Recently my wife and I took a little spring outing. The morning sky was clear and the sun shown warm as we started out. Opening the car door, our two enthusiastic companions and intrepid explorers, Cappy and Waggs, excitedly jumped in and we embarked. We have been exploring our local CATS (Champlain Area Trails), starting with a lovely hike up Coot Hill/Big Hollow last fall. We decided Crowfoot Pond would be a more challenging follow-up - and that’s where we set our course for.
For those of you not familiar, the Champlain Area Trails organization has created a network of trails in the Champlain Valley, having parleyed the co-operation of public and private land owners to make these trails possible. Their hard work has been met with huge success. They have a grand vision of connecting all the towns along the Champlain Valley with hikeable trails and are busy making it happen. How cool will it be to hike from one end of the valley to the other, shopping for supplies, dining, and lodging as you go? Pretty darn cool, I say.
If you're looking for an alternative to the popular Adirondack High Peaks trails, these lesser-known trails are the ticket. They offer easy accessibility, are well maintained, and have amazing views.
While all of the CATS trails are great fun, there are four in particular that are being grouped together for what the Moriah Chamber of Commerce has christened, “The Moriah Challenge.” The challenge celebreates four of Moriah’s great destinations: Coot Hill/Big Hollow, Cheney Mountain, Belfry Mountain, and today’s endeavor- Crowfoot Pond.
The pace for the day is set by Tracy Road. Its many curves and dips force you to slow down and enjoy the scenic route that leads to the trailhead of Crowfoot Pond. If you are coming on motorcycle, I guarantee you will enjoy the twisties on Tracy Road every bit as much as the trail itself. Arriving at our destination, an old logging road that follows Crowfoot Brook to Crowfoot Pond, we notice the new bridge that replaces the one that was washed out. It is a nice indication of the level of maintenance performed on the CATS trails.
The first leg of the journey climbs gently through dense pine stands. It was cool in the shadows and wonderfully warm where the sun broke through. Here and there little patches of snow were surrendering to victorious spring- finally winter is over!
The smells of a spring trail are earthy and aromatic. Plant life stirring to rise through the soft humus and melting snow provided all sorts of smells that the dogs had to stop and explore. The sun was breaking through the pines to create a breathtaking start to our hike.
The incline was gentle and we struck out at a good pace.
For the uninitiated, hiking these trails is pretty easy and there is little chance of getting lost. The trails themselves are well worn, but there are also trail markers nailed to trees at regular intervals to assure you that you are still on the right path. If you have a concern about straying, then it is always good practice to let someone at home know your destination, and to leave a note on your car window stating your intended route and the time that you left.
The walk to Crowfoot Pond is studded with interesting sights. Majestic trees and giant mossy boulders abound, and you’ll also spot the occasional odd fungus covered trunk.
These trails change with the seasons. Spring is the time to experience the brooks and runoffs at their height. This also is an excellent time to enjoy the woods without the nuisance of insects. Crowfoot Brook was roaring merrily when we were there, but expect it to have a much tamer demeanor come summer.
As winter recedes, the trail is strewn with all sorts on miniature marvels, such as this lacy lichen. When you are out and about, be sure to balance your perspective by observing both the grand scale of things and the tiny wonders that can be easily missed. Our hike revealed bright red teaberries that had wintered over, delicate mushrooms already in bloom, and the trailing pine seemed glad to be out from under its blanket of snow. If you are into the whole scat thing, bring your poop scorecard along. We found coyote, bear, and turkey scat!
One downside of spring hikes can be when the runoffs follow the trail. We did experience stretches of boggy trail, but nothing impassable. We made it home with dry feet.
There are several bridges along the trail that cross Crowfoot Brook making your hike much easier. All of the bridges had survived the winter unscathed, due, no doubt, to their stout construction.
The second leg of the journey rises out of the pine stands and opens into a beech forest. We welcomed the more open quality of the air and figured the pond was not far off, if still out of sight. After passing some cascading runoffs that made for very pretty waterfalls, we finally reached the end of the trail.
The trail’s end marker reveals a splendid view of Crowfoot Pond. The sun shattered diamonds on its surface as a cool breeze wafted through the trees that flank its shores. The pond’s reveal might be a little abrupt, but the view certainly makes one feel that the trek was worth it.
Taking seats on logs at the water’s edge, we got our picnic lunch out of the rucksack. Baloney sandwiches always taste better with an appetite stirred up by a long walk. Cappy and Waggs were both concerned about the quality of our lunches and offered to make sure they were OK more than once.
They were so well behaved on our hike. What do you think, do these furry trail guides deserve a little bite?
Crowfoot Pond is not a difficult hike, but at 5 miles round-trip some may find it daunting. It took us 4 hours to complete, and toward the end, our sedentary pups needed a little lie down at several points. If you have children or are out of shape, plan to stop along the way often and allow yourself additional time. As with all jaunts into the woods, remember to check your dogs and each other for ticks when your journey has come to its end. This is a must-do procedure in all seasons of hiking.
No matter where your visit to the Adirondacks takes you, plan time to get out and enjoy the trails that this area has to offer! It’s the best way to see for yourself why there is no other place like it outside the Blue Line.
We'll see you on the trails!