I was cruising along the scenic route between Schroon Lake and Ticonderoga when the big brown sign marking the Arnold Pond trailhead caught my eye. I slowed down in time to read the bright yellow text — it said 0.3 miles to the pond and I had time to spare, so I pulled over.
On the trail
The trail wasted no time in getting steep, so I marched uphill as a view of the northern border of the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness Area emerged behind me. Since the hill faces south, the sun hits it all day, making the path snow free and relatively dry, rare things this early in the hiking season.
Before I knew it, the grade eased and I emerged from the forest to a chorus of spring peepers singing from the shore of the pond. Peepers are small chorus frogs that emerge from their shallow underground shelters as soon as things warm up. Once awake, they head to a nearby wetland or pond and begin to chirp; meanwhile, Adirondackers celebrate because their calls mean spring has finally arrived.
I lingered on the shore for a moment before exploring. The pond was typical of a lot of places I’ve visited in the Adirondacks — a complete surprise in its simple beauty. There is a low ridge above the northern end that’s steep, rocky, and peppered with cliffs. The base of the ridge is littered with boulders, a testament to gravity’s persistence and to the ever-changing nature of the mountains.
As I walked toward the pond’s outlet, I began to see and hear signs of life. Last year’s dried bracken ferns crunched underfoot, but green fronds were already making an appearance among the leafy detritus. A half-submerged log sported verdant mosses and pale lichens, subtle signs of color that were welcome in the absence of wildflowers and grasses. Those will arrive soon enough.
At first glance, Arnold Pond looks ancient with its rugged surroundings and the sun bleached dead pines leaning from its surface, but further inspection revealed a fleeting side to things. The beaver dam at the southern end of the pond has been reduced to a soft, shrinking, overgrown form. Considering I couldn’t find any lodges, I had to wonder when the once-sturdy structure would breach, sending the entire pond spilling down the mountain. The deluge, much like spring itself, would mark a massive change for this lively place.
I hung out at Arnold Pond for awhile, listening to the peepers and the birds. A woodpecker made itself known in the distance, and everything felt in its right place. Arnold Pond isn’t necessarily the kind of hike you can plan a day around, but it is the kind of place you could spend a day in if you like to sit back and let nature do the talking.
The trail begins on Route 74 about 10 miles from downtown Schroon Lake. From downtown, head north on Route 9N and turn right on Route 74, heading toward Ticonderoga, at the four-way stop. The trailhead is on the left in 7.5 miles, the parking area is just past it on the right. Be careful walking from the lot to the trail, as Route 74 can be quite busy.
Sign in at the trail register and follow the well-marked path as it heads steeply uphill. It’s quite an ascent but rest assured, it is short. The grade rounds off as the path nears the pond, which appears about 0.3 miles from the trailhead. It’s fun to explore the shore, just be respectful of signs marking private property.