Over a decade ago, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation cut a cross-country ski loop trail off the Northville-Placid Trail in Long Lake. The trip totals 5.2 miles by taking the Northville-Placid Trail and branching off on the Three-Brook Loop Ski Trail. It is an intermediate level ski in a lovely forest.
My husband, George Yellott, and I began the ski in early afternoon hoping to beat the predicted snowstorm for late afternoon. Little did we know that the predicted storm would never arrive! It was 18 degrees and cloudy. There was a remnant ski trail under about 6 inches of new snow with a two foot snow cover underneath.
The Northville-Placid Trail
Beginning on the Northville-Placid Trail (S), the habitat is boreal for the first half mile.
I was hoping we would find a Black-backed Woodpecker, and we found two! We watched a beautiful male forage for a long time. It was tricky to ski off the trail in deep snow to try and photograph the woodpecker. Another Black-backed Woodpecker flew nearby, likely a female.The second half mile is in mixed forest.
This area was full of snow depressions from resting Deer.
After the first mile, the foot-trail ends at an old dirt road. The Northville-Placid Trail continues along this road to the left. The next half-mile is on a gradual uphill contour in a mostly open, deciduous forest.
The Three-Brook Loop Ski Trail (Counter-Clockwise!)
The first Three-Brook Loop Ski Trail entrance is found along the old dirt road. We chose to ski the loop counter-clockwise, so we took the first right turn onto the loop trail.
The ski trail was in great shape. The forest is mostly deciduous with some conifers mixed in. There are quite a few towering, old hemlock trees.
On the loop trail, as the name implies, there are three brooks, all with bridges to ski over. With such recent cold temperatures, I was surprised to find open water under all three bridges.
It is a pleasant ski with ups and downs, but nothing too extreme.
We flushed two Ruffed Grouse along the way.
We also encountered Hairy and Pileated Woodpeckers, Common Ravens, Black-capped Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Brown Creepers, and Golden-crowned Kinglets.
The wind was calm on the loop trail, but we could hear the sound of strong winds blowing through the trees high on the mountain ridge to our south.
The End of the Loop
The Three-Brook Loop Ski Trail ended back on the Northville-Placid Trail. Since we skied the loop counter-clockwise, we came back onto the Northville-Placid Trail about a half mile past the first entrance to the loop trail. This location is past where the old dirt road and the Northville-Placid Trail diverge, with the Northville-Placid Trail continuing as a foot-trail.
Back on the Northville-Placid Trail
It is a lot of fun to ski down the Northville-Placid Trail from the end of the loop trail. It is a long, downhill stretch, making the trip back seem much quicker! Just before we reached the first entrance to the loop trail (taken earlier), the Northville-Placid Trail joins the old dirt road again.
We continued our fun downhill ski and made the right turn back onto the foot-trail from the old dirt road for the last mile out.
Some of the downed trees revealed how much snow was beneath us.
As we approached the last half mile boreal section, there is one hill that is a bit scary to ski down. The hill itself is not huge, but there is a bridge at the bottom over Sandy Brook, and if you miss the bridge, you could end up in the brook! So I side-stepped the top half of the hill and continued skiing when I felt I could make that bridge.
Beyond Sandy Brook, there are a couple "ski trail" side-sections that avoid steeper spots along the Northville-Placid Trail. We heard the Black-backed Woodpecker again, but it was farther from the trail now.
We continued on and passed over the Shaw Brook Bridge. This area is quite boreal and I often bushwhack ski here in winter through the marsh-bog toward Shaw Pond. Shaw Pond is a scenic area along Route 28N. (There is a parking area along Route 28N for viewing Shaw Pond, or as a place to park if you'd like to canoe the pond.)
As we arrived at the trailhead, I stopped to sign us out at the register. Just at that moment, the wind hit the huge White Pine tree overhead releasing a blizzard of snow that completely covered me and my camera! At least it happened at the end of our ski!
We were happy that we finished the ski trip before the big storm (that never materialized)!