Finding variety on Lost Pond
KEENE — Some trailheads in the Adirondacks lead to one place, and some lead to a few. The O’Toole Lane trailhead in Keene is one such place that offers a variety of trips and a little something for everyone.
At the end of O’Toole Lane, there is a parking area and trail register for use in the summer, while in the winter the road is closed about a quarter-mile shy of the parking area. While parking can be tricky, there are a number of fantastic destinations that can be targeted from the little dead-end.
It’s likely that this trailhead is mostly used for hiking Hurricane Mountain, a popular fire-tower peak that offers views of the Champlain Valley and High Peaks. It’s one of three ways to approach the mountain, and while slightly longer than the other two, it offers the most gradual ascent of the 3,694-foot high mountain.
But Hurricane wasn’t my goal for the day on Tuesday, as I wanted to get out on skis and not have to carry snowshoes the whole way, too. So from the car, I skied up to the trail register and signed in.
Following a solitary set of ski tracks through a few inches of fresh snow, the going was easy on the trail. The popularity of the area ensured a packed base, and with a few inches of fresh snow, my skis didn’t get dinged up on the first three-quarters of the trip to Lost Pond.
While the trail led gently uphill, there were a few flat spots where the skiing was really just cruising. About three-quarters of a mile from the car I came to a stream crossing that required a little maneuvering to get around (due to flowing water and steep banks), but snowshoers or hikers would have no trouble navigating the crossing. Although little streams and rivulets crossed the trail, this was the only one that posed a problem.
At just over a mile from the car the trail split, with one branch heading right and the other left. The right fork would have taken me toward Hurricane Mountain, but I opted for the left fork toward the Gulf Brook lean-to and Lost Pond.
The ski tracks I had been following lead nicely to the lean-to which sits on the side of a hill just off the trail. I had a snack and a drink at the lean-to before continuing on up the trail.
About a tenth of a mile past the lean-to, the going got considerably steeper, at least for someone on cross-country skis. Hikers and snowshoers would hardly be affected, but due to the angle of the slope I put climbing skins on my skis and continued up for about a quarter-mile, including a short stretch where the skis came off and I had to bare-boot it for a short while. I sincerely apologize to anyone who came after me, although there was only about three inches of loose snow on the ground.
After making my way through some tight quarters where the snow weighed down the branches of evergreen trees, the woods became lighter as the open area of the frozen pond neared.
Stepping out to the edge of Lost Pond, the summit and cliffs of Big Crow Mountain dominate the view. It was quiet and peaceful, with low-hanging clouds graying the sky. If it had been summer, I would have wanted to linger for a while.
And while I turned around at the pond to head out (a much, much faster trip), the trail continued. Shortly after the pond came into view another state lean-to, bearing the name of the Keene family Biesemeyer, about equidistant from the pond that the Gulf Brook lean-to was.
For those looking for a little more adventure, a roughly 6-mile loop could be done by continuing past Lost Pond. The trail leads into the Soda Range and over the tops of Big and Little Crow mountains before meeting at the trail register again. There is also a trailhead for the Crows off of Hurricane Road.
After snapping a few pics of the pond, I turned around and began to ski out. The climbing skins came off and the depth of snow made for a nice ski — although I did ding a couple of rocks. The ski out was a breeze, taking only about one-fifth the time as my trip in.
No one else had followed my tracks in, and with a packed base I cruised out to the trail register in about 20 minutes. Unfortunately, some snowshoers had walked in from O’Toole Lane and wiped out the ski tracks, but it wasn’t a big deal.
There aren’t a ton of trails in the Hurricane Mountain Wilderness, but this set — to the Crows, Hurricane Mountain, Lost Pond — offer a little something for everyone, whether you’ve got a day or just a couple of hours.