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SWIMMING THROUGH TREES: A Massawepie adventure

Burntbridge Pond (Provided photo)

We started on an adventure to Douglas Rock and Burntbridge Pond.

My definition of a good day in the woods is getting to explore and discover something new, and if at all possible, to top out on a new mountain and check out a pond. Today was a good day. I have been driving a lot lately, and this was no different to reach the south side of Massawepie, where the state easements are open for the public to explore.

My two destinations rest just off the Massawepie Boy Scout Camp property and could essentially be reached from the Horseshoe Lake Wild Forest side, if I were so inclined. I was not.

The road through the scout camp was a bit rough but not at all muddy, although it did look as though a busy Adirondack summer had taken its toll on it.

I located the gated road, which was to be my starting point for this little walk in the forest, and made swift time hitting the trail. I quickly came to the bridge over the South Branch of the Grass River and motored along the Jeep road which is designated as the Center Pond Trail. I would not be going that far.

Finding Douglas Rock

Not more than 0.2 miles farther down the trail, I noticed a secondary woods road on the left, looking more like an old logging road but not overgrown and in quite nice condition (not your typical look of a logging road). I broke out the GPS, and sure enough, it was heading in the right direction. I had to try it. Douglas Rock has no trail to the summit, at least none that has been documented or talked about to my knowledge, but this looked like a good start. The old road climbed through the open hardwood forest, now healing itself from logging activity. It remained nice as I walked atop the grassy passage, and before I knew it, I as within 0.75 miles of the summit of Douglas Rock.

I came upon a field, high above the valley, which I thought was going to be a dead-end, but with a bit of scouting, no pun intended, I found a more overgrown logging road on the backside that kept me going in the correct direction. This old road was much narrower but with a solid game trail breaking an 18-inch corridor through the saplings. As I moved closer, I could see it off on the horizon and at 0.3 miles from the top I came upon a huge landing, now grassed over with sedge and brambles.

Yet again, with a bit of scouting around, I found another even more discrete forest road. I followed this until it petered out at a height-of-land near a small rocky ledge. The bushwhack consisted mainly of me walking uphill for less than 0.2 miles through an open forest of beech and maple saplings to the wooded summit.

A balanced boulder caught my eye on the way up, so I investigated. Was this maybe Douglas Rock, or would the ledges to the east be the rock for which it got its name? Who is Douglas?

I made way to the summit before I went down to the possible views off the cliffs. The summit didn’t offer much, so my time on the top consisted of a couple quick pictures. The ledges looked promising from up above, and once I stood atop them, I had to peck around for views. I did find a nice one of Wheeler Mountain to the east and another of Mount Matumbla a bit more to the north. The true heart stopper was when I startled up two feasting turkey vultures on a small carcass of some unidentifiable beast at the base of the cliff; the power of their wings made the thumping of a ruffed grouse seem insignificant.

I decided to return to the large log landing just below the summit. Abby led the way without faltering, I didn’t even need to look at the GPS to get an accurate heading; she was dead on. At the landing, I made a choice to take another logging road off to the west and access the road below for easier route finding to Burntbridge Pond. This woods road was easy for a bit, then more obscure, then easy again, before it just ended up not going anywhere close to where I wanted it to, so I pecked around for other logging roads and eventually linked up with about six others.

I finally made it to the Center Pond Trail again. I had to head north just a bit on the trail before I hopped onto a snowmobile trail and followed that north to access the route to the pond. Burntbridge Outlet was a bit tricky to cross and stay dry, but I managed to do so — in both directions.

Burntbridge Pond

The snowmobile trail was uninteresting and moved by rather quickly. On one of my maps, there was an old trail/woods road to the northeast side of Burntbridge Pond, and it was my goal to use it. It was tough to trace and without a map and compass might have been impossible, but I had it pinpointed in my GPS, so I was set. A large log landing marked the spot. To the back was the old woods road, which was now heavily rutted from previous skidder use and thickly overgrown by rubus. Eventually, I had all I could do to follow it and once I hit the Cranberry Lake Wild Forest, it was gone. I searched for the old trail up and down the boundary line, but all I could find was a faint path, and that could have just been the local moose making way to the pond. No matter the creator, I used it myself; it aided me through the thick balsam and spruce that lined the pond’s shore. The views over the pond were wonderful, and the burnt amber of the dried vegetation added to the beauty of the area.

I retraced my steps back to the state boundary, along the abandoned trail, back along the snowmobile trail, and then lastly back along the Center Pond Trail to the gate where I parked. Now for the three-coffee drive home.