I finally made it. After years spent drooling over photos and gazing longingly at maps, I was standing on the shore of Boreas Ponds, staring across its remote waters at the mountains of the Great Range. The sun was warm and it encouraged me to swim while the gentle breeze kept all but the most persistent deer flies at bay. If there is such a thing as heaven on earth, I have a feeling it feels a lot like this.
A work in progress
Boreas Ponds won’t remain remote for long. New York state purchased the former Finch, Pruyn Paper Company land from the Nature Conservancy in 2014, and there are big plans for this place. The day we ventured to Boreas there was evidence of that — piles of crushed stone, pickup trucks, and a skid steer were all there to work toward improving the road and parking areas. When it’s finished, visitors will have several small parking lots to choose from, with one just off of Blue Ridge Road (and 6.7 miles from the pond) and the last one being a mere tenth of a mile from the pond, making this little slice of paradise accessible to those in wheelchairs.
Don’t let the road work keep you from visiting Boreas Ponds, though! It’s pretty low key, and the destination is well worth the walk in. The day we went, we were the only ones on the trail except for the workers. We drove the long, winding road in to the fourth parking area, which put us about 3.5 miles from the pond. The road kept going, but it’s unfinished and closed to vehicles. That’s OK, because it’s a pretty walk through a relatively young forest, and since it’s a road the going is easy. There aren’t any rocky climbs or precarious stream crossings to negotiate, just a wide, smooth path that gently rises and falls through the woods.
The hike in
We made good time and got to the LaBier Flow in less than an hour. You’ll know the area when you see it — a dam separates the flow from the Boreas River, creating a gorgeous plain of open water that’s studded with water lilies. We lingered here for awhile, watching butterflies flit amongst the wildflowers as dragonflies and damselflies zipped past our heads. Clouds slowly moved across the water’s surface, disappearing behind the mountain that was reflected there too.
Reluctantly, we moved on, now only a mile or so from our destination. We soon came to a four-way intersection and turned right to head to Boreas Ponds. We knew we went the right way because, as indicated on the map, there’s a cabin in a field just after the turn. Shortly after the cabin there was a path that angled down, toward Le Claire Flow — this would be an outstanding place for a paddle.
A large clearing for the final parking area meant we were close, and then we saw it. As I walked onto the bridge that crosses the pond’s outlet I was greeted by the dramatic slides on Gothics’ east face. A dozen more steps and a few of my favorite places came into view: Marcy, Haystack, Basin, Saddleback.
It was interesting, seeing those mountains from this angle. How big they look! Normally I’d be admiring them while surrounded by other High Peaks; this was very different. The range rises above the water like an inviting, if not imposing, wall. Ridge lines rise to rocky summits and sharply descend away from them, staggeringly large cliffs interrupt the dark evergreen forests, and slides tell the story of an ever-changing landscape. Meanwhile the cool, clear pond beckoned me to see this scene from a different vantage point, one that’s eye-level with the water. So I changed into my swim trunks, took a deep breath, and plunged on in. The mountains were indifferent to my backstroking joy, but that’s OK — we were lucky enough to have this place to ourselves, and that’s all I needed.
The future of Boreas
Visitors shouldn’t hesitate to see Boreas Ponds for themselves! The pond is a worthy destination, but as work continues more opportunities will open up. There are at least a half-dozen new hiking trails coming, some of them leading up mountains, some leading to other ponds, and some connecting to existing trails in the High Peaks Wilderness. Biking is and will be allowed up to the last parking area on Gulf Brook Road, and there is a proposal to create some single track in the area too. Fifteen campsites are in the works, paddling is allowed, and a snowmobile route will pass through the tract, connecting North Hudson to Newcomb and Minerva.
Visiting Boreas Ponds
Distance: It's 6.7 miles along Gulf Brook Road to the pond, and about 3.5 miles from the fourth parking area.
Parking: Gulf Brook Road is the main route to Boreas Ponds. It's located on Blue Ridge Road, about 16.5 miles east of Newcomb and about 7 miles west of Exit 29 on I-87. Visitors are permitted to drive on Gulf Brook Road as far as the fourth parking area, after which it's an easy 3.5 mile walk or bike ride to the pond.