March 2018 - HIKING & BACKPACKING
Slim and Bear Ponds - An Update
By Bill Ingersoll
Despite its central location within the Adirondack Park, the Blue Ridge Wilderness is often overlooked by hikers and backpackers. Even the team of park planners who proposed the first wilderness areas in 1962 overlooked it at first; it was not added to the list until ten years later. But this low-key nature is perhaps one of the Blue Ridge Wilderness Area’s best assets, for solitude is usually a very good possibility.
The western half of the wilderness falls predominantly in Township 6 of the Totten and Crossfield Purchase. William West Durant acquired the township in 1888 and sold most of it to the state a few years later. It had never been logged. The tract contained many thousands of acres of broad valleys forested with dark, boreal stands of balsam fir and red spruce, with enormous white pines that were often double the size of their neighbors.
This remained one of the largest stands of virgin timber in the Adirondacks until 1950, when a November hurricane devastated the North Country and leveled many of these noble stands. In a controversial decision, the state attorney general authorized the Conservation Department to conduct salvage operations on the Forest Preserve to remove the fallen timber, citing the fire hazard it posed to the remaining forests and surrounding communities. This action created a network of logging roads in an area that had once been roadless.
You can sample this curious history by following the route to secluded Slim Pond, which follows parts of those old logging roads. Slim is a small trout pond, and like many of the ponds in the Blue Ridge Wilderness, it comes with a view of Blue Ridge. Bear Pond, which lies to the southeast, is just a short bushwhack away.
This is not the first time I’ve written about this trail. In fact, my most recent write-up ran in the November 2016 edition of Adirondack Sports magazine. I described the trail as a “linear puzzle to be solved by the application of some backwoods logic,” because a plan by DEC to convert this traditional footpath into a marked hiking trail had not yet been realized. In its original state, the path could be hard to follow at times.
That same month, after the magazine went to press, I indulged myself with a return visit to Slim Pond – only to find trail markers and the beginning of some new bog bridging! Apparently I was not quite as knowledgeable about this place as I had thought.
So here is the updated version of that article, accurate as of my latest visit in 2017. The trail is now marked, although there is no trailhead sign, and not all of the bog bridging is complete. Construction is occurring in phases over several summers, but the trail is well enough along now that it is quite easy to follow.
The trailhead is a small parking turnout on NY Route 28 that is 8.3 miles west of Blue Mountain Lake, or just one-mile east of the Golden Beach Campground entrance. Look for the start of the path near the southwest end of the parking area; there are no signs or markers visible from the highway.
For the moment, the beginning of the trail is inconspicuous; there is just a pathway leading into the woods. It is not until you reach the trailhead register about 200 feet from the highway that you realize you’re in the right place, and from this point forward the way is adequately marked with blue disks.
The route is narrow at first until it intercepts the first of the old roads. It curves southeast and east through the flats surrounding Death Brook. At 0.6-mile, just 15 minutes from the start, the path bears right to cross the brook on a new bridge constructed of lumber. (The predecessor of this bridge was a quaint structure assembled from logs found on site. The new bridge inspires more confidence in its durability.)
You are now in a deeply shaded conifer forest, one of many that enrich the Blue Ridge Wilderness, but as the path swings to the south you quickly leave the conifer forest behind. The old road has many wet sections here where water simply cannot drain away, and this has been a challenge for the trail crews. In some places the trail has been rerouted, and in others the wet areas are now spanned by log walkways. Brightly colored flagging indicates where future bridging may be installed. A few sections of the old roadway are so hopelessly wet that the new trail now follows beside it, slightly elevated on the side of a small hill.
A long but gentle ascent begins as the trail climbs generally southeast to a height-of-land, and then turns to end at the northwest corner of Slim Pond at 2.1 miles. The hike takes only about an hour. There is a small opening on the shoreline where the trail ends, from which you can see down the length of the little pond to distant Blue Ridge.
You will often find a rowboat stored near the end of the trail, and depending on the season of your visit this may be the preferred mode for getting around. Otherwise you can bushwhack around Slim Pond; just keep to the open woods north of the small pond, and avoid the conifers near the shoreline. There is a good campsite hidden near the southeast corner of Slim. From the campsite you may find a second footpath leading southeast and downhill to Bear Pond, which seems to sit in an isolated amphitheater where a number of tall white pines still survive.
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 West Central Adirondacks.