26 May 2014

Sleeping Beauty and the Three Ponds - 25 May 2014

On Thursday I got an invitation to join my friends Justin and Ken on a hike up Sleeping Beauty, which quickly morphed into hiking up Sleeping Beauty and then checking out the ponds between Sleeping Beauty and Black Mountain.    To that end, we met up at my house on Sunday morning and we drove up to Dacy Clearing.  On the way up Buttermilk Falls Road / Sly Pond Road we passed by Camp Wakpominee, one of the Boy Scout camps my troop used after Camp Saratoga stopped hosting summer camps.

We passed by the parking area for Buck Mountain, continued on down past the Hogtown parking area, down the one-lane woods road to Dacy Clearing.  There were several marked campsites with small parking areas along the way, and all of them were in use.  When we pulled in to Dacy Clearing, we saw a gigantic campsite set up in one corner, with a horse trailer and trucks being used to delineate the campsite.  Looking at the map for the Shelving Rock Area, it looks like they were in sites #5 and #6, though it wasn't clear to us at the time.  It looked like they had just taken up a huge chunk of the parking area for their own use.

Camping in Style
Camping in Style
We stopped gawking, geared up, noted the swarms of mosquitoes, put on some bug spray, and headed out.  A short ways up the signed trail, there was a junction and a trail register box with no trail register.  I knew that we needed to go right at the first junction, so we went right, and immediately found ourselves back at the parking area.  Oops.  We turned around, headed back up the trail, found the correct junction, and headed up toward Sleeping Beauty.  We were at the summit cliffs an hour after heading out.  The view was excellent, but the black flies were swarming, so after a short snack, we headed out again.

So I walk upon high...
Lake George from Sleeping Beauty
There was some debate over where the path to Bumps Pond was, but I remembered from the map that the summit was on a spur trail, and that there was a sign pointing the way to the summit a short way down the trail.  It wasn't obvious on the way up, but this was the junction we were searching for.  We took the semi-hidden left turn, and made our way over to Bumps Pond.

The trails everywhere were wet, and I had already proven that the trail running shoes I had worn that day were draining well and drying out quickly enough.  So, when we came to the bridge that crosses over the outlet of Bumps Pond, and we saw a huge plastic blue and yellow thing floating in the water just past the bridge, it didn't take me long to decide to fish it out.  The guys were talking about using a stick to get it, but I could see that the water was only about a foot deep, so I just went for it.  Fishing it out was no problem, and I managed to jerry-rig the 3' long blue plastic thing to the bottom of my pack, where it stayed for the remainder of the hike.

On the other side of the bridge was a junction with another trail, and we headed north, aiming for Fishbrook Pond.  A minute or so later we started seeing a lot of amphibians: frogs, toads, and several beautiful orange salamanders, called red efts.  We sloshed in to Fishbrook Pond, walked down to a somewhat clear point near the water, and ate our lunches.  Justin had brought some fantastic dried swordfish, and shared some with us.  It was easily the best fish I had eaten in a year, if not longer: sushi-grade, brined and dehydrated.  Ken shared some paninis he made at home, and I couldn't believe how delicious they were, even cold.  They tasted a lot like a Monte Cristo sandwich, and they held up very well on the trail.  I offered up some coffee.

Lots of salamanders out today in the Lake George Wild Forest!
She turned me into a newt!
We headed out again, and quickly came to a lean-to, complete with a smoking fire.  I checked to confirm that someone was in fact in the lean-to, and then we headed off along the trail.  It quickly became overgrown, and I thought maybe I had picked a herd path, but eventually we found a sign indicating that this was a snowmobile trail.  A short distance later it met up with the foot trail and crossed the outlet of Fishbrook Pond.  On the other side, the foot trail went left and another trail, blazed with snowmobile markers, went straight.  I assumed that the snowmobile trail was the route over to Greenland Pond, but it took us on an overgrown path through the woods before dropping us back at the foot trail.

We picked our way up a brook to the junction with the Greenland Pond Trail, and then waded up and over a small ridge before starting our descent.  The first portion of the Greenland Pond Trail was incredibly wet, with several instances of standing water a foot deep.  One such occurrence manifested as a small pond, at least 50' in diameter and a foot deep on average.  That was fun to wade through.  Once we got past the flooded portion, we slogged downhill to the pond.  The trail was sporadically blazed, and it appeared to be little used.  When we finally caught sight of Greenland Pond, the first feature we saw was blue, then a beaver lodge in the blue.  The trail stays away from the lake as it crosses to the south, but it was still easy to lose, so we got to visit the lake a few times.

Ken stopped to let his boots air out, and Justin and I went to go check out the lean-to.  We found the outlet of Greenland Pond, and then came to what appeared to be a junction.  There was a red blaze over to the right, so we went that way, but it quickly became obvious that we were heading the wrong way.  Our mistake was fortunate, though, because we found what was easily the best waterfall of the day, a little ways off of the trail.  Actually, it was the second best waterfall of the day: on the drive in there was a ridiculously beautiful and tall waterfall in someone's backyard, complete with a large "Keep Out" sign.

Waterfall just downstream from Greenland Pond
We slogged down through deep leaves to check out the waterfall, and then headed back to the trail and back to get Ken.  From there, we made our way back up to Fishbrook Pond, then back up to Bumps Pond.  We hadn't seen much of Bumps Pond earlier, but now the trail took us right along it for a while.  After that we descended on a very rocky woods road back down to Dacy Clearing.  When we arrived, the parking lot was fairly full, and the sun was out.  So, too, were the black flies.  At higher elevations they didn't appear to have started biting, but in Dacy Clearing they were, and in the few minutes that it took us to get our wet gear off and choke down some food, I managed to get two bites.  Always a fun experience.

Well, I guess that's about it for this tale.  I highly recommend checking out Sleeping Beauty and Fishbrook Pond.  Until next time...

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