Sunday, January 28, 2024

Cross Country Skiing in Long Lake

Long Lake is a small village in the central Adirondacks that sits on its namesake lake. Several Wild Forests and Wilderness Areas surround Long Lake. Although not as mountainous as more traveled parts of the Adirondacks; low mountains, forests, and numerous bodies of water surround the area. The village also serves as a key resupply point and layover on the Northville Placid Trail. 

Although the most popular winter recreation around Long Lake seems to be focused on snowmobiling and ice fishing, I wanted to explore the cross country skiing in the area. After a week of snow and cold temperatures, I decided to check out a couple skiing opportunities before more rain fell later in the week. I hit the trail on Monday January 22nd.

Fresh tracks 

Three-Brook Ski Loop via the NPT

My first skiing destination was the Three-Brook Ski Loop. The loop is a designated back country ski trail on the east side of Long Lake. I began skiing from the Northville Placid Trail (NPT) trailhead on Route 28N about 1.5 east of town. Although the parking lot was plowed, I was surprised that nobody signed the register in 2 1/2 weeks.


The trip began skiing on the NPT for the first 1.9 miles. The conditions started out pretty rough for the first 1/4 mile or so. Several people postholed in the snow, leaving the trail pocked with ruts. The trail was also quite narrow. Fortunately, the people that left the postholes turned around fairly quickly. Beyond the human postholes, the trail was pretty pocked by deer tracks, which didn't help the skiing on the narrow trail. Apart from the deer traffic, only a faint set of old ski tracks were periodically visible on the trail beyond the first 1/4 mile. The old ski tracks were quite old and long filled in, and at times not visible at all. Within the first half-mile, the trail passed over several bog bridges. The snow wasn't quite deep enough to fully cover the bog bridges and crossing them was a little tricky since they were partially hidden.

Deer scratch

Even though NPT markers show the way, a few ski trail discs mark the way as well on the NPT. In the first mile, a couple of ski bypasses diverted from the NPT to avoid rough hills that would be difficult to negotiate on skis. While the ski bypasses avoided steeps, a lot of vegetation poked through on these bypasses. I'm assuming the ski bypasses see minimal maintenance and are prone to overgrowth. The snow wasn't quite deep enough to hide all the obstacles. 

Ski bypass sign

The trail widens as it turns onto an old skidder trail and eventually a wider old logging road. The skiing became a little easier on the wider trail. Progress was fairly slow as I broke over a foot of untouched snow. I was pleasantly surprised that the morning turned out sunny despite a forecast for clouds. I'm glad I brought my sunglasses.

Old ski tracks are visible here

Skiing an old logging road

Just under two miles from the trailhead, I reached the junction for the Three-Brook Ski Loop. The Three-Brook Ski Loop is a backcountry loop formed with the NPT and marked as a ski trail. As the name implies, the trail crosses over three brooks along the loop. The loop can be skied in either direction, but I chose to ski it counterclockwise, leaving the NPT at the first junction for the loop. 

First junction for the Three-Brook Loop

Large burl in a tree 

My fresh tracks

The first of the three brooks

My tracks crossing the bridge
over the first brook

Generally the ski loop trail runs wider than a typical hiking trail, but not as wide as a logging road. The loop travels through a mix of deciduous and coniferous forests. The loop has a few short hills, but generally covers pretty easy terrain. Given the deep, untracked snow, I never gained too much speed. A couple of blowdowns blocked the trail, but generally it was in pretty good shape. I found the trail to be enjoyable in the untouched snow. The loop rejoins the NPT at its south end.

Untracked snow ahead

Heading into a narrow section of the loop

Back on the NPT, the skiing went a little faster. The NPT generally heads downhill as it makes its way back to the start of the loop. I was still breaking snow, but the slight downhill sped up my progress. After a mile or so I was back at the start of the loop. 

The upper junction of the NPT and the loop

Untouched snow along the NPT

Deer tracks on the NPT

The last 1.9 miles retraced my tracks on the NPT back to the trailhead. The skiing went more quickly and efficiently following my earlier tracks and no longer breaking snow. The last half-mile or so was trickier as I negotiated the narrow ski bypasses and rougher sections with postholes.

Skiing through hemlocks

My route covered about 5.2 miles. Although the distance isn't too long, my pace was relatively slow as I broke over a foot of untouched snow for more than half the trip. I stopped for a quite a few pictures as well and it took about 2 1/2 hours to ski the route. Given a fairly snowy past week, I was surprised nobody skied it recently. I think the loop was a solid intermediate route. The trails never get too steep, but the earlier stretch of the NPT is fairly tight and could cause issues for a beginner not used to narrow trails. I found the loop and enjoyable ski. I always appreciate the forest, especially hardwoods, under a cover of untouched snow

Big Brook Loop

I wrapped up the Three-Brook Ski Loop just after noon. I wanted to ski a little more and decided to check out a route called the Big Brook Loop. The Big Brook Loop begins just a few miles north of Long Lake at the Lake Eaton Campground. The 4.2 mile loop travels in the forest on the north side of Lake Eaton. Despite its name, the trail doesn't actually get that close to Big Brook, which lies just to the north of the loop.

Unlike the Three-Brook Loop, the Big Brook Loop utilizes snowmobile trails for its entirety. Snowmobile trails can be hit or miss for skiing. Snowmobiles can chew up trails, and if too busy, the noise can take away from the experience. Since it was an early afternoon on a Monday, I was hoping the snowmobile traffic would be at a minimum.

I parked at the end campground access road right at Route 30. The trail begins on the opposite side of the road. The first .8 my followed a connector snowmobile trail that wasn't too wide. The connector trail didn't look to traveled. It moved over fairly easy, rolling terrain in a nice mix of forest.

Start of the Big Brook Loop

Following snowmobile tracks 

The first stretch was narrow for a
snowmobile trail

Small trees in the hardwood forest

Trail through the hardwood forest

I reached a junction at .8 miles for a more heavily trafficked trail, State Snowmobile Route C7B. (Snowmobile maps use these letter/number names for the trails) The snow was a little chewed up from heavy weekend use. This trail was wider than the connector, more like a dirt road. This trail eventually parallels Route 30 for a short distance. Dense trees hide the road for the most part and I only heard a couple large trucks over the sound of my skis gliding through the snow. The stretch that runs adjacent to the road was actually pretty with large, stately white pines lining the trail. After a mile C7B, I crossed Route 30 onto trail S86.

On the main snowmobile trail (C7B)

A pretty corridor through large pines

The S86 trail was much less chewed up and skied quite nicely through a predominately hardwoods forest. I soon reached a junction with a trail register.  The main S86 route continued to right. I turned left on a trail that appeared to have only one snowmobile track and a set of snowshoe tracks. This trail heads to the north end of Lake Eaton and the campground.

On the lesser traveled snowmobile trail (S86)

The trail leading to the campground had a pretty thin base of snow. I was surprised to see several sections of open water spanning the trail. All of the sections of open water were easy to bypass or step over. I soon reached the northern end of Lake Eaton.

I was surprised to find open water on the trail
after a cold week

The trail doesn't lead directly to the shore of Lake Eaton, though it's visible a short distance through the trees. I traveled a 100 feet or so to the edge of the lake to get a better look. There's a good view over the lake of the nearby mountains. Owl's Head dominates the view.

Looking east over Lake Eaton

Owl’s Head over Lake Eaton

After checking out the lake, I rejoined the trail and quickly reached the campground. The last 1/4 mile or so travels through the campground. After passing the first stretch of campsites, I reached the beach and boat ramp area of the campground. There is an excellent view of Owl's Head from the beach. From the beach, I finished up my loop skiing on the snow covered driveway into the campground.

Zoomed in view of Owl’s Head from
beach at the campground

The Big Brook Loop runs just over 4 miles. Even though it utilizes snowmobile trails for its entirety, I didn't cross paths with a single snowmobile on a Monday afternoon. The only other people I saw were a couple of ice fisherman on Lake Eaton. Since the trail was packed down by snowmobile traffic, the 4 miles went by quickly. I didn't even take an hour to ski the loop. 

I thought the Big Brook Loop was a nice little trip. I definitely wouldn't recommend skiing it on the weekend when a lot of snowmobiles are in the area, but midweek, it was a pleasant ski through the forest. Although snowmobiles can make the trails a little rough, I think the loop would be a safe bet for a novice skier.


While Long Lake isn’t usually brought up in conversations about Adirondack cross country skiing, there are certainly some good options. While these two trips are quite different from each other, I had fun on both loops. My two outings covered a total of 9-10 miles of enjoyable skiing. While I have skied more impressive trails in other parts of the Adirondacks, I certainly won’t complain about having these two outings to myself on a nice January day. 

Fresh tracks in a mixed forest

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Sunday, January 21, 2024

Jenkins Mountain

2,513-foot Jenkins Mountain rises in the northern Adirondacks near Paul Smiths College. The unassuming mountain stands as the high point of the Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) trail system. With nearly no snow on the ground January 2nd, I wanted to get in a hike since cross country skiing was out of the question. I wanted to take Choya along but and wasn't looking for a terribly long or difficult hike. Although I have hiked Jenkins before, it seemed like it a good hike for the day.

Two trailheads can be used to reach the trail up Jenkins. Probably the more common route accesses the mountain from the VIC. Usually in the winter, the VIC trails are groomed for cross country skiing and require a trail fee (no fee out of the ski season). Even though it was January, the trails were probably lacking enough snow for skiing or snowshoeing after rain and warm temperatures in late December. 

A second trailhead along Keese Mills Road provides another route to Jenkins via the Black Pond Trail. Although still on the VIC property, these trails aren't groomed and avoid the busier, main VIC area. I used this route to start my hike both times I have been to Jenkins.
Although the forecast called for clearing skies, low clouds covered the sky on the morning January 2nd. When I left my house, only a fine dusting of snow covered the ground. By the time I reached the trailhead, about an inch covered the ground with bare ground under the canopy of the coniferous trees. A previous hiker, tracked down the little bit of snow that covered the ground.

Black Pond Outlet near the trailhead

The route follows close to water for the first part of the hike. Initially along the outlet of Black Pond,  the trail soon reaches Black Pond. A lean to sits on the shore of Black Pond less than a half-mile from the trailhead. (all lean tos on the VIC property require a reservation to use) The outlet still remained unfrozen, but the pond itself was covered in ice.

Open water on Black Pond Outlet

The lean to by Black Pond

Black Pond from the lean to

Choya enjoying the view over Black Pond on
a previous hike when it wasn't frozen

The trail often travels just a few feet from Black Pond. At the north end of the pond, the Black Pond Trail turns right and continues around the pond and passes another lean to. I continued straight on the Long Pond Trail. Just beyond the junction, I soon reached the southern end of Long Pond.

Choya on a bog bridge

Choya following the shore of Black Pond

The Long Pond trail follows its namesake body of water. Another lean sits on the shore of Long Pond.
As its name implies, Long Pond is a skinny pond that is much longer than it is wide. The Long Pond Trail travels just over a half-mile before reaching its northern end at a junction on a wider woods road.

View from the south end of Long Pond

From the right, the woods road comes in from the main VIC trailhead and cross country trails. Turning left, the trail heads toward Jenkins Mountain. The woods road quickly fades into a trail as it travels between a beaver bog at the base of Jenkins and a large esker.

View over Long Pond by the lean to

Hiking along the woods road

Part of Jenkins visible above the beaver bog

View across the beaver bog

After passing the last remnants of the beaver bog, the trail turns toward Jenkins. The trail takes an indirect route winding around the south side of Jenkins. A light snow began to fall as I made my way up the trail. The snow on the ground grew deeper as I gained elevation. The last remnants of foot prints from previous hikers disappeared part way up the mountain. By the time I reached the summit, 3-4 inches covered the trail. Although the trail was generally pretty easy to follow, I had to pay attention a few spots to make sure I stayed on track. This isn't a problem when the ground is snowless however. 

Despite gaining around 900' from the trailhead, the climbing never seems to steep. The trail even loses some elevation when it departs from the beaver bog. The few inches of snow provided a greater challenge than the actual elevation gain. The snow was just deep enough to hide the rocks, roots, and ice; but not deep enough to pass over the obstacles. You never knew what you would trip or slip on just under the fine snow. 

The trail ends at a rock outcropping with open 180-degree views to the south. Unfortunately, low clouds and snow left me with pretty limited views. I could still see some of the lakes and ponds nearby in the valley, but the mountains in the area hid behind clouds. 

Besides a few ponds, not much to see from Jenkins
on this day

I traveled most of the hike in the cover of the woods with pretty tranquil conditions. At the summit clearing, wind blasted the mountain, making for an uncomfortable windchill. It was close to 30F, but the wind definitely felt unpleasant. With little to see I began my hike back down after just a few minutes. 

Choya on Jenkins

View on a previous hike with better visibility
toward the High Peaks

Another view from the summit on a better day

Whiteface on the left on a previous hike to Jenkins

Back in the cover of the woods, I enjoyed the forest scenery. It's hard not to appreciate the forest under snow cover, especially when it’s untouched and you have it to yourself. I broke from the trail at one point to get a closer look at a large ice flow on a cliffside. The short diversion was well worth it to get a close up look at the 20-foot tall ice flow.

Enjoying the snowy forest

Ice flow on a cliff

Choya waiting patiently 

As I returned back to the end of the beaver bog, I left the trail. Long Pond lies just a few hundred yards from the beaver bog on the other side of a steep esker. I bushwhacked to the top of the esker. The west side of the esker isn't too steep, but the side closer to Long Pond is quite steep and overgrown. Once I reached the top of the esker, I followed the crest of the esker, which travels parallel to the pond. A herd path or old trail travels along the esker, allowing for pretty easy travel apart from a cluster of blowdowns that I had to bypass. Sticking to the crest of the esker, I reached the south end of Long Pond at a point where the esker drops off to the pond on a very shallow pitch. The little detour cuts off more than a mile of trail that I already hiked. Following the esker provided a more interesting route.

Hiking along the top of the esker

At the southern end of Long Pond, I was back on trail. I soon reached the shore of Black Pond and hiked out the last stretch back to the trailhead. I stopped a few times to appreciate the view over Black Pond which had some interesting patterns on the ice. 

Interesting patterns on the ice of Black Pond

My route to Jenkins Mountain traveled just shy of 7.5 miles roundtrip. Without the bushwhack over the esker, the hike would approach 9 miles. Hiking from the main VIC trailhead would also make for about a 9 mile hike. Although not overly difficult, I'd consider the hike to be moderate, given the distance. Hiking with snow on the ground makes the hike a little more difficult, but on snow free trails, the hike isn't too difficult if you're comfortable hiking 9 miles.  Although I struck out on the summit visibility on my most recent hike to Jenkins, the summit offers pretty views. Lakes and ponds dot the valley with the High Peaks lining the horizon in the distance. 

Choya on the edge of Black Pond

Choya enjoying the view on Jenkins on a 
day with better visibility

Click Map to see a trail map and description of the trails in the area. 

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