In search of trail potential
I have been working with the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) off and on, trying to determine locations of family-friendly trails, in particular in Hamilton County and Eastern Essex County near Schroon Lake. On this day, I would meet up with my friend Joe from ACTLS, as well as Pine and Allison from the Northville office of the DEC, to do a bit of field scouting on Barker Mountain.
Barker Mountain is apparently an unofficial name for this small 2100' peak east of Barker Pond. I have only seen it named on the large green Central Mountain wall map produced in Keene Valley. It is not on a current USGS map, and, in fact, I seem to be the only one who even noticed this peak. This being the case, I think it "peaks" everyone's interest to go and check it out, mine included. While hiking in a nearby region, I can't remember exactly where, I noticed a sheer cliff face in the vicinity of this mountain and was thinking that it was possible to be here; the only way to know for sure would be to go check it out.
We all met up at the access road for O'Neil Flow and piled into the clown car ready to explore the unknown. The access road, which is open to the public, went much further into the backwoods than I had realized. I assumed it only continued to Rock River as a fishing access site, but to my surprise we ended up just above Barker Pond. The beavers had made their mark along the road and, thankfully, this clown car was fully-equipped with 4-wheel drive and a completely fearless driver in Pine. We arrived at the parking area for Barker Pond, which I had fully planned to check out - however, I never expected there to be a trail to it! Bonus for me!
Barker Pond was located directly behind us, through what looked to be a heavily logged area; par for the course in a previous working forest. The road continued past the Barker Pond Trailhead, but it was blocked by three massive boulders. We would continue on foot from here; 4-wheel drive and Pine's act for getting through stuff only goes so far. In hopes of finding an old skidder road that would aid us in accessing the summit easier for a future trail was in my mind, but with further exploring along the road it didn't appear that it would be an option. We also agreed that skidder roads don't make the best trails anyhow, as most are in horrible condition, rutted and often swamped. We started following one right from the road, but it was too cluttered with slash from the recent logging, making easy and efficient passage not viable. I meandered about, as I usually do, trying to find the path of least resistance and trying to locate a nice route to the summit, just in case it ended up being a prize winner and a future home of a forest preserve trail.
Eventually, we walked right out of the logging debris, and like a curtain closing before us, we were in the trees. Occasional small bands of red spruce would show their face and scratch ours, but nothing to ruin what was a nice hike in the wild. As we approached even closer to the top, a narrow band of rock gave us a direct heading to the summit. Small views from the rock spine gave us a taste of the fantastic views we found on the summit. Covered in white moss, the open rock gave us visions out over O'Neil Flow and into the Moose River Plains. Lake Durrant wasn't too far away, draped in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Wilderness.
I explored around and through the spruce thicket on the summit, looking for additional views and that massive rock wall I saw in the distance some time ago, but to no avail; but we were satisfied with our findings. The actual high point, just for informational purposes, was atop a boulder in the forest, a bit tough to scale, but there it was. It's amazing at how many summits are oddly located on boulders.
It sounds like the potential for a short 0.5 mile trail to the summit of Barker Mountain just might happen, and what a perfect family outing that would be! We opted for a different route back to the car, and with this we found some attractive areas of rock cliffs, jumbled boulders, wetlands, fern fields, and no easy direct route. Looks like our way up was the best.
Back at the car, we made the anticipated side trip down to Barker Pond. The trail is still so new that the mineral soil was dark brown, almost black under our feet, packing into the tread of our boots and gaining a free ride. The trail is about 0.2 miles in length and a steady but mellow downhill to a primitive campsite about 150 feet off shore, the required distance for any campsite. A couple of us pushed through the spruce that lined the shore to get better photos, and there was a loon, not more than 50 feet away. The pond seemed almost too small for a loon to take off effectively, but using its entire length, it would be possible, I imagine.
At the trailhead, we broke out the road map and decided to take on Tirrell Mountain from near Wolf Pond as our second adventure of the day. The day was still young, there was much more to explore and see, and Tirrell looked to have the potential for a stellar viewing platform. I guess we will find out - and so will you - in a bit.
Ready to start planning your next Hamilton County hike? The Adirondacks are in perfect form to welcome you this summer. And, if you want to make a weekend of it, we have plenty of lodging, dining, and outdoor activities to keep you busy!