The trails and rivers less traveled

I spent most of the past week enjoying views from the eastern edge of the Adirondacks while traveling on the increasingly popular Champlain Area Trails system, or CATS. The trails connect communities from Ticonderoga to Keeseville, with a combination of public and private lands. With the High Peaks to the west and the Green Mountains to the east, the trails afford some of the farthest reaching vistas available in the region. On a clear day, many of the tallest mountains in New England were evident. The Champlain Valley, according to my old friend Greenie Chase, is three biological live zones removed from the High Peaks region. I believe this to be true, as the horse flies and and deer flies were thick. However, the lowly black flies were no where to be found. Their season has already passed in the valley, and I offered no regrets. I found a few ticks, as well.

The summer is on

The summer season will hit full stride with the arrival of the Fourth of July holiday weekend as campers and camp owners return for their annual pilgrimage to the Adirondacks. It’s a time for swimming holes and fishing poles. Bikers, hikers, paddlers, and climbers will all join in the mix, swelling the regions’s population nearly threefold.

While the trails will remain busy, and activity on the lakes and ponds will increase significantly, there are still a lot of places to find peace and solitude. Remember, the easier the access, the larger the crowds, as usual. However, it’s still not hard to locate a special piece of the park all to yourself. It may require a bit of exploring, but that’s half the fun. The other half is having a little slice of heaven on earth to enjoy all to yourself.

Here are a few tips that can make it happen:

* Go where the others don’t. If the parking lot is full, and the trailhead congested; you may want to reconsider you choice of destination. Pick a less popular trail, or a less popular day and time.

* Weekdays see far less traffic than weekends, and the High Peaks attract more climbers than the lower peaks.

* Consider a combo trip that may combine some hiking, biking and fishing. And don’t be afraid to cross rivers or streams along the way. I learned this lesson while seeking out new fishing holes. It usually pays off to go over and fish on the far side of a river. I’ve also used bikes to access remote ponds, where I used a raft or belly boat to fish.

* Hike horse trails. One of my most enjoyable and remote treks occurred while hiking along the horse trail system in the Cold River/Santanoni area. Good fishing, great scenery and very little company. I’ve never understood why hikers avoid the horse trails. There are a variety of horse trails all over the park, and they are largely untrafficed by hikers.

* Travel downstream on the larger rivers and explore the smaller tributaries. Junction pools often provide good angling opportunities, as they also afford access to untapped waters. There are numerous junction pools on the AuSable, Saranac, Raquette, Salmon, Grasse and Oswagatchie rivers.

* Travel early and stay late. Headlamps are the solitary traveler’s companion. There’s not much activity on the trails during the dark of night. There also aren’t any deerflies, horseflies or black flies. The mid day sun doesn’t beat on your back, and there’s rarely a traffic jam at the junction. For a truly wild experience, plan your travel during the mating seasons. You’ll experience sounds you’ve never heard before.

* Experienced travelers, who know how to travel safely off trail, often find that they have the woods to themselves, except during the annual hunting season. While it requires a fair bit of confidence and competence, it can open the door to complete solitude.