January 2019 - HIKING & SNOWSHOEING
banner image: The Town Line Ridge summit has a scenic 180° view. Bill Ingersoll
Discovering “Town Line Ridge”
By Bill Ingersoll
Some time ago I was scrutinizing aerial imagery of the Silver Lake Wilderness, and I noticed an unusually bald summit on a small, unnamed ridge south of the hamlet of Wells. In an area known for its vast, mature forests, this knob of rock stood out. I knew that eventually I would have to go there in person to see what it had to offer.
That opportunity came in November, when in the aftermath of an early snowstorm I returned to the Blackbridge area to see what there was to see. I had been to all of the other mountains in the Silver Lake Wilderness with known views, including many gems that are among my favorite bushwhack destinations in the Adirondacks, so I was eager to see someplace new.
I was optimistic about this little summit because of the sheer amount of rock that had been visible from above. What I found was a gem, and perhaps the most accessible of Silver Lake’s off-trail scenic ledges. Since it doesn’t have an official name, I have been calling it “Town Line Ridge” because of its location on the boundary between Wells and Hope in southern Hamilton County. You do have to bushwhack to find it, but the distance is short and the woods are wide-open.
The best place to access Town Line Ridge is from the plowed parking area at the end of Hernandez Road in Blackbridge. From NY Route 30 in Wells, turn west onto Algonquin Drive beside the dam on Lake Algonquin. Then turn left onto West River Road at 0.7-mile, and continue southwest to Blackbridge at 2.4 miles. Turn left to cross the bridge over the West Branch Sacandaga River, and immediately bear left again on Hernandez Road. Follow this road to its end, which is a wide turn-around area.
From the end of plowing on Hernandez Road, two narrow tracks branch ahead into the woods; they form a 0.5-mile loop through the scrubby woods that now cover one of the farm sites.
To find the mountain, follow the track to the right, which leads southeast along the foot of Devorse Mountain. At 0.2-mile you reach another fork located near an old sand pit, where you should bear right off the loop trail. This fork follows a lesser woods road past a “Wilderness Area” sign for 400 feet to the side of Vly Creek. This part of the route is shown in yellow on the accompanying map.
This small stream, which tends to run wide but not very deep, will likely be the biggest obstacle of the day. You have to cross this stream, and ice bridges are not always available. I usually have good luck finding a way across by heading upstream; there are logs and rocky sections where somehow, some way, a means to cross to the far bank presents itself. But if you are here on a winter snowshoe trek, you might prefer to avoid arriving in the middle of a major thaw.
Once across the creek, continue easterly across the foot of Rooney Hill until you reach the next valley. The woods are all open here, with lots of deer tracks and almost no understory. Look for a medley of hardwoods with copious amounts of hemlocks; this is yet another section of the Adirondacks that will be devastated if and when invasive forest pests ever find their way here. Enjoy the gorgeous forest while it lasts, and hope for the best.
Cross the tributary stream in this valley – there are plenty of fallen logs ready to serve as bridges, for those with good balance – and follow it southeast. This valley follows the foot of Town Line Ridge, although from down here your destination will not look like much. And therein lies a challenge: the rock knob you are seeking is nearly invisible until you are standing in front of it, and so navigating by terrain observation will not be so straightforward.
On both of my visits, I have worked my way up the hill on the north side of the valley at an angle, aiming for a saddle in the ridgeline just west of the main summit. From there I keep climbing east through the open hardwoods. Even in the openness of winter, with no foliage to get in the way, the knob does not appear until you are very close to it. With an otherwise broad and gently rolling summit, the knob appears like a rock wall hidden in the woods. It is steep, so you will need to flank it and follow the crest to the highest point.
You will have no problem recognizing the summit when you find it, as there is a 180° view to the west that includes much of the wilderness interior. With the help of a map, you can easily identify Wallace, Three Ponds, Vly, Devorse, Finch and Hamilton mountains, among others. Behind you is the Sacandaga River, which you can hear perfectly well even if the view is mostly obscured in that direction.
Most of the landscape within view of Town Line Ridge is richly forested, making this knob an anomaly; this was one of the few places in the Silver Lake area that was burned by the great forest fires of 1903. There is little risk of this vista growing in any time soon. The ample parking, relatively easy terrain, and proximity to Wells would seem to make this a good candidate for a formal hiking trail someday.
Vly Creek Falls
As if the lure of scenic summit weren’t enough, there is also a 30-foot waterfall located very close by on Vly Creek. Finding it hardly takes you out of your way; you can visit both the mountain and the waterfall and be out of the woods in time for a late lunch in town.
Return to Vly Creek and follow it upstream; the falls will be more photogenic from the west bank, but snowshoers find the walking much easier by following a bench in the hillside along the east bank. Within minutes the valley narrows into a V-shaped gorge, and you pass a rock ledge on the right, shortly before reaching the top of the waterfall. To see it, however, you have to scramble down the steep slope to its base.
What makes this cascade distinctive is its orientation; rather than spilling over the headwall of the gully, it comes down one of the side walls. The flow of water in this stream is not that large, so the cascade may appear completely frozen in the winter.
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 Southern Adirondacks.