The Moose River Plains is by no means a stranger in my life or the life of my hiking partner Jimbo. However, the part that we would explore today was a bit of a reach for us - we were heading out into the very southern tip of the region and eventually into the West Canada Lake Wilderness. We would visit three back-country water bodies and an obscure mountain just waiting to be explored. Where you may ask? Well, Indian Lake and Indian Lake Mountain, with side trips to Muskrat Pond and Squaw Lake.
The drive for us to get to Inlet has become nothing out of the ordinary, but the drive to within the Plains on this day would be lengthened quite a lot. I have several maps of the area, but as I mentioned I had never been this deep into the area before so I made a leap and assumed we could drive to Indian Lake; I was mistaken, and in fact we only made it to within 2.6 miles of the lake. This was a bit disappointing as it meant extra time on the trail to get to the base of Indian Lake Mountain, and that we wouldn't be able to take in the other mountains we wanted to explore.
We vowed not to be disappointed for long and to take in a couple side trails and visit some of the waters in the area, and if we had time for another mountain we would. The days were getting shorter as was drove ever that much closer to the fall season. While ready for the cooler temperatures and colorful palette about to descend upon the Adirondacks, we loved having longer days to extend our outings.
Off to Indian Lake
At the trailhead we started our ramblings through the woods on a trail - which we do fairly often to approach a trailless peak - but this one was a bit different, it was the old access road to Indian Lake. The wide course through the woods passed by rather quickly as we hiked alongside a field of jewelweed lining the edge of the old road, a field much larger than I had ever seen before. It was odd in its setting as it didn't appear to be wet enough to support this wildflower, but yet it flourished.
Quickly we passed by the 0.4 mile spur trail to Squaw Lake, deciding to save it for the trip out. The old access road had only a slight change in elevation as we climbed to higher ground, passing by wetland corridors, passing by old and forgotten campsites, and passing by the Muskrat Creek vista.
The next intersection we would find was the short 0.1 mile spur trail to the Shore of Muskrat Pond. The trail was marked with an old metal DEC sign, long exempt from use as they are now replaced with the wood versions. The trail in its extent was not even 0.1 miles but more along the length of a couple hundred feet. Muskrat Pond could be seen from the access road but the small trail did get us to the shore with ease. The colors were surely changing and this was quite evident from the shore of this seldom visited pond. The hammering of a pileated woodpecker on a hollow snag echoed through the valley of the pond as we soaked in the splendor we were given.
Indian Lake to Indian Lake Mountain
We were now nearing the end of the access road which was an obvious end to most people's wanderings; the trail beyond was much more obscure and overgrown. First we would visit the Shore of Indian Lake, this 0.2 mile side trail dropped us ever so slightly to a campsite and picnic area with a view out over a picturesque sheet of water. Indian Lake Mountain shadowed the pond at the southern end in its wardrobe of changing colors and steep slopes of maples and birches, but not a lick of rock to be seen.
Returning to the trail that eventually leads to Balsam Lake and Stink Lake, we started our hike around Indian Lake to a location we could easily access the mountain from. We passed by a scenic beaver pond on our left and chose this location to traverse over the inlet of the lake where Indian Lake Mountain resided. Now at over 2200 feet in elevation we only had slightly over a 400 foot climb and it was looking very good. The forest was as open as I had ever seen and travel was quick and successful. We summited rather quickly even while our wanderings switch-backed us over the mountain in search of views.
Oh, those lovely beaver ponds
We searched atop the summit for views in hopes of even a slight opening, but it was to no avail, we soon descended. We decided to take a slightly different descent route in hopes of finding a scenic view in route along the steeper slopes, but again we came up empty handed. We came out near the middle of a long finger pond south of Indian Lake, but luckily also near a beaver dam that made it easier to cross, and after a few photographs we pursued that balancing act.
The trail was just opposite us and we soon made our way back to the old access road, past the Indian Lake Trail, past the Muskrat Pond Trail, up over the height-of-land, and down to the Squaw Lake Trail. A quick left onto the Squaw Lake Trail would soon award us another back-country gem. The trail dropped quickly before us, then briskly over a couple bridges, one with a handrail which was an interesting touch, and then we reached the Shore of Squaw Lake. An amazing campsite rests on the shore of this lake, but surprisingly it was occupied and we didn't have a chance to examine it closer. After a short break and wet splash of the waters (I say wet, and not cool, as it was close to that of bath water) we returned to the access road and then the car.
Much later now than we had planned, we had just enough time to explore only one other feature of the Moose River Plains and that would be Mount Tom, but you will have to check back a bit later to read about that little excursion - let me just say, it was pretty exciting.