AuSABLE FORKS — The sun ducked behind a white puff of clouds that seemed to be painted against the sky as we cruised down a long, flat stretch of Silver Falls Road toward Taylor Pond on Sunday afternoon.
Looking north, sun-burnt cliffs of the Potter Mountains stood out in the haze of a humid day, with the rolling green hills and rocky peak of Catamount in the opposite direction.
My car buckled — two kayaks riding the roof — as we turned down a bumpy, dirt road, past a vacant pay-station and up to a small boat launch. The only public access point to Taylor Pond.
Although the pond, which lies in 8,000-acres of Wild Forest state land, is cradled by Catamount, Douglas, Carmel and Cranberry Mountains, the surrounding area is much flatter than the High Peaks region to the south, making it feel especially remote. Coming from Lake Placid or Wilmington, the sky will seem noticeably bigger.
Nearly 100-feet deep in some sections, Taylor Pond is perhaps best known for fishing — Lake Trout and Atlantic Salmon are stocked each year — but it also offers a great opportunity to dig in, stretch out the arms and take a nice long paddle.
“A lot of people come out with kayaks and canoes,” said caretaker Nick Pelletire. “There’s plenty of room out there ... lot’s of shoreline to explore.”
We unloaded our kayaks on Sunday just after 4 p.m. and set out. A light breeze made lines and ripples across the glassy surface of the water.
The boat launch sits at the tip of a narrow bay that shoots off from the main section of Taylor Pond. After about a mile paddle, passing a large group of kayakers and a couple in a canoe with a happy-looking dog, things opened up. As we came to the heart of the pond, completely surrounded by wilderness, an Osprey soared across the blue sky.
“There’s plenty of wildlife to see out there,” Pelletire said later that day. “I’ve heard rumors of moose, seen bear tracks, raccoon, eagles ... the other day I was out fishing and I saw a total of nine Loons. It must have been a family reunion or something.”
After bearing right and paddling along the wooded shore, we came to a sandy beach in the northern section of the pond that seemed perfect for a snack and a quick swim. I must have fallen asleep for a few minutes while basking in the sun, but soon woke up to explore and found a sign hanging on tree that read: Lacey Beach.
We filled up on cheese and Triscuits then returned to the boats. After a few minutes we began paddling into a shallow cove and were again confronted with wildlife. Thatched sticks and driftwood formed a dome-shaped beaver lodge and the closer we got the louder it became — the cries and whimpers of baby beavers, called kits, hungrily quacking like ducks from the safety of their hut.
After listening in awe for several minutes, and taking photos of a pair frogs perched on a log near the beaver hut, we left the cove and continued to circle the large pond. Aside from a motor boat that raced on in the distance, it was completely isolated.
“It’s been dead quiet around here for the most part,” Pelletire said. “We opened up really late this year, so I’m wondering if people even know that we’re open.”
Although things are a little slow, Pelletire said the Department of Environmental Conservation-run campground that sits on the edge of the pond was almost full last weekend.
“It was our busiest weekend yet. We had people from all over coming up, which is great,” he said. “I’ve noticed a lot of people coming up from New York City who have never experienced the wilderness, or anything like this before.”
Pelletire said it’s a great place to learn about the outdoors, but that there are safety concerns and precautions that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Especially while paddling a small vessel on such a large “pond.”
Signs near the boat launch warn paddlers of fast-changing weather.
“The boat launch only represents a small portion of Taylor pond,” Pelletire said. “So when I look out, whatever the lake is doing in the bay, I usually multiply it by two for the bigger part of the lake. It can get pretty rough ... pretty windy out there. The best thing to do is to always wear a PFD (personal flotation device) because you never know when the weather’s going to change.”
Luckily, the weather stayed pleasant on Sunday, with the calm waters reflecting on the late afternoon sky. As we paddled back toward the boat launch we could hear the faint cries of a Loon wallowing in the distance.
Catamount Mountain stands over Taylor Pond in AuSable Forks.
Photos/Eric Voorhis/Lake Placid News
Fact BoxIf you go...
Motor boats, rowboats, canoes and kayaks are allowed on the large pond with rowboat and canoe rentals available from the DEC. Boat rentals cost $20 for 24-hours of use.
The DEC state campground on Taylor Pond has a total of 30 sites; 25 “drive-in” sites, and 5 Interior (Boat Access ONLY) sites, 3 of which are lean-to sites, and 2 which are tent sites.
Along with the interior site the main campground is a primitive. There are no flush toilets or other amenities, but outhouses and water spigots are available at various locations. The camping fee is $16.
A day use pass is $6 for each car, $4 for motorcycles and for the brave travelers on foot, $2.