Last week's column about the Northville-Placid Trail, detailed the history of the oldest and longest end to end hiking trail in the Adirondacks. However, I must correct one fact. Work on the trail began in 1921 and it was officially completed in 1923. In 2013, the trail will celebrate its centennial
Although the NPT likely remains the most popular and heavily traveled of the region's long distance trails, there is a new end to end, long distance hiking trail that is quickly gaining in popularity.
The Adirondack's newest, long distance trail is the Cranberry Lake 50, a fifty-mile loop that circumnavigates Cranberry Lake as it passes through some of the most remote, scenic and lightly traveled backcountry in the entire park.
I am quite familiar with the lay of the land in that region, since I have been traveling throughout the local woods and waters for many years, primarily while fishing for brook trout.
Several years ago, a writer from Men's Journal magazine called while researching the most remote locations in the eastern US. He wanted to know about the kind of places where a man could escape modern day society and be truly lost for a while.
It didn't take long for me to come up with an answer. Of the many areas I've traveled in over 30 years in the woods, it is difficult to find a place that is much wilder than the south end of Cranberry Lake and the adjacent Five Ponds Wilderness Area of the Oswagatchie River.
It is an area steeped in history, with loggers, guides and artists including Fredrick Remington and famous anglers, including Ray Bergman author of Trout.
At the mouth of Sucker Brook, on the east shore of Cranberry Lake rests a monument carved into a huge glacial erratic. Honoring one of the forefathers of American flyfishing, it reads, "In memory of Reuben Wood, a genial gentleman and great fisherman, who was fond of these solitudes."
The new trail was completed in 2008 and it has a website located at www.cranberry50.org. The trail, which combines old logging roads, hunter's trails and canoe carries, saw the first hikers officially complete the Cranberry 50 in the spring of 2008.
The development of the trail is a testament to the vision, collaboration and hard work of townspeople, businesses, advocacy groups and the NYSDEC.
To date, fewer than 100 people have completed the entire route. Only five travelers have done it in the winter, which is rather surprising since the trails and terrain are ideal for cross country skiing. Those who complete the entire route are entitled to a Cranberry Lake 50 patch.
The route, with a maximum elevation of only about 400 feet above sea level, encompasses a long section of the Oswagatchie River, before setting off through the remote ponds and big woods surrounding Cranberry Lake.
These are big woods, and in places, they have become nearly impassable due to the Big Blow of 1995, a windstorm that toppled over 100,000 acres of Adirondack forests. Much of the country is impenetrable due to the severe blowdown.
The region is interspersed with numerous ponds, backwoods streams, waterfalls and innumerable beaver dams. It features a gentle mix of hardwood forests and old growth softwoods, with soaring virgin pine and huge old growth, hemlocks.
According to Sherman Craig, one of the trail's founders, the effort was the brainchild of the 5 Ponds Partners, a group of local businesses and advocacy groups that wanted "to focus on maintaining the natural beauty and diverse recreational resources inherent to the area."
They worked together to take advantage of the greatest economic development opportunities available in the area, the nearby woods and waters. As Mr. Craig explained, "It was economic development in its purest form. We recycled an old network of existing trails and turned it into an adventure, a quest."
The grassroots effort was extraordinary, "I've never lived in a community that was so cooperative and supportive!" revealed Mr. Craig.
Wanakena has a year round population of about 40 residents, with over 200 residents living in town during the summer months.
It doesn't hurt to have a nearby NYS Ranger School, with its incredible forestry resources, in Wanakena. Jamie Savage, also one of the "Partners," is a forestry instructor at the campus.
A local chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club offered their help and trail building expertise. Other partners included the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the NY Department of State and the North East State Foresters Association.
It also helped to have folks such as Rick Kovaks and his wife, Angie, owners of Packbasket Adventures, a bed and breakfast and Adirondack guide service in Wanakena.
In addition, Kovaks is the proprietor of the Wanakena General Store, the village meeting place. He has fashioned the business around the outdoors, with GPS and bear canister rentals, and a growing flyfishing shop, in addition to providing groceries and the daily newspaper.
I was interested to learn that Kovaks' log cabin B&B sits on the banks of the Oswagatchie River, on the exact location of a cabin that was once owned by my old friend, the late Edwin Reid.
Reid was a Forest Ranger, guide, hunter, trapper and author. He was also a reporter for the Plattsburgh Press Republican and a resident of Adirondac, located on the edge of the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness. Most of all, he was a sportsman.
Reid lived the backwoods life, summer and winter, and I expect he would be happy to know that his old haunts are still being enjoyed by a new generation of outdoor travelers. Reid's old newspaper column heading was, "This is Packbasket Country."
And so it remains, in a sleepy, little village, tucked away deep in the heart of the Adirondacks, there is an atmosphere of a time warp, where the town appears to be stuck in a kinder, gentler period, in a place where neighbors know their neighbors and everyone is willing to work together for the common good. It sure is nice to know that such a place still exists!
Kovacs can be reached at www.packbasketadventures.com or at (315) 848-3488. But, he is usually found behind the counter of the Wanakena General store. If you're in the area, stop in to say hello, you'll be glad you did.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.