EMBARK: Floodwood loop
We were getting ourselves amped up to get out and do our longest ski tour of the year, but deep in the back of our minds we had this worry about what to expect on such a long loop that we predicted received very little skier attention.
We did some research and knew that it was indeed a snowmobile trail, but what we didn’t know was how much or little it gets used. Would it be horribly rutted from the snowmobile tracks? Would it be completely untouched and need to be broken the entire distance? There were so many questions with only one true way to find out: suit up and go.
We had ample food, water and even a warm beverage in our packs. We even carried snowshoes just in case a ski broke or the trail just wasn’t skiable due to deep snow or poor conditions. Just imagine how miserable the hike out would be – over many miles with only one ski and post-holing with the other leg. What a nightmare, I get cold chills even thinking about it. Snowshoes would be an important piece of safety equipment.
We noticed right out of the gate that there was definite snowmobile traffic, at least in the beginning. Thankfully, the users hadn’t been there in a bit, so a light coating of powder welcomed us to make for much better gliding. It even covered up some of the wash-boarding that snowmobiles can give a trail.
There are advantages to light dustings of snow each night during the week. It makes the skiing much nicer – not only for glide, but it also covers up imperfections of the trails, light tree litter that has fallen due to winds and snow load and it just makes it even that much more attractive to the weary eye.
We enjoyed our efficient start along the trail, and through the wide corridor in the woods we soon came to Floodwood Pond which was on our right.
With fine vistas out over the frozen body of water, a stiff breeze over the field of white pushed us back into the woods.
We moved along shore with ease and soon found ourselves at the outlet’s babbling waters; still unfrozen from the winter’s chill, it sang us a welcoming song.
Now along a much narrower trail, we moved a bit slower. It was also slightly overgrown in a few spots and the snowmobile track has long disappeared out onto the ponds.
We had some trouble getting a decent grip in the 6 to 8 inches of untouched powder on the small hills. Even with the fish scales, we had to fight it. To remedy this, we had to do a bit of “the herringbone hustle” up the rolling terrain.
Next came Little Square Pond, another attractive example of an Adirondack backcountry gem. The trail now followed Fish Creek – sometimes close, other times a bit further away. The frequent sound of water under the ice was very inviting, and yet relaxing, even though we were fighting for almost every step.
The snow was so deep and relentless and we were getting exhausted. We were then invited onto more rolling hills and a couple small downhill runs, which was nice. I managed to ace all but one, as a sharp left turn caught me off guard and I yardsaled down into a puff of powder. Soon we finally saw an end to the fighting and found ourselves out on the road at Fish Creek Campground.
The return leg
We followed the road along the edge to get us back to the other end of the loop. On the backside we found the return section of the loop nearly untouched and just as demanding as the other portion.
We questioned ourselves and checked the time to see if we should just follow our tracks back out.
We decided to just go for it. We had headlamps if it came down to it, but we figured we would have ample time.
We passed by Echo Pond on this very mellow section of trail, and in a flash found ourselves at a bay on Follensby Clear Pond. The going was decent so far.
Then in another flash – I must have blinked – we were at Horseshoe Pond. There is a trail that leads into the mouth of the horseshoe-shaped shore and one that bypasses the extended journey. We wanted to take the cut-off, but we must have skied right past it. We found ourselves in the bay and came to find out it wasn’t all that demanding and well worth the vistas.
We swept around Horseshoe Pond and passed between it and then Little Polliwog Pond. Another nice hill in this area caught me off guard as I found myself pretzeled in some witch-hobble. We passed by Polliwog Pond soon after and enjoyed the rolling hills that led us back out to Floodwood Road.
Either we were more efficient or this back leg of the loop wasn’t as bad as the other. While the ascents were a tad tough and traction still was nonexistent, we didn’t seem to make a big deal about it.
The loop ended at Floodwood Road, roughly 0.75 miles from our car. We tried to ski for a while longer but the shoulder wasn’t much fun. The road itself had some snow, but it had much more sand and we didn’t want to kill our skis. We decided to just sling them over our shoulders and walk the short distance.
It’s not a terrible walk, quite charming in its own way as it passes along the ponds, but also not long enough where the hassle of a second car was necessary. Once back at the car, we were anxious to get the ski boots off and all the other outwear. I am a huge fan and advocate of bringing a change of clothing and shoes no matter how cold they may be when you put them on. I am also a fan of having a hot drink waiting in the car, especially if the drive is a bit to get to a coffee shop.
What an adventure. Maybe a bit more than anticipated, but overall a good one. Isn’t it amazing how even a tough outing seems good once it’s all said and done?
[This article appears in the December-January issue of Embark. Embark is a free, bi-monthly publication that focuses on outdoors-related topics in the Adirondack Park. Embark is published by the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and Lake Placid News.]