March 2017 - HIKING, SNOWSHOEING & XC SKIING
A High-Elevation Pond Embraced by Mountains
By Bill Ingersoll
The MacIntyre West Tract is one of the celebrated new Finch Pruyn land purchases, opened to the public for the first time when it was added to the Adirondack Forest Preserve in late 2014. It lies at the foot of the Santanoni Range and features many outstanding views of those mountains. At its heart is Lake Andrew, a high-elevation pond embraced by mountains.
MacIntyre West is currently in an interim management period, with dozens of hunting leases scattered all across the property. There is public access to every part of the property except for small zones around each of the cabins. The hunting clubs maintain an extensive network of trails, many of them used (for the moment) by snowmobiles.
Someday, state trails may allow the average hiker or skier to traverse the property all the way to Newcomb Lake, but without signs and markers that route will remain a challenge to find. I have also used MacIntyre West to reach the foot of the Twin Slides on Santanoni Peak.
Until then, Lake Andrew makes the most obvious destination for anyone eager to explore this new addition to the wilderness. This route poses a few navigational challenges, but it lies at the right distance for an enjoyable day hike, at any time of the year.
From Northway Exit 29, drive west on Blue Ridge Road (also called Boreas Road) for 17 miles to the right turn for Tahawus. Follow this road, County Route 25, to a fork at 6.3 miles. Turn left and continue to the Bradley Pond-Santanoni parking area on the left at 8.2 miles.
The beginning of this route should be familiar to anyone who has hiked the Santanoni Range. From the Bradley Pond Trailhead, follow the main trail westward along an obvious road. This part is very well used and easy to follow. At 1.1 miles it dips through an open wetland where you might be able to steal a glimpse of distant Wallface Mountain to the northeast, and at 1.7 miles you reach a junction. Here, signs point right toward the Santanoni Lean-to and Duck Hole; and because this is also the main route up the range, nearly all foot traffic makes this turn.
But to reach Lake Andrew, you will need to keep heading west along the road. Just minutes past the junction you reach a bridge over a large stream – let’s call it the “South Branch Santanoni Brook” for descriptive purposes. A sign here discourages the public from proceeding past this point, but that sign is now obsolete. Cross the bridge and come to a gate at 2.1 miles. This is the beginning of the MacIntyre West Tract.
At 2.2 miles a side road bears right, uphill. Keep left on the main road, which follows the South Branch quite closely. You pass the first of the small hunting camps, followed by a small meadow on the brook. A long climb leads away from the brook to a high shelf of land populated by numerous camps, each one surrounded by its own exclusive use zone through 2018.
In the midst of the secluded village is an alder swale, which you cross at 3.4 miles. Maps show that this is an area studded with small wetlands and beaver ponds, and further exploration reveals several artificial clearings occupied by private camps. I like to call this section the “Santanoni Meadows,” for nearly all of these openings reveal their own intimate views of nearby Santanoni Peak. At this point you are practically at the mountain’s foot.
Just past the alder swale, turn left (south) onto another prominent road. This one swings southeast through the “Santanoni Meadows” and past the last of the cabins. The hardened road ends 0.4-mile from the junction, or 3.8 miles from the start.
This is the point where your route becomes a trail, although the transition will likely be confusing for some people. Do not continue straight from the end of the road, but look for a route that bears slightly right into the woods. It crosses a small bridge and passes yet another open meadow. The trail climbs into a notch at the foot of Mount Andrew, then jogs southwest toward high ground. Contouring along the foot of an unnamed summit, it leads in short order to the north end of Lake Andrew, which appears through the trees to your left. If you stick with the trail for a moment longer, it will bring you to a side trail at 4.4 miles that leads right down to the shoreline at a point where boats may be stored.
From this spot you can see most of the small lake, with Mount Andrew rising above it. This is not Lake Andrew’s best side, however. That distinction is reserved for a spot on the southern end, marked by the ruins of an old log cabin. From that spot you can look north to Santanoni Peak with its striking slides. In the winter it’s an easy matter to strike out across the ice directly to the cabin site; you can probably see the cabin from the trail.
At other times of the year, you can follow an established trail network around the southern end of the lake to the cabin site, about 0.7-mile away.
Most of this route is ideal for cross-country skiing, although you may encounter snowmobiles while the hunting leases remain. One shortcoming, however, is the final 0.6-mile through the notch to the north end of the lake. This section of the trail features a damp surface that seems to resist the accumulation of snow, resulting in deep “chasms” in the middle of the way. Even on snowshoes you must make your way along the edge of the trail in many cases. This trait mars what would otherwise be an excellent route.
Bill Ingersoll of Barneveld is publisher of the Discover the Adirondack’s guidebook series (hiketheadirondacks.com). For more information on this region, consult Discover the Adirondack High Peaks.