Monday, January 19, 2009

XC Skiing - Crane, Alder, and Goose Ponds

3 ponds, 5 miles, 3 hours. And what a glorious day to be out! There was a new snowfall covering everything, like a sugar coating.

Access to these ponds is from the end of the plowed portion of Crane Pond Road, north of Schroon Lake. This road has a long history of conflict between wilderness advocates and local residents. The problem is that the land beyond the end of the winter plowing is classified as state wilderness, with no motor vehicle access allowed. But it wasn't always this way, and back in the early 1990s, locals resented the fact that their motorized access to the pond and boat launch within had been taken away. The entire story is available here, for as long as that link remains active. The road is no longer officially maintained or plowed beyond the wilderness boundary, and makes a very nice ski route to the ponds 1.9 miles further in.

We first skied to Crane Pond, following the old road all the way. There was a snowshoe trench up the middle that made for very easy skiing. Shortly after we started, we passed this scene as we crossed the outlet of Alder Pond on the road:

After taking in the views at Crane Pond and talking with some snowshoers relaxing there, we crossed its outlet on a small bridge that had a nice view back over the pond.

Our hope was to ski along the south shore of Alder Pond until we reached the Goose Pond trail. But the water levels proved to be too high, and there was open water visible, so we opted to backtrack to the start of the Goose Pond trail along the road instead.

On the way back, we stopped for a nice view of Pharoah Mountain (2533') across Alder Pond.

The trail to Goose Pond is a hiking trail, as opposed to the road we had been on so far. It had been snowshoed, so was easy to follow, but some of the ups, downs, twists, and turns would prove interesting. It was only 0.6 miles from the closed road to the pond, but it was a very different experience. After removing our skis for one narrow bridge, and struggling up some tricky short pitches, we finally made it to the pond, which also has a nice view of Pharoah Mountain in the distance.

The return trip from the pond to the road was mostly downhill, and there was enough soft snow to make the twists and turns negotiable. Then came the bridge, which has a very nice view back up the Alder Pond outlet.

This outlet was running pretty good, and the bridge was narrow, with several uneven mounds of packed snow in the middle. It was a little tricky, but we made it this time with skis on. That's Holly on her knees crawling over one of the mounds, after discovering that those are NOT handrails along the sides.

The rest of the way back to the car was mostly gentle downhills along the road, and we were glad to see the parking lot. Hot chocolate was followed by the long drive home.

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