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Backpacking Boreas Ponds area?

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  • Backpacking Boreas Ponds area?

    Has anyone backpacked in the Boreas Ponds area? Practically every trip report I can find for the region is very canoe-oriented and ignores backpacking opportunities.

    Circumnavigating the ponds looks quite possible, mainly on old roads. There is also an old road shown on some maps that leaves the pond area and heads northwest into the forest.

    I am not aware of any designated camp site in the area, so overnight camping would likely be using the 150 ft rule. Since the whole area is in the High Peaks Wilderness, a hard bear canister would be needed.

    The area looks like a strong possibility for future backpacking routes if some additional trails are constructed to connect Boreas Ponds with Elk Lake/Marcy trail and Opalescent/Fujacks/Allen Mountain. It's not clear to me whether these connections are reasonable bushwhacks, or too wet and thickly overgrown.

  • #2
    I've spent a decent amount of time hiking in the area, including have walked multiple loops around the ponds on the old logging road network. It's doable... but honestly, not that nice, for a number of reasons. Overall, if you're looking for multiple quality bushwhacking/exploration opportunities all condensed in one general area, your efforts are probably better spent elsewhere.

    The logging road network north of Boreas Ponds was "re-wilded" by the DEC after they acquired the property. What this means is they drove bulldozers and earth movers everywhere, and alternately dug trenches across the roads and piled up mounds of soil across the roads... turning portions of them into real roller coaster rides with alternating steep hills and ditches to traverse as you walk the old roads. Just how badly the old roads were torn up exactly varies depending on the exact portion of the road. Some stretches are still hikeable with some mild patience, others stretches are so bad I would not wish the experience of trying to walk them upon my worst enemy.

    One of these "worst" stretches is visible from near the interior parking lot at the outlet of LaBier Flow. If you look along the stretch of the road that departs northward from this 4 way road junction, you'll see all of the massive mounded piles of dirt that have been placed across the old road bed.

    The forest was also an actively managed forest for timber production prior to state acquisition. So if trying to bushwhack, you're going to be dealing with the remnants of harvesting activity- muddy skid roads, downed slash blocking the way, areas of dense regeneration thickly forested with lots and lots of young trees.

    The deer flies are also absolutely ungodly across that entire tract once their season gets going (July-August). My experience has been that deer flies love open areas, so this makes sense in the context of all of the harvesting activity the area has seen.

    You also don't really get the same views from the forest that you do from the ponds themselves. The scenery from Boreas Ponds is spectacular- you've got the entire upper Great Range lined up in sight across the water. When traipsing through the woods you've got... trees. And more trees over here. And more trees over there. Not that it's necessarily horrible to look at, but it's nothing like what you get from paddling the ponds.

    I will say that White Lily Pond has nice views. Allen dominates the view from the south side of the pond, and it's nice to get some scenery of that peak from a perspective that most have never been able to enjoy. To access it, though, I'd suggest paddling to the north end of Boreas Ponds and then hiking from there, as you'll avoid traversing at least some (but not all) of the re-wilded road segments that way.

    The upper reaches of the Slide Brook drainage has tons of moose sign- more moose sign than I think I've ever seen in one area anywhere in the ADKs. There are spots where the browse has been so heavy it looks like someone took a weed whacker to the understory.

    It is also possible to link into the Elk Lake-Marcy Trail via the old logging road network from the east side of Boreas Ponds, up through the Casey Brook vicinity (if you're willing to put up with the re-wilded roads along the way)... but some care is needed to avoid trespassing on AMR lands. The most obvious route takes you right onto one of their private trails on their property, and a few hikers have already managed to run afoul of AMR rules and flirt with some serious trespassing charges by attempting to gain access to the Elk Lake-Marcy Trail this way. I'd suggest carefully researching the approach and taking steps to ensure that you remain on state land at least until you are on the marked DEC trail.

    I've noticed that a few folks have signed in at the Boreas register for Allen Mountain, but I've no idea if anyone has successfully actually reached the summit from Boreas yet. I'd guess that a couple folks probably have, but that most of these attempts to date have probably been unsuccessful. In the long run, I'd guess that a herd path or trail up Allen from Boreas is likely a foregone conclusion... the only question is if it will form through use on its own, if someone will illegally cut it, or if the DEC will construct it.

    There are definite plans for new trails at some point- including a trail that will connect Boreas Ponds with the Allen Mt./Dudley Brook/Skylight Brook vicinity, and if I recall correctly, a trail that will link Boreas Ponds with the Elk Lake-Marcy Trail (providing a maintained, legal, and easy to follow connection). But it also would not shock me if we end up seeing years (or even decades) go by without much in the way of action towards actually constructing these trails.

    As of yet, there are no designated tent sites north of LaBier Flow. There is the lean-to on Boreas Ponds (which is not yet 100% complete but it's done enough to be usable). There are 2 designated tent sites planned for the shoreline of Boreas Ponds, both of which have been partially constructed but are not yet open for use. The road into Boreas has a half dozen or so roadside campsites on the road into Boreas Ponds that are in varying stages of construction- some of them are pretty close to being done and have already seen some use. But yes, when exploring away from the ponds in the interior of the tract, you'll need to plan to do the 150 foot thing with regards to camping.

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    • #3
      Oh also, bear canisters are not yet required at Boreas Ponds. The old "East/West" High Peaks zone regulations still apply, and Boreas is somewhat counterintuitively part of the Western High Peaks (at least from a regulatory standpoint).

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      • #4
        It will also be interesting to see whether the long term will see paddling become part of the "typical way of doing Allen," as a paddle across Boreas Ponds would seem to be the best way of getting as close as possible to the summit before setting out on foot.

        Off the top of my head I've combined a paddling approach with 2 High Peaks to date- Couch and Panther. A few other peaks would also be possible via paddling (Whiteface), but no peak as of yet is easiest to climb when combined with a paddling approach.

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        • #5
          Thank you for the detailed information, DSettahr. I had no idea about the "rewilding" of the roads. That's really obnoxious IMHO. I would have preferred to see them dump some boulders to block vehicles from entering, while leaving the road behind it open for good walking. Did they do this at William C Whitney WA as well?

          I'm taking Boreas Ponds off my list based on your comments.

          As you said, there are plenty of other places to go. I already have plans for bushwhacking some other areas, particularly Siamese Ponds WA, Hudson Gorge WA, and Five Ponds WA.

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          • #6
            No, I don't believe any of the old roads on the WCWWA were similarly re-wilded. However, despite being designated as trails, some of them have not really been maintained. My observation has been that some of them are pretty densely grown in at this point (although I admittedly haven't really spent much time hiking in that area so I don't have the same level of in depth personal knowledge like I do with Boreas).

            I'd say White Lily Pond is again worth a visit but yeah, I think your efforts are generally better spent elsewhere. At some point, the forest surrounding Boreas will age, the slash will decay, and the understory will open up. It may take a few years or decades for that to happen but sooner or later, Boreas will take on characteristics more similar to what you'd expect to encounter on Forest Preserve lands elsewhere.

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            • #7
              As of three years ago, the Burn Road and the road down to Camp Bliss at the south end of Little Tupper in the WCWWA were growing in but still very walkable. I can't speak directly for any other road in the area, although the Stony Pond Road on the east side of the lake looks pretty grown in right from the start.
              Every time that wheel turns round, bound to measure just a little more ground.

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              • #8
                thanks for the detailed writeup DSettahr. i like running trails and i have been meaning to run a loop of some of the old logging roads, good to know the DEC has been in there making messes.

                i can't speak for allen but i had a trip to some of the HH peaks planned from boreas ponds that got cancelled due to illness. i can try to report back after we revisit that plan. good to hear the moose are active in there, it seems like it would be good habitat for them.

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                • #9
                  I glanced down the far ends of the trail network in the WCWWA when I paddled through as part of my longer paddle traverse a few summers ago. All of the various legs of the trails that branch off of the Burn Road eventually end at or near portage trails along the Little Tupper to Lila traverse. The trails looked pretty brushy, but again I didn't really hike down them aside from doing any sections that coincided with portage trails.

                  Even some of the portage trails themselves were getting a bit iffy. The Rock Pond to Hardigan Pond portage wasn't exactly densely overgrown, but it visibly was lacking somewhat in necessary maintenance and was getting a bit brushy in spots.

                  Hiking the trails of the WCWWA has also long been on my "to do list" but as of yet the only on-foot explorations I've made of the area have been to hike around to the west side of Lake Lila to camp in the lean-to there. One of the challenges of exploring this area is that the regulations do not permit dispersed camping- there's no 150 foot rule across most of the WCWWA; camping is generally permitted at designated sites only. (The vicinity of Lake Lila is the only portion of the WCWWA that allows dispersed camping in compliance with the 150 foot rule.)

                  I believe the Rock Pond trail can be used to access one or two of the nicer designated campsites on the northeast end of Rock Pond (albeit with maybe some short bushwhacking), and there's a halfway decent site that could theoretically be accessed by foot on the west end of the Rock Pond to Hardigan Pond portage trail (although during my visit, said site was absolutely teeming with deer flies). There is also a campsite on the south end of the Little Salmon Lake to Lilypad Pond portage that can be accessed via the trail network, but this site is also annoyingly right smack in the middle of the portage trail. It's not exactly a high use area but any groups passing through while you occupied the site would be portaging right through the middle of your campsite.

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                  • #10
                    In Whitney WA, I've considered backpacking down the trails (former roads) to Camp Bliss, camping there, then continuing to Rock and Hardigan Pond. I would probably bring my packraft, which would let me do a mix of hiking and paddling to form a loop. Camping would be done at the designated sites on various ponds and lakes.

                    The packraft is not seaworthy enough to paddle on Little Tupper, so the long hike in would benecessary. My 80 lb canoe would be great for paddling Little Tupper, and camping anywhere around the lake, but is too heavy to portage and requires two people just to get it on and off the car roof. Budget will not allow the purchase of a lighter canoe any time soon.

                    My understanding is that the camping restrictions in Whitney are due to the thick forest and piles of slash that make finding a site very difficult. Maybe in 20 years they will change the rules as the forest reverts to a more typical wild forest mix.
                    ‚Äč
                    But Whitney is way down my list, and it's unlikely I will get there at all in 2023. I have at least 15 potential backpacks and a couple of packrafting trips that are much higher priority for me in 2023, and I doubt I will get all of them done this year!

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                    • #11
                      Don't forget Hammond Pond WF. (I like the area, so I like to promote it.) Many options for easy to moderate hike / camp / boat trips on small to medium sized ponds.

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                      • #12
                        Hammond Pond is one of the 15 I mentioned earlier. :-)

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                        • #13
                          Pharaoh is also a bushwhacker's paradise. You do get the occasional patch of forest with a dense understory, but this isn't common. Lots of open hemlock and pine forest at lower elevations. At higher elevations it is not uncommon to find terrain consisting of open rock outcrops and ledges with nice views. I've been all over Treadway Mt, having bushwhacked up and down it via numerous different routes, and never grew tired of exploring it.

                          It's not super common but you can also combine visits to Pharaoh with paddling excursions. Easiest access for this would be via Putnam Pond, with carries to Clear and Rock Ponds. I've also seen groups hike packrafts out to Pharaoh Lake. And every once in a while folks will hike boats from Crane Pond to more remote bodies of water nearby.

                          The portion of the High Peaks Wilderness between the Dix Range and I-87 also consists of lots of open forest that is relatively easy to wander through. Some of the trail-less peaks in that country have open summits with phenomenal, 360 degree views. If you can find a copy of TCD's guidebook for the Northway culverts, it is the key to unlocking access to this area as the culverts can be tricky to locate on your own and the only alternate route in to the area is via a very long bushwhack approach. Not really any options for paddling here, though.

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                          • #14
                            As good an advertisement as any for the merits of bushwhacking in the Pharaoh region: https://www.adkforum.com/forum/the-a...s-9-07-10-9-17

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                            • #15
                              I'm particularly interested in bushwhacking to some of the open or semi-open summits with views in Pharaoh Lake WA. Number Eight Hill, Stevens Mountain, possibly Thunderbolt Mountain. Some of these may even have reasonable campsites (under the 150 ft rule).

                              Packrafting the Desolate Swamp area also looks interesting, probably combined with camping at the Desolate Brook designated site.

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