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2008-01 Pine Orchard

From Adirondack Day Hikes: Pine Orchard by Barbara McMartin reprinted in Adirondack Sports and Fitness, June 2000.

“Pine Orchard Trail begins on private land in James Flater’s front yard leads to a knoll with an unusual history. A very old road that traversed the knoll dates back to the early nineteenth century. Parts of the forest along the road were logged a long time ago and, in fact, there are parts that today appear as if they never had been logged. For a strange reason Pine Orchard was spared. Nature had destroyed the forest on the knoll with a tremendous windstorm. These winds came from the hurricane of 1815 and they leveled the knoll. Pines reestablish best when the soil has been disturbed and thus many pines sprouted on the knoll. They were of course too small to attract early lumbermen. Then nature dealt a second blow. Sometime, when the trees here were fairly small, a blight hit. The trees kept growing, but because the tops of many were gone, the trees branched, making two or three trunks in a clump. Now, lumbermen don’t want pines that do not have tall, straight, single trunks. So they never cut these trees. They probably would not have logged them anyway, because sometime early in the nineteenth century this land became Forest Preserve, meaning that no trees could ever be cut there again. So, this short walk will lead you to a stand of the largest pines you will find in the southern Adirondacks. One tree is so large that three people, arms outstretched, cannot reach around it. Other trees are filling in among the old pines. On the southern slopes you will find spruce trees of enormous size for spruce (they never get much above 30 inches in diameter). On the knoll’s northern slopes you will find magnificent hemlocks. Also interspersed among the pines are large maples that came along after the pines were big enough to shade them when they were young.

To find the trail, drive to Wells on NY 30 and just before the road turns to cross the Sacandaga River, head straight ahead on Griffen Road. Follow that road for 0.7 mile and turn right on Windfall Road and follow it for just over a mile to a fork. Take the right fork and follow it for two miles. The dirt road narrows and climbs until you see a sign at the side of the road “visitors parking.”

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Mr. Flater, retired Colonie police chief, and his family have put that there for walkers. Park and continue on the road, following it across his front lawn until you reach state land. Just beyond the state land boundary, a snowmobile trail comes in on your right and the marked trail continues generally northeast. The first 0.8 mile of trail is generally downhill through young forest to a bridge, then the trail winds through more mature forest to a second stream crossing in another 0.6 mile. After the trail makes a sharp bend to the northwest, it begins to climb the knoll. You will find the tallest pines near the top of the knoll.

The walk to cover the knoll and return is less than five miles, quite easy, and should take under three hours. You won’t find much better stand of forest in the Adirondacks that is so accessible.”

WinterCampers.com made this our camping destination as Matt, Mark, Len Sparky and Jim dragged in the tipi for a pleasant overnight in the woods. Given the easy trail description Matt and Jim experimented with sleds. The Otter II sled proved just as easy to pull and with it’s deeper tray was less likely to get snagged on branches and overturn than the Paris Company Expedition Sled.

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It was an easy hike in, below Matt confers with Len, Mark and Sparky.

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Once we were among the large white pines we set up camp. These trees are 300 year old giants that centuries ago would have warranted protection by the English Crown for the sole use of the mast makers of the Royal Navy; straight-grained white pines six feet in diameter and perhaps two hundred feet tall. Mark got cozy with a white pine on the hike in.

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We arrived at our campsite shortly after noon and had our lunches. While most of us packed our own lunch at least one newly wed had theirs packaged and labeled.

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While Len prepared a fire site, Mark & I cut wood and Sparky and Matt set up the tipi.

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After much coaxing and the sacrificing of the small dry tipi wood, Firemaster Len finally got a decent blaze and we sat around the fire until 9pm.

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There was a little snow during the night which periodically slid down the tipi leaving slightly banked sides in the morning.

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We packed up, marched out and had a great breakfast at the diner in Wells.