Sargent Ponds Wild Forest

On July 1st I woke early with my car already packed I was rolling north under a rising sun. Windows down and the cool morning air gave me a bit of a chill. The sun slowly creeped higher along with my cars thermometer. I arrived in Old Forge for breakfast at 0800, sitting myself down at the counter of Walt’s Diner.

After breakfast I still had another 50 miles to go in order to reach the Sargent Ponds Wild Forest and the trailhead for Upper Sargent Pond. Here I would meet my friend Gary Sharp from Schenectady and we would carry our canoes 1.25 miles into the pond. Upper Sargent Pond is relatively big and the information I can find says it is 131 acres. I personally find it hard to believe as I think it is much larger.

All signed in at the register we’re off. Immediately a rag tag gang of black flies, deer flies and who knows what else began to chase us. Up, down, over, hot, humid with a touch of mud thrown in for good measure, Gary and I would slug it out with Mother Nature. It would take us 32 minutes to reach the shore of the pond and our band of outlaws had given up. Upon laying my eyes on this remote Adirondack wilderness, I was in awes. The pond was beautiful, the water like glass.

Gary and I would take a few minutes to organize our things, change our shoes and set off for a day of canoeing. Only after a few minutes of being on the water Gary had a line in and almost immediately reeled in a beautiful large mouth bass. Suddenly a Loon popped up right next to us, quickly diving back under the water only to reemerge again close by, our escort would stay with us for a while. As I approached a small island I realized why Mr. Loon had been so interested in us. Mrs. Loon was tending to her nest and eggs. We made sure to give her plenty of space.

Paddling and chatting Gary had mentioned that there were several campsites scattered around that had canoes stashed there as well. We came upon another island this one with a campsite and canoes. We beached and got out to explore. The site was on a hill in the center and I climbed to the top. Peering down I noticed one of the canoes was stenciled “Payne’s”. It immediately struck me “Payne’s Air Service”. on Seventh lake in Inlet. Payne’s flies customers into this remote pond for camping and fishing. I had hoped to see a float plane land on the upper pond.

With my new discovery fresh in my head Gary and I moved into another portion of the pond and all you could hear were the birds chirping the day away and the plunking of Gary’s fishing lure breaking the placid water. Off in the distance I notice two other humans fishing out of a canoe. I said to Gary I bet you Payne’s flew them in here this morning. I was excited as I wanted to know when they would return to pick them up. So I paddled over toward them to start a conversation. I introduced myself to this couple and they were extremely friendly. I had asked if they had flown in for the day. They said they had flew in on Saturday and were camping until Thursday when the plane would return to pick them up. I was intrigued!

As the day wore on and the temperature reached close to 95 degrees it was beginning to be lunch time. Gary and I found another campsite along the shore where we thought it would be a perfect spot to eat, swim and test some gear. I was sporting a brand new life vest which was so comfortable plus I had a new dehydrated meal I wanted to try. Gary had a twig stove that he had wanted to use as well. I fired up my Jetboil, poured the boiling water in my Good To-Go “Smoked 3 Bean Chili”. While my meal rehydrated it was time for a quick swim to cool off, man did that feel good!

Gary and I sat and had lunch, chatted away and enjoyed a cold beer. After it was time for another quick swim before getting back in our boats. Continuing on there still was barely any breeze and the water was still placid and the mountains were quiet. All of a sudden we hear this thundering loud crashing noise and our minds begun to race. Did a moose just plunk its hot self down into the water to cool off? We turned our boats rapidly as the sound was behind us only to find the water still calm and no moose. We thought to ourselves what the heck was that, suddenly realizing we had just answered the age old question of “What sounds does a tree make when it falls”.

Shortly after our revelation we noticed two hikers had come to the pond to swim. We made our way over to chat with them as it was getting later in the afternoon and we would have to pack up and head back out on the trail. After talking with them for a bit it was time to head back into the woods. This time would be bug free!

Once back to our cars and all our gear reloaded it was time for a celebratory beer before Gary and I parted ways. On my way out I stopped at the popular and beautiful Buttermilk Falls along the Raquette river. From the parking area this is a very short walk and a great lunch stop as well. There are several picnic tables to sit and enjoy as there are many rocks as well.

Today was a 16 hour 433 mile amazing adventure in a beautiful area of the Adirondacks.

Beginning our journey as we signed into the Upper Sargent Pond trailhead July 1st 2018, © Joe Geronimo
Gary & I making our way along the Upper Sergant Pond trail Long Lake, NY July 1st 2018, © Joe Geronimo
Gary & I making our way along the Upper Sergant Pond trail Long Lake, NY July 1st 2018, © Joe Geronimo
Almost immediately of plunking his lure into the water Gary landed this beauty of a large mouth bass. Upper Sargent Pond Long Lake, NY July 1st 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
A beautiful summer day on Upper Sargent Pond Long Lake, NY July 1st 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
Gary and I exploring Upper Sargent Pond Long Lake, NY July 1st 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
I just finished chatting with the couple who had flown in to camp and fish for several days on Upper Sargent Pond Long Lake, NY July 1st 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
Gary paddles under stunning views of the Adirondack mountains on Upper Sargent Pond Long Lake, NY July 1st 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
It was time to cool off before lunch in Upper Sargent Pond Long Lake, NY July 1st 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
Lunch time on Upper Sargent Pond Long Lake, NY July 1st 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
Beer O’ Clock on Upper Sargent Pond Long Lake, NY July 1st 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
The end of our adventure on Upper Sargent Pond Long Lake, NY July 1st 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
The Raquette river is so peaceful. Shot from the canoe carry for Buttermilk Falls Long Lake, NY July 1st 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
The Raquette river spills over the beautiful Buttermilk Falls Long Lake, NY July 1st 2018, © Joe Geronimo.

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Cuomo Announces Approval Of Adirondack Rail-Trail Plan

As George the cranky steam roller from the Thomas the Tank Engine series says “Tear them up and turn them into roads” but in this case trails. I’ll be honest, I agree with this plan. I work in the rail industry, however I enjoy the outdoors. The original plan was to remove the rails from Big Moose to Lake Placid. Now the rails will only be removed from Lake Placid to Tupper Lake a distance of 35 miles rather than about sixty or so.

I believe that if the rails were to stay and the entire line be restored to active service it would boom until the nostalgia wore off. Who knows maybe I am wrong? I do believe a rail trail will draw more visitors than the railroad. Right now in America the “Rail Trail” boom is booming and they continue to grow in popularity. I guess only time will tell if this was the right decision.

Below is the story by Phil Brown  of the http://www.adirondackalmanack.com

Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday announced approval of a controversial plan to remove state-owned railroad tracks between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake to create a 34-mile multi-use trail. In addition, the state is committed to restoring 45 miles of tracks between Big Moose and Tupper Lake.

The governor’s announcement is a victory for Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates (ARTA) and a defeat for the Adirondack Scenic Railroad (ASR), which operates a tourist train on a 10-mile stretch of tracks that will be removed. Later in the day, ASR revealed that it recently filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court seeking to save the tracks.

ARTA President Joe Mercurio, who lives in Saranac Lake, said he was thrilled by the governor’s announcement. “ARTA and a great many others have worked long and hard for this,” he said. “Governor Cuomo deserves a huge round of applause for his support. It was the right thing to do.”

The trail would be used by bicyclists, hikers, and others most of the year and by snowmobilers in the winter.

In a news release Tuesday afternoon, the governor’s office said the trail will be finished within three years, at a cost of $8 million. The line south of Tupper Lake will be rehabilitated within the same period, at a cost of $15 million.

“By rehabilitating the railway and building a scenic trail, we are better utilizing the corridor and its surrounding lands to create more economic and recreational opportunities for residents and visitors alike,” Cuomo said.

One argument for removing the tracks was that the ASR train that runs between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid does little for the local economy. ARTA and many local officials contend that a recreational trail will attract more tourists.

If the tracks are removed, ASR will have to shut down the Lake Placid train. Also, Rail Explorers USA, a rail-bike operation that started last year in Saranac Lake, will have to relocate.

ASR will still be able to run trains out of Old Forge and eventually extend its excursions all the way to Tupper Lake. The Old Forge train is seen as more successful than the Lake Plaid train.

However, it’s not certain ASR will continue to be the rail operator in the corridor. The state plans to solicit bids for a rail operator.

The entire state-owned rail corridor extends 119 miles from Remsen to Lake Placid and is managed by the state Department of Transportation. The updated management plan for the corridor was drafted by DOT and the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which will oversee the construction and maintenance of the recreational trail.

DEC officials said Tuesday that track removal could begin as early as December or, if not then, in the spring. ASR and Rail Explorers can continue to operate on the tracks through November.

Supporters of the railroad have argued, among other things, that removing the tracks would violate the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. They also point out that the corridor and the tracks are on the state and national registers of historic places.

In February, after the Adirondack Park Agency approved the rail-trail plan, ASR started a campaign to raise $100,000 for a legal fight. As of late March, it said it had raised about $40,000.

Bill Branson, president of the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society, which operates ASR, said in a news release late Tuesday afternoon that the railroad recently filed a lawsuit against DEC and the APA. “We are an important driver of tourism in the Adirondacks, and we cannot understand why DEC is determined to destroy vital transportation infrastructure and the only operator on that infrastructure,” he said.

Steve Engelhart of Adirondack Architectural Heritage also criticized the decision. “We are disappointed by the governor’s announcement, as we feel that the railroad advocates made a strong case for the preservation of the entire 119-mile rail corridor for its economic, social, and cultural value,” Engelhart said. “In addition to destroying a significant section of this National Register-listed historic resource, this decision will shut down a successful local business, Adirondack Rail Explorers, and eliminate the northern operations of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, a popular attraction for area visitors with thousands of riders every year.”

In addition to building a rail trail and fixing up old tracks, the state intends to:

  • Build snowmobile trails near the corridor to connect Tupper Lake and Old Forge and improve snowmobile connections between the Adirondacks and Tug Hill.
  • Evaluate the feasibility of a hut-to-hut cross-country ski trail from Beaver River to Horseshoe Lake.
  • Establish railway stops for visitors and outdoor recreationists.
  • Consult with the State Historic Preservation Office to mitigate the impacts of removing the rails.
Adirondack Scenic Railroad "Railroader's Special" arrives the station at Big Moose, NY on September 24th 2015.
Adirondack Scenic Railroad arrives the station at Big Moose, NY, image © Joe Geronimo.