As snowflakes begin to fly I scout new ski destinations.
The new state property purchased from The Nature Conservancy is naturally calling for exploration so last week I hiked to the Cedar River.
The trail leaves from the new parking area at the north end of the Essex Chain Road in Indian Lake into land now called the Indian River Tract. The trail is actually the road used for years by members of the Gooley Club that is now open to the public for non-motorized use. The Department of Environmental Conservation has marked parking areas and put up a trail register and is placing provisional trail signs until final classification is decided at the APA.
The road into the Cedar River is a perfect novice-level hike and will make a great ski trip. Because it is a dirt road, the surface is mostly flat and is wide enough to walk side by side with fellow hikers. The route rolls gently north past a number of turnoffs that once led to log landings or other backcountry intersections. As we hiked we met four hunters, walking the road on their way in or out of the woods. I liked the feeling that I was traveling an old-time highway, when only walkers or small-wheeled carts could pass. It seemed normal and friendly to greet other outdoorsmen, all of us sharing the road with the coyotes and deer whose tracks were everywhere.
About a mile along the road we reached the Outer Gooley Club. The old farmhouse dates back to 1928 and overlooks the Hudson River just above the confluence with the Indian River. The farmhouse is a testament to Olive and Mike Goelet (Gooley) who located their farm there in the late 1800s.
From a subsistence farm they turned the site into a boarding house for log drivers who were cutting timber and sending it downriver. Although slated to be removed as the land is incorporated into the Forest Preserve, the current farmhouse may be protected as a historic structure. Several smaller sheds have already been removed.
From the Outer Gooley the road continues rolling through a forest that — for decades, even centuries — was cut for timber. The woods seem as robust as ever, with a variety of species and age classes typical of a retired working forest. The proximity of the nearby rivers made transporting logs possible and the network of dirt roads probably date back a long time. This network, although perfect for hiking or skiing now, will need commitment and money to maintain. Beavers have already flooded a small section that will probably not improve without the road services provided by former leaseholders.
After a few miles, a DEC sign indicates a small path to the Cedar River. The sign has already been well commented on by the local wildlife — at least one bear has taken a good-sized bite out of it. The path leads to a quiet spot that epitomizes Adirondack riverbanks — peaceful, wild and beautiful. A bald eagle lifted off the far shoreline as we arrived. There being just a small break in the shrubs to note the river’s edge, we watched the water flow by and returned to the road.
On our return we detoured to a stunning little pond to the west called Clear Pond and down to a new take out from the Hudson where ambitious paddlers coming from the north can get off the river. There is lots of land to explore and snow will make the going smoother.
Elizabeth Lee is a licensed guide who lives in Westport. She leads recreational and educational programs focused in the Champlain Valley throughout the year. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.