A Remote Cross-Country Ski
The wide, road-sized Leonard Pond Trail is a wonderful place to cross-country ski. Like so many hidden gems in the Adirondacks, there is no trailhead sign. The trail can be found by driving 2.5 miles north on Route 56 from the Route 3 – Route 56 intersection. The trailhead is on the left (western) side of the road. Directly across on the right is the start of the short trail to Jamestown Falls on the Raquette River (also unmarked).
I arrived at the trailhead in the early afternoon on a snowy, cold day. The snow was thigh-deep and unconsolidated. I couldn’t step up in my skis, so I built a snow-step. Surprisingly, it appeared that no one had skied the trail yet this winter. So I began to break the trail in snow so deep that I couldn’t see my skis! I considered abandoning, but I am extremely determined, and put that thought out of mind.
I heard a Pileated Woodpecker foraging nearby, and saw the clear signs of its work on one of the trees.
There are a few small hills at the beginning of the ski, and the rest of the trail is level. The largest hill had a huge fallen Red Pine across it about halfway up. There was no way around it, so I struggled through it.
The trail begins in mostly boreal habitat, and after about one-third of a mile a forest of tall Red Pines is reached. This is where the trail levels out.
When there is a good cone crop on the Red Pines, beautiful Red Crossbills can often be found nesting here in winter. (This winter they are nesting in White Pines, which have a great cone crop.)
There is a nice designated camping site nestled among the Red Pines.
The Red Pine forest ends abruptly at a younger White Pine forest.
This habitat continues until a “T” intersection is reached at about 1 mile. To continue the ski on state land, go left. (A right turn leads to private property.) The short, steep foot trail down to scenic Leonard Pond is directly across. I decided to ski down to the pond on my way back, so I headed left.
I used to lead Northern New York Audubon field trips on this trail each winter, and after the first mile, the trail was groomed for snowmobiles. There are private camps far in past the state land and this seemed to be the way in for most camp owners. But this winter, the road was not groomed and there was no sign that any snowmobiles had used the road. So I continued to break the trail to the end of state land reached at 2.5 miles.
The quiet solitude along this remote trail was lovely!
The habitat from the intersection is mixed forest, and becomes more boreal as you continue. Black-backed Woodpeckers, Gray Jays, and Boreal Chickadees can all be found in the boreal sections. On this day, I did not encounter these species, but I did find Hairy Woodpeckers, Common Ravens, Black-capped Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Brown Creepers, and Golden-crowned Kinglets.
The End of the Trail
As I neared the end of state land, I could hear the distant sounds of snowmobiles in the direction of the remote camps. So there must be an alternative way in than the Leonard Pond Trail.
After skiing 2.5 miles, the state land border is reached. It is well marked with yellow paint blazes on the trees.
In case you miss the yellow blazes, just past the state land border is a metal gate marking the beginning of the private club lands.
At the turn-around spot, my hands began to go numb from the cold. I took out my hand-warmers but found my hands were too numb to open the plastic. My teeth worked to open the package and soon I had wonderful little heaters inside my mittens. Hand and foot warmers are invaluable inventions!
The ski out was a bit easier on my snow-plowed trail through two feet of snow. I envied anyone coming in after me having my broken trail to follow.
I had enough light to ski the side foot trail down to Leonard Pond on my way back. I managed to get down the steep section without falling!
There is a lovely camping site on the shore of Leonard Pond at the end of the foot trail.
Common Loons can be found here in the spring, summer, and fall. We have also observed River Otters at the pond.
I skied the last mile with just enough light left in the day. According to my car, it was 15 degrees.
The Leonard Pond Trail is a lovely place to hike outside of winter also. It is quiet, remote, and tranquil. In the spring, it fills with nesting birds in a kaleidoscope of colors and songs. In the fall, it is a popular hunting location.