Salvaging the hike after misreading sign for OK Slip Falls
By Tim Rowland
Welcome to Explore More, mea culpa edition. In considering my past mistakes, remember that you are dealing with someone who for two years after moving to the Adirondacks thought that Camp Wood was an outdoor-recreational franchise founded by some guy named Wood.
I kept thinking, “Boy that guy really gets around.”
When trying to download Cornell’s Merlin bird app I was duped into buying a lousy knock-off by some fly by night (see what I did there?) company that horns its way to the head of the line when you type “Merlin bird ID” into the search.
I got suspicious when I kept getting responses that included, for example, “tropical screech owl.” On the flanks of Jay Mountain.
Cornell also assured me that, unlike this app that charged $40, theirs is totally free. Unfortunately, while aware of the subterfuge, they said there’s nothing that can be done to bring the rogue agency to justice. So just be sure that you add “Cornell” to the Merlin search to get the genuine and far superior article.
But what really set me on this admittedly embarrassing course was one of those fascinating DEC reports that highlight ranger activity across the Adirondacks, as they heroically retrieve hikers who have either gotten lost or gone tuchas over teakettle down a flume.
But one item in particular caught my attention, to wit, a hiker who set out for OK Slip Falls off Route 28 in the Town of Indian Lake and wound up at Whortleberry Pond some three miles away from his destination.
I rise today in defense of this gentleman, whom I do not know, but consider a brother, because it calls to mind the first time I tried to reach OK Slip Falls and did exactly the same thing. But, in the name of turning lemons into lemonade, while it doesn’t go anywhere near the falls, this Bell Mountain Trail is an attractive hike for people who want to hike in solitude and appreciate some real Adirondack backcountry.
This all begins with my borderline dyslexia which, as a child, caused me to read right to left and spell my name miT, which caused an uncharitable uncle to give me the nickname “Mit.” So permit me to enter into evidence Exhibit A, the embedded photograph of the DEC sign to OK Slip, which, as you can see, has a big fat arrowhead pointing to the left.
The eyes of a normal, left to right reader would naturally travel to the much smaller arrow on the right pointing in the opposite, and correct, direction. Mine didn’t. So we tooled off to the left on a beautiful trail flanked by, at the time, drifts of springtime wildflowers.
RELATED: OK Slip Falls provides a place to feel grounded. READ MORE
Somewhere in the back of my head I thought it strange that a trail to such a popular spot seemed so little trammeled. Same, when we came to what turned out to be Bell Mountain Brook and a water crossing that was far wider and more intense than you typically find on popular trails.
OK Slip was supposed to be flat, but we were gaining much more elevation than we should have been, unwittingly climbing up and over a notch in Bell Mountain. These thoughts idly clacked off of each other like wayward billiard balls, but none dropped into the right pocket.
Until we came to a trail junction, more than two miles in, where there shouldn’t have been one. Our options were Big Bad Luck Pond and McWhortle Pond, but no falls of any kind. At this time my mind raced all the way back down the trail to the sign at the first junction and I said out loud, “You don’t suppose …”
So here’s the deal. You can battle the crowds and go to the popular OK Slip Falls if you want, but there is something to be said for exploring the Ross Pond Trail upon which we had mistakenly embarked. It leads to three scenic backcountry ponds — Big Bad Luck being the pick of the litter if you have to choose one — over the course of eight miles if you hit them all.
The trail is admittedly challenging, what with the water crossing, and heaping helpings of rocks and mud, at least in the spring. The elevation gain overall will be in the neighborhood of 1,000 feet out and back.
But once you get through the Bell Mountain notch, this is very much wild Adirondack backcountry, with mature stands of hardwoods, and scenic, hemlock-framed wetlands. It makes for a nice day hike, whether you get there on purpose or by mistake.
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