Taking the Path Less Traveled: Hiking in the Hitchen’s Pond Primitive Area

By: Justin Devendorf

In certain parts of the Adirondacks, overcrowding on the trails has become a major problem. One need only look at tweets from Forest Rangers that show the parking lot of the Adirondack Loj completely full by 6:00am or the weekly email reports from the Department of Environmental Conservation that highlight the numerous search and rescues undertaken by the Forest Rangers to know that there’s been a drastic increase in people who flock to the Adirondacks (in particular the High Peaks).

One suggestion from environmental conservationists to alleviate overcrowding is for hikers to travel away from the High Peaks and hike elsewhere, perhaps trails that are less frequented by hikers. On October 10, 2020, myself and a group of my best friends went for a secluded hike in the Hitchen’s Pond Primitive Area that provided us with an amazing experience in the wilderness without the overcrowding that has been seen on other Adirondack trails.

The Upper Dam Trail

Taking two cars, our group arrived at the trailhead and checked our gear. It was midday and the sun was shining, we knew that we had picked a great day to go for a hike. Although there was heavy rain forecast later in the day, we were confident that we would be able to get our hike finished before it rained. The trail was 6.6 miles roundtrip and it was our understanding that most of the hike was on the Upper Dam Trail – a relatively flat road that stretched 2.3 miles to the Lows Upper Dam.

As we walked the Upper Dam Trail, there were hundreds if not thousands of leafs that had fallen onto the ground, crumpling under our feet as we walked. The leafs that remained on the trees looked beautiful – a mix of red, yellow and green colors that indicated the Fall season was in full swing and a changing of the seasons was close. We walked past a wetland that offered us our first glimpse of Low’s Ridge off in the distance. It was shielded by a slightly smaller hill and we stopped to admire the view before we continued our walk down the Upper Dam Trail until we reached the Lows Upper Dam about an hour or so later. This was where the Hitchen’s Pond Overlook Trail started and we would begin our ascent up to the Hitchens Pond Overlook.

The Ascent

Our group hiking up the Hitchen’s Pond Overlook Trail. Photo: Sean O’Shell

As we ascended the Hitchen’s Pond Overlook Trail we knew that we had a little over a mile to go until we reached the summit. In my opinion the trail was well-maintained, plenty of red and yellow leafs covered the ground like on the Upper Dam Trail. Our group made small talk amongst ourselves during the ascent and I remarked to myself that there were very few people we saw during our entire hike, something that would not have happened if we were in the High Peaks.

For miles and miles there was nothing but pristine wilderness…

As we got closer to the summit we did run into a group of about ten people, including some children, who were descending. We exchanged pleasantries and they said that the views were excellent. We kept on going up the trail and after about an hour of hiking we were finally rewarded with spectacular views as far as our eyes could see. For miles and miles there was nothing but pristine wilderness, more mountains off in the distance and Fall colors that illuminated the landscape. We were proud of our accomplishment and broke out our snacks and drinks as we admired our view.

View from the summit. Photo: Justin Devendorf

Who was A. Augustus Low?

After eating a little bit and continuing to admire the view, I was told by one of my friends to check out a plaque that he had found on the summit. I walked over and looked down at the plaque, which read “A. Augustus Low,” along with his birthday and date of death. I had never heard of this person before, nor did my friend, so I decided to take a picture of the plaque and would do a little research when I got back to Albany into who this person was.

Plaque commemorating A. Augustus Low. Photo: Justin Devendorf

After doing some research, the story of what A. Augustus Low’s family did became more clear. According to the Adirondack Explorer, “Low’s father acquired forty thousand acres in these parts in the 1890s and built a woodland empire based on logging, maple syrup, preserves, and bottled water (from “Virgin Spring Forests”).

I found all of this information fascinating, and it gave me an appreciation for the history of the trail that I had just hiked.

According to the Bog River Unit Management Plan (2002), between 1899-1904, “Spring water was bottled and sold by A.A. Low from springs in the vicinity of Hitchens Pond,” and in 1903 “Lows lower dam was built to produce electricity for the Horseshoe Forestry Company,” while in 1907 “Lows Upper Dam built above Hitchens Pond. The resulting impoundment of the Bog River created Lows Lake from Bog River Flow, Mud Lake, Grass Pond and Tomar Pond.” I found all of this information fascinating, and it gave me an appreciation for the history of the trail that I had just hiked.

Overall, hiking through the Hitchens Pond Primitive Area provided myself and my friends with an opportunity to experience the wilderness in an area of the Adirondacks where there aren’t cars parked on the side of the road seemingly for miles, or having to compete for space with other hikers on the trail. Instead, our experience was one where we were able to make lasting memories in the Adirondacks.

Lessons Learned: Hiking on secluded, less traveled trails can be just as fun as climbing any High Peak – maybe even more so. So long as one enjoys their time in the wilderness that is all that matters. 

Book Recommendation: Adirondack Peak Experiences: Mountaineering Adventures, Misadventures, and the Pursuit of “The 46” compiled and edited by Carol Stone White

Favorite Gear Used: My new hiking boots – L.L. Bean Vertigrip 

Gear They Wish They Brought: Binoculars 

Favorite Meal or Snack: Almonds! 

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