September 5, 2015

The Shoebox

We had the Keene rental for the entire long weekend, so of course I wanted to hike again.  I simply can't be in the Adirondacks and not feel that call.  However, in order to be accessible and appealing for our whole group, the trail would need to be fairly short and easy (no High Peaks!) and include a swimming hole of some kind.  I have not typically included swimming as a hike criterion, so decided to consult my High Peaks Trails book.  There are six places listed in the index under "swimming," including Copperas Pond, which we visited yesterday.  The Boquet River immediately caught my eye because I've read a number of trip reports from folks using that herd path to access the Grace Slide, and without fail, everyone spoke highly of the river and it's pools.  

However, the description in the trail guide is focused on the route up Grace, and contains scant details about the swimming.  I looked online and determined that we wanted to find a long, narrow pool with extremely deep water, somewhere in the range of 0.5-1.0 mile south of Route 73 along the North Fork of the Boquet River.  The group was excited to explore a new area, so we embarked.  It was easy to find parking, as there are several wide pull-offs on both sides of the stone bridge.  We started along the right bank of the river, as indicated in the trail guide, following behind a large group lugging pool noodles and other assorted floating things.  We breathed a huge sigh of relief when they stopped at the first large swimming hole just up the trail, taking their inflatables with them.

The trail on the right bank eventually petered out in a talus slope.  Susie wasn't comfortable on the loose stones with the baby carrier, so Erwin scouted first up slope, then across the river.  He hollered back that he'd found a trail on the other side, so we rock hopped over and followed that herd path for a while.  Jay and Susie were leading and lost the trail again, but I was able to re-locate it by following a faint path upslope a bit.  The girls were getting hungry and fussy by this time, which of course had the effect of making their parents impatient to arrive at the destination.  I took Frankie off trail so he could pee on a tree, and when we caught up with the group, they had settled in at a swimming hole.

I was immediately suspicious that this wasn't the Shoebox; the pool was roundish and the water relatively shallow.  Still, Erwin was eating his sub, Jason was swimming, and Susie was getting bottles ready.  I didn't have the heart to tell them we weren't there yet.  Besides, it was very nice spot.  So we all had our lunches, and Erwin, Jason, and I took turns swimming briefly.  The water was exceptionally cold, almost painful.  There was no acclimatization; it remained icy.  When the girls got fussy again, this time ready for a nap, Jay and Susie packed them up and started back.  Shortly after that, two guys who'd passed Frankie and I when we were catching up with the rest of the group came through, heading back to 73.  I asked them if they'd found anything nice further up the trail, and they told us the Shoebox was just 10 minutes further up.

Erwin and I were super conflicted, wanting to press on ahead, but not wanting to abandon Jason and Susie.  We dithered a few minutes more, then heard voices.  Jay and Susie returned!  They had spoken with the same two guys, and the motion of hiking for a few minutes had calmed the girls.  Scarlett was already asleep, so they decided to come back so we could all check out the Shoebox together.  As promised, it was only a short distance further upstream.  Jason and Susie went ahead, and Susie was swimming when our little family arrived.      

It was so worth the extra little hike!  Scarlett was still crashed out, so Jason parked the carrier in the shade, and we all  had a ton of fun swimming.  Frankie didn't go in the deep water, but he and I sat in some shallow water flowing over the bedrock, and watched the minnows who came to check us out.  He was excited to climb up on the boulders that loom over the swimming hole.  We explored upstream a bit, then returned to the Shoebox, where Frankie had another snack while I swam some more.  Jason and Susie packed up and headed out first again.  Frankie was reluctant to leave this special place, but I finally got us both changed into dry clothes for the hike out.  I'd seen the herd path when I ducked between two big boulders to change, and we followed it all the way back out, passing many campsites.   

We were all thrilled with our little adventure and will definitely return to the Shoebox again.  Next time we'll park on the left side of the river when facing upstream, since that herd path is better defined and requires fewer stream crossings.  What a great spot!!

Stream crossing.  Frankie loved this!
Following the herd path.

The spot where we stopped for lunch and the first swim.

Heading upstream.
The Shoebox
Susie and Veronica looking down at the Shoebox.
More snacks.

bluets (Houstonia caerulea)

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