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Round Pond/Gravestone brook reconnaissance

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  • Round Pond/Gravestone brook reconnaissance

    We had some free time, so wanted to do a simple, easy hike (the ability to do this was one of our reasons for moving to Elizabethtown). Plan A was to do the West River trail to Lower Ausable lake, (crossing earlier because the bridge is out). We figured that would be unlikely because of parking (it was Noon), and we were right, the attendant at the AMR lot said we would have had to be there by 5:30 or 6:00 on a Wednesday. So Plan B was to go up the Dix trail from Round Pond and check out the leanto and the start of the Gravestone Brook herd path and, on the way, check out the parking situation. Of course, there was no parking along 73 prior to the AMR and Roaring Brook PAs, and up the hill, all spaces were full. By the time we got to Chapel Pond, there were a few. When we got to the Round Pond PA, it was completely full, so we continued south hoping to find a space along the road. The first part had No Parking signs, but we realized that the trail is along the road for a short distance, so of course it would be dangerous for hikers if people parked there. Beyond the trailhead, there weren't any No Parking signs, so we pulled off (beyond the white line) and had no difficulty. End of parking discussion.

    We signed in at 12:30 and noticed someone before us had as their destination Heart Lake, and said they were going to take 9 days. We spent some time while hiking discussing how they could take that much time. I assumed they would spend night 1 at the Boquet River leanto, 2 somewhere near Elk Lake, 3 maybe at the campsite on the Pinnacle Ridge trail, or at the new Casey Brook leanto, 4 at Panther Gorge, etc. From there, of course, there are many choices (Haystack then SnoBird, Marcy then Feldspar or Uphill, etc.) but 5 more nights? Of course, there are lots of peaks and it would be easy to use all five days.

    Climbing up away from 73 toward Round Pond, we passed a fairly level part of the trail, and I thought "maybe this is where the old Chapel Pass road went". I thought I would check out the campsites at chapel pond, but saw no signs or arrows pointing to a campsite. There was one path in the right direction (left), but it came to an area which said "reforestation area, do not enter", or something like that, but I guess that's the way to the campsites. We continued up the trail, debating where we should turn around or at least stop for lunch, but continued. There sure is a lot of blowdown along that trail! Soon, we met our first group of hikers, so we all dutifully put on our masks and stepped off the trail. They were coming down from Noonmark. A little while later, there was a large tree across the trail which made a perfect lunch spot. After a nice 1/2 hour break, we continued up. Another, larger group, passed us going down; they were almost running, and (I think) they were coming down from Dix. We got to the junction for the Felix Alder (Noonmark) and Old Dix (Round Mtn) trails, and continued.

    I was looking for the Gravestone Brook herdpath (boy, there are a lot of stream crossings!), and at each one, I checked my GPS and, no that wasn't it - until it was. It was unmistakable - first of all, the trail makes a sharp left turn, from going NNW to SSW, and second, there was a fairly obvious trail continuing in the NNW direction, with some small birch logs across it to prevent people from going there by mistake.

    Anyway, we continued until we reached the leanto, at its new location (we had previously been there a couple of times, once when we did Dix the first time). There was a lot of partially burned, illegally harvested wood in the fireplace, but no trash. We rested there for awhile, then started back. Just as we were approaching the old leanto location, we heard some people coming down from Dix and crossing the river. They were taking their time, taking off their boots. We thought we had better hurry, because they were probably faster than us oldsters and didn't want to interact with them (there were many), but we never saw them again; maybe they were staying at the leanto (which was unoccupied).

    I was getting a little concerned at our slowness and the lateness of the hour, but I shouldn't have. At one point, I slipped and fell on my face while rock-hopping across one of the many streams, but sustained no injury except to my pride.

    I was thinking about our separating when we got to the trail junction and my taking the Old Dix trail back to the AMR PA and asking my wife to pick me up there; I noted that the distance was the same (2.3 miles), but decided that that was a bad idea, and I didn't know the condition of the trail, I had thought it might be easier and I could add it to my redlining quest, but decided against it.

    As we approached Round Pond, we could hear kids shouting and playing in the water from the campsite across the water. After we passed the turnoff for the campsites, a backpacker passed us, going to the campsite, and wanted to know the way. I told him what I could, which was what I reported here. After signing out, we were walking toward our car when someone called out to us. They were a couple running toward us from the parking lot and wanted to know if the campsites were full. I said "There are some people there, but I don't know if it's full, but it's only a half mile away, why don't you check it out?" and "Did you check the Chapel Pond campsites?" They hadn't, so we parted not knowing what they had decided. We drove back to our home in Etown via New Russia, noting that there was only one car at the East Trail to Giant PA. There was also an occupied vehicle at the PA for Iron Mtn, probably only someone turning around.

    So, all in all, a good hike, my longest this year.

    ADK 46r #8003; 6W
    2nd round: 16
    SL6r #596
    Catskill 3500 21/39; 11W

  • #2
    Thanks, Mike. Great, detailed report that will be useful to folks looking for the Gravestone approach.

    There are a bunch of campsites by Round Pond, and some down by the neighboring Twin Pond as well. I have not seen the "reforestation area" but I will wander in there sometime and take a look.

    The crossing of Gravestone Brook (at the two nice boulders, where the brook is channeled between them) has a warm place for me. Maybe 25 years ago, we were on the crew that relocated that stretch of trail. The original trail, well SE of the current trail, had been deeply inundated by beavers. I was sent ahead with the mission "try to find a good place with a couple good rocks to cross this brook." I found the location where the trail now crosses, and I was delighted!


    • #3
      Jeez...I'm thankful I like cooler weather and typically hike either earlier or later than peak hiking season. More often than not, I've had very little competition for a site. Driving from a few hundred miles away only to have my well-laid plans crushed would be, well, crushing.

      However, since I've recently finished my 46, I have no problem with altering my plans in the future. One of the nice things about "hiking them all" is that I've gotten to be very familiar with so many different trailheads, areas, and their camping accommodations. After getting to my own site, I usually check out the ones nearby, and I do the same thing while hiking as well.