Adirondack Hike
Siamese Ponds Wilderness

copyright Burnham Ink

copyright Bill Burnham

"The old mine is haunted and the mountain as a whole is cursed."

Humphrey Mountain isn't as bad as all that. True, the route up this 2,951-foot peak vanishes just shy of the abandoned garnet mine, leaving a foot traveler to hunt-and-peck amid rampid overgrowth. Beyond this, what inspired this message, scrawled in an ADK shelter on Puffer Pond, it isn't readily noticeable.

Maybe the author was peeved about climbing a peak with no views. Hardly surprising, given how the wooded summit typifies Siamese Ponds Wilderness. This is the quiet side of the Adirondack Park. Famous and crowded High Peaks are farther north. But here, Siamese Pond, it's secluded backpacking along wooded trails set amid lush, low-slung peaks. The centerpiece, climbing Humphrey Mountain, is rivaled only by sunrise on Puffer Pond where, in a morning haze, pond water ripples with small fish jumping.

A 12-mile overnight loop (with an option to shuttle) uses eight different rails, starting out easy on the mile-and-a-half John Pond Trail. More is demanded of hikers on John Pond Crossover Trail, where conditions are typical of a wilderness left largely unmaintained. If trails look cared-for, credit either a fisherman or cross-country skier. Neither seem to care for the Crossover trail, judging by blow downs that force Olympic-caliber leg-overs dead trees. At this low elevation, streams become obstacles as well. Footing is uncertain: A misstep lands you in knee-high mud bogs, a dry, clean rock, under full weight, turns into a teetering precipice.

Two shelters perched on Puffer Pond make ideal camps. Puffer Pond Brook Trail follows the self-same stream as it drops in five-foot cascades into small rock tubs and pools. Humphrey Mountain, accessed from Kings Flow East Trail, climbs steeply for a half-mile to end at a pile of tailings. Well-picked over, there are only flint-sized fragments of the garnet mined before World War I.

It is possible to bushwhack up either of Humphrey's duel summits, but don't say you weren't warned: That's a lot of work for little reward in the way of views. Some people, apparently, take that rather personally.

The Way: From Albany, drive north on I-87 and exit on Rt. 9 West to Rt. 28. It's another 29 miles to Indian Lake village. Turn left on Rt. 30. Big Brook Road, in a half-mile, leads 3.3 miles to Starbuck Road. Turn left for 0.4 miles, then bear left at a fork onto Lake Drive for another half-mile. The gravel road dead-ends 0.2 miles past a hard right curve. At the turn-around, turn left onto a four-wheel drive road (easily passable by sedan or compact car) leading 0.1 mile to trailhead parking. (NOTE: Vehicles parked in the turn-around will be towed.)