By Bill Ingersoll
Robbs Creek is a tributary of the Sacandaga River that flows from the mountainous southwest region of the Siamese Ponds Wilderness. Officially this area is “trailless,” meaning that there are no formal facilities created or maintained by DEC once you step across the state land boundary – but the on-the-ground reality is that there are a number of unmarked footpaths throughout the southern half of the wilderness.
The trail along Robbs Creek is an adventurous walk through tall hardwood forests. It starts very clearly but becomes faint the further you progress up the valley. The destination is a small waterfall on the creek. If you are good at following informal trails without the benefit of signs or markers then the only confusion that you are likely to encounter will be near the beginning.
Finding the trailhead involves driving for several miles along a gravel logging road. Ordinary cars can make the trip with care, but vehicles with high clearance and a sturdy suspension will fare better.
From a point along NY Route 8 and 30 about 3.1 miles south of Speculator, a paved side road known locally as “Old Route 8” bears north. As its name suggests, this was once a section of the main state highway between Wells and Speculator. It is paved, but since it has not been resurfaced in decades it is quite bumpy. It crosses the Sacandaga River at 0.05-mile and continues downstream. At 1.8 miles a sign marks the start of Robbs Creek Road, which is a left turn.
The first part of Robbs Creek Road is in fair shape. At 2.5 miles there is a fork where low-clearance cars may choose to park. Bear right and follow the remaining 0.9-mile of gravel road to its end in a muddy clearing, 3.4 miles from Old Route 8, and 5.2 miles from the modern highway.
From the clearing at the end of Robbs Creek Road, a narrow ATV trail can be seen continuing into the woods to the northeast. Within 400 feet a footpath veers left to keep to the side of the creek, reconnecting with the ATV trail again at 0.3-mile. Continue left on the ATV trail, which passes through the last section of paper company land to the state land boundary at 0.4-mile.
Just beyond where the ATVs park, the continuing footpath fords a wide tributary to a prominent campsite on the opposite bank. Someone clearly loves and takes care of this place, but there are actually several trails radiating outward that could be confusing. The one that continues upstream is the one that forks to the right of the campsite, heading northeast. A second trail begins at the same place and follows the tributary eastward.
After passing a second campsite you reach another ford at 0.7-mile, this one the main stem of Robbs Creek. You may be challenged to keep your boots dry here, and you may also find it discouraging to know that there are many more crossings to come. However, all of the subsequent crossings will feature plenty of stepping stones and other useful objects – including the very next one a few minutes later, at 0.8-mile.
The trail continues in this fashion – keeping the creek always within earshot, hopping across it whenever the bank gets too steep – for the rest of its length. It is leading you into the remote valley between the Big Range to the west and an unnamed series of small mountains to the east, although none of these heights are visible from the trail. The forest is full of tall hardwoods, including numerous ash trees. Like nearly every other trail in the Siamese Ponds Wilderness, this one features small patches of stinging nettles, an innocent-looking plant known to sometimes irritate exposed skin. The best precaution is to simply wear long pants.
I was fortunate enough to spot an active ovenbird nest on the ground beside the trail on my most recent hike. These hard-to-spot structures once reminded someone of a Dutch oven, hence the name.
At a point 2.2 miles from the end of the road, while the trail is on the west side of the creek, you enter a small clearing with a few odd bits of hardware lying around. Clearly a camp stood here in years gone by, though there are too few clues to judge what kind of camp. (It is important to note that the path in no way resembles an old logging road.) There is no foot tread through the green growth, but if you continue straight through the length of the clearing the trail should become evident again.
The increasingly faint path continues to weave across the creek for the remaining 0.3-mile. The final crossing comes at the foot of a little rocky gorge. Just beyond, the creek turns left away from the trail and the trail seems ready to climb straight ahead away from the creek. You have to leave the path to step toward the splash pool at the foot of the waterfall, which is not very large but is nevertheless very attractive, and which can be easily seen from the trail. The water splits over the angled rock and forms an inverted “V” with a total drop of about eight feet. The cascade has no name that I’m aware of, and convention would dictate that it be called Robbs Creek Falls. For the sake of toponymic originality, I suggest that “Lambda Falls” would be more appropriate in this case.
Whatever the name, the waterfall is 2.5 miles from the end of Robbs Creek Road. The path probably once continued even further upstream, perhaps passing through the valley into the watershed of the Kunjamuk River, but modern maintenance seems to end right here.
Bill Ingersoll of Barneveld is publisher of the Discover the Adirondacks guidebook series (hiketheadirondacks.com). For more on this region, consult Discover the South Central Adirondacks.