Hiking & Birding the Shallow Lake Trail

Getting Started on the Trail

After fixing a flat tire picked up by driving so many dirt roads (Wren slept in the sun while I change the tire), Wren and I made it to the trailhead for Shallow Lake. The trailhead sits next to Upper Pond of the Brown's Tract Ponds, and she explored the water's edge while I laced up my hiking boots.

The day was bright and warm and the glowing leaves seemed to create their own light as we marched off through a mixed deciduous forest in the mid-afternoon. The path to the initial trail junction is a wide two-track and we moved briskly along it, pausing here and there to snap photos of autumn leaves. The fast, easy path rose and we could see the larger Lower Pond below us through the trees. The flat tire had made us later than I planned and I wanted to keep moving initially – we quickly covered the first mile to the junction turning left to head towards Shallow Lake. From the junction, the lake is between a mile and a mile and a half away.

Once on the trail to Shallow Lake, our going was steady, but slower than it had been. The trail was thin, with tricky footing in places, and wound through the mixed forest. Soon after the junction, we passed a father and son who were planning to camp along the lake. The father was weighed down by a big pack and carried a lightweight canoe for exploring the lake to boot. "Are you planning to camp at Shallow Lake?" he asked.

"No, this is just camera gear," I replied patting my pack. He was hoping they would get one of the small campsites along the lakeshore without too much competition. Given his son's enthusiasm for their adventure, I didn't think I could have taken a campsite from them even if I had been planning on staying the night. His son talked excitedly as they trudged slowly on the trail. Soon enough, I said goodbye and eventually moved on ahead.

Wren drinking at Shallow Lake
Wren tempts fate as she leans over from the sketchy wooden bridge which crosses Beaver Brook.

The Tricky Crossing of Beaver Brook

The trail soon dropped to a low, flat, mucky area surrounded with beautiful boreal habitat. Shortly thereafter it crossed Beaver Brook, a wide stream traversed by a dodgy bridge composed of logs which bend beneath your weight in a concerning manner. Wren crossed ahead of me as I paused to listen for boreal birds and to my surprise the rounded logs proved too slick for her and she slid into the stream with a splash! I almost never see her have such an accident – she must have nosed too close to the water. Instead of swimming to the other side as she could easily have done, she tried to get back up onto the log bridge which is a rather difficult task without opposable thumbs. I started to drop my pack to see if she needed help but she had soon struggled her way back onto the logs. She immediately came back to me as if to say, "You go first." I did indeed go first – quite slowly and at times steadying myself with my hands – and I considered how the father and son with their large packs would likely do well to simply put everything into their canoe and paddle across the brook. We gained the far shore on the bending logs and continued on our way – Wren seeming no worse for wear.

The trail wound for a while longer but we eventually began to crest a small hill and descend toward Shallow Lake. A picturesque wilderness lake stretched before us, and Wren slopped through the water and asked me to throw a few sticks for her, as I snapped some photos. We explored the pirate campsites near shore and took stock of the two canoes piled there as well – the one looking seaworthy and the other containing a few sizeable holes as if someone had left it there to die peacefully of disuse.

Birding on our Way Back

After spending some time at the lake, we turned to hike back out and a short way down the trail bumped into the father and son. I reassured them that they weren't far from the lake and that they appeared to have it to themselves that evening, although I forgot to ask how they had managed the Beaver Brook crossing.

Gray Jay
A pair of Gray Jays greeted us at Beaver Brook on our way back to the trailhead.

We made quick work of our return trip and I slowed again near Beaver Brook to look for birds. This time two Gray Jays called and flew around us and as I watched them, I noticed that Wren had crossed and re-crossed the tenuous log bridge several times; undaunted by her earlier splash, and seeming to show that she had conquered it - and any blow her fall had made to her doggie pride. I crossed, tentatively, behind her and made it without incident.

From Beaver Brook we made swift progress back to the trailhead, taking a short detour down a narrow path to Lower Pond. Near the car we met a group of friends and family out for a hike and the kids threw sticks in the water for Wren. I was soon to join her to cool off my body after a warm hike and we both enjoyed a swim in Lower Pond to close out our day. It's the best way to end a good hike, after all.

If you're visiting the area - and hauling the canoe to a remote campsite, isn't quite your gig we can help - check out our many lodging and restaurant options!  Trying to plan your next adventure? Check out our extensive hiking and birding options - the Adirondacks are waiting!