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Pleasant walk with a memorable otter show

December 6, 2017
By JUSTIN A. LEVINE - Outdoors Writer ( , Lake Placid News

REDFORD - I'd been walking for a while and it seemed like the hike might start to drag on, but I bent down to tie my shoe and noticed the silver slivers of a sun-dappled pond through the trees, and quickly bound off to reach the shore.

As I took in the surprisingly nice view of Mud Pond, I noticed some movement on the thin sheet of ice that was covering most of the 109-acre waterbody. Far across the way, past the half moon-shaped open water, what appeared to be a pair of otters were moving across the shiny white surface.

I lifted my camera and started snapping pictures. The animals were far away, and I didn't put a whole lot of stock in the photos I took. But when I looked at the screen on the camera and zoomed in, it was clear through the series of pics that the otters weren't just running across the ice, they were running and building up speed, only to then belly slide across the ice. Honestly, it looked like a lot of fun.

Article Photos

Mud Pond, in Clinton County near Riverview, offers a pleasant view along with the potential to see a variety of wildlife.
News photo — Justin A. Levine

Mud Pond is one of those places that's easy to get to, but I'd driven past the small trailhead for more than a decade, always saying to myself, "I really need to hike back in there." So when I had a few hours free and was looking for a hike that would fit into that window, Mud Pond came to mind.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation maintains a trail out to the pond that on the website is labeled as one mile and on the trail sign as a 1.4-mile trip. Both of those are wrong, but the pleasant hike doesn't feel like a whole lot to take on, even as my GPS clocked the distance at 1.56 miles from the trailhead to the pond.

The rarely visited trail hadn't seen a hiker for more than a week when I signed in at the trail register, although the scuffed-up leaves along the trail indicated that either animals or hikers who hadn't signed in were using the path.

For such an under-utilized trail, the path to Mud Pond is surprisingly developed in some ways, and surprisingly undeveloped in others. There are extensive improvements to the trail, including several stone staircases that some ranger or trail crew obviously put a lot of time into long ago. But the red DEC trail markers are few and far between in many places, making the trail difficult to follow sometimes.

This shouldn't be a problem in summer or fall when the path can be pieced together by sight, but following the trail after a snowfall could prove tough. Luckily, where the markers were thin, some kind soul had put up orange or pink flagging to mark the way.

The first half (or so) of the trail winds its way up an esker, utilizing a number of switchbacks - a rarity in Adirondack hikes. With an abundance of beech trees and long lines of sight, I figured this would be prime hunting country, and despite the lack of other vehicles in the parking area I donned some blindingly bright orange clothes in my best effort to avoid getting shot.

As I wound my way up the esker, small rock outcroppings gave the land a little character, and I made a quick off-trail run up to the high spot at the 0.86-mile mark.

From there, the trail transitions to the classic Adirondack singletrack hiking trail, and within a few minutes glimpses of the pond can be seen through the trees.

Less than 40 minutes after setting out, I was on the shore of the pond, standing on the assembled stones of a fire pit, taking photos of the Alder Brook Mountains which loomed over the far side of the pond.

I noticed the otters and did a little exploring, making my way east toward the outlet of the pond. Across the ice, I could hear some sort of animal splashing and calling from the swampy area on the southeast side of the pond, but despite some patience I never saw what was making the noise.

After hanging out at the pond for a little bit, I headed back up the trail. A few minutes later - as I suspected - a hunter came down the trail and surprised me. Luckily, he was just out for a walk with his gun, but due to the camouflage I didn't see him until he was only about a dozen yards away. We talked for a few minutes, and he said he'd been finding wasp nests close to the ground - "Cold winter with no snow," he said.

Following the trail on the way out was easier than on the way in, and I was soon back at my car telling myself to bring friends and family back to Mud Pond for the pleasant and quiet hike. It's the kind of place where you'd expect to see a moose or a bald eagle, but a pair of otter playing on the ice was more than enough to make a memorable experience.



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