On an unseasonably warm Sunday in mid-October my husband and I set out to hike to Palmer Pond in our quest to finish the Chester Challenge. The temperatures were in the mid-60s, but no jackets were needed, especially since we decided this would be a trail run.
There were several cars in the parking area when we arrived, but no one had signed into the guest book. It was opening day of rifle season in the northern zone, so these cars likely belonged to hunters. With that in mind, we wore blaze yellow and red on the trail. We looked around for the trailhead sign-in and found it just beyond a gated stop sign barrier.
A map at the trailhead showed the trail, boundaries and a sign I hadn't seen before for handicap camping and hunting access. At the start the trail is wide open and soft underfoot. We quickly arrived at the first handicap access primitive campsite at 0.64 miles. The level site was just off the trail and had an accessible picnic table and a fire ring. We ran a bit further down the trail where we encountered another sign I had not seen before alerting us to ATV access for disabled campers and hunters. I often stop to reflect on the fact that I am fortunate to be of sound mind and body to enjoy the scenic trails, mountain vistas and tranquil lakes of the Adirondacks. Knowing that campers and hunters with disabilities can enjoy this same recreation made me feel good.
We continued our run on a trail carpeted with fallen leaves that rustled underfoot. It's wise not to shuffle on a trail like this as roots and rocks are easy to stumble upon. I only tripped once and popped right up again, consciously thinking I needed to raise my step. The main trail on the map showed an out and back route that dead-ended on private property. We started down that route and quickly encountered an old stone boundary wall, marveling at how much time and manpower it must have taken to build the expanse before us.
We decided not to continue on the dead end route to the private property border and doubled back to a spur that would bring us around the pond. It was here that we encountered our first hunter. His rifle was leaning against a log and he was admiring the beauty of the foliage mirroring the pond. We stopped and chatted for a while. Our day wasn't about the fastest time around the trail, but it was about experiencing this new recreation area. This hunter had been on the trail for hours and was now waiting for his buddies to circle back. He had hunted and fished here before and pointed to a fly fisherman in the distance. The pond is stocked with rainbow trout and brookies, an anglers tranquil retreat.
Continuing down the trail was a delight. But I had to strike the right balance between admiring the scenery and watching my footing.
The next trail sign we came upon informed us that official trail had ended, but there was an unmaintained path around the pond marked with yellow tape. We decided to follow the unmaintained trail, not sure if we'd be running or bushwhacking. As it turned out the trail narrowed just a bit but was very easy to follow and afforded some lovely views of the pond and the fly fisherman we had spotted in the distance. It was here we encountered two more hunters heading back to meet their buddy. We talked for a few minutes and continued on our way. Our hike finished up with a ramble through the woods, away from the pond, back to the parking lot.
I was pleasantly surprised by what I had discovered on what I thought was going to be a quick jog in the woods. Gorgeous scenery, recreational access that I was unaware of, a stocked trout pond, and friendly folks on the trail. When choosing your next day hike or Chester Challenge, be sure this Palmer Pond loop is on your list.