Trailhead: Upper Works
Date of climb: September 21, 2012
#25: Marshall, 4360 ft.
My first venture to Newcomb was to hike Marshall out of Upper Works. I stayed at Aunt Polly’s Annex the night before – a four bedroom house renting rooms mostly to hikers and hunters. The original Aunt Polly’s bunkhouse was sold last year and sadly the Annex is for sale now, so it looks like much tenting lies in my future.
The day started off on the wrong foot. I reached Upper Works right on schedule at 6:15 am and immediately realized I’d forgotten my food in the Annex fridge. I didn’t end up stepping onto the trail until 10 minutes to 7.
The Calamity Brook trail branched off the access road and stretched through open meadows dotted with color. The leaves here were turning faster than in the forest and the fall tones really popped out of the landscape. I broke trail for the first couple of miles, taking more spider webs to the face than I could count. After a bit I heard another hiker coming up behind me so I stood to the side and let him pass, figuring he was anxious for a turn.
It was nice to be someplace new after so many hikes out of the same few trailheads. I passed a monument on a little spur trail dedicated to David Henderson, who in 1845 accidentally shot himself in that spot while scouting the area on behalf of the McIntyre Mine company. The herd path to Marshall was easy to spot, just after a little wooden bridge crosses the Herbert Brook, and well-marked by a sizeable rock cairn.
I took the day off from work because it was supposed to be sunny and in the low 70s, in contrast to a forecast of rain for the weekend – possibly my last summery day in the woods. The morning and afternoon were just plain dreary. It was cloudy and damp, growing chillier as I gained elevation, with a handful of sprinkles here and there. As I climbed up Marshall crossing back and forth over the brook I could see the top of the mountain was socked in by a cloud that was not budging.
The terrain was incredibly rugged but not particularly steep for any length of time. The toughest part about Marshall is staying on the herd path. It’s not well defined or easy to follow except for a few sections. The herd path hugs the brook nearly the entire length, however, which does make it easier to stay on-track. I also noticed that whenever I was particularly stumped, if I took a moment to really look around, 9 times out of 10 I managed to spot a cairn tipping me off.
When I reached the summit nearly 2 hours later the cloud had not blown out. The overlooks from the treed summit displayed vast whiteness for views. I stayed long enough to eat a sandwich and drink some gatorade, and began heading back down.
As is seeming typical lately, about an hour into my descent that damn cloud blew away and revealed a blue sky with periods of bright sunshine. Ah well – sun for the rest of my hike is nothing to be bummed out about! I had plans to walk down to the Colden dam when I got off the path, but it was foiled when I lost the herd path on my way down the mountain. I was nearly at the bottom too! I spent a good 35 minutes trying to find it again, retracing my steps to the last point where I had it and going in what I thought was every direction searching for its continuation. No dice, so I bushwhacked down with my eye on the brook until I spotted the bridge I’d crossed just before the herd path entrance. At that point I decided to head back instead of toward Colden; Upper Works is pretty remote and I wasn’t super familiar with the area, so I didn’t want to push my luck with daylight. Will return again to visit Flowed Lands and the dam, perhaps combined with a journey through Avalanche Pass.
Did I mention that all day long there was a loop going through my brain that continuously played “And We Danced” by the Hooters? This is what happens when you have a choice of one station that comes in on route to the trail in the morning.
I reached the trailhead at about 5:20 – not bad time considering the numerous breaks I took and time lost searching for the herd path on this 14 mile hike. Despite the few missteps, it was nice to be out in the woods and I enjoyed the day.
One last thing to mention about this hike: this is the muddiest venture I’ve had to date in the Adirondacks. I knew the route followed water the entire way (first the Opalescent River, then the Herbert Brook), but still managed to forget my gaiters. I would call gaiters essential for this hike. My boots, brand new just 2 weeks ago and blue when I bought them, are now a dark brown and look like I’ve owned them for 2 decades.