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Old 08-08-2011, 09:20 PM   #1
Conk
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The Oswegatchies Miiddle and East

South Ponds, Alder Bed Flow & E. Branch Oswegatchie
8-(2-6)-11
Paul Conklin (Bell Yellowstone Solo)
Later joined with John Sakala and Vince Burroughs
Photos: https://get.google.com/albumarchive/...WsPbVkrPfU2XwW


This adventure would begin in Watson’s East Triangle Wild Forest on the Middle Branch of the Oswegatchie River. Crossing over the river puts you into the Five Ponds Wilderness where I have the goal of visiting all of its significant bodies of water. Next up were the South Ponds (Upper, Middle and Lower).

A trail to these ponds begins at the end of public access on the Bear Pond Road where it meets the Middle Branch. The I-beams of a defunct bridge still span the river so the crossing is easy. From here it is about a mile due east to reach the first of the south ponds. There are multiple forks in the trail so it is necessary to pay attention to your heading. At one point it became obvious I was traveling too far north but the trail was well used and my curiosity took over. I set the canoe down and continued for about twenty minutes trying to determine the course of the trail. I hadn’t the time to follow it to its destination but sensed that it was taking me NNE or roughly parallel to the Sand Lake Outlet. I returned to the canoe and backtracked to where I missed an easterly fork; here I learned that infrequent yellow trail markers denote the proper route to Upper South Pond. The final stretch was up a steep grade; it was too much for me in the heat of the afternoon. I was carrying a Royalex hull; about 22 lbs. heaver than my normal tripping canoe but one that I knew I would appreciate on the next day’s exploration on the river. I leap-forgged my gear and canoe to the top of the grade where I received my first glimpse of Upper South Pond.

I paddled along the north shore stopping at a grassy clearing where there had once been a camp. I poked around and found a rather robust two-wheeled cart. It was a pleasant location and had nicely spaced hammock trees. The short connecter between Upper and Middle Ponds had two beaver dam obstacles that I easily traversed and I was soon into the much larger and prettier Middle South Pond. I made a slow clockwise exploration of its shore until I came to another connecter stream that led to a small, unnamed pond west of Lower South. From its east bay there was a difficult .2-mile bushwhack to reach Lower South. I had hopes of finding a place to camp somewhere near Lower so that on my departure I would have ample time for thorough explorations of all four ponds. Lower pond turned out to be the least interesting and had an extremely inhospitable shoreline. I deemed a single, late afternoon exploration of Lower sufficient and returned to the grassy clearing on Upper South to spend the night.

I was up well before sunrise and made myself a strong cup of coffee that I took to the canoe so that I might enjoy it while watching sunup from the middle of the pond. My indulgence for a hot cup of java was secondary to the delight I received in witnessing a most spectacular sunrise. The goddess Eos was present in the Adirondacks this morning; she bombarded the atmosphere with bands of light that cast an amber glow on the clouds. The image was twofold from its reflection on the water.

It was an appropriate moment to reflect on the recent loss of a neighbor. Taken much too soon my friend cherished time in the wild. Our casual bond was born from having shared the same canoe on an Adirondack adventure in our teens, some 37 years ago. A bow to stern partnership that can lead to discord, ours was pleasant and oft recalled as a highlight of our youth.

My explorations of the south ponds were complete by 8:30. I made my way back to the river where I would begin work on achieving yet another of my Adirondack bucket list goals. I have long had the desire to visit the Alder Bed Flow on the Middle Branch of the Oswegatchie. I once bushwhacked to Emerald Lake from Sand Lake and was within striking distance but an assault from the west with a canoe would be a more accommodating way of exploring the flow.

I began just north of the trailhead to Brindle Pond. The first mile of the journey was a down river slog amongst boulders and riffles of cobble. I found it easiest to walk along the edge and line the canoe with a single bowline; this is where I wanted my Royalex hull. Shaggy green algae clung to the wet rocks making water walking quite tenuous. It was less fatiguing to stay on dry rocks as much as possible. The beauty of this region is perhaps unmatched; conical spires of spruce closely line the riverbanks, slowly the valley widens into a broad plain covered with marsh grass. I sought the height of a lone glacial erratic and had a pleasant vista of the vast floodplain. There are approximately three miles of deep meandering river within the flow. It is one of the most remote paddles that one can have within the blue line and very much worth the effort. At the north end of the flow the valley again narrows and rapids block passage. Continuing further downstream has been described as a tumultuous descent. I did not push further.

I returned to the truck by 6 o’clock. I had time for a swim in the river, a change of clothes and a good supper. The plan was to sleep in the back of the truck but as darkness settled the biten’ bastards came out and I sought the sanctuary of my netted hammock.

The exact plan for Thursday was still uncertain. I started with a hike to Brindle Pond (a new one) and then on to Grassy Pond. I had been to Grassy before on a paddling trip up the Sand Lake Outlet. I continued to a trail intersect north of Grassy. I suspected that the easterly fork was the trail to the south end of Rock Lake. I followed it to its end and verified my suspicion. I left Rock sometime after 9:00am. On the walk back I contemplated how I should spend my next three days. I decided I should attempt to join with friends that were making a journey up the East Branch from Inlet. I knew I could make it there in time and it would be good to camp with some of my old peak-bagging buddies.

I pulled into the parking area a little after the noon hour to find my friends at river’s edge packing their kayaks. Their offer to have me join them was still sincere. I could tell by their verbal jabs and ridicule. To deride one's character shows one of the highest forms of respect amongst guys. I told them that I’d tag along just to keep their sorry asses from getting lost but that they would have to carry their own stinkin’ coolers.

We were on the river in short order paddeling single file against the mild current of the Oswegatchie. The first stop was at High Rock to take in its splendid view. Another stop was made at Griffin Rapids; it was unoccupied but there was a unanimous vote to push on, despite the cold spring behind the lean-to that would have cooled our beer nicely. Cage Lake Spring Hole was our next hope but it was over run by a heard of boy scouts. We now took turns investigating each of the sites as we came to them becoming somewhat desperate because of the lateness of the day. Too small, the landing is muddy, not enough trees; these were the complaints until we came upon #27. Nicely nestled among some giant white pines it had a view to the south and the rising moon, very possibly one of the nicest sites on the river, sans a beer cooling spring. Supper was cooked in darkness while a fire helped to ward off the evening mosquitoes; stories of recent exploits were exaggerated and Vince had the solution to all of the world's problems. It was your typical evening around a campfire.

The plan for Friday was to venture upstream as far as we could or that time would allow and return to our base at #27 before dark. The river was low, both Round Hill and Crooked Rapids required lining. Our first rest stop was at Carters Landing to take advantage of the privy. After the carry around High Falls it was time for lunch; we ate at the top of the falls where the old footbridge once crossed. Before resuming the journey Zab unpacked his saltshaker, a lemon and a bottle of Cuervo Gold. It was an action that he preformed many times before the day was over.

Above the falls the frequency of beaver dams increased and most of them required getting out of the boat, especially for those in kayaks. Vince questioned, “How many of these are we going to cross?” I told him, “We have got to go at least as far as Camp Johnny. There’s something there that you guys have to see.” I was the first to land at Johnny; I hollered to Zab to bring his wares, as there was a Tequila table up in the shade of some spruce trees. After our shot I invited my friends to join me on a large pink granite boulder on the south end of camp. “This is it.” I said, “This is where I want you to bring me.” “What are you talking about?” Vince asked. “ If you guys should survive me, this is where I want my ashes dumped, right here off this rock, I want to make one last trip down the river and you guys are invited to join the party.” Assuming that this won’t happen anytime soon Vince questioned if they would be capable of the journey when the time comes. I told them that I knew they were old farts and that it may well be that I need younger friends but I wanted them to know just the same.

We went several more bends up stream before reaching a major logjam where the consensus was to turn back. Continuing to the headwaters would guarantee another supper cooked in the dark. Back at #27 Vince retired early but Zab and I came up with a few more solutions for world peace that we thrashed about until the moon was high on the horizon.

I made a silent departure from camp early in the morning. I was due home that evening but Vince and Zab had another day in the woods. I stopped at the site of Camp Betsey on my way out. There was a well-used path that went up the hill to the south, which made me think that the old short cut to the Five Ponds trail had been reestablished. This is only speculative, as I hadn’t the ambition to scout it very thoroughly.

I chatted with a fellow from Pittsford at site #33. He paddled a 14ft. Hornbeck; it was the only other solo canoe I encountered in my five days in the Adirondacks. I made another stop at High Rock, I went up the fire trail to its intersect with High Rock creek and then upstream to what was once a very active beaver pond worthy of canoe exploration. The pond is regenerating and in need of new tenants.

This was a very enjoyable adventure. The weather was excellent, the bugs tolerable, several things were checked off my bucket list and I got to reunite with old friends, who now know my final wishes.

Last edited by Conk; 03-14-2017 at 09:55 AM.. Reason: spelling
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Old 08-08-2011, 10:38 PM   #2
pondhopper
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Another nice report & pics & I think, I may have met you by the Buck Pond turn-off- you were heading out & I was heading in towards Bear. Btw- there was never a bridge spanning the lower end of Alderbed Flow.....it's the remains of an old log driving dam (I saw Mr. Brown made that error, too).

I've spent a lot of time around the South Ponds & don't recall seeing that cart....prob, nearly tripped on it @ some pt. w/o it registering in my mind (lol). My father had his name carved in the sash of a window in the old camp that was there & the date of 1934. Several times, I've looked for remains of Fred LaGrosse's hermitage camp directly across the pond from the camp site you stayed at & finally, about 2 years ago- I found some evidence of it including some stove parts & a small cask hidden in a hole underneath some boulders, which I left there. I guess, Grandpa used to say old Fred didn't know what the heck he was doing & his choice of location for the camp seems to lend credence to that conclusion.
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Old 08-09-2011, 12:12 PM   #3
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Hey Pondhopper, Iíll assume that you were the fellow in the blue pick-up truck. I did see one other vehicle while in the area; it had Hawaii tags, which I thought was curious.

If you ever see my handsome mug again, please introduce yourself. The two-wheeled cart is but a stones throw behind the Grassy clearing on Upper South Pond. I never explore anyplace too thoroughly. I want to have a reason to come back.
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Old 08-09-2011, 03:09 PM   #4
pondhopper
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I'm not sure I met you, but it was a small pick-up with a canoe on top...due to glare, I couldn't see whoever was driving. Based on population around those parts, I'd place odds that it may have been your truck, but maybe not. My truck's color is kind of more towards the greenish side..kind of a teal color, I guess.....but no Hawaii plates, just NYS ones. I'll be sure to introduce myself, if we bump into each other (again?). Edited to add: after conferring w/a couple people, they say my truck IS more blue than green (LOL).

That's a wise policy about not exploring any place too thoroughly. Kind of one of the primary reasons I refuse to go into the Metcalfs area...maybe, I will, someday.

Here's a pic of what the camp used to look like circa 1910 & there was another camp to the right and it became decrepit much before this one, which existed until the late 1980s. The horse barn was in the still noticeable, dug out depression in the hillside to the camp's left and digging them out in hillsides was common practice in the Adirondacks & elsewhere. Not sure, if the pic is of my Grandpa Pete, or his brother John, but it's one of them:
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Last edited by pondhopper; 08-09-2011 at 03:20 PM.. Reason: People say truck's more blue than green
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Old 08-09-2011, 07:12 PM   #5
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Hey Pondhopper, Iíll assume that you were the fellow in the blue pick-up truck. I did see one other vehicle while in the area; it had Hawaii tags, which I thought was curious.
My guess, in that area, would be a soldier from Fort Drum.
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Old 08-10-2011, 01:42 PM   #6
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Another great trip report, and thus another enjoyable lunch hour for me!

Out of curiosity, would the rapids on the E.B. Oswegatchie have been polable? I wouldn't imagine you'd want to pole your YS, but I've been pondering a summertime visit with the MR Explorer thinking I could pole up any rapids in low water.

-Chuck
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Old 08-10-2011, 05:27 PM   #7
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Chuck, most of the rapids on the East Branch are simply shallow spots where there might be one or two rocks. Of the 11 named rapids that I am aware of only four were even noticeable last week. Some dude, George Preston if you need to know, paddles his canoe all the way up the river with a barrel of sugar in the bow; he hits a rock, tips over and loses his cargo. That rock is henceforth known as Sugar Rapid. My decision to line through Round Hill and Crooked was more about not wanting to damage my nice wood paddle, nor did I want to appear too cocky around my kayak friends that wouldnít get through any other way.

If youíre going to be using the explorer Iíll assume itís because youíll have the Mrs. along. I canít say a pole wouldnít help, especially if the waters low but I wouldnít deem it absolutely necessary either.

I did find a nice straight stick of birch (about 8ft.) and stood tall in the Yellowstone for a few miles above High Falls. Not because I found a particular propulsion advantage in it but because I wanted to see the bottom of the river. I was looking for an old iron I-beam that marked the county line. It used to be visible in low water but I havenít seen it in years. I suppose I wanted to act just a little bit cocky for my kayak friends too.
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Old 03-12-2017, 06:36 PM   #8
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Pond Hopper, Great picture of the camp at south pond. Our family hunted out of that camp until the state took over Watsons East Triangle. There were a lot of names written and carved on the inside of the camp dating back many years
This pic is from the late 70's or early 80's
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Old 03-12-2017, 07:25 PM   #9
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Pond Hopper, Great picture of the camp at south pond.
FYI, Unfortunately, Pondhopper is no longer with us. He was a great backwoods traveler and sportsman.
http://www.scanlonfuneral.com/obits/...trib&id=203821
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Old 03-12-2017, 10:43 PM   #10
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I am sorry to hear that. I knew it was an old post, but very interesting to see the picture of the old camp
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Old 03-14-2017, 10:53 AM   #11
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The photo link of my album should now work; no more dreaded 404. I don't involve myself with many of the conversations on this forum other than sharing trip reports. I enjoy that folks have information to contribute five years later, thank you OBIWON. Do you suspect your photo is the same or at least part of the cabin depicted in Pondhoppers 1910 photo? I regret that I never had the opportunity to meet Pondhopper. I would have very much liked to sit down with him in front of a map.
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Old 03-14-2017, 11:36 AM   #12
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I miss Jesse's contributions to this forum also. He sure seemed liked a super nice fella & extremely knowledgeable, especially about very remote areas of the Adirondacks & the history associated with them, and has helped me out with information on more than one occasion. I never got the chance to meet him either, but I was fortunate enough to have had the honor of staying at his former club's cabin on Bear Pond a couple times several years ago. Nice place & great memories in an amazing area of the Adirondacks!

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Old 03-14-2017, 05:37 PM   #13
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Yes that is the same camp. The right half, that used to be the bunk house, was torn down in the late 70's. My grandfather acquired the camp in the late 30's from the Whitney's. The robust wagon is one that my uncles built and pulled in by hand many years ago. The effort was way more than they bargained for so they left the cart behind the camp.
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Old 03-14-2017, 06:02 PM   #14
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I"m pretty sure I met Jessie. It was the last year we were going to be able to hunt out of our camp. The state had bought the Watsons East Triangle and our lease was up. We were hiking into camp with loaded packs for a weeks hunt. It was getting dark, there was 8 inches of snow on the ground and it was still snowing. Half way in we run into a guy dragging a sizable buck back towards the river. He said his name was Jessie. He had tracked the buck in the snow from the Bear Pond area , jumped and shot it at Sitz mountain. I often think about that and what a great hunter that man was.
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Old 03-14-2017, 07:21 PM   #15
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Nice!

Jesse was also referenced & photograped in the Bear Pond cabin in this very interesting book: Adirondack Hunters & Trappers; Then & Now
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