Delving deep into the kill vs. kiln debate

Sun shines through the clouds on Pettigrew Ridge. (Provided photo — Spencer Morrissey)

So, is it Cooper Kiln Pond or Cooper Kill Pond? I have seen it both ways. The USGS map for the region reads “Cooper Kill Pond,” while other maps and writings call it “Cooper Kiln Pond.”

A kill is a Dutch word meaning creek. It is commonly used where the Dutch settled — the Catskills and Hudson Valley for example. The word isn’t really used in the Adirondacks, which leads me to believe the true name is “Kiln.”

Regarding kilns, in the mid-1800s the J. & J. Rogers Company owned 80,000 acres and had 52 charcoal kilns, the product of which was used for the iron forges. Wilmington had seven such kilns; some were near the Stephenson Range in Wilmington right near Cooper Kiln Pond.

We started this little adventure off Bonnieview Road in Wilmington. The trail is located a few miles from the four-way intersection in the middle of town.

It was a spectacular spring day. The snow was gone and the temperatures were a bit more comfortable, but the trees had not yet allowed for any color. The one very notable love of this trail is the lack of spring mud and beauty for which the trail cuts through in the countryside.

Pettigrew Brook babbled beside us giving us a sense of welcome in an otherwise dark, colorless forest. We set our pace on cruise control and quickly found ourselves at the spur path for the Wilmington Peak Slide, a true natural wonder in itself.

We were surrounded by an irregular system of mountains, and by the time we hit 2,300 feet in elevation, the snowless foreground started to become, well, quite rotten.

In the dark forest of evergreens, some snow remained. Its backbone weak and its structure deteriorating, we had no choice but to post-hole through it. Water ran beneath like a hidden torrent, soaking our wool socks with every plunge.

The snow felt mealy, like sand in our boots, but cold like a slushy. Where the snow wasn’t, the mud and running water persisted. This final mile to the pond was a tough one, but one that memories are made of (ones that are always better later as stories).

The pond, now free of ice was a welcome site and a pristine one as well. A short break on the shore was enough fuel for us to continue up onto what we called Pettigrew Ridge, which starts south of the pond and feeds off of Morgan Mountain. It continued down as it paralleled the trail we followed in, and with every step forward we got closer to the trailhead and dry socks.

Cooper Kiln Pond is a great destination on its own and a perfect spot for the entire family, but we wanted a bit more of an adventure, so from the pond we started to head right for the ridge.

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line; of course no one said anything about it being the quickest. Then again, a straight line when bushwhacking just does not exist.

Like a dragonfly in pursuit of a fly, we weaved in and out of the balsams and in all actuality found a great route up and over the first knob. While the top was wooded as we descended to the east, we found some outstanding open slopes with views to get our mouths watering for more.

A bit of snow persisted in the dense balsams, but once we hit open hardwoods the ground was dry, thankfully, as I am sure my toes were starting to look similar to that of overripe grapes.

The second knob — at around 3,155 feet in elevation — was one of the densest forests I had visited in quite some time. However, once we battled through the balsam fence we popped out on a small rock whose views were mind-blowing. Of course a step in any other direction would have caused us to be plucking needles from our bums for a week.

Once we got about a tenth of a mile off the knob, we started to see a parting in the trees. Nothing religious by any means, but boy it felt enlightening nonetheless.

The ridge flowed before us and the open pines gave us hope to a stellar view over the valley. And upon request it came. A mossy slope on the south side of the ridge overlooking the leafless woods was what we got for our hard work.

Our eyes wandered over our newly conquered territory, but the brisk breeze forced us to be on our way. While the travel was tedious at times, it now felt over in a flash. It was that time: time to return to the trail, time to wander aimlessly back to civilization.

In this great northern forest, we managed to find solitude in nature, ruggedness not seen in such conclusion, trees that were so thick you could almost taste them, and the company of a hiking companion who still enjoys the company of a crazy soul.


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