A Failed Attempt at the Santonini Range…
What up Road Trip Warriors!? I wanted to share with you some hidden gems in the Adirondacks and the terrible way I found out about them! My boy, Sleez, and I were planning on hiking the Santonini Range to tag three more High Peaks. Unfortunately, we were given the wrong trailhead by an individual without conducting our own research. Due to this….we had the opportunity to see some abandoned homes in Tahawus (I’ll share some history on this ghost town), ended up 5 miles in the woods where beavers ruined the trail, and spent some time at a beautiful secluded pond. Let’s begin!
Summary of Upper Pond
- Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
- Length: 7-8 miles round trip (for Upper Pond)
- Hiking Time: It took about an hour and forty-five minutes to reach Upper Pond from the trailhead. I’m only going to include how long it took to reach Upper Pond. There isn’t much point in hiking further than that since beavers ruined the trail at Lower Pond making it impossible to pass.
- Photo Opportunities: There are plenty of areas to get some cool historic photos around Tahawus as well as in the Adirondack forest. Before the parking lot at the end of the road, there is a large stone furnace that you can visit. As you drive towards the large lot at the end of the road, you’ll notice an abandoned home and many abandoned chimneys where the homes were moved. Signs around the area explain the history of the area and how it was a major source of iron. Also, Upper Pond is a beautiful pond to photograph if you find yourself hiking along the trail to Duck Hole.
Tahawus (Brief History)
Tahawus was a town that dates back to the 1820s when iron ore was mined here. In 1826, Archibald McIntyre and David Henderson created the Adirondack Iron and Steel Company. They built a village to house the workers, but in 1856 the company was shut down due reasons such as transportation issues and iron ore impurities. The workers moved out leaving the village deserted.
A hunting and fishing club moved in two decades later, repopulating the ghost town. They renamed the area Tahawus and the National Lead Company started a titanium mining operation here. There was many years of success, but the workers were eventually transferred to Newcomb and the village became a ghost town once again in 1962.
I feel that this last piece of history is often overlooked, but this ghost town has an important place in American history. The most well-preserved building in the village, McNaughton Cottage, was where Theodore Roosevelt was staying in 1901 when he learned that President McKinley had been shot. He had made his famous midnight ride from Tahawus to Buffalo to take over for McKinley. (This historical information was pulled from Adirondack.net, and more can be found there).
Directions to Trailhead
The trailhead can be found at the end of Upper Works Road in Tahawus. The best way to get there in my opinion is to take exit 29 off I-87 towards Newcomb. If you were heading North, take a left once you get off the exit. Follow Blue Ridge Road for about 18 miles. Eventually you will reach a wooden sign that says “Tahawus” and there will also be a hiking sign as well. You will want to take a right here. It is rather self-explanatory. Then, just follow this road until its end. It should be around 6 miles. The trailhead register in the large lot is in the picture below.
Take notice of Upper Works Parking towards the bottom right of the map. Our plan was to hike up to Duck Hole and wrap around it making our way down towards the Santonini Range in the bottom left of the map.
Making Headway Towards Duck Pond
We signed in at the register around 8:50 AM and started making our way into the woods. The trail was well-marked, and the signs pointed us in the direction that we wanted to go. The first sign came out in a clearing and was not the most legible. We were able to make out “Duck Pond,” and took a left.
The trail is very well marked and you’ll encounter a couple other wooden signs like the one pictured above. Use these signs to keep you on track towards Duck Pond. Shortly after the sign pictured directly below, you’ll cross a wooden bridge over running water.
It took about 3.5 to 4 miles to reach Upper Pond. It was a surprise destination because I didn’t plan on hiking to this pond nor did I know it existed! Upper Pond was one of the prettiest ponds I’ve seen in the Adirondacks, perhaps because of its isolation. On a Saturday, there was no one else there but Sleez and I. It was peaceful, secluded and a great place to eat some food and skip some rocks. Although I typically prefer hiking mountains, I think I’d want to get back out to Upper Pond to camp out for a weekend with some friends.
Attacked By Hornets
We left Upper Pond to continue making our way towards Duck Pond. This turned out to be a terrible decision. About an hour after we left Upper Pond, we were momentarily confused at where the trail went. It took us a few minutes to notice one of the trail markers had been partially ripped off of the tree it was nailed to.
While looking, I heard Sleez swear behind me yelling that something had bitten him .I picked on him for being a wimp…until I got stung on the calf! We happened to be in the midst of a hornets’ nest and they weren’t fond of us whatsoever. Sleez got hammered by another hornet and we darted through the forest. Every time we tried to stop, they were still following us. I had forgotten how aggressive those bugs could be. Finally, after running at least a quarter of a mile, they seemed to have disappeared. We were relieved that we had escaped their wrath…..for the time being.
Trail Ruined at Lower Pond
As we made our way through the wilderness towards Duck Pond, we found ourselves confused again. We noticed the trail had numerous branches and tree limbs laid across it. This typically means to find another route, but there wasn’t one. Any individual with a brain would have turned around, but not us. We decided to go over the small barricade because we refused to go play tag with hornets again.
Unfortunately, after about a half-mile, we found out why the trail was barricaded. It came to our attention that the trail was gone. Beavers had opened up Lower Pond causing vast amounts of water to pour over the trail. There was no way around it and we realized that we would have to go back the way we came. We were disappointed that we couldn’t hike any High Peaks, but still planned on making the most of the hike by spending more time at Upper Pond.
The worst part about turning around wasn’t the fact we weren’t going to add more High Peaks to our hiking resumes. It was that we knew we would be facing those sting-happy hornets again. We knew (roughly) where we were attacked and hoped we would be able to avoid them.
As we made our way back towards Upper Pond, we reached that same dreaded area where we were stung before. We figured that if we kept moving, we wouldn’t get attacked again. Well, it turns out, we were wrong.
Attacked by Hornets (Again)
It didn’t take long before I heard Sleezer yell again. It took me too long to realize that he was frantically spraying his bug spray around us. I was hammered in my achilles tendon by another hornet stinger. I had stepped right on their nest this time and they poured out around us. After getting hit in my tendon, I darted off through the woods making my way back towards Upper Pond as quick as I could. I slid down dirt slopes and leapt over boulders until they were finally gone again. I waited for Sleez to catch up and we wobbled in pain to Upper Pond to recover.
Licking Our Wounds at Upper Pond
Not all was lost. Although the day turned out far from what we expected, I was able to get some beautiful photographs at Upper Pond. I really enjoyed it here, probably because it was such an unexpected surprise. I plan on coming back out here at some point, maybe to camp or maybe just to take more photos and eat in good company. I highly recommend it for those looking to get some outdoor exercise without the strenuosity of a mountain.
Heading Back to Car
The hike to Upper Pond is an out and back trail, making it easy to get back to the trailhead. You’ll just hike out the same way that you hiked in. The trail is well-marked so you really shouldn’t have any issues as long as you pay attention.
This hike through the Adirondack wilderness is dog friendly. It’s all relatively flat and I believe your dog would do just fine as long as he/she is kept hydrated and fed.
This hike is easy to moderate because of its length. There is very little elevation gain or loss, making it more of a hike through the woods across streams and around ponds. Upper Pond had a site for camping nearby and it seemed more isolated than other campsites I have seen in the past in the Adirondack wilderness. It seems like a great spot to camp with the fam in my opinion.
- Timberland Boots
- Nike Compression Leggings
- Athletic shorts
- Athletic T-shirt
- Light athletic long-sleeve top
- Winter hat
- Hiking socks
- 3L of water
- Almonds and peanut butter sandwiches
- Wind/Rain pants
- Rain jacket
- Winter gloves
- Extra hiking socks
- Extra shirt and shorts
- Paracord and two carabiners
- Emergency tents and blanket
- Water-proof matches
- LifeStraw (water filtration, costs about $20)
- Trekking poles
- First-Aid Kit
- Garmin inReach (satellite device that has a GPS, can send texts, send SOS, and has many other helpful features)
Thanks for taking the time to read this post about my less-than-ideal hike in Tahawus. I promise we made the most of it and we got some great stories to tell! There is nothing quite like getting attacked by hornets deep in the woods!
I also hope you enjoyed reading about the history of Tahawus and the history of the area. I found it all very intriguing and seeing the area in person makes you wonder what it must have been like. It is difficult to imagine such a remote area being a bustling mining operation. I also never knew that Teddy Roosevelt first learned of McKinley being shot while staying in Tahawus!
I also wanted to emphasize that although our hike did not go to plan, Upper Pond has a camping area nearby and the pond itself is so pretty. If you’re looking for a campsite away from the crowds, you may want to consider this spot. Anyways, if you enjoyed this post, hit the like and follow buttons! I appreciate any and all support! If you’d like to reach out, feel free to leave a comment! In the meantime, keep on adventuring!