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Owls Head: A popular hike in the otherwise lonely Sable Highlands

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Owls Head: A well-liked hike within the in any other case lonely Sable Highlands

Owls Head Mountain’s vista consists of many peaks within the Sable Highlands, as seen on this photograph taken in early Might. Picture by Phil Brown

By Phil Brown

On most of my outings within the Sable Highlands this yr, I hardly ever noticed a fellow hiker or mountain biker. The exception got here on a hike up Owls Head Mountain on the northern fringe of the Adirondack Park.

The path up Owls Head is the one well-known mountain climbing path on the Sable Highlands easement lands. It developed as a herd path, however lately the state Division of Environmental Conservation has marked it with blue disks.

The 1.3-mile path climbs 725 ft to ledges with broad views to the east and south. The vista takes in Indian Lake, Mountain View Lake and a variety of peaks within the Sable Highlands—amongst them Norton Peak, Ragged Lake Mountain, Sugarloaf Mountain, Wolf Pond Mountain and the Elbow Vary—in addition to many extra peaks within the distance.

I hiked Owls Head on the primary Saturday in Might. As a result of the bushes had but to leaf, the panorama was brown, however the views had been nonetheless spectacular and properly well worth the hike. It was a heat, sunny day, and other people had been out in pressure. I counted 15 different events, most of them with younger youngsters.

In 2008, New York State paid $10.8 million for conservation easements on 84,000 acres of business forest often known as the Sable Highlands within the northern Adirondacks. The deal lets logging proceed, nevertheless it additionally permits public recreation in 14 “public use areas,” totaling 21,100 acres, and on “linear recreation corridors” connecting them. The state up to now has didn’t implement a lot of its plan. This spring, the Adirondack Explorer spent many days exploring the Sable Highlands on foot, by automobile, and on a mountain bike. That is one in a sequence of articles meant to open a window on a land partly owned by the general public however hardly ever seen.

On my 18 different outings within the Sable Highlands, I can recall seeing solely two hikers (strolling on a logging street) and three bikers. Most people I encountered on the easement lands had been driving all-terrain automobiles.

In its 2009 recreation plan for the Sable Highlands, DEC stated it supposed to construct a parking space for Owls Head and reroute the path to keep away from non-public land. Eleven years later, neither mission has been undertaken.

The plan additionally referred to as for constructing a number of trails elsewhere on the easement lands, together with up Norton Peak, however likewise most of this work stays undone.

I did discover two trails which have been created and marked by DEC. Each observe outdated woods roads, in order that they entailed little, if any, tree reducing. 

The higher of the 2 leads by way of a stupendous forest to a wheelchair-friendly campsite on a rocky stretch of the North Department of the Saranac River. The location has a privy, hearth pit and fishing platform. The woods street is gated, however disabled individuals with a particular allow are allowed to drive to the campsite on ATVs.

The hike to the river takes solely about 20 minutes. It’s a pleasing stroll below tall white pines, usually inside earshot of the river.

DEC’s plan additionally requires constructing an angler’s path alongside the riverbank. If the division will get across the constructing this path, guests will have the ability to hike in a loop from the parking space off Goldsmith Street within the city of Franklin.

The opposite path results in one other trout stream. The recreation plan says the path offers “fishing entry to Plumadore Brook,” however judging by my GPS route, the path ends on the Fishhole Pond outlet, which is a tributary of the brook. In any case, it’s a straightforward stroll of a 3rd of a mile to the stream. The forest alongside the path is just not as enticing. The trailhead is on Franklin County Route 26, the freeway that runs by way of the group of Loon Lake.

Until you’re going fishing, neither of those new trails is a vacation spot to plan a day round. Nonetheless, for those who occur to be driving previous, both is a pleasing diversion, a possibility to stretch your legs.

Owls Head Mountain, in distinction, is a bona-fide vacation spot, a reasonable hike appropriate for households with younger youngsters. But a fair larger alternative for hikers within the Sable Highlands stays unrealized: a protracted path going to Norton Peak’s summit and persevering with to close by Haystack Mountain and Wolf Pond Mountain. It’s the kind of massive outing that might draw hikers away from the overcrowded Excessive Peaks.

DEC says it has not deserted its recreation plan, nevertheless it has supplied no timeline for when the Norton path or different initiatives will likely be undertaken.

For Owls Head Mountain: From the junction of County 27 and Ragged Lake Street within the hamlet of Owls Head, drive east on the latter for 0.2 miles to Station Street. Flip left and park on the shoulder of the street. Stroll down the utility hall a brief distance to the beginning of the path on the correct.

For North Department: From its junction with NY 3, drive down Goldsmith Street for 1.6 miles to a parking space and register on the correct.

For Plumadore Brook: From the junction of NY 3 and County 26, drive north on the latter for 9.1 miles to a parking space on the correct.

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