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Old 08-14-2020, 05:02 PM   #1
PA Kayaker
Join Date: May 2020
Location: Paoli, PA
Posts: 21
Chair Rock Creek portage trail from Cranberry Lake to Grass Pond

I recently finished a trip where our plan was to portage from Cranberry Lake to Grass Pond/Low's Lake via the Chair Creek Trail. Having never been on this trail previously (in fact, this was our first trip to the Adirondacks), I didn't quite know what to expect. Was I na´ve to think we could handle it? I had researched as much info as I could find on this trail, but what little info I found was limited and somewhat dated (and in some cases, inaccurate) so I figured I would post my experience here as input for anyone else considering this route to carry between these two lakes.

First let me say that we had kayaks, which are inherently more difficult to portage than lightweight canoes. However, we've done it before over some pretty arduous terrain, so we know it can be done. (Doesn't mean it's fun though.) We had wheeled carts with us (NRS Yak Yak), as well as system I had rigged up using sled-pulling harnesses that would allow the two of us to lift and carry two kayaks at once using shoulder straps.

The research I had done found a few posts mentioning that the trail is well-maintained, and "85% wheelable." I also had seen differing reports of the length, anywhere from 3.25 miles, to 3.5 miles, to four. That's a long way, but if truly was wheelable, I figured it could be done.

We camped the day before at site #17 in the Chair Rock Flow of Cranberry Lake. I decided to walk the trail that afternoon with a load of gear to both get a sense of what we were in for and lighten the next day's load. Let me tell you, it is not for the faint of heart. It is nowhere near 85% wheelable. I would say maybe 50% wheelable, and the parts that aren't would be a major challenge carrying any boat -- large downed trees, rocky creek crossings, muddy stretches, etc. And the true distance, according to my Garmin, was 4.37 miles measured from site 17 to the put-in at Grass Pond.

The first major problem I ran into was when the trail completely disappeared into a marsh with tall grass to the east of Fishpole Pond. I retraced my steps several times, each time going back to last trail marker I could find and trying again. Eventually I gave up on what I thought was the trail and simply bushwhacked through the forest, thinking if I found the trail again, I could find where it goes in the opposite direction. Here's my GPS track from that section:

Secondly, the actual trail does not match what is shown on the Adirondack Paddlers Map. It swings quite a bit to the east, which probably is why it ended up being longer than I expected. Here's the full route:

When I reached the end, I stashed my load of gear behind some trees at the put-in and headed back. On the walk/jog back, I contemplated if we really should do this. (I also was not able to find the trail where I lost it on the way there.) When I got back to our campsite, I proposed an alternate plan to my wife: If she wasn't gung-ho about this, we'd skip this part of our trip and stay on Cranberry. So that's what we did. The next morning, I got up and made the trek BACK to Grass Pond to retrieve our gear and carried it back. So that was about 18 miles back and forth to come to that decision (which was the right one).

So here's my final take: I do think it can be done, but takes some serious muscle, balance, will-power, and navigational skills if you are planning to make this carry. Good luck.
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Old 08-14-2020, 05:56 PM   #2
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Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Western Adirondacks
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I have in the past taken a portion of the trail that goes on the western side of Fishpole Pond, then south to join the trail you show at about the 1800 label. I was also on trail that passed through the broadly wide open (then dry) marsh along the outlet of Darning Needle Pond. Is it any easier than what you followed? I don't know, but I do not recall it as partcularly difficult. Other than when I have been through the region doing bushwhack navigation training for guides on alternate routes in the vicinity, that is where I have gone.
"Now I see the secret of making the best person, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth." -Walt Whitman
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Old 08-14-2020, 09:16 PM   #3
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Location: Schenectady, NY
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Mr Kayaker,

While I have not been to Chair Rock Flow in a long time, your experience on that carry trail sounds pretty typical of lightly used areas.
Deadfalls, sporadic trail markers, overgrown and beaver flowed sections are actually common in the lesser visited areas.

When you come back to the ADK's in the fall (my personal favorite time) I hope you'll try a few of my previous recommendations.
I've taken the liberty of copying my earlier response:

It sounds to me like you would be better off with a sampling of various areas rather than spending a week in just one main area.

For example:
3 days, 2 nights on Little Tupper Lake and Rock Pond, carries are almost nonexistent.
2 days, 1 night on the Essex Chain Lakes with a day trip down the Chain Drain to Rock River, easily wheelable initial carry, a very short carry between lakes, then a handful of easily traversed beaver dams. The Chain Drain is seldom visited.
2 or 3 days, 1 or 2 nights on Lows Lake and Grass Pond, remote and quiet but there is a scout camp that may or may not have activity levels a bit higher.

I won't recommend Stillwater Reservoir as there is motorboat traffic.
Same for a Raquette River trip, while beautiful, there is precious little remoteness, IMHO.
Whitney loop and Oswegatchie loops would be torture with your kayaks. Even a Lila to Bog River Flow trip would be unpleasant carrying.

When you return, (you do plan to visit again, don't you?) you may want to leave your kayaks home and borrow/rent/buy a lightweight tandem canoe, or a pair of packboats so you can better enjoy the ADK's unique watersheds.

BTW, your trail descriptions and tracklog will be very helpful to anyone planning to take that same route.
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Old 08-15-2020, 07:49 AM   #4
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Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Western Adirondacks
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I would not discount Stillwater Reservoir as curtly as SG does. While it is true that there are motorboats, they (if smart) tend to stay confined to certain deep water channels, to avoid a number of barely submerged rocky shoals and islands. These are of little or no consequence to alert paddlers who can hug shorelines and bays where motors cannot venture.

I regard Stilwater as an important gateway to many remote ponds and lakes in the Five Ponds and Pepperbox Wilderness areas. This is where as a younger version of myself I learned to navigate to places where you will never see anyone else. The Redhorse Trail is a prime example of a pathway into the deep interior. Carry, cart or just hike to those places where motorboaters will never go. If remoteness is what you seek, few others will ever venture far into these places either. Clear lake, at the end of the formally cleared RH trail, offers unique (for the Adidrondacks) unusual aqua colored pool-water clarity water. Other nearby places like Evergreen Lake, Hidden Lake, Raven Lake,Crooked Lake, Sunshine Pond, Dismal Pond, Pepperbox Pond,and a dozen others offer beauty and deep woods remoteness. Carry to (off trail) or simply hike to them, some are on or closer to easy trail than others. One or more of those I list have been experimentally modified with lime by the DEC to neutralize the effects of acid rain and have been stocked with trout and offer good fishing.

"Now I see the secret of making the best person, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth." -Walt Whitman
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Old 08-17-2020, 11:22 PM   #5
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Join Date: Dec 2011
Location: Northampton, MA
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I did that carry several years ago, from the site near the bottom of Chair Rock Flow near the start of the carry, down to Grassy Pond. I don't remember it as very wheelable at all. It was long, with ups & downs and some rough spots. I didn't have trouble finding the route -- I do remember a wet area just after passing Fishpole (I think it was southeast more than east) but it was fairly easy to keep to the route. Doing a double carry it took me a good section of the day. I can't imagine doing it without a lightweight pack canoe. When I came to the hill near the Grassy Pond end, I thought "Oh no, not another..."
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