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Birdathon Recon 2014: Finding Hidden Lake and Moving On

Hidden Lake

Hidden Lake

So far today, the large wetland and Peaked Mountain Lake were underwhelming with regards to bird activity, making my Birdathon reconnaissance trip appear like a grave disappointment. Instead of spending more time at the avian-deprived Peaked Mountain Lake, I decide to move onto Hidden Lake and eat lunch there before continuing toward Ginger Pond to the north.

Immediately upon drawing away from Peaked Mountain Lake, the climbing through the surrounding spruce/fir forest begins. Luckily, the climbing is only a temporary situation, as the climbing quickly dissipates until I find myself descending into a low area, where a herd path just happens to be hiding. Actually, it is more of an unmarked trail in appearance, as it is well-defined and clear of most vegetation, almost as if it were a marked state trail.

Unfortunately, the easy trail hiking does not last long either, as I lose the trail in another wet area containing scattered blowdowns. This is slightly disheartening, as I was just getting used to the ease of hiking along the trail too.

Section Stats:
Date: May 31, 2014
Length: 1.5 miles (3.7 total daily miles; 11.3 total trip miles)
Difficulty: Moderate

Based on previous trips, I am almost certain the trail goes all the way to Hidden Lake, so the prospect of abandoning it already is not in the cards. Instead, I double down and start scouting along the wetland’s perimeter, searching for the misplaced trail. It only takes a short time, and a good measure of luck, before I relocate it and commence following it northeast again, heading right toward Hidden Lake.

Along the trail, there are numerous slashes in nearby trees, serving as blazes for people to follow. As if that is not enough, some helpful person also placed orange and yellow flagging on tree branches. The thinking being, it is only fair that if you are going to cut a tree, then you at least have the decency to decorate it with some handsome and colorful adornment. Although the trail zigzags through the forest, and at points becomes difficult to follow, it leads me all the way to the western shore of Hidden Lake, still a lake but hidden no longer.

Hidden Lake is an attractive little wilderness waterbody, with an oddly irregular shoreline. Placid and soothing, the lake nonetheless resembles a snail in shape, with two tapering ends and a broad middle section somewhat appearing like a shell. Many rocks protrude from the lake, especially along the southern shore, though most might only be visible now because of the lower water levels.

This lake has a much more stable shoreline than that of Peaked Mountain Lake, at least when comparing their western shorelines. Here rocks and stable soil lead right to the water, almost making a rocky beach. The rocky shoreline allows for easy access, unlike its larger cousin to the southwest, filtering water will be a breeze here.

Just like Peaked Mountain Lake, the presence of human refuse diminishes Hidden Lake’s attractiveness. The back of some adhesive bandage lies discarded near shore, while a wad of toilet paper or paper towel accompanies it nearby. Given the paper product’s condition, I wager someone has been here recently, someone of an untidy nature. Performing another good deed (the first being picking up the beer can back at Peaked Mountain Lake), I stab the paper product with my hiking pole, haul it back into the woods and force it into the ground as far as I can, without ever even touching it.

While off in the woods burying the discarded toilet paper, I notice movement back in the forest. It does not take me long to spot the perpetrator, a large snowshoe hare, making a hasty retreat to anywhere where I am not. The hare hightails it up a short but steep embankment, and disappears over the top and out of my sight.

Trail to Hidden Lake

Trail to Hidden Lake

With my stomach protesting putting off lunch at Peaked Mountain Lake, I have no choice but to head back to the rocky beach and get down to eating some grub before moving on. A nicer view is difficult to imagine, with the entire lake before me, a perfect place to devour a tuna fish sandwich, seasoned with dehydrated spinach. Yummy!

While eating lunch, I notice something happening on a large flat rock along the eastern shore of the lake. Retrieving my small binoculars and wiping my face clean of lunch debris, I spot a large shape crawling out of the water and on top of the rock. A snapping turtle and one of the largest I have ever seen too. It is apparently taking advantage of the pleasant surroundings to enjoy some time in the sun. Perhaps it had a fishy lunch too.

With lunch done, it is time to work my way around to the northernmost point of Hidden Lake and set myself up for the last leg of my day’s bushwhack to Ginger Pond. Technically, Ginger Pond is dumbbell shaped pond, but for some reason I have always considered the pond proper and all the interconnected wetlands to be Ginger Pond. The main goal is make camp nearby and hook back up with the network of old logging roads that will provide my exit from the area tomorrow.

Before leaving my lunch site, I gather up some rocks and create a breadcrumb. A breadcrumb is evidence left behind to indicate that I passed through the area, in this case, my initials, the date and the direction I am traveling. Unlike traditional breadcrumbs, these are not for me finding my way back, but for those looking for me. If I ever went missing for whatever reason, Heaven forbid, someone searching and finding this breadcrumb would know that I at least made it to Hidden Lake, thus reducing the extent of their search area dramatically.

Blaze cut into tree

Blaze cut into tree

An old logging road makes traveling around Hidden Lake’s northern shore much easier than I remember. The skidder road is grown up extensively though, but the deep grooves cut in the surrounding terrain make it exceedingly obvious, especially to the trained eye.

While following the road, I hear the sweet high-pitch sound of a golden-crowned kinglet. I nearly gasp in relief, as I had not heard one this year yet, and I was starting to think that my aging ears were no longer capable of picking up their high-pitched song. Dodged that bullet for at least another year, huh?

When I hit the northern most point on Hidden Lake, my compass comes out of retirement to determine my bearing to Ginger Pond. With some fancy map & compass work, I settle on a bearing of 314 degrees, which should take me to a narrow pond just south of Ginger Pond proper. Using existing old logging roads, I will find a campsite for the night in that area – perhaps right in the middle of one of those same old roads. As usual, I may never glimpse the actual Ginger Pond, which lies through the forest to the north.

Hidden Lake

Hidden Lake

Instead of heading around the small hill between Hidden Lake and Ginger Pond as I have done in the past, this time I plan on going right over, though avoiding any steep cliffs for safety reasons. This proves easier said than done, as the climbing starts soon after leaving Hidden Lake behind and does not relent. Unfortunately, small rocky cliffs abound on my chosen route, forcing me to detour around them and increasing my bushwhacking distance between the two ponds – so much for taking the direct route.

Upon reaching the height of land, the mixed mature forest shifts toward more small thumb-sized hardwoods filling the understory, so dense and thick that it requires me to force my way through, pushing them aside as I go. Thankfully, these conditions are only temporary, as the trees become increasingly larger and coniferous, but occasional dense clumps remain.

Just before descending a steep slope of dense coniferous growth, I come upon an old skidder trail. The skidder trail follows along a ridge, with a pond barely visible through the coniferous forest to the north. The road provides such a relief that it is impossible to resist following it rather than taking my chances below along the pond’s shoreline. Instead, I try to follow the old trail west to get around the pond, but at times, the coniferous growth is so dense within the trail that I must risk losing my way by making a detour around them. Luckily, each time the old trail reemerges from the forest on the other side, much to my relief.

Unnamed pond

Unnamed pond

Downslope, the forest is thick and coniferous, keeping any view of the pond at the bottom of the embankment to a sliver within the foliage. As I continue westward along the skidder trail, the forest on the slope slowly transitions from the dense, young growth to a more open forest with large coniferous trees scattered about and little understory. By the time I clear the pond, visibility through the trees makes the steepness of the slope become even more apparent, generating a tad bit of apprehension about my eventual climb down.

Without any choice other than making an extensive detour around it, I prepare myself for the descent. I keep telling myself it is just a steep hillside, not a vertical cliff, after all. Moreover, my pack is light and my trusty homemade hiking poles are ready to help me, if need be. Now I just have to find the perfect place to make my move.

After one last look down, I begin the descent.

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