Allen Mountain

I’ve consistently seen Allen Mountain ranked as one of the toughest climbs in the Adirondack High Peaks in all of the research I’ve done preparing for climbs over the years and it’s definitely developed a mythical place in 46er lore. I’ve seen numerous reasons why people disliked climbing Allen ranging from length of the climb, to tough trail conditions, confusing directions, or lack of payout at the summit. All of the negative comments regarding the hike kind of lead us put this climb off until the very end, but since Chris and I were sitting on peak #44, it became time for us to finally take a crack at Allen this summer.

We set off around 5 AM on a weekday in July, knowing we’d have a tough 18 mile day to get to the wooded summit of Allen. Nothing about the thought of climbing to Allen that early in the morning was particularly appealing, but we were getting so close to finishing the 46 that it made the task seem just a little bit more exciting than it normally would be. Going into this hike, we weren’t even sure if we would really be able to do this climb successfully because there was a forecast for storms for that day. I told Chris point blank that climbing Allen under a chance of storms would be uncomfortable and borderline dangerous because of the notoriously slippery final ascent of Allen, and the muddy conditions present on the flat sections of the climb, but luckily the storms had passed the night before and the forecast had improved. I knew in the back of my head that even if the skies were nice for the day, the ground was still going to be wet and treacherous, and let’s just say that Allen didn’t disappoint at all!

 

We managed to get to the trailhead by about a quarter to 8, which would give us plenty of time to get the hike completed in daylight, barring any catastrophic injuries or bear encounters. While driving in, Chris put the over/under of how many people we were going to see on the trail at 4.5, and while I took the under, I was adamant we would see at least one other party doing the hike on a nice summer day. The ADK 46 is getting pretty popular and even on the most remote hikes on the randomest days of the week, there always a good chance of running into other hikers doing the same thing you’re trying to do. It didn’t take us any more than a few seconds to see somebody else pull up to the trailhead trying to hike Allen too, so my theory about hiking in the High Peaks in 2017 was proven right immediately. We quickly signed in, and got going on what would be a long day’s work getting to the summit.

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After only walking for a few minutes from the trail register, we already reached the bridge to cross over the Hudson River. Once we reached the other side of the river, the trail quickly deteriorated into a muddy, bog-like condition on and off for a while. We spent the majority of our day trying not to get our boots stuck too badly in the mud, but it was unavoidable and deep in certain spots. The mud deterred our pace a little, but luckily there were some spots on the trail that managed to be a bit better than others. The trail around Lake Jimmy had some nice bog bridging, even though I must admit it would’ve been a little cooler (not to mention quicker) to be able to walk across the lake on bridging, and the trail around the Mount Adams trailhead had some interesting cabins to explore. We stopped to check out the cabins for a brief moment then continued on past Adams.

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This was pretty typical of this day

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The trail descending towards Lake Sally was extremely muddy and eroded to the point where there were clearly established cut-arounds in the woods next to the trail. I do understand the mystique of climbing Allen from Upper Works given all of the hardships needed to get to it, but I’m 100% in favor of the DEC developing another trail to get to Allen from the south because this trail is hardly sustainable anymore. We begrudgingly made our way through the slop and ended up on another one of the old logging roads in that section of wilderness. The nice gravel road that the trail follows along the Opalescent offers some nice respite from the muddy conditions, and it offers some interesting glimpses into the logging past of the woods. As you walk through there, you can make out faint logging roads and old paths that have long since been abandoned, which are some of the only exciting points of interest on the way to the herd path. After passing a steel gate and continuing on, we crossed the Opalescent River on a nice new hanging bridge instead of fording the river like you would’ve had to before. Even though our boots were already wet enough by this point, it was still nice to be able to cross on a bridge versus going over the river, so we do have to give a special shout-out to the trail crews for working diligently on such a remote trail as the East River Trail is.

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Follow this sign to the bridge over the Opalescent

 

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Bridge Crossing the Opalescent

 

 

The trail junction leading into the true herd path towards Allen were much easier to find than I had expected. The East River Trail does not seem to be travelled beyond the Allen turn off that frequently, to the extent that the established trail actually seamlessly leads off into the direction of Allen without even looking like much of a trail beyond that point. From this easy turn off it’s only maybe a tenth of a mile (probably less than that actually) until you reach a dirt road where this trail ends. You can basically see the gravel pit where you sign in to hike the herd path from this junction to the left, so all you really have to do is turn quickly towards the left and you’re at the start of the climb. We took a quick break at the herd path right around 10 AM or so and let the groups behind us actually go ahead. In my mind, it would be nice to see some fresh foot prints on the trail anyway in case it got hard to follow, but it really wasn’t a problem following the herd path for the most part, even though it certainly wasn’t the best defined or best maintained path in that part of the woods. The 13 point plan that I jotted on a piece of paper from a list I found on a forum was fairly helpful as we got on to the meandering herd path. I followed along every milestone I should see on the way, and it allowed me to pace the climb nicely and keep at ease as we moved through the thick woods west of the peak of Allen. Despite the rain, none of the brooks we had to cross along the way were in any way hard to rock hop, and even the mud levels on the herd path were no worse than the ones on the “maintained” trail to the base of the climb. In about an hour and a half’s time, maybe a little bit less, we reached the waterfall on Allen Brook where we stopped for a second to gear up for what would be a taxing final ascent to the top.

 

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so helpful…

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Turn left at the cairn towards the herd path for Allen

 

 

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Walking towards the clearing marking the beginning of the herd path

 

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As Chris dunked his hat in the waterfall like he typically does on a hot day like this, I took out the map for a second to get a general idea of where we were. It looked from the point where Allen Brook drains into Skylight Brook that there would be roughly one more mile to go to the summit, and almost all of it would be steep and unrelenting. This is where I knew we would have to start being careful because all trip reports I’ve seen indicated that the rock along Allen Brook is unusually slippery, and if you’re not careful you could find yourself going on an unwanted slip and slide ride on jagged rock. I kept this in mind as I made my way up the trail as it swerved on and off the rock faces and into the woods numerous times. I made sure to stay off of the reddish colored rock because that would be the spots where there would be little to no grip. It was hard to get around the running water and slippery rock, but taking it one step at a time made it doable. At one part the trail ended up on a drier, gravelly spot where you could get a good view on the slope you had just climbed. I took a seat on a smooth boulder and looked behind to see where Chris was at, because I didn’t hear him behind me at all. So I sat and waited looking down the trail for a good minute, but still there was no sign of Chris. Even though I’m admittedly less athletic, I do tend to get a little bit ahead of him as he films portions of the blog, especially if I have some good leg strength like I did on this day, but I kind of thought that he shouldn’t have fallen that far behind me under these conditions, so I decided to walk a little ways back down until I managed to see the reflection of the sun off his sunglasses as he climbed up. I never really get too worried on these climbs, but the conditions on Allen might be some of the most dangerous in the High Peaks, so I did get a bit concerned for a second that he went for one of those unwilling water slide rides I’d referenced before. Sure enough, once Chris caught up to me  he told me just that, that he took a fall and if not for a helpful tree root, he would’ve went flying down the mountain in the wrong direction. His hip was hurting pretty bad from the fall, and his elbow was decently cut up as well, but he said there was no way we’d be turning around this close to the summit. I wouldn’t personally recommend continuing climbing if you’re in pain, but we’d been anticipating this climb for a long time and we were pretty close to the summit, so we just took our time and made it up as fast as he could manage.

 

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Ouch.

 

I figured we should stop and regroup for a second, but Chris said it was better for him just to keep pushing through it anyway because his hip would just start locking up, so he really just powered through until we reached the summit. It was probably the least triumphant we’d ever felt reaching the summit of a high peak, but we were just happy to finally get to the top of Allen!

The summit of Allen was just as non-descript as it’s billed to be, just a height of land in the woods with a plaque on a tree. There is, however, a very nice lookout to the northeast of the summit with pretty cool views of the surrounding mountains like Haystack and the lower great range, so all-in-all it’s actually not the worst summit of are of the High Peaks (Blake still wins that competition I think, though Couchsachraga is a close second). The lookout was a nice spot to stop and enjoy the summit before heading back down into the sloppy descent and long walk out that was between us and the parking lot. The group ahead of us on the mountain was happy enough to offer us some first aid supplies, as I hadn’t packed too much with me for the hike, so Chris bandaged up his cuts as best as he could and it didn’t end up being too serious of an issue from that point on. One thing is for certain though; I’m definitely bringing a better stocked first aid kit next time just in case of emergency. We may have spent 15 minutes on the summit overall since we were a bit too anxious about the descent to really enjoy the triumph of reaching another peak, and we headed back down eager to get that slippery descent behind us.

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1 To Go!

 

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Going down the steep section of Allen was just as treacherous, and on the way down was my opportunity to wipe out as well. I decided I was going to walk across a stream instead of finding a drier route, and I did my best Charlie Brown kicking a football impression, falling flat on my pack faster than I could even realize what was happening. It was a bit of a wake-up call to really slow the pace to a crawl, and we spent the rest of the descent taking it at an extremely casual pace. Once we reached the waterfall again we both breathed a sigh of relief knowing our risk of further injury just decreased significantly. We both really bemoaned the standing water and mud on the trails coming in, but to a small extent we welcomed the return of the mud over the slippery rocks by that point. We kept going after stopping for a second, and went on for a while before we made our way back to the herd path trail register right around 4 PM.

It was a tiring and frustrating walk back to the car after all of the slipping and sliding of the day, but we trudged on nonetheless. This was one of those moments where you wish you could just snap your fingers and be back at the trailhead, but no, we had to drag ourselves back unassisted (sigh). It was an extremely uneventful walk back comparatively, even though it was interesting seeing dozens of frogs and even a couple of snakes in the marshes that were passing as marked trails. I don’t think I’d ever seen a snake on a trail before, so that was kind of a fun surprise on what was overall a generic walk back. The mental exhaustion of the day was far greater than the physical exhaustion, in both of our opinions, so we managed to find our way back slowly and steadily without breaking stride for any photo opportunities or extended breaks like we normally do. Climbing Allen wasn’t the greatest hiking experience we’d ever had, but at least we managed to get our 45th peak in the Adirondacks and got it in with plenty of daylight to spare, arriving at the trailhead a little bit before 6:30 PM. It was a long day, but at least it was another interesting experience to share as we got that much closer to completing our 46!

Recommendations: Allen Mountain isn’t a fun hike. I’d only recommend it to people seriously interested in the 46 because it’s a somewhat unpleasant experience. If you do plan to climb Allen, make sure you read up a little bit on the trail before you go up, and be careful on the final ascent because it is no joke. Allen really isn’t terribly steep (with the exception of the slide section near the summit) or overly challenging from a physical standpoint, but it’s a taxing hike nonetheless, so be mentally prepared for a long day.

Ratings:

Difficulty – 10

Views – 1 (5 from a lookout just off of the summit)

Mt Redfield

About 1 month since Andrew and I tried our hand at snow covered Mt Garfield we decided to spend part of our Memorial Day weekend in the Adirondacks.  With only 3 peaks left to go in the Adirondacks we decided to go for Mt Redfield which has proven to be elusive to us in the past.  To explain what I mean by elusive….We have intended to climb Redfield on 3 different occasions.  The first was the day we got to the Loj only to find out we had no parking options to which we left and hiked Basin and Saddleback instead.  The next was when we attempted to hike Redfield with Cliff Mountain last year only to be short on daylight and we were forced to leave only bagging Cliff.  The last was our October trip from last year where Redfield was going to be the third day of a three day trip, it rained. hard.  So the hope was our 4th try would be the charm.  Fortunately we arrived at the Adirondack Loj around 7:30 a.m. which was early enough to get a spot to park.  We paid for parking and got ourselves situated before throwing on the packs just before 8:00 a.m.

Andrew signed us in to the register which seemed to indicate Redfield was not a popular option for the day.  Except one person apparently thought it was wise to hike Redfield, Cliff and Marshall in one day.  This led me to believe that this was one of those psychotic trail runners, an idiot, or a liar but I digress.  Almost immediately Andrew decided to go track star on Patrick and I by setting a ridiculous pace to get to Marcy Dam.  35 minutes later (has to be a record) we were there at which point Patrick decided he needed liquids.

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Patrick looking directly into the sun

We signed in at the 2nd register again noticing minimal company headed to Redfield before taking off on our torrid pace yet again.  It was another mile or so of flat ground until we crossed a stream right before our trail junction.

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Stream right before our trail junction

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Typically I have heard of people climbing Mt Redfield from either Upper Works or going via the Lake Arnold trail.  Naturally we were doing neither and instead going via Avalanche Pass although this was not without reason.  From DEC reports issued just a few days prior we were under the impression that the Lake Arnold trail was virtually impassible along with some questions about Calamity Brook from Upper Works.  With all of this in mind we thought this would be the only option.  That being said we started to ascend towards Avalanche Pass which was a little bit steeper than I remember.  The crazy pace that we set early on was already taking its toll on us as we started to get pretty winded in short order.  Fortunately just as we were feeling pretty lame we came to the massive Avalanche Pass Slide and its many wooden victims at its base.  Contrary to our last visit to Avalanche Pass (see Iroquois & Algonquin) trail maintenance had done some serious work on the trail throughout the Pass

 

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This is a little nicer than the video

After making though the initial flat portion which had been generously planked out by maintenance crews (many thanks)  we got to the oh so fun boulder hopping which we have come to really know and love with Avalanche Pass.  Despite the slow go of it we always enjoy our trips though Avalanche pass as it provides unique scenery in the Adirondacks.

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Upon reaching the end of Avalanche Lake we saw that there was a nice bridge there for us which was a significant improvement from the last time were we walked right into the lake in order to continue with our day.  From there we kept on going until we reached the interior outpost register near Lake Colden.  We once again signed in and hung a left towards the edge of Lake Colden.

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For the most part we really had not stopped at any point during the day despite the fact that we kind of burned ourselves out early on.  We decided we would take our first real break at the junction where the Mt Colden trail meets Lake Colden before ultimately pushing onward for a long time.  After paralleling Lake Colden for a considerable amount of time we reached a trail junction indicating we had only 1.5 miles to go to reach our herd path at Uphill Lean-to.

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Shortly after continuing from the junction we reached a small suspension bridge over what I believe is the Opalescent.

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We crossed this one at a time as we did not want the bridge to reverberate and knock someone into the raging stream below.  After gingerly crossing the bridge we continued onward on a gradual ascent towards Uphill Lean-to.  We were paralleling the Opalescent for a pretty good distance which provided us with some incredible scenery down into a chasm like area flowing with a high volume of water.

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After being distracted by the power of heavily flowing water I managed to get my attention back to the task at hand and make my way towards our herd path.  In what was roughly 45 minutes we made it from the trail junction to the herd path.  The trail ascended pretty consistently for that entire stretch with a quick drop just before Uphill Brook/Lean-to.

 

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Cairn marking the herd path for Redfield, right across from Uphill Lean-to

 

From the cairn marking the herd path for Redfield and Cliff we continued until we would eventually reach a second cairn marking the point where the path forks in two different directions.  Once we reached the second cairn we decided it would be wise to take in some calories as we were faced with the toughest part of the day, that being the main ascent of Mt Redfield.  To this point we were all feeling pretty good as the day really had not put too much stress on our bodies although we did travel quite the distance to reach this point.

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Fueled up and ready to go

 

We began the ascent towards Redfield going at a pretty good clip, but it did not last for long.  The herd path itself was very nice and scenic as it paralleled a stream for a large portion of it.  However the trail itself got much steeper than it had at any point during the day and we were beginning to feel the effects on our legs.  Patrick in particular was having a major struggle getting to the summit.  I kind of felt bad for him since it had been a solid year since bringing him with me on a hike and Mt Redfield isn’t exactly a casual hike.   I took a minute to admire the surroundings with Patrick before providing some encouragement “were almost there”….”well sort of”.

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Final push time

 

Andrew kind of went off on his own pace while I hung back with Patrick as leaving him behind would probably be a little demoralizing.  A little more motivational talk and a couple tenths of a mile later I could hear Andrew having a conversation on the summit.  I let Patrick know the good news as we approached our summit.  I could see the relief on my brothers face as I knew the day had taken a lot out of him.  It was time to enjoy the summit and a well deserved break.

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Summit number 44 for Andrew

 

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Patrick conquering his 10th Adk High Peak

 

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Only 2 to go in the Adirondacks

 

 

 

 

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Great panorama from the summit of Redfield, our next Adk High Peak Allen Mountain in the center

 

We were happy to have the worst of the day over with.  It took just 9 miles to get to the summit of Redfield and we knew we would have the same distance just to get back.  Mustering the mental energy to get through the rest of the day is always a challenge on hikes like this, but its what it takes to become a 46er, and the reality that Andrew and I are just 2 away from achieving our goal from 3 years ago was more than enough to push us through.  We decided to take it easy going down from Redfield before once again stopping at the junction for Redfield and Cliff before getting a little more nutrition for the 8 miles that remained.

The rest of the day from here on out was simple slow and steady with the only real obstacle being Avalanche Pass and a bunch of black flies that decided to make an appearance in the afternoon by feasting on my face.  It took us about 5 hours to reach the summit and 5 and a half to make it back to the Adirondack Loj.  My whole body was sore but it was another well earned victory for the three of us.

Recommendation to Hikers:  The casual hiker will find Mt Redfield to be a pretty unappealing option although a nice outlook at the summit does provide somewhat of a reward its just too long of a day for someone not looking to become a 46er.  Aspiring 46ers will want to try and get this done with Cliff if possible, but if that cant be accomplished there are multiple approaches you can take to get to Mt. Redfield.  The most popular seem to be via Lake Arnold trail of from Upper Works however if given the choice I would go the same route we went through Avalanche Pass.  It offered us pretty forgiving terrain and a gradual ascent which I found to be pretty easy until reaching the herd path.

Redfield:  Views – 5  Difficulty – 9

 

 

 

Macomb, South Dix, Grace, and Hough – The Dix Range Traverse

After a solid, if not spectacular hike up Seward just half a day earlier, Chris and I started on what was bound to be a long day in the High Peaks. It was going to be Day 2 of our 3 day trip and the plan was to hike all of the lower peaks in the Dix Range; Macomb, South Dix, Grace, and Hough. Since we stayed overnight in Lake Placid, it wasn’t going to be much of a drive, so we decided to get a little more rest than usual, getting on the road around 7:30 AM or so. It was a cool morning, but the conditions were fairly ideal for mid-October, so we thought we had a great chance to pick up 4 additional High Peaks on our way to completing the 46. If all went well, we planned on leaving the Dix Mountain Wilderness with 43 peaks crossed off our list!

Once we found our way to Elk Lake Road in North Hudson, we encountered our first major huddle before we even got out of the car. It turns out an early Wednesday morning in October is a great time to repave an entire road, and thanks to the construction crew’s eagerness to get stuff done, we were forced to wait probably 10-15 minutes while they laid down fresh gravel over the entire road. It was an extremely annoying moment for us, and it got me a little worried to start out the day like this. I wasn’t honestly too sure how this climb was going to feel, considering all of the elevation changes, the herd path conditions with the leaves falling, and given the fact that this was the first time we tried climbing on back to back days, so I began getting nervous. Nonetheless, the friendly construction workers flagged as through after a short wait, and we were at the parking area shortly after that and were off on our way to Macomb quickly thereafter.

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Perfect fall day in the Dix Range

The plan was fairly simply for the day, even if we weren’t overly sure how the trail conditions were going to be. We would take the marked trail leading towards Dix Mountain, and head off to the Slide Brook Lean-To where we would find the Macomb herd path. From there we would just make our way up to Macomb, then to South Dix from there. Once on South Dix it would be a fairly gentle ridge line walk over to Grace Peak before turning around and retracing our steps back to South Dix. On South Dix, we would take the path heading north to the col between South Dix and Hough, before ascending our fourth peak of the day. Instead of going the long way around to the Beckhorn, we decided we would descend off Hough via the Lillian Brook herd path, one that neither of us were too familiar with in any of the blogs or hiking posts we read. It was on the map though, so we figured it shouldn’t be too difficult, and would take some mileage off our overall trip. After just now typing all of this up, I’m actually realizing that that’s not quite so simple of a trip, but it all made sense in my head at least! The first 2.3 miles or so of the trip were fairly simple, all on really smooth, flat, marked trails as the path basically moved around the Elk lake area through private lands before we got into the Dix Mountain Wilderness Area. We took a pretty steady approach on the flat trails, stopping only once we got to the Slide Brook, where we knew the turn-off was right around the corner.

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Slide Brook….not much water

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We stopped and grabbed a drink at the bridge, and I began looking to see where the trail was going off to. There was a cairn directly next to the brook, but it also looked like that was leading off to a campsite, so I wasn’t overly certain what trail we wanted. We took off a ways down towards the lean-to before realizing we probably wanted to go where the cairn was (because of course we would). The trail does kind of lead through a camping area, but that’s just the way it is, and on the other side it was pretty simply to follow as it ascended steadily alongside the brook.

 

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Cairn located just over the Bridge at Slide Brook

 

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2 Cairns side by side marking the Macomb Herd Path

 

 

 

Given the number of momentary delays we faced already, I decided it was best to start hustling up the side of this mountain. I had it in my mind that we really should get up Macomb by 11 AM in order to complete the loop in broad daylight. I think I kind of surprised Chris with the pace, but I was on a mission and he was more than willing to follow along. We made really good time up the side of Macomb and it wasn’t too long before we reached the behemoth that was the Macomb Slide.

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This was one hell of a sight to see up close, and we decided to admire the task ahead of us for a second. We precariously started up the slide after a moment, with the two of us taking different approaches. Chris just went right at the slide, going towards the middle of the rock and finding the best spots to ascend up. I tried a different approach by hugging the left side of the slide and trying to climb any segment of earth I could since the rock was so loose and gravelly. In short, my approach didn’t work too well because I lost my footing and my handholds about 3 or 4 times in a 5 minute span before I decided to just follow Chris’ paths up the rock slide. It was really quite a challenging trail to get up because it was 1) steep and 2) very loosely packed and unsteady. This trail up Macomb is not for the faint of heart for sure. We took our time, making sure we didn’t plunge to our deaths down the slide, and finally got off of the slide after a little bit of work.

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Unfortunately for us, the trail continued on relatively steeply for a little ways before finally leveling off near the top of Macomb. We got up to the top of our 40th High Peak and I checked my phone to see the time, and it was 11:05. We basically hit our goal perfectly, and we started to get really pumped about our day. The summit of Macomb is fairly wooded, but there is a nice sized rock outcrop that overlooks the way we came up and the entire Elk Lake area. The views from here were pretty good, actually a little better than we had anticipated. We spent a few minutes on top catching our breath before heading towards peak #2.

 

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#40!

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Heading over to South Dix from Macomb was a much easier journey than travelling up the Macomb slide. It’s a short, gentle descent to the col, on a very well worn herd path before we reached a trail junction. One path lead down towards Lillian Brook, and the other lead to the large rock face we figured we were supposed to climb. South Dix looks pretty spectacular as you’re climbing it, with a good bit of exposed rock to climb and some nice close up views of Macomb as you ascend.

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In almost no time we were up the rock face of South Dix and ended up back in the woods before reaching the real summit. The summit was completely wooded, as we’d known it would be, but it did have a nice rock outcropping looking out towards the south, so it wasn’t all a wash. I’ve seen South Dix mentioned as being unspectacular from other reviews, and while I understand why people may say that, I disagree with that assessment. South Dix is a pretty fun climb with some nice views before and after the summit. We took another break here, caught our breath, and headed on to Grace Peak (formerly known as East Dix).

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Andrew On South Dix

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41!
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Felt good to get #41

The trip from South Dix to Grace was a little bit longer than the trip from Macomb to South Dix, but it was basically just meandering on a ridge line the whole way, so we didn’t have to expend too much energy. I was actually fairly surprised with how nice the herd paths were, considering how remote these peaks were (we didn’t see a single person all day!) The mile walk went by fairly quickly and we got to Grace Peak in good time for our 3rd peak of the day, and 42nd overall. Of the 4 peaks we visited that day, I think Grace may very well be my favorite peak. It has some very interesting features, like a very large rock outcropping on the western summit, and a secondary summit area to the east of the summit with sensational views of Hough and the valley to the east of the range. We spent a good amount of time on the summit just checking out all the different outcroppings and ledges, and seeing all the views. Grace is probably a top ten mountain for me in terms of uniqueness, I was really pleasantly surprised by the payout from this, one of the tiniest of the High Peaks.

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Admiring the view from Grace Peak

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Ready to go kick Hough’s ass

After enjoying our stay on Grace Peak, and grabbing a few pictures, it was time to keep going as we still had some work to do on the day. After initially descending into cripple brush, I quickly course corrected and we were on our way back to South Dix. Retracing our steps was one of the more annoying parts of the trip, but it’s what had to be. We got back to South Dix pretty quickly and descended off the mountain heading towards Hough Peak. We wasted no time descending and ended up in a flat section where the Lillian Brook herd path intersected our trail. I took a second to look around because I knew this was going to be the spot where we’d want to turn off on the way back, but as we travelled through I couldn’t really spot the turnoff from the trail. This was the point in time where I started to get a bad feeling about the final descent we were going to face, but we’ll get to that later. Going up Hough, after 5 hours and 3 peaks in our legs, was a pretty tough challenge. It was a lot of starting and stopping due to fatigue and a few sketchy decisions thanks to fatigue as well. I went off course at one point and ended up trying to squeeze between thick brush for about 20 feet trying to get back on the path, but other than that we managed to find our way fine. We got to Hough Peak around 3 PM, still in good time, and took a second to catch our breath after bagging our fourth peak of the day. It was one hell of a trip up Hough given how tired we were, but getting the last of our peaks for the day was a great feeling. The summit itself was pretty small, but it was also fairly exposed on a steep ridgeline, so we got some cool views and a very tense sensation with the wind swirling and the drop-off being as severe as it was. Hough was a nice place to catch a breath though and take in the beautiful scenery of the Dix range!

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our fourth and final peak of the day
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Hough peak #43 for us

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We made our way back to the car slowly and steadily, heading down Hough before turning down the Lillian Brook herd path that neither of us had heard much about. My thinking here was that if it’s on the map it can’t be too bad of a trail, and I was very much wrong about that. Once we got back to the wooded field, I started looking on the western edge where the trail was supposed to descend and surely enough I found it after a little bit more searching. From there it was straight down a tough, eroded trail as we lost elevation quite rapidly. It definitely wasn’t the nicest trail I’ve ever taken, it was very steep and eroded as it went down the side of Hough, and by the time we leveled off it became extremely hard to follow. I kept looking for the trail fork that would lead up to Macomb, but to this day I still don’t know where the hell that trail fork was. The one thing I do know is Chris and I ended up losing the trail and just meandering aimlessly through a marshy flat land just above Lillian Brook. It was a frustrating moment for us considering we’ve hiked a few mountains in our day and usually are good with directions, but there were a good few minutes there where we didn’t know what the hell we did wrong. Chris finally spotted the trail about 50 feet down from where we initially lost it, and we kept going with very few other delays. Once we actually got parallel to the brook it was (sort of) simple to follow the trail from there, even though the falling leaves made it a little more challenging than it usually would be. Despite all of our challenges on the herd path, we made it back to the marked trail still in good time. From there it was a simple 3.5 mile victory march back to the car, knowing we got 4 peaks in and had quite an adventure to share!

Recommendations for Hikers: The Dix Range hike is a really awesome experience that I would recommend to any serious hiker. Given some of the extreme parts of the herd paths, I wouldn’t recommend it for casual hikers or family trips though. Also, it’s worth noting that while the herd paths between the peaks were in good shape, the Lillian Brook herd path was very confusing and hard to follow in some places, so I wouldn’t recommend using that trail. The best way to go would be to do all 5 of the peaks in the range together, starting with Macomb and ending on Dix. It’s very much doable in a day hike if you’re in good physical shape and you get an early start.

Macomb: Views – 7, Difficulty 8

South Dix: Views – 3 (1 from the summit itself), Difficulty 6 (easy climb from Macomb, but if you factor in the earlier difficulty, it’s a decent challenge)

Grace: Views – 7 (quality and quantity make this a high score), Difficulty 6 (same note as South Dix)

Hough: Views – 6, Difficulty 8

Cliff Mountain

It had been about a week since my hike in New Hampshire which I was hoping would prepare me for the daunting task of ascending Mt Redfield and Cliff Mountain in the same day.  Andrew and I left Clifton Park just before 5:00 a.m.  A long drive and a few pit stops later we arrived at the Adirondack Loj parking lot for 8:00 a.m.  Despite the late start we still had it in out mind to tackle both Redfield and Cliff and with that in mind we bolted for Marcy Dam.  As usual Andrew and I made very quick work of the 2.1 miles to Marcy Dam.  The walk provided us with a really nice warm up paired with the chilly morning we really could not ask for better conditions.  From there we signed in at the register and took off down the trail towards Lake Arnold.  Once again Andrew and I were very familiar with the trail although we did notice that work had been done putting stones and gravel on the ground in some of the wetter areas.  We reached the next trail junction where the trail forks to Avalanche Pass or to Lake Arnold and we decided to take a quick break.  I noticed along the way that there were a lot of new out houses along the trail leading up to this point.  My guess is that this was in effort to cut down on trail poopers but who knows.

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From here Andrew and I knew that we had a little bit of an ascent in front of us so we tried to get a quick pace going as we wanted to set ourselves up to have enough daylight to complete the two mountains.  We went non-stop until we reached another trail junction at which point Andrew and I stopped to hydrate and catch our breath.

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Follow the trail toward Lake Arnold

 

After joking around for a bit we took off for Lake Arnold.  It didn’t take to long before we reached the high point of the trail.  The whole portion of the trail leading up to this point is a very consistent gradient but not overwhelming by any means.  As we started to descend towards Feldspar Brook Andrew noticed his pack open and his jacket missing.  So Andrew decided to go looking for his jacket and I decided I wanted no part of that crap so I sat and ate a granola bar.  About 10 minutes elapsed and Andrew finally popped out of the woods with his jacket in hand.  Andrew quickly got a drink and we continued towards Feldspar.  Along the way we came back to the floating logs in that small pond/bog thing which once again we crossed without any issue other than a few loose logs.  After this portion the longs lining the trail were not all that secure making the footing shaky at best.  Loose logs aside we managed to get through it without issue or injury and finally came to our next trail junction near Feldspar Brook.

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Take trail towards Uphill Lean-to

From here we did not waste any time heading towards the Uphill Lean-to.  Along the way we noticed that the trail had been re-routed away from the brook.  Upon observing the brook we noticed that a large part of the banking had completely washed away likely from a flash flood a couple years ago.  Aside from this the hike to the herd path for Cliff and Redfield was a pretty straight forward walk through the woods.  After about 15 minutes or so we came across a cairn marking the herd path

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Cairn marking herd path towards Redfield and Cliff

We walked along a pretty muddy path looking for another cairn which would mark the trail junction for Redfield and Cliff.  After about 5-10 minutes we found the second cairn.

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The plan was to go ahead and hike Cliff first and then if we had the time go and run up Redfield.  The trail to Cliff was immediately very muddy and we slowly started to ascend.  The trail had several logs laid down along the way telling me that it used to be maintained.  Andrew told me that it was an old trail to Mt Marcy which I did find a little interesting.  After very gradually ascending for a bit we came to another cairn where we would take a right to follow the herd path.  From this point you can add a bunch of blowdown to the mud issues we were experiencing.  The blowdown then turned into a bunch of rock scrambles, the likes of which we hadn’t really seen since we climbed Saddleback last year.  Although the scrambles are trickier than your basic hiking its always been my favorite parts of any hike.

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We made pretty quick work of the rock scrambles and from there I was expecting to arrive at the summit.  Turns out we still had some walking to do…The summit is never as close as you think it is as Andrew and I had to walk on what was reasonably flat terrain (or at least compared to the last half mile) for the next half mile or so until we reached the summit of Cliff Mountain.

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Andrew and I on the summit of Cliff

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The summit itself was very heavily wooded and offered little to nothing as far as a view went although we did get one nice lookout point along one of the rock scrambles we had to traverse.

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We spent close to a half hour on the summit after we pretty much gave up on the idea that we would be able to reach Redfield and get out by dark.  The situation was compounded by the small group we encountered on the summit.  There were three people.  The first was a 46er who resembled Buffalo Bill, a woman who seemed perfectly normal, and a veteran sitting next to an empty 6 pack of Shocktop.  He told us there was 3 keys to life.

#1.  Don’t hike Cliff ever again

#2.  Don’t hike Sawteeth via the Scenic Trail

#3.  Don’t get married

After the weird conversation they took off, we got a few pictures, and took off for the Loj.  We slowly worked our way down Cliff rather slowly, and along the way we passed the 3 amigos, and managed to avoid any more conversation in spite of their efforts to part more sagely wisdom upon us.  By the time we made it back to Marcy Dam essentially coming out the same route we used to get to Cliff we were spent.  From here Andrew and I took a slower pace for the last 2 miles until we reached the Loj with about an hour of daylight left to spare.  For Andrew and this marked the 38th high peak we had climbed to date.

Recommendation for Hikers:  Average hiker will probably hike this and never want to go again.  Its a long day with and a rugged herd path.  For the aspiring 46er you may want to get an earlier start if possible and combine this with Redfield.  Although long and grueling its best to get them both done at once….unlike us.

Cliff:  Views – 3  Difficulty – 9

 

 

Mt Marshall

On a hot day in August Andrew and I decided it was about time to get back out on the trails.  In the week leading up to the hike we had initially intended to finish the Dix Range.  However the night before the hike Andrew informed me he had been feeling off for a couple days and wasn’t sure that was in the cards.  Given how Andrew was feeling we opted for what we felt would be a simpler hike.  With that in mind Marshall seemed to be the best fit for us on this day.  We managed to get on the road a little after 5:00 a.m. and get some breakfast along the way.  We arrived at the Upper Works trailhead just before 8:00 a.m., but not before enduring some interesting sections of road work along the way.  We got a nice glimpse of what used to be an active iron mining area of Tahawus and found the New York history pretty interesting.

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After signing in at the register we got going down what was a pretty well maintained trail until we reached our first junction about a quarter of a mile into the hike.

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After the first junction we found another one in very short order, and it had a special reminder for anyone wishing to crap in the woods.

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From this point you want to make sure you follow the red trail markers toward Lake Colden.  The trail from this point on was very simple with mostly flat sections and planks to help you get through some muddy areas.  At one point we got to an area with a large clearing which we stupidly thought was the flowed lands (nope), but it did give us a little scenery to start the day off.

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It wasn’t long until we made it to a bridge at which point we switched over to some blue trail markers that would lead us towards Lake Colden.  I should mention that while you are supposed to go towards Lake Colden you don’t actually reach the lake, if you do you have gone too far and will need to double back to get to Marshall.

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The trail up to this point had been very flat with virtually no obstacles making it a good warm up for what we would have in store for us the rest of the day.  Knowing that we would have to start gaining some elevation at some point we figured we shouldn’t get used to things being so easy.  Gradually we started to hit some inclines but even so it was not overwhelming so we just kept up our leisurely pace we had established to start the day.  One obstacle we started to encounter more of the further we went was the mud, several sections were sopping wet, and when stepped onto would leak over the top of my boots which resulted in wet socks for most of the day.  We kept on going through mud and all until we got to a portion  where the trail forked in two different directions at a steadily moving brook.  We figured this was a decent spot to assess the map and get a drink of water.

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Turns out the reason the trail forks is because of the stream.  The foot bridge you can see in the distance was put in place for the potentially high water.  Given the dry year we have had there was no such issue and no need for us to take the bridge.  With this in mind we kept on going until we reached what looked like a blank trail sign.  The trail went in both directions so we decided to take a left.  While it really wasn’t the right way I am happy we ventured there as it took us to the David Henderson monument.  Long story short this monument is in honor of David Henderson who accidentally shot himself over 150 years ago.

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The Henderson Monument
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Calamity Pond

After admiring another piece of New York history along with scenic Calamity Pond we turned back and headed in the right direction.  The trail after this was once again just a very gradual incline until we reached a second register near the Flowed Lands.

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In reality you don’t really want to follow any of the arrows as you don’t want to enter the Flowed Lands or Lake Colden.  Instead go left towards a small campsite (if you look at the register there is a campsite marker pointing left you’ll want to follow that)  The red trail markers will mark this area until you eventually get to a cairn marking the start of the herd path for Marshall.

Shortly after finding the herd path towards Marshall I was rudely greeted by a hornet.  For anyone allergic to bee stings please carry an epipen on your hikes because you really never know what can happen.  Fortunately for me I am not and just had to deal with some substantial burning in my leg for the next 30 minutes or so.  I kept on going until we started to parallel Herbert Brook.  We meandered along this brook for quite some time crossing it more times than I can count until we made it to another rock cairn.

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The trail forks at that first cairn, look for this second one to the left which will mark the correct direction

Now according to our map which Andrew had recently purchased it looked to be about a quarter of a mile from this point until we would reach the summit.  However after going through and climbing it I am pretty convinced that it is in fact more than that.  Nonetheless after a few muddy spots and a couple of trickier rock scrambles we made it to the summit of Mt Marshall.  Marshall stands as the 25th tallest peak in the Adirondacks, and for Andrew and I our 37th high peak climbed.  The views from the summit sign were non-existent, but after a little bit of exploring we managed to find some rock outcrops that gave us some very nice views towards the South and East.

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#37
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Andrew on Marshall
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Typical 2 course summit meal for me

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Standing on an outcrop near the summit of Marshall
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Andrew looks to the Flowed Lands below

As far as the pace of our hike, we managed to get through about 6.5 miles in just over 4 hours which is relatively slow for us.  However given the heat and the fact we knew it was only a 1 peak day it was mostly our intention to go slow.  We packed up the gear and trudged our way back down muddy Mt Marshall.  Along the way I did stop to get a picture of Iroquois Peak, and also remember the stupidity we were guilty of on that day.

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View of Iroquois Peak my halfway point

After the brief stop we went back down the Herbert Brook trail until we reached the marked trail again.  It had taken us about an hour and a half to get back to the second register which was about the same as it took us to ascend the mountain from that point.  From there we continued down the straightforward marked trail until we reached the bridge we had crossed earlier in the day.  From there it was only going to be 1.2 miles until we would reach the parking lot.

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Almost back…yay

After drinking the last of my water we just booked it until we got back to the trailhead.  It was just after 5:00 p.m. when we reached the lot making this a 9 hour day for us.  Overall I was happy with the day and we decided to make our way to Keene Valley for some food to celebrate number 37.

Recommendation to Hikers:  Mt Marshall did not really present too big of a task for us despite the fact that you will encounter some sloppy trails while hiking this mountain.  Once you reach Herbert Brook try to stay on the herd path as it started to meander a bit and you will cross this brook numerous times so make sure you pay attention.  On another note the water levels are quite low for the time being. Make sure you are careful crossing especially in spring when the water is higher.  The average hiker may find all the mud and lack of summit view as a draw back, but there are some spots near the summit that will offer you some great views towards the Southern Adirondacks and also towards the East.

Marshall:  Difficulty – 5  Views – 5