During the late summer of 2011, while hiking across Isle Royale, I planned an outing into what might be one of the remotest and least often visited (by humans anyways) parts of the Adirondacks. Unfortunately, a mysterious knee injury in the spring of 2012 put this trip onto the back-burner until this year. Now I am just waiting for a 5 or 6 day period devoid of rain so I can pull the trigger.
This remote trip will take me once again deep into Five Ponds Wilderness. The area prime for exploring is bounded by the three South Ponds (Upper, Middle and Lower) to the west, the large, odd-shaped Crooked Lake to the east, the Middle Branch of the Oswegatchie River to the south and the Riley Ponds to the north. There are plenty of small ponds, some odd geological features, some dense conifer forests and a wild river to indulge my fascination for everything remote and foreboding.
This area remains virgin territory for me, although on several occasions I explored around its periphery. During my epic adventure from Wanakena to Stillwater Reservoir, I visited the northern shore of both Riley Ponds, and the northern and eastern-most parts of Crooked Lake. Years earlier, I hiked into Upper South Pond from Bear Pond Road, and followed what remains of anglers’ trail to the Middle South Pond while working as a Blockbuster on the New York State Breeding Bird Atlas. A couple years after the Blowdown of 1995, while working for the Wildlife Conservation Society, I bushwhacked around Sand Lake to the south to gain access to the Five Ponds area before the trail system reopened, most likely coming close to Sitz Pond in the process.
Bear Pond Road is my main means of access to get to the trailhead for Upper South Pond. My first encounter with this road was back when I worked with the Wildlife Conservation Society; it was a narrow, extremely rough and a tad scary road back in those days. Now the road is much wider and typically smooth going as long as one remains wary of the occasion protruding rock or washout. The Upper South Pond trailhead is about 10+ miles in, requiring a slow, white-knuckling ride in my little Honda Fit. The trail crosses the Middle Branch of the Owegatchie River on a new log bridge where previously one had to inch across on a metal I-beam. The trail continues about two miles to the shore of Upper South Pond.
Information on this area is scarce. Most of my usual channels on places in the Adirondacks have come up empty. Most of what I know comes from Ed Reese, a commenter from my microburst survival story on the Adirondack Almanack. He warns of the treacherous terrain, particularly near the Middle Branch of the Oswegatchie River. Ed used the term Spruce Carpet Swamp to describe the conifer forests surrounding the Middle Branch, a term I have only seen used on the Five Ponds Wilderness Wikipedia page.
Recently, I left inquiries about the condition of Bear Pond Road and any intelligence about this area on the ADKForum to better prepare for this trip. Unfortunately, to this date, no one has posted any comments. If anyone has any information about the condition of the road (especially about driving a small car), or the area I will be traveling, I would greatly appreciate hearing from them.
Hopefully, the weather will improve so I can get this party started. If it happens, you can read all about it right here at the Bushwhacking Fool, so stay tuned.
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