North Hudson has a lovely bunch of pond hikes, and a particular set of three worth investigating. They are all close together and good for any skill level. They also let hikers choose how long they want to hike, and how much water they will find at the end. All three are located on Ensign Pond Road, along a 2.5 mile stretch. There's parking at the trailheads.
Short and sweet
The Gero Pond Trail is 0.3 mile from where Caza Turn Road connects with Ensign Pond Road. Look to the right to find the historic cemetery, and find the parking area a little further down the road. Walk back to the fence, and pass the cemetery on your right. The trail is through the trees just beyond the cemetery.
It is a short and easy hike until the very end, when the terrain drops sharply at about 3 feet. This is where a trekking pole or walking stick really helps. If all else fails, sitting down and sliding on the fallen leaves will work. There's a quarried stone dam here, turning Black Brook into Gero Pond.
There's a waterfall effect over the dam that makes some peaceful zen water sounds. I would stay off the dam itself with its slippery rocks, but the nearby shore has a few openings for different vantage points.
Peering downstream will offer views of Black Brook, and looking upstream gives some lovely views of the pond.
Gero Pond runs alongside Ensign Pond Road for almost its entire length, but this hiking path is the only way to actually see the pond, as the shoreline is heavily wooded.
The hike to Challis Pond is 2.3 miles from the Caza Turn intersection. It was named after an early settler named Timothy Challis, but the trail sign reads "Chalis Pond." But, you know how difficult it is to use auto-correct on those wooden signs.
This trail is a great example of why I like late fall and early spring hiking. With so many trees still leafless at this time of year, we get the lovely "cathedral of trees" effect at various points throughout the trail.
Usually, this much sunlight seen in the above and blow pictures means the light is glimpsing through the trees, from meadows surrounding the trail. On the Challis Pond trail, there are many sections where leafless trees let in shafts of light, highlighting the late season golds and other shades of yellow.
The trail starts climbing early on, for an overall elevation gain of 227 feet by the time you have reached the pond, but it's all gradual and not demanding. The trail twists through many interesting boulder formations and variations in forest density.
Another feature of the late fall hike is the magic carpet of fallen leaves. This is where the color goes. The trail starts to flatten out, and then Challis Pond appears in a dramatic reveal.
This is a beautifully rounded pond that will make you wish you brought an inflatable or ultra-light kayak to allow for further exploration. Maybe next time.
Even without that extra thrill, there are some wonderful shoreline views from the trail's end. If you're comfortable following a faint trail, there is one circling the shoreline. Unlike going off trail in a forest, which should not be attempted without bushwhacking experience, the pond provides a clear marker that will bring you back to the beginning.
Part of a network
The Hammond Pond trailhead is 2.9 miles from from the Caza Turn intersection. This has a large parking lot since it is also the trailhead to a whole network of water destinations. Hammond Pond, Berrymill Flow, Bass Lake, and Moose Mountain Pond are all accessible from here.
This is a scenic trail for its entire distance. Early on you will cross a bridge over Black Brook, which chuckles along over many large rocks.
Soon the trail starts to follow a ridge along the brook, with many more scenic opportunities behind it, like scenes of meadows and distant mountains.
This contrast between the deep forest on one side, and the downslope brook and meadows on the other, makes for a lot of variety.
The trail follows the brook all the way to the dam that created Hammond Pond. And what a glorious sight it is. You can climb onto a bunch of giant rocks and see much of the shoreline from this vantage point.
Off to the right is another bunch of giant rocks covered in interesting mosses. You can walk out onto the wooden platform over the dam for even more vantage points.
This is a great place to sit down and just let it all soak in.
Read the blog post, Spotting Wildlife: Moose Mt. Pond for more about this amazing trail network. As a bonus, Challis and Hammond ponds are also trout ponds (no bait fish allowed) and popular for their mountain biking trails.
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