Dyking Pond from Grafton

We thought you’d enjoy reading this excerpt from Taconic Trails: Being a Partial Guide of Rensselaer County, Rambles by Auto and Afoot  by Edward T. Heald,  J. B. Lyon Company, Albany, NY  1929


The center of the Grafton Plateau has a character all its own. It is somber in color, set to a minor key, negative in tone. It has a fall atmosphere, even in springtime. It lacks the splendid forests of the western slopes, of Stephentown and Taborton regions, and of the Black River hills. It lacks the open rocky hilltop views of the northern parts around Grafton Village. It lacks the spectacular scenery of the Petersburg-Berlin Valley. It lacks the charming dells of the rim of the plateau. It lacks streams of any size, but is their breeding place in its dismal swamps. It lacks hills of any size, but is remarkably rough. It lacks fertility. It lacks population and roads. It is the most inaccessible part of the country. Its trees are small and often scrubby. It reminds one of the cut-over lumber regions of Wisconsin, with new growth of forest coming on.

But it does possess rocks, lakes, huckleberries, blackberries, ferns and melancholy charm akin to Finland or Russia. There are 10 lakes between Poestenkill and Grafton roads, and six more south of the Poestenkill Road in these uplands. They are all attractive, some fascinatingly so, especially when surrounded by autumn hues. The whole region is famous for its blackberries and huckleberries. The high bush variety of huckleberry grows to great size, both as to bush and berry. Late August and early September tempt the rambler abroad for the berries, but the woods are full of no-trespass signs, the solitary farmers keep a weather-eye open, and guns and active dogs are on tap. More peaceful are the rambles in late October and November when the melancholy days match the melancholy landscape in a sober but not displeasing harmony. The tourists have fled, and if the hunting season has ended, you will find the farmers returning to a more friendly state of mind after the season’s harassments. They possess the Indian’s instinct for preserving the woods unspoiled from civilization’s encroachments. It is their happy hunting ground, they want it to continue as such, and strong is their resistance to all improvements that would make it easier or more attractive for the city folk to enter.

Central to and typical of this region is Dyking Pond. Dyking Pond can be reached by going in north from the Poestenkill-Berlin road of south from Grafton Village. The latter route leads you across the Quackenkill and up a steep, long hill turning to the left. After reaching the top of the hill it will pay to delay your walk on to Dyking Pond long enough to go out along the top of the ridge to its northern and highest point a half mile away. This view over the northern Grafton uplands is open and extensive.

All the northern end of the plateau lies before you in plain view. Below you is Grafton Village. Yonder northeast stands the Dickinson Hill Fire Tower; Long Pond, Second Pond, Shaver Pond and Mill Pond glimmer north of the village edged in by their wooded banks. White Lily Pond marks the Y.W.C.A Camp. A red roof marks W.N. Sleicher’s Camp on the crest which overlooks the hidden Petersburg Valley. Lift your eyes further and you see the Green Mountains of Vermont, the Adirondacks, the Helderbergs and the Catskills. Although not the highest point in the county, this spot presents one of the best views of the uplands.

Returning to the road where you have parked your car you come into the open pasture on the other side and soon enter the typical country characteristic of the central part of the plateau. A mile walk brings you out to the road which continues east from Wagar Pond past Camp Barker, the summer camp of the Troy Boys’ Club.

Along this road adventurous Fords come in as far as the farm which stands at the junction of the lane and the road. But happier is he who continues on afoot rather than by automobile. The lane winds through the thick young forest, then comes out in a semi-farming region with a small farmhouse or two. The horizon is bounded by woods; it is rocky, wild and desolate. The you enter a picturesque ravine of hemlocks and hardwoods. This soon brings you, two and a half miles from where you parked your car, to the home of an industrious German, Abbt, and shortly beyond to Dyking Pond. Here around this rock-lined lake, rimmed with hemlocks and hardwoods on the west and north, and with farms on the east and south, we find improvements coming on apace, roads and cottages.

If you want to get the atmosphere of this region stop in and visit with Abbt. He is the soul of hospitality and will soon have a glass of milk before you. He was a city mechanic who had to give up city life on account of his health. In the hard climate and hard work of this upland farm, he has regained his health and reared a healthy family of children. He has lived here for years, long enough to know the region and his neighbors. He appreciates their point of view, but his city experience makes him more desirous of progress and improvements than the typical native of the region. It is Abbt who has carried on much of the hard work in connection with the nearby improvements, furnishing horses and labor for the roads, and lumber for the cottages from trees which have been felled and sawed on his property.

Most of the surrounding farmers are Germans. They came over 70 to 90 years ago, cleared out this wild country and Farmed it. Now most of the grandchildren have migrated to the city and the country is growing wild again. The few who remain do not want the city folk around to bother them. They want to keep the hunting and fishing of the region to themselves. Meanwhile the push of the city dweller keeps wedging in, little by little the sacred groves are invaded, and it is only a question of time before the last of the wilderness gives way to park, playground or summer camp. The summer season is as short as in Russia. Snows remain until May and begin again in October. The winter snows lie deep and the country, far off the state and county roads, is tightly shut in.

Seventeen miles from Troy by auto and a roundtrip of six afoot will cover this trip.

November 22, 1927.