I had never been to Massawepie Mire, so when a friend suggested it as a great place for a spring hike, I was ready for a new adventure.
It is only ten minutes northwest of downtown Tupper Lake. The only real challenge in spring hiking is to choose trails that drain early, for easy walking and to avoid damaging the environment. The spring clouds became a lavender backdrop, the kind that gives a delicate, evenly distributed light for interesting pictures.
This tract was once the site of the famous resort hotel known as Childwold Park House. From 1890 to 1909, this was a destination for well-off guests from all over the world, who arrived via carriages from its own Childwold Railroad Station, near Conifer. The estate was then sold to a wealthy lumber family, until 1951, when the former Otetiana Council, Boy Scouts of America, purchased it for their scouts to use. During summer camping season for the Scouts, from mid-June to the end of August, the complex is closed to the public.
After signing in at the trail register, I went over the simple rules: hiking only (no fishing or hunting), park in designated areas, and of course, pack it in and pack it out. One little bonus is the Porta-Potties scattered among the complex as we set out — the first reason we count this locale as a great choice for hiking with children. But there are plenty more.
The complex is accessed via a seasonal road punctuated with parking spots and mysterious footpaths. Park and explore.
Alternately, a person could go on a longer hike by walking the road and trying out different trails from it. Either way, it is a hike filled with interesting variations and lots of birdsong. This is a popular birding destination, too.
There are multiple water bodies throughout the preserve, each with its own charms. In addition, the forests themselves range from flat paths through mixed birch and evergreens to steep hillsides with abundant rocks.
Be patient as you walk along, because the footpaths along the slopes usually end up with lovely views of a lake. Don't try to make your way down; the leaves can cover holes and hide rocks.
Since this is a place where Scouts learn woodcraft, the paths can have signs or colored blocks marking the different trails, especially where two of them intersect - though some of the trails are mysteriously unnamed. Still, all of them I tried were broad and cleared, making it obvious it was a trail.
If in doubt; turn around. Make your way back over ground already covered, because then you will know where you will end up.
When you do get there - wherever there may be - it's sure to be spectacular. There are so many lakes and ponds in the preserve that it's fairly impossible not to run into some sooner or later. Each one has a charm of its own, like an interesting shoreline, a cute little island, a cluster of fallen logs with mushrooms, or dead trees with distant raptors sitting on top of them.
There is a wonderful serenity to be had from exploring the different trails. Then, often, the surprise of an element of civilization.
The hybrid nature of Massawepie's trails makes them especially suitable for introducing smaller children and non-hikers to the joys of nature. The paths reach a destination fairly quickly, and so the return to the parking area can happen quickly, too. You can drive slowly down the road (which is rough, and requires some attention) until everyone finds another interesting spot.
Some of them offer no clue to what you will find, while others are so short we can see their endpoint from the parking area.
Even though I have hiked in many kinds of Adirondack places, Massawepie was a new experience. The vast collection of different shorelines, forest types, and levels of terrain made choosing different trails a kind of treasure hunt. Some of them paid off quickly and some of them ended gloriously, and a few went on for long enough for me to lose interest before I reached the end... wherever that might be.
While I was comfy in a jacket and basic socks and shoes, the spring wind off the lakes was a little chilly. I had meant to grab a hat on my way out the door, but forgot. This is why I always keep an emergency hat in the car.
In this case, a fake fur with earflaps and the ability to tie it onto my head.
The comfort rule of spring hiking is that it is much easier to take off a layer than it is to wish there was another. I'm a big hat fan, while other people can find the key to their own satisfaction to be thick socks or those nifty flannel-lined jeans.
I had also brought boots with traction devices, but they turned out to be not needed at all. With the abundant rocky terrain and the steep slopes, all the trails were drained and dry.
I will return.
In other ADK spring news: