Redfield and Cliff
Saturday was gloriously sunny and rain-free; a perfect day for our 19 mile hike out to Redfield and Cliff. We stayed at the Lake Harris campground in Newcomb in order to get an early start.
We set out from Upper Works via the very muddy Calamity Brook trail at around 6:30 am. It was nice to see this trail in the thick of summer, since the last time I walked this route was in the fall, on the way to Marshall. The walk to Flowed Lands took us about 2 1/2 hours, including a snack break at the Henderson monument.
Once we passed the herd path to Marshall, the trails were all new to me. We crossed a bridge over the Colden dam and picked our way over water, rocks and mud toward the Uphill lean-to. I enjoyed this trail a great deal. I wouldn’t call it an easy stroll, but the trail is lined on one side by steep cliffs dropping down to the Opalescent River, making for some very impressive views. At approximately 7 1/2 miles into our journey we reached the lean-to, and the cairns marking the start of the Cliff and Redfield herd paths were just a few steps beyond.
At the cairns we opted to climb Redfield first. The trail is mostly a rock hop that follows the Uphill Brook for 1.1 miles to the summit. Despite the fact that making your way over rocks for a length of time takes a good deal of energy, the climb was pretty straight-forward and not too steep until just below the summit. The views from the top are breathtaking and reward generously for the undertaking. We ate lunch and lingered for 20+ minutes, and made our way back down to the Cliff rock cairn.
The path up Cliff is approximately .8 mile one way, and is a sloggy, muddy mess for the first third of the journey. Once beyond the mud, the path turns into lots of steep rock scrambles. The first few set my heart beating but were nothing I couldn’t handle, and it felt invigorating to get to the top of each one. About 2/3 of the way up to the false summit, I was stopped in my tracks by the most massive and intimidating rockface I’ve encountered to date on my quest for the 46. I have to admit, I had a long moment where I didn’t think I could do it, and a realization that it meant I would not attain my goal. I was very emotional, partly due to exhaustion and partly due to the stress of the situation. If I can locate a photo of the challenge I’ll post it, but unfortunately when I’m in these moments, blog photos are usually the last thing on my mind.
It was quite the struggle for me to ascend it, and if you were there with me you’d know that is by far an understatement (all that comes to mind right now is “what happens on the mountain stays on the mountain” – :)). I was very lucky to have some excellent coaching from one of my hiking buddies – an accidental one at that, as we’d hiked the Santanonis with him and bumped into him on the trail just before we hit the Uphill lean-to. He directed me to two branches that hung down and were able to serve as handholds; at first glance they do not appear to be strong enough to support your weight, but in fact they are . They are spaced widely apart and it was difficult for me to reach one from the other. On the descent I made the mistake of letting go of the first one before reaching and securing the second one and found myself in a state of momentary panic, feeling stuck on the rock and unable to move in any direction. I did eventually get up (and later down) this section, and Cliff was instantly transported to #1 of my most challenging climbing experiences to date.
A lot of positives came out of that situation for me. Firstly, I might be the first Adirondack hiker to actually welcome and appreciate the false summit! It was a pleasure to reach it shortly after this section of trail, and walk on a nice, level surface for awhile while my heartbeat slowed back down to normal. Secondly, after making it up and down that rock, I was unphased by every other challenge I encountered; they all paled in comparison. I feel like I walked away from Cliff a stronger and more competent mountain climber.
The summit of Cliff is treed and without views but I celebrated a sweet victory at the top and mentally prepared for the climb down and the very long walk back to the car. At the bottom of the mountain we still had close to 8 miles to go until reaching the Upper Works parking lot, and it was a walk mostly made up of muddy, wet rock-hops. We lost daylight with nearly 4 miles to go, and finally came out of the woods at 10:30 pm – a 16 hour day!
Back at the tent, I think I was asleep within minutes – the only time I’ve ever been too tired to shower after a hike. I think I’ve finally found a cure for my insomnia…