Thursday, July 7, 2016

Pole Hill Pond Preserve: 07/04/2016

View of Lake George from Walnut Ridge in the Pole Hill Pond Preserve, Monday July 4, 2016.

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Picture perfect weather for the holiday weekend meant ideal conditions for family gatherings, cookouts, swimming and fireworks. By the time Monday morning rolled around, we were ready to forego another round of hotdogs for a more active Independence Day, so Beth and I set off to explore one of the Lake George Land Conservancy's lesser known parcels, the Pole Hill Pond Preserve.

I don't have any visitor statistics, but the 1300 acre parcel at the northern end of Northwest Bay sees little traffic judging by the very lightly trod trails. We saw no other visitors on our hike. There's no sign at the trailhead, which may partly explain why the Pole Hill Pond Preserve remains a hidden gem, so just follow the directions on LGLC's website and you'll have no trouble finding the start of the hike.

The trail climbs steeply in spots

Attractive open woods on Middle Mountain

We hiked the 5.5 mile loop over Middle Mountain, Walnut Ridge and past Pole Hill Pond counter-clockwise, the direction I'd recommend to other hikers. A shorter 1-mile loop, marked with yellow DEC trail markers branches off to climb Bear Knob near the start of the hike. Stick with the blue LGLC markers. Deer flies nipped at our necks as we followed old logging roads that climbed Middle Mountain. After a mile or so the trail leaves the logging roads and passes through attractive open woods that probably offer good winter views.


You didn't miss the views, you're just not there yet

The trail passes over the summit of Middle Mountain and descends to a col. You can't help thinking that you must have missed the spectacular view of Lake George that the preserve brochure promises, but before long you're climbing again, this time to the summit of Walnut Ridge. More open woods along the ridge eventually lead to open rock and a broad ledge overlooking Northwest Bay and Tongue Mountain. It's a beautiful view from an unusual perspective, and the fact that you're unlikely to share the view with other hikers lends a sense of remoteness and wildness.

Walnut Ridge

Northwest Bay overlook

Tongue Mountain Point, Buck Mountain and Pilot Knob

But the great views aren't the only attraction. The trail continues down the ridge and then descends steeply to Pole Hill Pond. As nice as the views from Walnut Ridge are, the pond may be the highlight of the hike. It's a pristine pond, ringed by pines and surrounded by low hills. In the direction that we hiked, the trail first comes to a rocky ledge and campsite overlooking the pond, then passes close to the pond in a few other spots as well.

Descending Walnut Ridge

Pole Hill Pond

The 2 to 3 mile hike in to the pond (depending on which direction you hike the blue trail loop) undoubtedly helps keep visitation light. The hike may be shortened to less than a mile in the near future with LGLC's acquisition of a neighboring parcel that will connect the Pole Hill Pond Preserve to LGLC's 500+ acre Amy's Park, but since both parcels are relatively off-the-beaten-path, I suspect the pond's feeling of remoteness will remain.

It's an easy, downhill 2 +/- miles from the pond. Recent re-routes as you get close to the trailhead can be confusing so pay attention to the blue trail markers.

We finished our hike with plenty of time left to enjoy an afternoon of boating and waterskiing from our family's base on Lake George, making Pole Hill Pond Preserve a great option for a half-day outing.

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