SWIMMING THROUGH TREES: My Sharps Ridge romp
It doesn’t matter where I go in the Adirondack Park, I always feel like home. Do you think it’s the plaid I wear? Maybe it’s my rustic middle-aged charm. Whatever it is, it always whets my taste buds to explore more of the park and spread out a bit.
When I took this hike, the trails in the High Peaks region were a little worse for wear with mud and the occasional reminder of early winter, but the southern Adirondacks were in perfect fall mode.
I still wasn’t too sure what I was going to explore even as I parked the car. I wanted to see what the trails looked like before I made any decisions. So, without much more than a blind finger point to an open map, I decided to hike back to Heart Pond and bushwhack to the summit of Sharps Ridge and then down to Peshette Swamp. By the time I wiped the cobwebs from my eyes, ate some oatmeal, made a coffee and brushed my teeth, it was 10 a.m. and I was burning daylight. The nice thing is my central location makes travel to this end of the park not too bad.
From the boat launch parking area, I high-tailed it along the slightly swamped beach and by a half dozen or more campsites, an outbuilding, six dozen Canada geese and a bath house, I was finally on a foot trail. It was dry as a bone; it felt great to hike on solid ground in the fresh smell of the pines. At least that is for about a quarter of a mile, before I was on paved road to the actual trailhead for Heart Pond.
I signed in, just in case something happened while I was adventuring off-trail. The hike to Heart Pond was a blast. I decided to run parts of it to get my blood flowing. Seeing as how the trail to the pond was just over 0.5 miles, it didn’t take too long to reach the rock-strewn shoreline.
I continued along the pond until I reached a height-of-land and made a harsh right-hand turn into the untrammeled hardwoods toward Sharps Ridge. The forest was covered in second-growth beech and maples which, by the way, make excellent unforeseen whips to the chilled cheeks. The oversized buds of the American beech saplings made the going a little slow and at times painful, but I knew it wouldn’t last. It never does. Eventually, I was atop the lower summit of Sharps Ridge and needed to descend into a small valley.
In the valley I was welcomed by a family of pileated woodpeckers, about six altogether, mostly young. The final approach to the heavily wooded summit of Sharps Ridge was quick from that point.
I dropped off the back side of Sharps Ridge in the direction of Peshette Swamp, which was about 0.25 miles away and what I truly wanted to witness. The woods were more cluttered on this side and tighter as I approached the swamp. I was surprised to see such a well-developed trail around the pond once I reached it. It wasn’t on any maps. Come to find out, most, if not all, were beaver trails.
The swamp turned out to be a National Geographic special on great blue heron habitat. I counted 12 nests and equally as many birds within the rookery, but with that being said, I could not see the entire swamp. I was not welcome there. I snapped a few pictures and went on my way, following beaver trail after beaver trail until I was high on a wooded ridge and descending back down to Heart Pond.
I reached the trail a little north of Heart Pond. From this point, I wasted no time with a short trail run back to the car.
(Spencer Morrissey is a licensed outdoor guide and author of a few Adirondack adventure books.)