of a joint project between artists and American land trusts. Then a ribbon was cut to a new section of trail, named for Benny Ostermiller, the grandfather of a donor who made purchase of the Eagle Mountain tract, on which the trail is located, possible.
The Northeast Wilderness Trust purchased the 2,434 acre tract and created the Eagle Mountain Wilderness Preserve in 2018. The Adirondack Land Trust will hold a forever-wild easement on the land to add another layer of protection, and the trails were cut by Champlain Area Trails. Creation of Benny’s Trail was supported by private donations that unlocked funding from the New York State Conservation Partnership Program and New York’s Environmental Protection Fund.
The trailhead is located on Trout Pond Road, which intersects with Route 9 south of the Poke-o-Moonshine trailheads. After turning right on Trout Pond Road, go 3.2 miles to the trailhead on the left. Trout Pond Road can also be accessed from Green Street south of Clintonville.
From the trailhead, the Clear Pond Trail strikes out through a brushy corridor of thumb-thick alder before opening up to a more mature forest with some grandaddy white pines and cedar bogs with enough black ick to satisfy even the most discriminating dogs. It’s an early sign of the diversity at hand on the tract, which will now recover in peace from years of managed logging.
The trail to Clear Pond is itself fashioned from a logging road, although through the decades it’s been more than that, once used as access to a hunting camp on the pond. There is evidence the road was in existence long before that, perhaps back into the 1800s, said Champlain Area Trails Trail Steward Bill Amadon, who discovered the foundations of more ample architecture on a rise overlooking the water.
Save for a couple of steeper pitches, the route is relatively level and in the wintertime just begs to be skied. Before long the trail arrives at a semi-body of water, along the lines of a marsh that wants to be a pond when it grows up. A blue heron will be standing sentinel often as not, and in the spring the slope down to the water is carpeted with an uncommon number of bulbous pink lady slippers.
In another half mile the trail crosses Doyle Brook, and it’s worth wandering upstream a hundred feet or so, where the water cascades down a picturesque staircase of stone.
Beyond the brook, the trail begins to climb gently and soon comes to what Northeast Wilderness Trust Outreach Coordinator Sophi Veltrop describes as among her favorite parts of the hike: broad sheets of pillowy gray reindeer lichen, accented with daubs of green moss.
Close investigation reveals even more beauty and detail, “like the window into another universe,” Veltrop said.
The trail then rolls over a low hump and descends to another marsh before ascending smartly to a ridge that separates Clear Pond from a precipitous bluff — the topography on the tract is particularly interesting, said Adirondack Council naturalist John Davis, more rugged than might be expected this close to the Lake Champlain Valley, and home to five natural ponds. Davis said biologists have identified a dozen different evergreens on the land, as well as rare mussels in its waters and falcons on its cliffs. The tract is also the stomping grounds of moose, bear, otters and many more, most obviously beavers, which are likely to introduce themselves as you trod along the shoreline.
At the top of the rise, the new section of trail jogs off to the right, while the road continues on to the old campsite and a memorable vista of unspoiled shoreline. Both the road and the loop trail meet back up at this point, for a total round trip of 4.5 miles.
The trail makes Eagle Mountain one of NWT’s “ambassador” properties, Veltrop said, a chance for the public to see rewilding in action.
The conservation and long-term care of Eagle Mountain Wilderness Preserve was made possible by Sweet Water Trust, Conservation Alliance, Cloudsplitter Foundation, Gallogly Family Foundation, Open Space Institute, Land Trust Alliance, Clif Family Foundation, and many individual donors.
The tract is also important in a strategic sense for creating a wildway allowing safe, natural migration paths for animals between Lake Champlain and the High Peaks.
Along with the Taylor Pond Wild Forest, the privately owned Baldface Preserve and the Burnt Pond tract recently purchased by Open Space Institute, preservation groups are cobbling together a protected corridor of forestland that more or less follows the north branch of the Boquet River and may one day connect with the Jay, Hurricane and High Peaks wilderness lands to the south.
Meantime, wildlife of the human species can feel protected in this remote locale from the rumbling of motorcycles and the harassment of cell service, their reverie interrupted only by the splash of the beaver tail and the husky gurgle of the rave. If that’s not poetry, it’s hard to think what is.