Mindful of the time (related to this whole covid re-entry test thing, which I will mention later), we quickly finished our lunch and headed off back along the ridge, and then back down into the Bear Den-Flume ravine. We followed the trail back down to a point adjacent to the creek bed, then looked for a good place to bushwhack across. The reason why we wanted to bushwhack was to avoid the big loss of elevation and extra distance that would come with staying on the official trail - bushwhacking across to the Flume trail on the other side of the ravine, avoiding a bunch of elevation loss and gain, seemed like the right thing to do - especially in the winter with good off-trail travel conditions.
Down into forested slopes
We crossed over the brook/creek at the bottom of the drainage with little difficulty. On the other side, my first instinct was to head down-valley while simultaneously angling slightly uphill (if you can visualize that in your mind), with the rationale that this should get us to intersect at some point with the Flume Knob trail. However, I almost immediately noticed an old red square trail marker, and stopped to consider it.
I had seen a couple of these old red-square trail markers along the Bear Den trail, so I was inclined to think that perhaps they were also used on the Flume Knob trail. The fact that no snowshoe track was present also didn't bother me that much, since it appeared as if Flume Knob was lower and less interesting than Bear Den, and so I surmised that it could be very possible that no one had yet visited it since the last snowfall.
After some deliberation, we came to the conclusion that the safest thing to do was to follow these markers uphill. If this was in fact the unbroken-out Flume Knob trail, we wouldn't want to accidentally follow it downhill, away from Flume Knob. On the other hand, we seemed a touch high, elevation-wise, to be on the trail that was marked on the map.
Old, old markers
Up we went, breaking trail through untouched snow along the edge of the creek. The trail markers continued, and for a while, we could always spot the next one off in the distance. There was even the faint indication of a person's posthole passage, which further lent credence to the idea that this was the trail. However, after about 15 or so minutes of following this up-valley route, I began to wonder: we should have started to curve up and away and towards Flume Knob by now, I thought. Maybe this was an old routing of the Flume Knob trail, long since abandoned, or maybe this was even a different old route entirely. Whatever the case, I gradually came to the conclusion that we'd have to peel off this line we were following and just start off on a dead-reckoning path towards Flume Knob, and cut our losses.
Not long after, we lost the old red markers and the old footprints entirely. Decision made - time to head towards Flume. There was no point now in retracing our steps and wasting more time. We climbed up the steep creekside embankment and emerged onto a flat, open forest glade. Very pretty and very quiet. It was easy snowshoeing across this glade to the start of a steep slope directly below Flume Knob (or at least, what we thought was Flume Knob). I had the sense that we should climb up but traverse to the right, with the hopes of intersecting the official Flume Knob trail at some point.
We wound our way up through steepening terrain, avoiding little ledges and finding the lowest angled ramps connecting around them. We began to see a whole lot of deer sign - hoofmarks and little places in the snow where they had dug out a little platform for sleeping.
A fairly significant amount of sweaty climbing brought us to the top of the prominence we had identified on the topo as Flume Knob... except, we intersected no trail, saw no markers. The top was a very pleasant open area of forest, but hardly seemed the appropriate destination for a trail, for there was no lookout. We concluded, therefore, that this was probably not actually Flume Knob.
I had noticed a small ridgecrest off to the right as we had climbed up to our highpoint, and I thought that there perhaps was a chance that *that* slightly lower ridgeline is the spot where the Flume Knob lookout was located. We charted a path down through fresh snow to a tiny col, and then up a few feet onto the lower crest. Immediately I saw a fresh blue NYSDEC trail sign, and an indication of previous snowshoe traffic. Finally, we had located the trail!
We had intersected the Flume Knob Trail just yards before the top, and it was literally 3 minutes before we spotted the open viewpoint of Flume Knob itself. There was one little airy step to gain access to it.
Flume Knob is a great little spot, but compared to Bear Den's summit, it is very small. It is still an excellent viewpoint, though, this time mostly to the Northeast. It is quite a nice compliment to Bear Den's western-focused view. Mindful of the time, we stayed at Flume Knob for only a few minutes.
Now on a blazed trail and with a snowshoe track to follow, we made quick work of the descent down from Flume Knob. The official trail is quite steep in spots, but also quite nice and sporty in its layout. It mostly stays on the prominent spur that descends southward from Flume Knob.
Ice Curtains, Flume Knob Trail
In relatively short order, the steep terrain moderates and we reached the junction with the main cross-trail that had earlier brought us to the Bear Den trail (in fact, that junction was just a few yards to our west).
We turned left (east), and descended rapidly and uneventfully back to the Flume Trail network trailhead at route 86. There were many many cross-junctions along this bit, but everything was always well-signed and the trailhead (signed "Flume Trailhead") was always clearly indicated. We arrived back at the car shortly after 3pm, making for a fairly tidy five hour hike. Excellent!
In summary, this is an excellent addition to the roster of intro/easy Adirondack hikes. Some excellent viewpoints, a sense of secludedness, and a perfect intro length. Very recommended.
Back into the Flume Trail Network
Arriving back at trailhead
So.... now for the epilogue, and perhaps the biggest challenge of the day: How to get back to Canada.
First, a quick background. As of February 28, 2022, Canada had decided to relax its entry requirements, allowing for the usage of low-cost rapid antigen tests. The devil was in the details: the test had to have been taken within 24 hours of entry back into Canada; the test had to be one from an approved list; the test had to be taken while on U.S. soil, and the test had to be "observed" and certified by a doctor, pharmacy, or other medical entity.
It was this last requirement that was most onerous. How practical was it to find an official place to take a covid test on a day hike? Especially on a weekend? Not very!
It was my friend Gino who suggested the best solution: a "telehealth" service, where you can (for a fee) set up a video call where an observer watches you take an approved covid test, and then observes the result. Then, after a short period of time (less than an hour), you get an official certified result via email, which you can then show to the Canadian border guard.
So... the normally lazy and uneventful drive back through the Adirondack north country to the border was interrupted by a rather confused and muddled stop (we chose Canton), where we set ourselves up in a parking lot to get out our rapid tests, set them up, call the teleheath provider, and clumsily go through the process of self-administering the test while being instructed and watched from afar. Manage we did, however, and although I was slightly skeptical, sure enough, an email came about an hour later with a nice, official PDF of the test. The border agent did indeed ask for the test results (we would have been highly annoyed if our tests weren't reviewed after going through all of this trouble), and we were let through (there's also an additional border crossing requirement to create an itinerary in an app called "ArriveCan", but that was fairly straightforward and doesn't merit an explanation).
By the way, for reference, we used the online provider AZOVA (https://signup.azova.com/), and specifically, their online telehealth test using the specific "RapidResponse" test that we brought with us from Ontario, using the dedicated URL (https://rapidresponsevideo.azova.com/). Cost was $20USD for the observation and certification session. They have similar dedicated URLs for other test kits.
Now hopefully, this rapid-test-in-the-U.S.-observed-officially-thing will be dropped soon. Until it does, here are my suggestions and observations: (1) Your canadian cell service may not roam very well in the Adirondack North Country. Best if you can find some good wi-fi somewhere instead. (2) taking a rapid test from inside the car is awkward and clumsy. Finding a spot (maybe like in a nice well-it and spacious pharmacy) might be better. (3) being observed with multiple telehealth sessions all in the same confined space is very confusing and distracting. Either separate out, or try to get the provider to watch everyone at once. They in fact offered this option to us, but we had each already started our tests, so we didn't bother. In the future, we'll do this (especially if there are 3 or 4 people in the car... God, I can't imagine four overlapping conversations at once - that wouldn't work at all).
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Bear Den and Flume - click map to view
Bear Den and Flume - Hike Data
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet