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Old 09-14-2021, 09:09 PM   #1
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Walworth, NY
Posts: 103
Sunshine Pond, 09/10-09/12

I made a visit to Sunshine Pond in the Pepperbox Wilderness last weekend.

My trip began after getting the kids on the bus, and departing my home in Walworth, NY (just East of Rochester) around 9 am. The trip to the parking area at the west end of Stillwater Reservoir took three and a half hours.

On parking and scanning the area, it occurred to me how different a place can be in person, from how it can be perceived to be on a map. While I had expected a vast view of two distinct reservoirs (Stillwater and Mosier), it is a spot from which full view of Stillwater is not possible. The western offshoot of Stillwater is to the right, which looks to be more of a "flow", and that water passes swiftly under a small bridge to Mosier on the left. From this vantage point, it is a wide river more than a true reservoir. If there is more to Mosier than meets the eye, it is not viewable from here.

I walked across the bridge and onto the road that is a trail into both the Pepperbox and Five Ponds Wilderness areas, as well as for vehicles to access a couple of private camps. This was easy walking for two miles to the canoe "put in" at Shallow Pond, though there were some mild ups and downs. The short side trail on the left to the Pond was no more than 100 paces, with the put in just above the beaver damned outlet.

I dropped my pack, took off and packed away socks and boots in favor of water shoes, and inflated my Klymit LWD. I assembled my kayak paddles, and stowed my 35 pound pack in the front of the dingy. I carefully stepped over the rear section and sat folding my legs ahead and off the sides. Grabbing the paddle I pushed off the large flat rock.

The move north was through a narrow pond that's prime feature was its feel of being in a small revine. Though the shores of Shallow Pond were not overly high, it had an enclosed feel. Thirty minutes later I was passing through the short channel to Raven Lake.

Emerging on the lake, there is a private camp just to the right. There is a cottage, dock, several canoes/ boats and a couple of other out buildings. The lake is of decent size and opens up to the north and east. I spent little time here.

I paddled to the left along the shoreline searching for the start of an informal trail leading west to Sunshine Pond. I didn't see any markers from the water, but pulled ashore at what seemed likely to be the spot. I deflated and packed my raft and put on my boots. I had picked this trip knowing that it was possible I wouldn't find the trail, and had been ready to bushwack if necessary. I walked for a hundred paces or so when I was greeted with a yellow plastic square nailed to a tree. It was a relief to know I had found it! This trail meanders a few miles through the forest with relatively little understory. Bushwacking might not be so bad through here.

The markers and path seem to end on a hill in the woods adjacent to the south end and east of Sunshine, which you can barely see through the trees from here. I walked down and around the south end of the pond in search of a decent spot to set up camp. A bit west of the southern tip I found a suitable place, and made it my home for a couple days and nights.

After setting up camp, gathering and processing some firewood, I boiled some water and ate a dehydrated meal. It was after 7:00 and I was ready to start a fire. I stepped out to the pond to fill my water bag first, and was taken in by the beautiful scene of this large pond at dusk. I stood there for a few minutes in silence, hoping to catch a glimpse of fish surfacing. I decided to skip the fire. Instead, I grabbed my small camp chair and sat by the shoreline watching nightfall overtake the area. While I drank an "Other Half" IPA, stars came out a few at a time as the sky gradually got blacker. It was a time for quiet and observation. Trying to focus on stars by looking just aside them, spotting satellites and the rare shooting star, listening to night sounds... moments like these are what I treasure most about these brief excursions into wild places.

After hanging my food bag, I went to sleep in my small tent at 10:30. Later that night around 2 am, I was woken up by an animal loudly splashing by the shoreline. A clumsy "kerplunk" dive was heard several times, each a couple minutes apart. I think I have heard this same sound elsewhere before. I peered from inside my tent down to the shore but couldn't make anything out. I fell back asleep wondering if this was an otter, or a beaver or sometging else I wasn't familiar with.

The next day I rose with the sun and made coffee. I drank it by the shoreline while assembling my fishing pole and attaching a lure. I inflated my LWD, threw my small daypack up front, and pushed off at 8 am. I slowly made my way north along the west shoreline. I trolled at times, and stopped to cast at others. I didn't have any luck. I made my way past the channel to Deer Pond on my left, to a flat open rock that juts out before a marshy area on the western and northern part of the pond. I stashed the raft in the trees and went for a swim. It was cool and livened me up after a rough night sleeping on the ground. I swam around the rock and little peninsula to catch a glimpse of the marsh, and of the entrance to the northern portion of the pond that finally ends with a stream that winds its way to Twin Ponds. Swimming back, I layed out on the rock to dry off...the mix of sun and clouds made it hard to warm up.

I ate a Cliff bar and downed some water before launching back onto the water, this time heading for Deer Pond. As I did, the thunderous sound of fighter jets overhead broke the relative quiet. Two of them were maneuvering very high up and could be seen as tiny black F-15(?) silhouettes darting in and out of clouds, sometimes emitting contrails when performing sharp turns. I considered it fitting to briefly catch a glimpse of these machines on this particular anniversary of 9/11. They then jetted off and out of sight to the northeast.

The journey back toward Deer Pond was tranquil and uneventful. I headed through a short, flooded channel turning right (west) past a beaver hut. Here there was a series of beaver damns leading to Deer. These small damns make the channel between the two water bodies more a beaver pond of its own, seeming to contribute to a higher water level at Sunshine and a lower one at Deer. I paddled through the very shallow southern end of the pond out to a large exposed rock near the middle west shore. There were three birds floating on the water who fled the instant they saw me. I set up here and tried my luck casting for a while, searching for trout. Once again nothing to be had. I got back on the pond and headed back the way I came.

Within an hour I was back at the swimming rock on Sunshine. I went for another dip as it was a bit warmer. After a while, I lazily made my way south in the dingy to an island at the south end that I had wanted to check out. It was densely packed with trees and shrubbery so I hung out along the rocks on the north shore of the island. I fished for a while, then headed back to camp, casting and trolling as I went.

When I got back I was a bit cold, and decided to start a small fire. It was still early, so I fed it modestly while attending to camp chores. It would die down, I would add some kindling and blow on the embers to restart the fire. So it went for the next couple of hours. While by the shore I caught a glimpse and sound of a fish jumping out of the water off to my left. It was the first definitive evidence of fish I had seen all weekend. This motivated me to get back out on the water one last time to fish. I did so for an hour and a half but was met with the same results. Maybe this pond, which I believe was heavily acidified, was only slowly making a comeback. Maybe I'm not a skilled enough fisherman to work these waters. Hard to say.

The rest of the evening was spent mostly by the fire. I ate, enjoyed another IPA and popped some popcorn, drizzling a bit of butter over the top. I didn't see much else in the way of fish or other wildlife. I dozed off for the night, snug in my sleeping bag. Lights out at 930.

The next morning after enjoying coffee by the shore, I began the time consuming process of packing up and returning my impromptu camp site to its natural state. On solo trips, this time is a mix of emotions. Happy to be beginning the trip home to see my wife and kids. The feeling of loneliness and missing family can be intense when all alone. But also sad. Sad to leave this lovely place where self reflection and meditation are seemingly guaranteed. It is remarkable to me that one only need travel a few hours to go to a spot like this...of which there are many.

After packing up, I set my compass bearing ahead of time. There was a noticeable feature on the eastern shoreline viewable from near where I lost the trail in, that I could use as my start point. My end point was that landing on Raven Lake...for a bearing of about 93 degrees.

I noticed it was very cloudy today, it looked like it might rain. I bushwacked back around the southern end of the pond. When I rounded it, I climbed up a hill on the eastern side. Peering out at the pond and locating the bump out on the shore I was looking for, I decided this was a good spot to head east with my compass indicating the direction of travel. Moving from one forest feature to the next (almost always a tree of course), I hadn't walked more than 15 minutes when I saw what looked to be the trail, and then a yellow square nailed to a tree. Relieved, I followed it quickly to Raven. As I started to switch to paddle mode, it began to rain. Steady but not too intense, the temperature relatively warm,the thought of paddling out in this didn't bother me. I pushed off onto the lake and headed back to Shallow Pond.

I paddled through the channel and as I approached Shallow I heard the repetitive, echoing call of a Loon. Over and over for about 10 minutes he called from the middle of the pond as I moved toward and then past him. It always strikes me that most every animal I see while backpacking runs or flies away the instant they see you...but Loons will just go about their business as if you aren't even there. As rain fell relentlessly on everything around, I felt it a surreal scene.

I pulled up at the put in and deflated my LWD for the last time, donned my hiking boots and pack, and headed for the road. A man in a truck who was driving in the right direction, stopped and nicely asked if I wanted a ride out. I politely declined, indicating I was going to walk out on my own. A couple of miles later I was at my car, and headed home.

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