Hikes and rock climbs along historic Tooley Pond Road

Along an old wooded road on the trail to Tooley Mountain. By Tom French

By Tom French

by Barbara McMartin Discover the… Adirondacks has been my exploration bible since the 1980s. Although dated McMartin died in 2005, they still serve as a go-to source for interesting information and history before I embark on an adventure.

It was his description of Tooley Pond Road that first led me to the rough ‘driving with a view’ of the era in 1993 with my future wife. The 17-mile gravel road was tough for my little Civic, but McMartin’s claim that this section of the Grasse River is home to “some of the most magnificent waterfalls in the park” was too much to resist. The road is now paved for most of its length, and with the addition of DEC acquisitions and easements over the past 25 years, recreational opportunities abound, from hiking, biking and boating to snowmobiling. , on four-wheelers or simply for that “pleasant”. conduct.”

The first road from the “lowlands” to the southern part of St Lawrence County, it was a gateway for great hunting and fishing expeditions. According to Clifton town historian Mark Friden, it took two days to travel from Canton to Cranberry Lake with one night at a local establishment around Degrasse, possibly Basford’s, Gordon’s Log Hotel or Col. Ingersol’s Hotel, where the stage stopped.

Another interesting historical footnote is the tract’s link to Montgomery Ward’s catalog. Montgomery Ward wanted to make sure they had enough lumber to make paper for their “Wish Book”, so they contracted with the St. Regis Paper Company as part of a deal when St. Regis acquired ownership in the late 1920s.

From the south, the Tooley Pond Road begins on the west side of Cranberry Lake near the Oswegatchie River. The road parallels Oswegatchie for the first two miles and provides canoe access. I encourage travelers to visit the Bob & Linda Jones Wooden Hatchery near Cook Corners (see a AE-produced video of Bob in action here).

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During McMartin’s time, the Windfall restaurant in Cook Corners was still in operation. Today, the only remnant of an 1845 tornado is the Windfall Club building and a house named “Little Windfalls”.

Just north of Cook Corners the road becomes gravel for three miles to the town limit between Clifton and Clare. Tooley Pond appears on the left with a small parking area, picnic table, and wheelchair accessible boat ramp. Special fishing rules apply. We had lunch by the lake in mid April when we climbed Tooley Mountain and were honored by the calls of a loon

My edition of McMartin’s book is so old (1990) that it states “Tooley Pond Mountain…once had a fire tower and public footpath.” Well, the fire tower is still gone.

A parking area for Tooley Mountain is on the right just after the lake. The trail starts on the other side of the road. The path gradually climbs 280 feet over 0.8 miles. Pay attention to the red markers because the old forest roads crisscross the mountain. Views open up to the southeast over the lake, especially when the leaves have fallen. It was reported that insulators for the fire tower phone line can be found on trees along the trail, although we didn’t see any. As we approached the summit, the remnants of a recent spring snowstorm that had dropped several inches became a blanket and chilled the air.

A few hundred yards from the 1780 foot summit, the trail steepens considerably. Cement steps from the fire tower lead up to the branches of a hemlock tree. Look for three survey markers and two anchors from the 47ft Aermotor LS40 which graced the summit from 1913 until the 1970s. After being stored in a barn for decades, it was reassembled on Cathedral Rock in 2000 on the SUNY ESF Ranger School campus in Wanakena and is one of twenty-five on the Adirondack Fire Tower Challenge. You can see the tower from Route 3.

The Tooley Mountain Trail is a loop. Descend the steep section and look left for the slightly shorter path to the road which ends 800 meters north of the car park.

clarksboro trail
My wife, Carrie, climbs the awesome steps built by the Tahawus Professional Trail Crew with the help of students from St. Lawrence University. French photo of Tom

While a hike up Tooley Mountain can be historic, it’s the shorter Clarksboro Trail between Sinclair and Twin Falls that offers the best views. Proceed north on Tooley Pond Road. Check out the falls along the way.

Clarksboro was a village near Twin Falls associated with the nearby Clifton Mines – an open pit mining mainly active in the 1860s and again during World War II. Clarksboro was even a stop along the Clifton Iron Company Railroad, a spur from DeKalb Junction with wooden rails. The railroad and town made history shortly after a fire in 1869. Residents made use of the tracks which may still be present in local homes and buildings today as joists or beams. other structural elements.

A reach at Twin Falls is visible from the road. The Clarksboro trailhead is half a mile north on the right, marked by a sign nailed to a tree. The trail has no connection to the Lost Village other than its proximity. The first quarter mile is along a gravel road up a hill. As the trail flattens out, look right for the first blue marker. A few meters later you reach the base of a 100 foot vertical rock face. The DEC Grass River Resort webpage specifically lists it as “suitable for rock climbing” and the Recreation Management Plan states that “the feature provides exceptional opportunities for those interested in freestyle and top rope climbing. “. The use of permanent anchors is prohibited.

The trail continues along the base of the cliff to a series of impressive steps built in 2019 by the Tahawus Professional Trail Crew with the help of St. Lawrence University students associated with the Recreation Research Lab of the University. The traffic signs were only added last year. It wraps around the side of the hill and reaches the headland half a mile up the road with wide views to the west, including a view of Twin Falls. The trail loops around the summit and has a significant erratic.

The DEC is planning a third hike opportunity at Sugar Mountain (1585 feet). Access will be via an old railway line between Newbridge and Newton Falls. Construction of parking areas and roadwork for motor vehicles could begin this year and work on the trails will end in 2023.


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