I went pond-hopping south of Syracuse to Spruce Pond and Labrador Pond on Saturday, each a short drive from each other in Morgan Hill State Forest and the Labrador Hollow Unique Area.

Spruce Pond is on the Finger Lakes Trail and North Country National Scenic Trail and has some primitive campsites nearby, but you can also drive right up to it. It’s quite tiny, and seeing your car parked right nearby detracts a little from the “forest” feeling, but it’s still quite picturesque and a nice spot if you just want to putter around. The campsites are free but require a permit. I’m definitely planning on coming back in the future for an overnight. The proximity to home can’t be beat! I did clear out a bit of trash that I found floating, so I’m hoping I see less next time I’m back.

After paddling and poking around a bit on the trail, I packed back up and made the short drive over to Labrador Pond. I’ve been to the Unique Area many times, but never to paddle. It’s a popular place for good reason – feeling like a more alpine, Adirondack setting, but again, an easy drive from ‘Cuse.

I paddled back into the more marshy area and beached myself a bit on a log to stay in one spot to have lunch, watching a mink scurry across branches, and just enjoying the weather, warm, yet with that fall crispness approaching. There were a couple kayaks and another pair of Hornbecks that I chatted with as I circumnavigated the pond. A handful of folks could be seen over in the boardwalk area as well.

I would have stayed there longer, but my car decided to start randomly sounding its alarm (a thing that it decided to do a few times a year, generally in the driveway). Luckily, I was already heading back toward the launch area. But I’ll definitely head back here soon too, especially when the leaves start to turn even more on the surrounding hills.

Two great spots, not far from home, added to my list. Definitely glad to have the chance to spend a beautiful day on the water.

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