The 132 mile long Northville-Placid Trail is a sleeper among the East’s extended hiking trails. The Appalachian Trail from the New Hampshire border to Mt Khatadin in Maine is far more rugged and alpine; the Long Trail in Vermont has a more romantic setting; the Cabot Trail in Cape Bretton Island, Nova Scotia flirts with the sea and passes through terrain reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands. But the NP Trail, whether you’re hiking it all in two weeks or just a section over the weekend, casts a vibrant spell of its own in Autumn.
In the south, Silver Lake is a destination of quiet imagery. In early morning a blanket of mist covers the water. Frost dances on blades of grass in the wakening sun. Winter’s nearness is on your breath. Silver Lake, 7 miles north of Upper Benson, is a perfect overnight. If you have a Sherpa Raft, the lightweight backpacking dinghies put out by the snowshoe maker, explore the hidden coves of the lake and fish for lake trout.
Further into the Fall and the trail, you can walk through an ancient stand of maples on your way to the West Canada Lakes region above Piseco. It was to this wilderness that one Foxey Brown fled in the late 1800’s. He chose to do so, not out of a hermit’s kindred spirit with the wilds, but to escape a murder charge in Boston. There he died, under the maples, survived only by a can of chaw.
Perhaps the best weekend destination along the NP Trail is Spruce Lake, above Foxey’s haunts and 9 miles from the Piseco trail head. The last mile of the hike into Spruce Lake is a Jedi Country of spruce humocks and lush vegetation. Three leantos are nestled along the shoreline. This is an excellent honeymoon spot for busy, outdoor loving newlyweds. There will be a full moon near the tenth of October.
By the time you reach West Canada Lake, fifteen miles from any road, the leaves will be turning. Here you may see Canada Geese or Loons stopping on their way south. The area was once a political hotbed. Louis Seymour of “French Louie” fame lived in a cabin on west lake when Verplank Colvin came through on his survey of the Adirondacks. Colvin decided not to give Louie a job guiding the survey crews because the latter was a feisty democrat. Louie retaliated. He refused to rent any of his twenty boats on the lake to the republican surveyor, pointing out that the craft, too, were democrats.
Gold leaves detach from their stems, float swirling down through the air, gather on the trail. North of Blue Mountain Lake, Long Lake is a body of water 19 miles long along which runs the NP trail. The lake has Great Northern Pike. Carrying a canoe in from the trail head is practicable, since the first leanto on Long Lake is only 1.8 easy miles from Jennings Park Road, off Route 28N. It was here that the Adirondack Guide boat was born.
In the north, Autumn will have her arabesque dress on. Oranges, scarlets and yellows will have replaced the summer greens of hardwood forests. As you walk through Shattuck Clearing at the southern most intersection of the NP Trail with Cold River, try to envision 600 lumberjacks working from 2:30 AM until dusk in the sea of colors around the turn of the century. They were paid $1.00 a day and meals.
If you’re fond of running rivers, Cold River is a desolate, rewarding destination. If cross-country skiing and winter camping warm your sense of adventure, wait for the deep snows that usually bury this section of the NP Trail. And try to imagine living there during all four seasons for 38 years, as Noah John Rondeau did.
Duck Hole can be reached over the weekend from the northern terminus of the NP Trail. All around are hidden ponds, rushing streams, pine forests. One such pond is Preston Pond, the water source for Duck Hole. On a fall night in 1901, a guest of the Preston Pond Rod and Gun Club left his cabin in a hurry. The man had just climbed Mt Marcy and was enjoying the hospitality of his hosts when the news arrived President McKinley lay in a Buffalo hospital mortally wounded. Theodore Roosevelt boogied out past Duck Hole and Wanika Falls, then rode on horseback to the North Creek railroad staion. The next day he was sworn in as president.
Roosevelt didn’t tarry, but you should go at an enjoyable pace over this section. It is the end of the trail, and the last of Autumn.
The original guide, NorthvillePlacid Trail, by Bruce Wadsworth is published by Adk. Mt. Club. It is an up-to date guidebook featuring side trips along the trail. Historical material for this article was researched from Bruce’s book. The link at the beginning is the latest edition.