If you’re looking for a cross-country skiing destination this winter, might I suggest skiing Gulf Brook Road to Boreas Ponds?! While comparable in distance to traveling to Lake Colden in the Adirondack High Peaks, the terrain to Boreas Ponds is considerably easier to traverse. The gentle slopes that mostly characterize Gulf Brook Road leave plenty of time for contemplation, and the parallel tracks leading 3.2 miles towards the interim parking lot also make this an enjoyable adventure with a friend.
My friend Seth and I popped into our cross-country skis, tossed extra layers and food into our packs, and began our ascent up the sloping road at 10:27am. As it meandered, we noticed the steep cliffs of Ragged Mountain, advertised as the newest rock climbing spot in the Adirondacks. This would be an interesting adventure for another, warmer day. Without any leaves above us, we could see a lot during our trip: Blue Ridge, Hoffman Mountain, and an interesting perspective on Vanderwhacker. As we crested the first hill, we enjoyed a leisurely ski into a winter wonderland.
Once you see two private hunting camps, you’ve traveled nearly 3 miles and the interim lot is just ahead. We arrived at 11:34am, or 1 hour and 7 minutes into our adventure. After a short water break, we saw in the register that Tony Goodwin had skied here recently, along with approximately 20 others in the past two weeks. Gulf Brook Road is a delightful ski, and even if you have to turn around early you’re going to love the quick, controlled descent back to Blue Ridge Road. The fruits of your labor are paid in full!
Continuing onward after a few layering changes, we were surrounded only by the sounds of nature. The sound of silence that currently exists inside the Boreas Ponds Tract is a rare, intangible treasure. I looked up and noticed two woodpeckers making progress on an ancient yellow birch, while two other black-capped chickadees swooped by. The final descent to LaBier Flow happens quickly, and soon you’re looking out at a virgin veil of white snow towards Boreas Mountain. 12:27pm. All of this happened in just 2 hours since we left the gate at Blue Ridge Road.
Buck tracks, snowshoe hare tracks, and mouse tracks dotted our path ahead. While we were intently looking for moose tracks, two ruffed grouse suddenly burst out of the snow beneath a balsam fir!
After a short ski from LaBier Flow, we were on the frozen Boreas Ponds. Other nearby Adirondack lakes had 3 over inches of ice, but we still made sure to avoid the swift current near the dam. Enveloped in quietness, we cruised across 1st Pond and went into 2nd Pond, spending an hour gallivanting about in nature’s splendor. 14 High Peak summits are visible from Boreas Ponds, and today we had this view all to ourselves…
I’ve been very stressed over the past month, and at Boreas Ponds I finally found peace. Unmatched tranquility currently exists here, and anyone with a Wilderness ethic can appreciate how few and far in-between remote locations like this are, especially in the heavily-populated Northeast. With 6,970 miles of public road crisscrossing the Adirondacks, 80% of the Park is within one mile of a road or snowmobile trail. No place in the Adirondack Park is more than 5.3 miles from a road. Wilderness classification for Boreas Ponds could impact this statistic, but unfortunately others believe that motorized access to 96% of New York’s land area isn’t enough. (Only 4% of New York’s acreage is protected as motor-free Wilderness.) Humans have left their mark on a vast swath of the world, and here we have an opportunity for wildness to be restored.
So go to Boreas Ponds now! Go while it’s quiet. The silence at Boreas Ponds is only matched by the Cold River valley and the heart of the West Canada Lakes Wilderness, areas that Seth and I traveled during our Northville-Placid Trail thru-hike. Once you’ve experienced the stillness of Boreas Ponds, you’ll understand the magnitude of protecting this intangible, uncommon characteristic. Maybe you’ll finally be inspired to defend it? Perhaps enough of you will act today to ensure that the wildness of Boreas Ponds is preserved. We have until December 30th to save one of New York’s last remaining remote places as Wilderness.
We left Boreas Ponds at 2:03pm, and had views of the white-capped Great Range between the beech trees during our return ski above LaBier Flow. We made it to the interim parking lot at 3:11pm (with breaks – make sure you bring enough layers, food, and water). The final descent to Blue Ridge Road was a thrilling ending to our day in the Wilderness. The Ponds were great, and the ski out was spectacular. We were back to our car by 4:10pm.
It only took 5 hours and 43 minutes (with breaks) to ski from Blue Ridge Road to 2nd Pond and back. Any ardent skier will find this to be a quiet, psychologically-restoring adventure.
Wilderness can only continue in the Boreas Ponds Tract if you act today. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity where you can have an impact. If opened to motorized vehicles, Boreas Ponds will lose its silence, and its allure along with it. We may never see another addition to the Forest Preserve like Boreas Ponds again. Be an Adirondack Wilderness Advocate, and preserve the sound of silence at Boreas Ponds by signing and sharing this link:
Or, for a more personal touch…
You can mail your Call for Wilderness to:
Kathleen Regan, Deputy Director
Adirondack Park Agency
PO Box 99
Ray Brook, NY 12977