Tuesday, November 1, 2016

McCauley Mountain-Maple Ridge Multi use trail system

~ Article written and pictures taken by Linda Grace, 
Publicity Clerk, Old Forge Visitor Information Center. 

Mid-September was the start of bear hunting season, and now the deer hunters are out trying to get their game. Hunting season lasts long into December. I truly respect hunters and understand the need for them in our back country, but as a hiker and trail runner, I find this season difficult. I know I can, and often do, run the roads during this time. Still, there is something about my mornings beginning in the wilderness which just makes my day. I realize that there are others who feel the same way and so I have decided to write about trails which will help us keep a respectable distance from hunters.

Town-owned McCauley Mountain to Maple Ridge offers a multi-use trail system, with biking and hiking for three of our four seasons and it offers cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. This means that there is no hunting here, and in the winter there are no snowmobiles.

I must admit that I really didn’t like the thought of this maze-like array of trails, because I am the kind of person who really likes to go somewhere and see something.  The area at first seems a little confusing, and it definitely calls for a use of a map, as well as keeping a careful eye out for trail markers. After studying the map of the area, I realized that there are only two main trails with many side trails weaving in and out of them.

I decided I’d at least give the two main trails a try. Have you ever seen a movie trailer that features all the best scenes of the movie? Well this blog is kind of like that. I describe the best of this hike right here, but I am not like those writers who give people every detail of the hike. I like to leave some things for the adventurers to discover for themselves.

Gray Lake
Following the signs to McCauley Mountain, drive past a parking area and garage on the left. The trail begins on the left shortly after the brown Yurt. The blue diamond trail and the yellow trail start off together. I decided to follow the yellow trail, which is called The Wall, going in a northeastern direction, and then winding around to go west to the Grey Lake Trail. After a short ascent heading north again, the fall colors were at about 30 percent on the day of my hike. I thought the trail wouldn’t give me a view of anything but trees, but it opened up and offered a colorful vista of Grey Lake.

I followed Slalom Trail then began following the blue diamond trail up Boy’s Hill and started up a small incline of the Abenaki Trail. After the hike up the hill, I was rewarded with a picnic table and some Adirondack chairs perfect for a rest. They face a tree line offering glimpses of McCauley’s downhill slope. This area is also near where they had the slalom ski run, although it is hard to tell, because of all the tree growth.

The old truck at the top of Abenaki Trail
I continued up this trail and got to see historic ski tow equipment. People who grew up here have the advantage of hearing the stories from past generations, so I picked some brains about the old time tows. I also did some research on line and in the library. What I learned is that the tow was created by attaching a rope to the axle of an old truck’s wheels after the truck was mounted securely. As someone ran the truck, the truck’s wheel axle would turn and become the pulley for the tow rope. One year after obtaining their first tow rope, the Old Forge Winter Sports Association voted to get another tow line. Old Forge Hardware provided the rope and the equipment. The old truck used to run the second tow line is the one which remains on the top of Abenaki Trail today.

After visiting this historic truck, I continued following the McCauley Trail around where it joins up to Mocha’s Loop and goes over to the former Maple Ridge ski hill. This ski area was started in the 1930’s with a single rope tow. The town continued using this mountain for downhill skiing into the 1990’s. There is equipment left here, as well, that tells of the bygone era.

Ski equipment at the top of  Maple Ridge 

I followed the Maple Ridge yellow/orange trail to the Girl’s Hill and took the D Loop cutoff and Reggie’s Loop Cutoff and back to the blue diamond McCauley Trail back to my starting point.

To say the least, my original opinion of this area has changed. I now see it as a good getaway, with the option of a full-day, partial-day or short hike into a quiet place in the woods.

[For more information on Maple Ridge, one can read the book Lost Ski Areas of the Adirondacks by Jeremy K. Davis.]

How to get there:  From Old Forge follow the signs to McCauley Mountain. Park at the closed gate and walk on paved driveway pass the brown yurk on the left and trail is on the left. 
Trail head from McCauley enterance

Top of Maple Ridge overlooking Old Forge

Another way to access this trail network is from Park Ave. The parking area is right across from the Town of Webb School. The trail heads straight up the hill to the Maple Ridge Trail, where there’s a picnic area lookout over Old Forge.

This trail system offers easy to moderate trails ranging from half a mile to 1.5 miles. For a map of this area click below: