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Cliff, Redfield, Gray, Skylight, (and Allen?) – Sept. 10, 2022

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  • Cliff, Redfield, Gray, Skylight, (and Allen?) – Sept. 10, 2022

    Saturday morning, September 10th, I headed out on a mini-backpacking peak bagging trip I had been thinking about for a while. The plan, brilliant in its simplicity, was to hike in from Upper Works with an overnight bag; set up camp at the famous Flowed Lands; then proceed to the summits of Cliff, Redfield, Gray, and Skylight, in that order, before heading back to the Flowed Lands to my waiting tent.

    The day began great and all augured well. I signed in at Upper Works at 5:20 am and began by headlamp with a full compliment of overnight gear, including but not limited to my tent, sleeping pad and bag, two trowels (one is none), three headlamps (one is none and twice nothing is still nothing), and a bear cannister. I happened to leave the parking area at the same time as a group of four students from Clarkson who were doing Cliff and Redfield as a day hike, and we leap frogged each other the whole way in to the base of Cliff, more or less. One was also working on her 46 and was about in the low 30s, as was I, and another was into triathlon and had volunteered at the Lake Placid Ironman one of the years I had done it. They were fun to chat with.

    I got to Flowed Lands around 7:10 and immediately grabbed an open campsite off to the left of the trail, the one farther from the water, and within earshot of the Calamity lean-to, where I could hear a father and his two young sons starting their day. I pitched my tent, stashed my bear can, put on my day pack, and hit the trail again. Both on the way in and the way back, I decided to take the cut through behind Herb Brooks’ lean-to, crossing the Opalescent there and bypassing the Colden Dam. It was neat back there and worth checking out. I think it might also have been a little shorter than the marked route over the Dam, but if so, only marginally.

    The flumes along the Opalescent on the way to Uphill lean-to were spectacular. Cliff was okay. Lots of mud at the bottom, then tough but not crazy scrambles and cliff bands in the middle, and more mud at the top. The mud at the top was an amazing green color. I’d never seen such remarkable green sludge outside of New Jersey before. It was cool, but not something I wanted to be ankle deep in. The climb up Redfield was awesome, though it was near the top of Redfield where I first began to feel it a little. Of the four summits of the day, Redfield was my second favorite after Skylight.

    I was on the summit of Redfield at 11:50 am, looking down at Allen, the Lonely Mountain. Not of the mind to dawdle, I scooted back down the trail to the Uphill lean-to area and then headed over to Feldspar and the junction to head up to Lake Tear of the Clouds. This is where I really felt it the most: heading up from Feldspar to Lake Tear of the Clouds. It’s not a brutal climb, but steady and a constant rise up about 1,000’ from the junction to the Lake. I made it though, getting to Lake Tear of the Clouds almost 55 minutes after the junction, and then headed up Gray.

    The herd path up Gray is no joke. I was not expecting it. It was all business, seemingly straight up at times, with two very intense cliffy slab sections; though I learned on the way down I definitely took the hard way up the lower one and could have bypassed the steepest part by climbing up the slab a little lower down and then traversing to the left on the slab, rather than traversing left at the base of the slab and going straight up it, as I did on the ascent. And then, an incredible sucker punch about halfway up, thinking I was near the top of the ridge, to then see above the trees that I was still significantly below it. The summit of Gray was nice, however. Cool shots over to Marcy and Skylight, and a big rock near the top, perched upon which one can see Colden and the MacIntyre Range peaking up behind it. I was really smelling the barn at this point, and so headed down to bag my last objective of the day: Skylight.

    I got back down to Lake Tear of the Clouds around 3:15, saw the very interesting spiral, which I remembered reading about here.

    It was a ten minute walk from Lake Tear to Four Corners, my first time there, which was neat to see. For some reason, I had Four Corners built up in my mind like it was some massively impressive crossroads, maybe with a traffic light and a Stewart’s. It does not have a Stewart’s, but it is neat nonetheless and a cool spot to be. Heading up Skylight was psychologically the easiest climb of the day and I was on the summit, my final summit of the hike, at 3:51 on the button. I hung out on Skylight for a bit; chatted with a pair of hikers from Quebec whom I had seen descending Gray as I was going up same. They were camped at Lake Colden and were both planning to finish their 46 this October. It was a Lou Reedian perfect day, with open skies in every direction.

    After luxuriating on Skylight for about half an hour, I headed back down and began the roughly five mile trek to my campsite. The walk back to Flowed Lands was relatively uneventful and quite pleasant. My legs were tired and the physical act of descending itself wasn’t fun, but I had a great feeling of accomplishment, having successfully notched these four peaks, fairly deep in there as they are, all as planned. I gave myself an A for the day.

    I stopped to fill up my water at the final drainage feeding into Feldspar Brook before the trail junction for the Feldspar campsites and lean-to. I noticed a little beaver pond down at the bottom of the drainage. “Well, I’ll be dammed,” I thought. It was cool, with the beaver dam itself literally only feet away from the trail. It occurred to me as well that this beaver dam was lying at about 3,400 feet or so. That got me thinking: I wonder what the highest beaver dam in the High Peaks might be, and whether either DEC or perhaps the beavers themselves make note of such things.

    I got back to my tent about a quarter before 7:00, had dinner on the shores of Flowed Lands, and was in my sleeping bag by 8:00. Great day.

    So, Allen … the Lonely Mountain. My initial conception of this backpacking trip was this: Do Saturday as described above, and then “while I was there” and “on my way back to the car,” head down the East River Trail from Flowed Lands past Hanging Spear Falls, drop my overnight stuff at the herd path for Allen, hike out and back for Allen, and then go back to Upper Works via the usual East River approach past Mt. Adams, Lake Jimmy, etc. That did not happen. My reference to Allen in my post title above could be Betteridge’s Law of headlines applied to trip reports. I was spent from the big day Saturday and decided to skip Allen and just head home Sunday morning. Good choice, in my view.

    Thus, I orphaned Allen, and for the second time in fact. When I came up and did the Santanonis last October on a Saturday, I had similar designs to do Allen on the Sunday before heading home. It didn’t happen then, either. I’m beginning to think I have to just accept that Allen will be its own, separate, and very special trip. Can one truly orphan Allen in the commonly used sense? I think so. Not quite the same as orphaning Marcy, as many do I am sure along the Van Hoevenberg Trail: that trail of high hopes, broken dreams, and limitless rationalizations. But there it is. Twice now, when I was presented with the option of “hike Allen” or “don’t hike Allen,” the clearly right choice at the time was “don’t hike Allen.” Interesting.

    I woke up Sunday morning and took my time getting out. Had coffee along the shores of Flowed Lands right by the trail registry as the sun was coming up, and then made a quick side trip over to the famous Flowed Lands lean-to, which was neat to see and to check out the cool view in front of it of Algonquin, Avalanche, and Colden all rising above the water in the early morning glow.

    On the way out, I saw a large group of trail workers doing maintenance on the Calamity Trail. I thanked them for their hard work, which I truly appreciate. I also made a quick detour over to Henderson Lake and its dam, from which flows the official beginnings of the Hudson River, as so named. Neat to ponder. The shot of Santanoni Peak from the dam is awesome as well.

    So that was my Upper Works backpacking adventure. That brings me to 35 high peaks down. I have 11 more, which will be six more hikes, thus, in vaguely west-to-east order:

    Whiteface and Esther
    Algonquin, Wright, and Iroquois
    Haystack, Basin, and Saddleback
    Rocky Peak Ridge

    That’s it for now. Keep it wild.

  • #2
    Great report!

    I love that river crossing between the Herb Brook's Lean-to and the other tent-sites, with the boulder and its trees growing on top of it, i love having meals on the river in that area with views of the Mac's or Colden.

    That first day you did is a monster especially when you consider that the first bunch of miles are with a ladden pack, and that feeling waking up the next morning after a day like that for me at least is in part resultant from underestimating how much hiking a fullpack into camp 4-7 miles in will take out of you, especially if you want to keep pace on the way to camp to complete some peak hikes that same day (my schedule never has allowed me to hike into camp on friday and climb saturday, it has always been in on saturday with fullpack to camp, with mountains right after). And with the two duo's you did that same day (C/R, S/G) i would not say you orphaned Allen, same as for when you hiked the Santa's.

    the beaver situation: i think i remarked in my trip report for Colden's 1990 slide about the beaver activity up there by the base of the slide (i've never been between there and Feldspar camping area), im guessing that clan might be relation to the dam(n) beavers you noticed, and im wondering are these busy high-peak beavers maybe the cause of Feldspar Floating Bridge Experience?
    "...don't assume you can't do it...we all make mistakes and sometimes fail. Keep working and learning, and be committed to improving fitness, and there is no limit to what you can do." Joe Bogardus
    "I believe it is in our nature to explore, to reach out into the unknown. The only true failure would be not to explore at all." Ernest Shackleton