top of page

2016 Adirondacks: Cranberry Lake 50

Located in the ~125,000 acre Five Ponds Wilderness Area, the Cranberry Lake 50 leads hikers through old-growth forests, past backcountry ponds, across a glaciated landscape, and to peaceful campsites, according to the Cranberry Lake 50 website.

And, in fact, hiking the CL50 did lead us to all those things and more.

The beefy, athletic go-getters will brag about "doing the CL50" in two days - some even less. But we were interested in seeing just how long we could spend exploring the route. We planned on using the CL50 trail to help guide us, but then spend lots of time off the beaten trail, exploring, reflecting, reveling and relaxing. 

After returning from the CL50, we proceeded to hike the Five Ponds Trail, a much more remote and less traveled trail through some stunning forests and wetlands. 

The following is a collection of photos, sketchbook entries and bits and pieces of what we can remember about the trip, which at the time of writing was seven years ago.

Sept 8: Glen treats water for drinking and cooking from a stream near Cranberry Lake

Sept 8 and 9: Mary captures memories in her sketchbook

Sept 9: We took in so many sights while backpacking along the trail between Glasby Pond and High Falls

It had been a wet summer, so mushrooms were plentiful, including the gorgeous sulfur shelf (top left)

The dogs look serious - the reason for that might be all that dog food they're carrying

We are carrying all we need for several nights out, including mostly homemade food that we dehydrated ahead of time.

Sept 10: Our backpacking along the Cranberry Lake 50 brought us to Olmstead Pond 

Sept 11: Apparently it was a mushroom-y trip! Even more mushroom photos on this day. Such rich and verdant woods.

Sept 12: It's been too long for us to be able to remember and/or identify the locations of many of the photos for this trip. However, the photos from High Rock looking out onto the Oswegatchie are not to be mistaken. This was a wonderful day - a day we met an older couple who were paddling the river - they inspired us to begin paddling in the Adirondacks and elsewhere.

Mary chats with the couple who had stopped at High Rock from their paddle on the Oswegatchie. The looked over maps and Mary thought "I want to paddle the Oswegatchie too!"

Sept 13: This marks the last day of the CL 50. Tonight we'll camp in Wanakena at a little-used tiny municipal campground before setting out on the Five Ponds trail.

Sept 14-16: After a couple nights in Wanakena, and a night at the Cranberry Lake State Campground (for showers) we set out on the second half of our backpacking trip, after having carefully replenished our food supply. We hiked in along the Oswegatchie River, connecting with a trail leading toward the Five Ponds trail.

The ATV trail was one mucky mud hole after another. Mary managed to fall off the trail's edge directly into one of the deep mud holes. Not able to get out of the mud due to being off balance with her backpack, Mary was hauled out of the mud hole by Glen.*

We camped north of Little Otter Pond in the pretty woods  for one night.

The next night was spent at Wolf Pond, reached by taking Wolf Pond Trail off of Sand Lake Trail.

* 2022 UPDATE! Northeast Wilderness Trust is currently working on protecting the 1,056-acre Bear Pond Forest—the key remaining privately owned property within the Five Ponds Wilderness Area - which would do away with ATV use in this area. We donated, hoping they are successful in their purchase.

Sept 17: From the shelter at Wolf Pond, we headed off with the tentative destination of Big Shallow Pond, where there was anoter shelter.

A couple more pages from Mary's sketchbook, one of which reveals the heartache of trying to eat with a compostable fork. 

Sept 18: Our destination today was for Glasby Pond. I remember this as being one of the most quiet and peaceful of all our campsites. There were few people around, so it was possible on this trip to camp without anyone else in the vicinity, making for quiet nights.

There were some massive downed white pine, with their root systems thrown up out of the forest floor.

Crossing the log of doom over the muddy beaver impoundment was NOT Mary's favorite part of the trip. But, Mary's earlier dive into a mud hole was her only on this trip and she made it to the other side un-muddied.

As I prepared supper by the side of the pond, I noted the following in my sketchbook, "Glasby quiet I can hear the dragonflies flit by and land on rocks on the pond's edge. Now the frog starts up with a low ga-lump, ga-lump ga-lump."

Sept 19: After breakfast at Glasby Pond, we took a day trip up Cat Mountain. The 1 1/2 mile roundtrip Cat Mountain Trail leads to the summit of Cat Mountain, where a fire tower once stood.

After our return hike from Cat Mountain, we backpacked out to Wanakena and our car, where we gratefully tossed our packs into the back of the car.

We drove over to Horseshoe Lake, near Lows Lower Dam, where we car camped for two nights. Our backpacking days were over for this trip!

Sept 20: We had a down day at Horseshoe lake, with a little paddling and exploring. The trip was winding down and we could start to feel the pull of home exerting itself on us.

Sept 21: If I remember correctly, we left Horseshoe Lake and headed over to the High Peaks area of the Adirondacks. I had no desire to "bag a peak", but we did want to explore a little bit. We hiked up a modest mountain called Little Crow, located in the Hurricane Mountain Wilderness Area.

Sept 22: Today was our last day in the Adirondacks for this trip. We spent it in the High Peaks, taking a few more hikes before hitting the road to head back to Greenfield, MA.

bottom of page