Many new recreational opportunities are now available to the public with the newly opened Chain Lakes Road South access in Indian Lake. This region spans parts of the Blue Mountain Wild Forest, Pine Lake Primitive Area, and Hudson Gorge Wilderness.
Three Parking Areas
I recently hiked the trails on a blustery November day. There are three parking areas along the road. The third parking lot is only open during big game hunting season. The main parking area is reached at 3.8 miles along Chain Lakes Road (S) by a yellow camp. It has room for about 5 cars. If this lot is filled, you need to drive back to the first parking area that was passed at the 3 mile point. Outside of hunting season, there is a metal gate at the main parking lot blocking any further driving. Since my hike was during hunting season, I took advantage of the open gate to park at the third lot reached in 5.3 miles from Route 28. One of the other advantages during hunting season is that you can drive to 3 of the 5 designated camping areas, which are located between the second and third parking lots. Outside of big game hunting season, you need to hike to the camp sites.
On the drive in, I stopped the car to watch a female Northern Cardinal foraging near the road. A warming climate has allowed this species to expand its breeding range northward during the past couple decades, and they are becoming an increasingly common sight in the Central Adirondacks.
Trail to Clear Pond
From the third parking area, I hiked to Clear Pond. Most of the hiking in this area is along dirt roads. It was three-tenths of a mile back down the dirt road I had driven to reach the hiking trail. The trail is also three-tenths of a mile, so the round trip from my vehicle was 1.2 miles.
The trail leads up and around a hill through a mostly deciduous forest before descending to Clear Pond.
The trail ends at a lovely spot on the shores of Clear Pond near a huge, impressive, Northern White Cedar tree. I immediately thought of my younger son, now a college student, who is obsessed with climbing anything he can scale! I could picture him sitting in the top of that tree!
Trail to Cedar River
Next, I hiked back past my car and around the metal gate at the third parking area in the direction of Cedar River.
This newly opened property has been logged, so most of the forest was deciduous. Once again, the hiking is along a dirt road no longer used by vehicles.
Although forests are greatly changed by logging, the results attract a variety of bird species. As the open areas begin to fill with berry bushes, species such as Mourning and Chestnut-sided Warblers, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, and Black-billed Cuckoo will inhabit these areas. The beautiful Mourning Warbler is one of the most sought after birds of the nearly 30 warbler species that nest in Northern NY.
As I continued the hike along the dirt road, I passed a lovely beaver wetland on the left at Mud Pond.
It was a nice surprise to find four migrant Snow Buntings along the road passing through from the Arctic.
I also passed the fourth designated camping location.
Eventually, there is a fork in the road, and a trail sign indicates a left turn to reach Cedar River.
I noticed a wetland to the right, and headed in that direction first. After a few hundred feet, the road was washed out and there was a beautiful wetland on the right with lots of dead snags. Both wetlands appeared to be suitable habitat for Olive-sided Flycatchers and many other bird species that inhabit beaver-created wetlands. I look forward to visiting this area again next year during breeding season and I will report back.
I heard the sweet call notes of migrant American Tree Sparrows passing through from Northern Canada. There were several birds in the bushes near me.
I hiked back to the fork and continued on the dirt road trail a short distance to the Cedar River Trail.
It is only a couple hundred feet on the trail to reach the edge of Cedar River where a sign indicates it is the end of the trail. (But it is not actually the end!)
If you carried your canoe or kayak all that way, you can put in at this scenic location along Cedar River.
Trail to Pine Lake
I continued on the dirt road trail toward Pine Lake, which is less than a mile from the little trail to Cedar River. There were no more signs past the trail to Cedar River, but I had studied the map and knew the trail continued on.
I passed a strange looking hunting camp that was covered in a heavy, waterproof material and had a stove pipe sticking out.
The dirt road became less distinct as I neared Pine Lake. The road ended at the eastern shore of Pine Lake at a gorgeous camping area surrounded by huge hemlock trees (the fifth designated camp site). The site even had a picnic table!
Float planes can land on Pine Lake and there is a camp site on the western end available only to people who fly in.
The winds were fierce along Pine Lake that day, so I found a more sheltered location to eat a late lunch.
I saw no one until I was hiking back to my car. From a distance, I could see two people and it appeared they had a baby stroller. As they got closer, it was two hunters and one was pushing a cart with all their supplies. As it turns out, it was the owner of the strange looking hunting camp! We had a nice conversation before I headed on.
Trail to the Hudson River
Back at my car, I drove back to the main parking area by the yellow camp.
There is a nice view of the Hudson River from this parking area.
It was only a short walk (one tenth of a mile) to the trail down to the Hudson River from this location. There is a mileage sign at the trailhead, but no indication that it is the trailhead to the Hudson River!
It was a short walk down to the river along a trail.
There is a scary warning sign for canoe and kayak folks to take their boats out at this location before dangerous rapids ahead!
The Hudson River was quite rocky at this location and there were visible rapids. It did not look canoe-able, at least for me!
It was getting dark by the time I reached the river, but the sun suddenly appeared from low in the western sky and made the tops of the trees glow. It was breathtaking.
The vast network of dirt roads in this area, between Indian Lake and the Essex Chain Lakes in Newcomb, are all open to the public for hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, and hunting. It is yet to be determined if bicycles will be allowed. Stay tuned!