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Let's talk about: Boquet Forks Trail

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  • Let's talk about: Boquet Forks Trail

    First, I could not find an official name for the "unmarked hunter's path leading from the stone bridge, along route 73 over the North Fork Boquet River, to Grace". Yeah, that's a mouthful. So I invented a name for it in OpenStreetMap (OSM) because it's bad practice to create nameless (major) roads and trails. I chose "Boquet Forks" because the trail follows along two forks of the Boquet River, the North Fork and the South Fork. Two forks of the Boquet; Boquet Forks; short and simple.

    Here it is from end to end: Boquet Forks Trail

    In this comment, tcd said:

    The area around the N Fork off the Boquet has an extensive and complex network of paths. There is a need for a good, thorough map of that path network. Many first-time visitors mistakenly believe that there is simply a one track path from the car to the bottom of the Grace slide...
    I have not explored every nook and cranny ( Hello mastergrasshopper ) but I do know the location of several trail-junctions along the main path and (mildly) familiar with the south side of the North Fork Boquet.
    • Basically, the main trail runs east to west, initially following the North Fork, crossing it, then farther west it follows the South Fork, then swings south to ascend Grace.
    • It serves as the main artery to Grace and the Great Slide from route 73. Trails branch off from it to access nearby ponds (notably Rhododendron and Lillypad) or to follow the North Fork Boquet where it turns north.
    • There's a pulloff for parking, on the east side of route 73, just north of the stone bridge. It has room for about 6 cars (not yet depicted in OSM).
    • The most popular start is along the south side of the North Fork Boquet.
    • There's a short and very rough road, paralleling route 73, that leads to the southside start of the trail (not yet depicted in OSM). The road ends at a clearing. However, the clearing is only ~100 feet from the road so, to avoid the rough road, many hikers just cut in from the highway (at the southern end of the stone bridge).
    • There's a less frequented start along the north side of the North Fork Boquet that avoids a major river-crossing ("High Water Route").
    • There are no signs or markers along the trail nor at its start or end.
    • There are obvious indications (saw cuts on blowdown) that it receives some unofficial light maintenance.
    • The treadway/trail-bed is generally obvious in many spots but subject to obfuscation by fallen leaves and fresh snow.
    • There are, I believe, 2 designated campsites close to route 73 (not depicted in OSM) and one farther west about 2/3 of the way to Grace.
    • There's a waterfall and swimming hole at Shoebox Falls.
    • Some junctions are identified by birch logs lying on the ground... but this is unofficial and ad hoc.
    • The trail beyond the westernmost campsite gets a bit sketchy in spots because it often goes directly in the South Fork Boquet.

    The attached (very dark) image shows Strava's 2017 Heatmap for the eastern end of the Boquet Forks Trail.
    Here's the area in Strava (tip: enable satellite view).

    Magnified view.
    1. Junction #1 where the (hard to see) 'High Water Route' joins the main trail.
    2. Just tiny bit south of the major water-crossing of the North Fork Boquet (#2). If you miss the crossing, you will either follow along the river's bank, or head up a steep slope to higher, flatter ground and follow a faint path southwest. If you follow the bank, you will be rock-hopping along the river's edge because the bank is steep and tall.
    3. I'm not familiar with this junction (#3). I've seen the trail leading southeast to Rhododendron Pond but never followed it.
    4. I've seen junction #4 but never followed it. I know it follows the North Fork Boquet (through a narrow valley) and it eventually becomes indistinct but I don't know where exactly.
    5. If #5 is a real junction, I haven't noticed it. I've passed this spot in November and February so it may have been subtle and I missed it.
    6. This junction (#6) is obvious and the spur-trail leads to Lillypad Pond and an unofficial campsite.

    Here's what I feel I can comfortably add to OpenStreetMap but I need assistance from the experts:

    Boquet Forks Trail - High Water Route
    This is the short path along the north side of the North Fork Boquet. I just added it to OSM and it'll take some time to appear at all zoom levels.

    Trail to Lillypad Pond
    A no-brainer; add to OSM. (Done.)

    Trail along the North Fork Boquet
    This is the trail at junction #4. How far does the obvious portion of this trail go before it peters out? Only as far as the densest line shown in Strava's Heatmap?

    Trail between #2 and #3 on high-ground. ("High Ground Route")
    I've walked along this stretch and can vouch for its inclusion in OSM. I would also include the portion leading to Rhodendron Pond.

    Trail between #2 and #3 along the river bank. ("River Bank Route")
    I hesitate to depict this stretch shown in the Heatmap. Unless I'm mistaken, it's not really a trail but just tracks of people following the river bank. It's a steep bank and most of the time you're rock-hopping along the river's edge (or at least that's what we did in winter).

    Trail between #3 and #5 and beyond.
    Again, not really a trail but a bushwhack route along the river's south bank. Unless someone can convince me otherwise, I would not depict this path in OSM nor junction #5 and the spur leading southeast towards Rhodendron Pond. I think these are hunter's tracks and not necessarily following distinct trails (maybe game trails).
    Last edited by Trail Boss; 11-07-2017, 12:06 PM. Reason: Updated the nomenclature.
    Looking for Views!

  • #2
    I've only used this trail once so I'm not really familiar with it. When we hiked out from Grace (at night) it had been pouring for several hours and the river crossings were becoming rather unmanageable. At some point we got turned around due to a combination of poor visibility, Autumn trail conditions, and complacency, and found ourselves following a trail to high ground which had what appeared to be the remains of a well-used campsite with a network of trails. Some of them were dead ends and some of them led down a steep embankment to the river which was not crossable at those points. We ended up 'whacking by compass and eventually met back up with the "real" trail and got back to the road just in time for the rain to stop. I marked the campsite but it was on the same GPS unit that died on my S/D/E trip and I never got the waypoints off it. Any idea where that could have been on this map?

    Edit: it was somewhere on this map, not further up towards the slide.
    My mind was wandering like the wild geese in the west.


    • Trail Boss
      Trail Boss commented
      Editing a comment
      I think I know where you were. The clues I'm using are "high ground", "well-used campsite", "network of trails", and "steep embankment ... (river) not crossable at those points".

      It's the spot tcd described below as "... goes steeply up the bank to the top of the esker, and goes to the campsite/junction". It's southeast of Shoebox Falls and southwest of where the main trail crosses the North Fork Boquet (what tcd described as the "old" crossing).

    • FlyFishingandBeer
      FlyFishingandBeer commented
      Editing a comment
      This sounds about right. I keep wanting to go back out there and do some exploring but every time I try the weather turns foul. I don't mind rain but would prefer not to repeat that experience.

  • #3
    Thanks for starting this, Taras - it's a good start!

    Here's some initial input; I'm sure other folks will add info.

    First, notes on the trunk route:

    Early on, there are several junctions to note. Many people walk up the rough driveway to the car camping site on the south side to get to the start of the trail. Others walk up a good foot path that runs straight up from the highway closer to the river. From the car camping parking area, the trail is braided by a few extra superfluous paths that can confuse people. Additionally, a minute or so further up the trail, there is a marked junction with a heavy side trail that goes down to the right along the river, to designated campsites.

    Once past all that initial action, the trail is fairly clear until the river crossing.

    It's interesting that the Strava map shows most traffic making the first river crossing here:

    That is what I refer to as the "old crossing." When I first started using this path system, that was where most people crossed. Today, my impression is that most people cross here:
    at Shoebox Falls. People I have traveled with recently all cross there, and most people seem unaware that there was ever a crossing at the "old" downstream site.

    The trail between 2 and 3 is in fact the way most people go. There is a brief stretch of rock hopping along the edge of the water, but then after that short stretch, the trail quickly moves back onto good flat land, and is a solid path through open level woods to point 3 (Shoe Box).

    At point 3, the most commonly used trail passes through the "Wedding Arch." The trail passes between two large boulders about 8 feet high. A couple years ago, some folks cut and stacked a bunch of logs and branches across the top of those to make an arch. Passing through this arch, the trail emerges onto the open rock at ShoeBox.

    After crossing at Shoe Box and climbing up a few feet on the other bank, there is a junction with the trail on the North side. (It's correct that once you are past Shoe Box, the south side of the river is more of a bushwhack than a trail.)

    Junction 4 (North Fork) again causes confusion. Sticks are usually piled there to keep people from "mistakenly" going that way (Again, under the thought process that this whole trail system is really just a trunk trail to Grace.)

    The next place where there is often confusion is here:

    The trail enters a campsite, and it's easy to "mistakenly" go to the right and head towards Dix, rather than continuing towards Grace.

    (More in next post.)


    • #4
      So those were some notes about the "main route." Here are some "side trail" notes:

      From the highway, there is also an old driveway on the north side of the river. This used to be driveable, but is now closed to vehicles, and has been turned into a foot path. The path leads in a few feet to a popular campsite here:
      (I don't know whether that's a designated site.)

      The "north side high water trail" starts out from this campsite. From the NW side of the camp site, a trail climbs VERY steeply up a sandy loose bank for a minute, and then reaches level ground about 100 feet above the campsite. The trail then makes its way parallel to the river, up on that high ground. I have not walked that trail in some years. The last time I followed it, it made a pretty good attempt to stay on flat ground, circumventing the various gullies that run toward the river. But Thomas's description in the other thread suggests that now perhaps the trail follows a shorter path, and does more up-and-down across the gullies.

      To my knowledge, there is no path to Cranberry Pond. The heat map shows correctly that no one ever goes there.

      Junction 3:

      Oh, Junction three - what a mess! There is a good campsite high on an esker at that junction. But this junction is the one I fondly refer to as the "seven way junction." The three main paths that flow into this junction are:

      From Shoe Box, if you do not go through the "Wedding Arch", but instead stay on the south side of the river, upstream a very short distance (perhaps 50 feet) there is a strong trail that goes steeply up the bank to the top of the esker, and goes to the campsite/junction. Continuing south from the junction, that trail stays on top of the esker and goes to Rhodo Pond. No trail continues past Rhodo Pond, but there is a faint loop trail around it, and some areas where people have camped.

      Junction three also collects the path from the river. When the main trunk trail passes the large flat riverbank rock, and starts the brief "rock hopping" section, many people instead opt to go up the bank. That trail is not really faint, but it's also not a very good trail, as it is sidehill on the bank and never really finds flat ground. Eventually, it goes to the campsite/junction at #3.

      From junction #3, in addition to these three main trails, there are about 4 more, fainter paths that splay out to the east and west. Some a re braided side trails, other just dead end.

      The trail up the North Fork:

      That's a pretty good trail for quite some distance. That trail follows the north fork through nice woods to about here:

      At that point, the trail continues straight to about here:
      cutting of the "bight" of the river that runs SE and then back NE. At around this point, the trail reaches a couple very nice campsites (I'm sure illegal, but well used) right on the bank of the river.

      Past the campsites, the trail becomes obscure. A very interesting bushwhack with faint traces of a path continues along the river, past huge boulders and large cliffs, finally reaching the "boquet canyon" here:

      (A little more in next post.)


      • #5

        This is a wonderful area. But it does suffer a bit from litter, and also it suffers from people getting lost in there. As Thomas says, you see a lot of people turned around in there.

        When I first used this route 30+ years ago. There was no path to the base of the Grace Slide. This route was referred to as the "Hunter's Herd Path." The path itself was so faint that in many places travel was faster by rock hopping up the river. There were no side trails at all, except for the short spur to Lilly Pad Pond. The trail ended at the camp site here:

        Now this area has been hugely developed, with numerous features, campsites, side trails, a very popular swimming area, etc. This is part of the source of confusion. The other source of confusion is that many visitors are not interested in details before they head into the woods. Now that the path continues and is the shortest approach to one of the 46, many people just want to park their car where the GPS tells them to, and then walk an uninterrupted simple path to the peak. The path system they encounter does not match that expectation.

        I think this area would benefit greatly from some active intervention. To date, DEC has used "benign neglect" as their policy in this area. But sooner or later, someone's going to get into real trouble in there. I would like to see:
        >a few good signs and markers
        >brushing out of the dead end and lesser used side trails
        >a general clean up of the area
        >a short section of "built trail" board walk for the rock hopping section between 2 and 3
        >a good map of the area, perhaps eventually added to ADK the High Peaks map.

        This is no longer a bushwhack. I have bushwhacked extensively in the area, and there is plenty to do for those who want to do that. But like it or not, this is now a trail system that is heavily used. It goes to a very popular swimming area and to one of the 46 peaks. Trying today to treat this trail system as a bushwhack is wishful thinking and mismanagement.

        Thanks again for starting this discussion!



        • #6
          Many thanks, tcd! I've read all your posts and now need some time to digest it. I know I have more questions about the area lying directly east and southeast of Shoebox Falls.

          For the sake of clarity, I annotated a satellite view of the map (with a few more invented names) so, for discussion purposes, we can easily refer to same beasties. First and foremost is to confirm that I identified Shoebox Falls correctly! I have no GPS coords for it but I do have a photo of it (taken a few years ago). I picked the closest matching feature in the river (sluice running through a flattish slab of rock).

          Click image for larger version  Name:	Shoebox Falls.JPG Views:	2 Size:	453.8 KB ID:	481550
          Attached Files
          Looking for Views!


          • #7
            Yes, that is correct for Shoe Box. I like the other names, too - they look good.

            And to further detail the "rock hopping section" from my earlier post:

            The path comes to the large flat riverfront rock here:
            The flat rock may be easily seen on sat photos.

            The "rock hopping" only continues to here:
            At this point the trail finds flat ground and leaves the river to go straight (ish) to Shoe Box.


            • #8
              I hiked this for the first time in August and only got screwed up in a couple of places. It's a gorgeous area.
              There's a short and very rough road, paralleling route 73, that leads to the southside start of the trail
              Very rough road is right. We were in an SUV, but I wouldn't try it in my Pontiac Vibe.

              We crossed at #2, but probably only because we had intel about it's location:
              Key is to cross the North Fork Boquet about 0.4 miles (0.6 km) from route 73 (big ol' curved cedar on the opposite side).
              (Thanks Trail Boss)
              I don't think that crossing is obvious unless you're looking for the cedar.

              We also stepped right over the birch logs intended to keep us from going to wrong way at #4. Didn't get too far before I checked my compass and realized we were in error.

              The trail enters a campsite, and it's easy to "mistakenly" go to the right and head towards Dix, rather than continuing towards Grace.
              We also steered several hikers back to the left through the campsite during breakfast the next morning. Even with the cairn, it just doesn't feel right to walk between tents to stay on the trail.


              • #9
                My .02
                • The Crossing is very easy to miss.
                • The River Bank Route sucks and is a waste of time.
                • The High Ground Route is a pretty good one (excellent views of the Dix Range and Beckhorn Slide) but when the herd path veers off to the south you have to bushwhack for a while to get back to the BFT. Unless, one were to veer NW and cross the river just upstream of Shoebox Falls. Never thought of that but Strava users clearly have!
                • The High Water Route is very nice actually.

                Project-100: 100 peaks, one winter.


                • Trail Boss
                  Trail Boss commented
                  Editing a comment
                  I have to agree that the River Bank Route, especially where you start at its eastern end, is just rock-hopping in the river (sucks). There's nothing in there hinting it's part of a path. The river crossing *is* subtle but this thing is much subtler. If I depict it in OSM, I'm trying to imagine how someone would interpret it when they lay eyes on the river. "Trail? What trail? It's the river!"

                  What is evident at that exact same spot is the start of the High Ground Route. It visibly runs straight up the steep slope and levels off on top of the esker (I'll borrow that from tcd).

              • #10
                Originally posted by MediumChris View Post
                We also steered several hikers back to the left through the campsite during breakfast the next morning. Even with the cairn, it just doesn't feel right to walk between tents to stay on the trail.
                Trail Boss

                Just to clarify, this isn't the campsite I was referring to. This one seemed obvious that it was the trail, but if there had been anyone camped in it, then yes, it would feel weird walking through it. The one I was referring to above sits atop a very densely wooded "knoll" somewhere to the NNE of Lillypad Pond. I suspect its somewhere near the Shoebox Falls area, but can't be sure since visibility was down to about 50 ft that night and neither of us knew the area that well to begin with. We stumbled into a virtual spiderweb of trails in that area, none of which were really any more or less obvious than the "correct" trail due to the leaf litter and weather.
                My mind was wandering like the wild geese in the west.


                • #11
                  Right. MediumChris was talking about the campsite much further in, where there is a faint side route towards Dix.

                  Fly, you are talking about the campsite at the top of the esker, Taras junction #3, with the spider web mess of trails emanating from it. It is very near Shoe Box falls. If you follow the trail that runs basically north from that campsite, it goes steeply down directly to ShoeBox falls in a couple minutes. But you would not have gone that way, because you were interested in navigating out of the woods, so you were generally trying to go ENE.


                  • FlyFishingandBeer
                    FlyFishingandBeer commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Got it. This makes perfect sense now. Thanks!

                • #12
                  Using Locus Map, I traced Strava's heatmap to create routes for import into Google Earth. Here's the resulting annotated "3D view" of the area near Shoebox Falls. One more visual aid to help demystify this beautiful place.

                  Click image for larger version

Name:	Shoebox Falls Area.JPG
Views:	1
Size:	364.7 KB
ID:	481560

                  Looking for Views!


                  • #13
                    Looks pretty accurate, except for the location of the crossing at Shoe Box. That crossing is right on the open rocks, very near where you have the white arrowhead indicating ShoeBox Falls. You have it shown considerably upstream of where it is really located. The yellow riverbank route goes through the wedding arch, and straight across the river at Shoe Box. If you are approaching on the red high ground route, you go down a steep hill to the river, and then actually turn downstream for a very short distance (as I said, maybe 50 feet). At that point, the red high ground route ends; it junctions into the yellow route just before going through the Arch.

                    Neil and Taras, most people I have seen do take the riverbank route. Yes, it is imperceptible at its start (like a lot of "river edge" trails in the Adirondacks). But that annoying rock hop section is very short, and in a very short distance (just a minute or two of hiking, right where the illustration shows it turning right) the river bank route veers into the woods and onto nice flat smooth ground. And the rest of the way, it is a much nicer trail than the high ground route. Plus, it avoids a lot of climbing, and it avoids the messy junction at the campsite.


                    • #14
                      I'm prepping a detailed response to your posts ... but I'll first explain why I drew a crossing above the falls ... 'cuz Strava's Heatmap suggests this point along the river sees the same traffic as at the falls (... but I should've also shown the crossing at the falls in the photo above).

                      This is a combination of Strava Heatmap and OpenStreetmap (displayed in Locus Map).

                      1. Busy initial crossing of the river (marked as a "ford" in OSM).
                      2. Tracks indicate rock-hopping in the river-bed.
                      3. Tracks indicate crossing at the falls.
                      4. Tracks indicate crossing upstream of the falls (where River Bank and High Ground intersect).

                      Click image for larger version  Name:	Shoebox Falls Heatmap.jpg Views:	1 Size:	122.1 KB ID:	481570

                      There's room for debate about which crossings, and which of these southern routes, is worth adding to OSM. However, what's very evident is that the Heatmap shows the most activity along the "Boquet Forks Trail" (as depicted in OSM). FWIW, this is also the route described in the ADK HP guidebook under "Dix Range via North Fork Boquet River".
                      Looking for Views!


                      • #15
                        Taras, do you know the winter / summer proportion of the data in Strava? It may be that in winter, people go different ways. From 2 to 3 is an excellent trail in summer; I cannot imagine why, today, anyone would stay in the river for that section.

                        Also, how old is the Strava data (what period does it include)? Yes, the guidebook calls out that earlier crossing, and I certainly used that crossing back in the 80s. But as far as I know, today, in summer, just about everyone crosses at ShoeBox. It is a far better and more scenic crossing, and much easier in any kind of moderate water level.

                        (Waiting for Joe Cedar to review this...)