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Old 10-29-2021, 10:13 AM   #2
DSettahr
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It's possible that the first three bridges were built with the intent to support snowmobiles in the event of needing winter emergency snowmobile access, but more likely that they were built wide for general winter foot access. When you get feet and feet of snow, narrow foot bridges tend to be problematic in that you end up snowshoeing/skiing across a very narrow spine of snow. Staying atop this spine can be tricky. The first few miles of the NPT off of Averyville Road is a somewhat popular destination for Lake Placid locals for short hikes in all seasons, so the trail gets a decent amount of winter use along these first few miles. It's also (unofficially) connected to a couple of local nature preserves with their own trail networks- Heaven Hill and Henry's Woods.

I believe the NPT was re-routed to remove as much of the road walk to Lake Placid as possible while also somewhat preserving the tradition of the trail connecting it's namesake towns. As you note, the NPT was traditionally meant to be hiked from downtown Northville to downtown Lake Placid (or vice-versa). So people would end up walking the road to LP, as well as the road to Benson from Northville. In the 20's, these were dirt roads that received very little automobile use... over time, of course, this changed. (Much, if not most, of the NPT was actually built along old roads, many of which in the 20's were still in use for logging or only just recently abandoned. I've often hypothesized that it is for this reason that the ADK was able to construct the trail within such a relatively short timeframe; all they had to do for a fair bit of it was just put up trail markers along the roads.)

You can actually still follow the old NPT from the end of Averyville Road most of the way without much difficulty. From the end of the road, a short driveway leads south to the old parking area (may need a high clearance vehicle to drive this). The old road/trail west to Pine Pond is very obvious from here. Still obvious but less so is the old NPT, which branches off to the south. It's not marked but the tread is obvious. The first couple of miles of the old NPT are actually still maintained as the access ROW to a private inholding, and the trail is in better shape even than the "new" NPT. Once this private access trail splits off from the old NPT, the old NPT gets more brushy but is generally still pretty evident. The old trail eventually disappears into a beaver meadow and becomes very tricky to follow, but at this point if you start bushwhacking you're only a tenth of a mile at most from the bridge where the "new" NPT crosses the headwaters of the Chubb River.

As I've spent time poking around and exploring this area, I've come to decide that this chosen reroute for the NPT was a bit of a mistake. The new trail is OK but doesn't really add much in the way of scenic value to the trail- once you cross the bridge over the Chubb River you're left with a bit of a bland, green tunnel for miles to close out your through-hike. The Chubb River is scenic in spots but the trail never really gets close to it again until you're at the trailhead. (If you can find the herd path down to the Chubb River portage trail you could get some more nice views, but this path is unmarked and not officially maintained.)

I think a better way to eliminate the road-walking section on Averyville Road would've been to keep the old route of the NPT to the end of Averyville Road, and then build a new trail to the north, around Cameras and Alford Ponds. Such a trail could've been routed over the summit of Seymour Mountain (not the High Peaks Seymour), which would've provided nice views of the High Peaks for relatively little elevation gain (about 500 feet, which is a lot for the NPT but still would not be anything close to the biggest climb on the trail). Being able to end the NPT with a solid summit view for relatively little effort in the final few miles of trail would've been something special.

The trail to Pine Pond sits on the boundary of the High Peaks Wilderness and the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest- I believe that the trail itself is intended to be the boundary. I would guess that this was done to permit bicycle access (and possibly even snowmobile access). However, I decided to check the DECInfo site to verify this (as you can pull up separate layers showing which trails are open to horses, bicycles, snowmobiles, etc.). Quite curiously, this trail is completely missing from the official DEC database. Other online sources of info (AllTrails, LakePlacid.com) indicate that this trail is open to bicycle use, but it can't hurt also to call the DEC's Raybrook office for verification.
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