Dave,
Big thanks. Reading your posts with a cup o' joe in hand hand was a great way to start the day.

On Sun, Aug 21, 2011 at 11:03 PM, David Guertin <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
For our fourth and final trip of the past two weeks, I was joined on Thursday by Stuart. Once again Neil had music conflicts that kept him from joining us. Stu and I decided that doing the remaining three peaks in the Seward Range was more work than we wanted to tackle, so we opted instead for a trip to Redfield and Cliff. Somehow we thought that would be easier. What were we thinking?

Pictures:
http://www.daveguertin.net/gallery2/v/Adirondacks/redfield-cliff-2011-08-18/

Rather than the usual approach from Adirondak Loj, we instead hiked in from Upper Works. The approach from Upper Works is about 3/4 of a mile longer each way, but there isn't the annoying 500-foot loss of elevation that the Loj approach forces, and more importantly, it's about an hour less driving from our camp in Newcomb.

I have mixed feelings about the Calamity Brook Trail from Upper Works up to Flowed Lands, but on balance I really enjoy this trail. The main problem is the mud. In years past it was a complete disaster of a trail, but trail improvement work has paid big dividends, and now it's just intermittently inconvenient. There are mud holes scattered along the entire trail, but also long patches of dry, easy hiking. More importantly, Calamity Brook is a very pretty stream.

This route passes by Lake Colden, which is one of the most scenic and therefore most popular places in the High Peaks. From Lake Colden, the trail continues on up along the Opalescent River. The trail here is a horrible, muddy, mess, but the Opalescent River is such a gem that it doesn't matter. There is a series of waterfalls, each more beautiful than the last, and about halfway up an amazing gorge, about 100 feet deep and 20 feet across. We stood on the edge and watched the current thundering down below. If we weren't focused on two peaks still to climb, the river itself could have been a worthy destination in itself.

Since Redfield is the larger mountain and has the better views, we elected to do Redfield first, following the philosophy of eating dessert first. The herd paths from Redfield and Cliff both leave the trail from the same place, but are very different. The trail up Redfield follows Uphill Brook, yet another beautiful stream with great views over toward the MacIntyre Range. It was wet, but not an unpleasant climb, and in just over an hour we found ourselves on the summit with nice views of Allen, Skylight, and the Dixes.

The herd path up Cliff was quite a different experience. At the bottom, it follows the quagmire of the old, abandoned Twin Brooks Trail. This trail was in such bad shape that rather than improve it, the DEC chose to simply abandon the trail altogether in 1981. It's still there, and still a soupy, godawful mess, but still the best way to approach Cliff. After less than 1/2 a mile, the herd path diverges from the Twin Brooks Trail, and drier going follows, but now the path goes straight up the side of the mountain, ascending one small rock face after another. I mentioned to Stu that there's something rewarding about a route that actually gives one the feeling of climbing a mountain. In past years, that reward did not extend to actual views from forested summit, but thanks to Hurricane Floyd, there are now some pretty good views of Algonquin and Colden from the summit.

From the top of Cliff it was a long way down to the trailhead, and he hustled as fast as our tired legs would allow to get back before dark. It was close, but we made it without needing to break out the lights, even allowing for frequent stops near the bottom to pick the abundant fat, juicy blackberries.

After 19 miles and 12 hours of hiking, our legs were spent. It wasn't exactly the easyish day we had planned on, but it was one of our more rewarding days in the mountains anyway.

Cliff was peak #24 for Stu and #40 for me. Six more peaks, four trips to go: Skylight, Allen, Hough, and Seward/Donaldson/Emmons. It may be tricky finishing them up this fall, since both boys have Saturday cross-country races almost every week until November, but I think I can still get it done. I've put off deciding on a peak to do last, but I think it will be Hough. For one, it's the shortest day, and second, I think it would provide a nice symmetry, since my first peak was Dix, 34 long years ago.

Dave G.

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