Adirondacks: Riley Ponds

Joined
Oct 5, 2012
Messages
197
Location
Genesee Valley, Western NY
Bushwhack to Riley Ponds
7/29-8/1/2013
Paul Conklin(Curtis Mayfly)

I have bushwhacked to just about all of the neighboring ponds but somehow the Rileys have eluded my visit, they were always beyond the constraints of my time and energy. Close to the geographic center of the Five Ponds Wilderness and separated by only a ¼ mile, it was time to target the Rileys.

My approach would be from the west, starting at the end ofthe public access on Bear Pond Road and using the Middle Branch Oswegatchie and Sand Lake Outlet as my corridor of travel. This route is only a 60/40 mix between paddle and carry. Little of the Middle Branch is canoeable and there are three sets of rapids on the outlet, they require agile rock hopping abilities but the final stretch, above the last rapid, is a very enjoyable way to arrive atSand Lake.

I paddled across the lake to the northern shore where there was once a long sand beach about 20 feet wide. Rising lake levels and encroaching vegetation have consumed what gave this lake its name; no sandcastles will be built on the beach anytime soon. There is a lean-to back in the woods. It was refurbished in 2007 and is in very good condition but I was amazed at the accumulation of junk that has occurred in the last 6 years. Most of it from well meaning campers, who believe, they are leaving something of use for those who follow. A note to whoever left the soiled underpants, they did not fit.

My goal for the day was to get within comfortable striking distance of the Rileys. Sand was closebut an hour of bushwhacking up its eastern inlet would gain extra time for the next days trek to the Rileys. I found a suitable place to camp near the confluence of the outlets of Sitz and Riley Ponds. I cooked supper and retired early enough to avoid an onslaught of evening mosquitoes.

I studied aerial imagery available on the internet. I knew the Riley outlet passed through several clearings, terrain I prefer when bushwhacking with a canoe. Vegetation in these meadows was thick; I did not carry the canoe here, as it was easier to drag behind on the soft carpet of grass. The worst hazard in crossing abeaver meadow might be sinking knee-deep into a hidden hole of muck, much preferred to a chin banging, eye poking thrash through the woods. Between the clearings, there were periods of very slow progress. It helped to live in the moment, to realize my condition was by choice, and that there was no place I would rather be. Interjecting choice expletives at necessary moments was also helpful. After 2½ hours of Zen-cursing I found myself floating on the first of the Rileys, at that moment there truly was, no place I'd rather be. Another beautiful pond was checked off my list. A quarter mile of eyepoking, uphill terrain, and I bagged the second Riley. It was every bit as lovely as the first. I believe there is no better way to appreciate the allure of a wilderness setting than from the seat of a canoe.

My return to the confluence camp was much quicker; I knew what things to avoid and fewer expletives were required. There was enough daylight to make a return to Sitz Pond. My previous visit was in 1973 when I was 16 years old. Forty years had passed but when scrambling up the outlet every rock and waterfall was familiar. The pond was as I left it. The setting sun did not allow time to dawdle; I took a photo and retraced my steps to camp. I beat the mosquitoes again and was within the netted sanctuary of my hammock by 7:00pm.

I slept well and was about the chores of breaking camp hours before sun-up. I enjoy sitting in darkness coddling a cup of coffee, listening to the sounds of the night as much as anything I do when camping. There was enough daylight to start the bushwhack back to Sand by 5:30. There was no avoiding a thorough soaking from the dew-laden grass. I sure could have used an extra pair of underpants by the time I reached Sand. If anyone would like to leave a (clean) pair at the lean-to, I require a size 32 waist.

I decided to extend my adventuring with a hike to Wolf Pond. I saw the potential to bag another pond with a bushwhack to Lone Duck. The section of Wolf Pond Outlet used to reach Lone Duck would be virgin territory for me. Before commencing with the trek to Wolf, I made another circumnavigation of Sand to enjoy the early morning calm and to take a few pictures. I left Sand shortly after 8 o'clock. It was a little over amile to Wolf and my polypropylene underwear had completely dried before I arrived. I will cancel the order for a size 32 to be left at the lean-to but thanks anyway.

I was eager to begin the exploration of the outlet but thought it best to establish a camp before doing so. I erected my tarp near the site of the shelter, packed a lunch and was off for a day of adventure. Wolf Pond Outlet begins at the terminus of the western bay of Wolf, a beaver dam here is over a hundred yards in length. Below the dam, tannin stained water flows in a deep, meandering channel down a wide valley. It was the type of paddling I enjoy the most and where the Mayfly is best suited. I tried to judge distance and pick a spot where I might be aligned with Lone Duck, which was somewhere just over the ridge. Ultimately, a deer path had the most influence on where I chose to begin the ascent. I figured the pond was on the other side of the hill and if I got to the top, I would see it. The view from the top of the ridge was minimal. I descended the other side and first walked SW to make sure I hadn't over shot my target, no pond was detected. I then turned to the NE certain that Lone Duck lie ahead.

I soon encountered a small, flat field that was rather curious to me. A large birch tree on the perimeter had spread its crown into the sunlight of the field. There was a gentle breeze and a cool shade under the outstretched branch. The field itself supported mainly goldenrod and ferns but no tree saplings. It was a pastoral setting in the middle of a forest. If it had been a Sunday afternoon I suspect there would have been a young couple courting under the tree... a wicker basket, fried chicken, and wine laid out on a gingham ground spread. It was close enough to lunchtime that I elected to have my own private picnic. My basket contained only spam and dried fruit, the ground spread was a soiled bandana but I was able to wile away some pleasurable moments watching the ferns grow. I deduced the area was prone to seasonal or intermittent flooding that wouldn't allow young trees to take hold. I tried not to deduce too much but simply enjoyed the forest pasture.

When I resumed the NE wandering, Lone Duck was soon encountered and another pond of the Five Ponds was scratched off my list. It was worthy of a circumnavigation and I set about the task but when I reached the SE side my attention was drawn back to the ridge. I was walking amongst giants. Large White Pines that towered above their neighbors. I did not detect any record-breaking girth but sensed that these trees might be taller than others I have encountered. It was shaping up to be a wonderful day of adventure.

It took some reconnoitering to find my way back to the canoe. It was easy to locate the pond but finding a 12 foot, green canoe lying in the grass caused some anxious moments. The adventure resumed by continuing the paddle down the outlet. I may have gotten close to Big Five but waning daylight forced a turnaround before I could see it. It will give me areason to come back. My return to the camp was timely. I cooked a pot of stroganoff, a small fire in front of the shelter kept the biten' bastards at bay.

I was again up early and ready to depart before sunrise. The plan was to return to Sand for more exploration. I hadn't yet put the canoe into nearby Rock Lake. Most of the morning was spent becoming intimately acquainted with all of Rock's islands and bays. Rock is a really beautiful lake! I was doing some terrestrial scouting of the isthmus between the two lakes when it started to rain. It was 11:00 am and I made a decision to return to the Bear Pond Road. Instead of paddling down the outlet and its tenuous rock hopping, I elected to shoulder the canoe and hike the whole distance to the Middle Branch via the Rock Pond trail. During a downpour portaging a canoe is a good place to be.

It was early afternoon when I got back to the truck. The first order of business was a change of clothes and then a cold beer... no, it was the other way around, that's right, I get confused because I had a second beer after I changed. I decided it was time to head for home. It had been my plan to leave in the morning anyway. On my way out I made stops to scout various trailheads and make notations on the map. I believe Kelley Pond is in the Five Ponds Wilderness and should be added to my list. I don't have a map that depicts detail of the Wilderness and State Forest Boundaries.

Photos: https://picasaweb.google.com/conk46er/TheRileysSitzLoneDuck729812013#
 
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G

Guest

Guest
Not bad for a grizzled old man.

Paul, again your trips give us inspiration, not necessarily to do what you have done, but to go out and do something! Glad you made it to the park!

PS the underwear humor was a nice touch.
 
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G

Guest

Guest
Thanks for sharing another pond hopping trip Conk. Your trip reports and photos confirm to me that small and intimate places often hold great and beautiful treasures.
I’m another advocate of poly long johns in all seasons. They’re quick dry and comfy. Under shorts they may be odd to see, but I’m happy with my fashion statements.
I also like a handy little compass. At first I thought it might be cheap and gimmicky, but gosh it works well!
I can swear in 2 languages, but Zen cursing might take me to another plane of other worldly 4 letter words. Cool.
I’ve never bushwhacked before whilst canoeing, so you’ve taken me beyond my tripping comfort zone. I like that.
Those hidden ponds look like peaceful places. A perfect escape.
Many thanks,
Brad
 
G

Guest

Guest
I can swear in 2 languages, but Zen cursing might take me to another plane of other worldly 4 letter words. Cool.
I’ve never bushwhacked before whilst canoeing, so you’ve taken me beyond my tripping comfort zone. I like that.

I suspect not many of us possess the tool kit of obscenities necessary to bushwhack with a canoe. The Conk is a unique breed.

I saw no pipe or cigar in the pictures. Given up the leaf? My quest with that led me to some sub-level of Zen swears not to mention extra mass and higher blood pressure...
 
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Joined
Dec 7, 2011
Messages
425
Location
Maryland, USA
Thanks for sharing, Paul. Looked like a great trip. It was nice meeting you and chatting at the WPA Solo rendezvous>
Regards,
Dave
 
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