Almost to the summit

Almost to the summit

I finally got around to hiking Allen yesterday.  Feared by some for its length and remoteness (20 miles round trip from the trailhead) and slippery red algae covering its rock surfaces, Allen was ranked as the most difficult high peak in my unofficial 46er survey from a few months ago. Despite the rumored challenges, I went into it expecting to fully enjoy the day, knowing that the first (and last) six miles were mostly a flat walk, and having been assured that by stepping carefully one can avoid the algae if hiking in dry conditions. Luckily the weather gods had blessed us with a stretch of sunny, dry days.

The flat walk in on the Hanging Spear Falls trail was reminiscent in parts of the Calamity Brook trail from Upper Works. It wove through various terrains spanning grasslands, forest, and dense thicket.  We began the hike wearing water shoes, as about a tenth of a mile in from the trailhead is the first of two water crossings, the Hudson and Opalescent Rivers, both of which were about ankle deep. As I was lacing up my boots on the bank of the Opalescent, I recognized a fellow blogger making her way across the water. It was nice to meet her and her dad in person!

The trail passes by two lakes – Lake Jimmy and Lake Sally. The floating bridge over Lake Jimmy has yet to be repaired and the official trail now winds around the lake, adding a bit of mileage to the day. Pools of oil* are visible on the trail through this section; I’ve heard that many years ago oil drums were buried in the ground and have started to corrode, but I can’t seem to find any information about this.

There’s a second trail register at the start of the Allen herd path, and that’s when the climbing starts. It begins gradually until reaching the Allen Brook, at the base of which is a small waterfall. From there the climb becomes steeper, increasing in steepness all the way to the top. The slippery red algae is not only on the slide just below the summit, but on the rocks, wet from the brook, all the way up the trail. The guide book says to allow 4 hours to climb the 4.2 miles to the top, and it was indeed slow-going; careful foot placement was essential.

I found the climb to be difficult. I was quite nervous going up the steep slide, though the dry, sunny day did make it easier to avoid the algae, which is only slippery when wet. There had to be at least 25-30 people climbing Allen on Saturday, and when we finally reached the summit there were two people celebrating their 46er finishes with a pretty large group of hikers, and we were treated to a bit of champagne. We stayed for about 15-20 minutes and began the descent back down.

I was pretty nervous coming down the slide but made it to the bottom without incident. The algae on the rocks below the slide was much more treacherous and I slipped once, catching myself and mildly (re)spraining my right wrist in the process. A little while later, in the woods at the bottom of the herd path, I grabbed a tree branch with my left hand without noticing there was a bee on the branch. He was less than pleased, and stung me in the finger. That definitely got my mind off the wrist, and made my long walk down and out a bit less enjoyable. Two dysfunctional hands, but at least my legs worked!

Those water crossings were quite pleasant on the way out – it felt great on sore feet to walk through the ice-cold water. We finally came out of the woods just a few minutes past 8, a 13 1/2 hour day. It’s exciting to have gotten the longest hike behind me, and to have finally hit #40! Only six more to go!

*EDIT:  The oily-looking pools are more likely caused by a bacteria which consumes iron and manganese, which is a great relief. Can’t say definitively either way, but there is a great deal of iron ore in Tahawus and at one time mining operations.…-bacteria.html…onthewater.htm

Early morning light

Early morning light

Crossing the Hudson River

Crossing the Opalescent River

Oily-looking pools along the trail

Oily-looking pools along the trail

I think this is Allen coming into view, but a confirmation would be appreciated! Along the Hanging Spear Falls trail.

Allen coming into view.

Raspberries along the Hanging Spear Falls trail.

Wild blackberries along the Hanging Spear Falls trail.

Starting up the Allen herd path.

Starting up the Allen herd path.

One of the many beautiful views along the way.

One of the many beautiful views along the way.

The infamous slide.

The infamous slide.

Summit sign, looking a little roughed up - just like I was feeling!

Summit sign, looking a little roughed up – just like I was feeling!

View from the overlook near the summit.

View from the overlook near the summit.


Bullfrog resting on a log

Catching the sunset on the long walk out.

Just before sunset on the long walk out.

Along the Hanging Spear Falls trail.

Along the Hanging Spear Falls trail.

Wildflowers along the trail.

Wildflowers along the trail.

19 thoughts on “Allen

  1. Pru, this was a wonderful read first thing in the morning haha I feel like I already got a workout in! Beautifully described hike and congratulations on #40! Your writing is also very easy on the eye 🙂 Well done.

  2. Another one down, Pru- well done! I remember all the berries- I was quite distracted by the snack potential! I also think I remember the rock you slipped on as I did too- right onto my best padded area! Fortunately, I managed to avoid your bee- ouch!! 40 was such a milestone- bet you can taste it now!

    • There were about 10-15 people coming down those rocks at the same time as us, and at least 5 of them slipped at one point. Slick! I’m in no rush to repeat Allen. Can ALMOST taste it… will be a little clearer after I check the boxes on D/H!

  3. That was quite the walk Pru! surprised you didn’t do it in two days with a camp stop. I believe that was a bullfrog and the berries looked more like Blackberries than Wild raspberry. They would have been bitter red and sweet when black. WIld raspberry is quite small and not as thorny. I have to carry diphenhydramine HCL for those bee bites. Understand non functional hands! Plan on 46 this year?

    Do you have a good photo of the red rock algae? I’d like to share one with a friend whose into those organisms. rare elsewhere. Numer 40 must feel real good! john

    • John, thanks for confirming my bullfrog ID! And I’ll update my caption on the berries, too. The red algae – I have to admit I was so focused on stepping carefully that I didn’t really get a shot of the algae. It was very difficult to see, and I’d imagine it would be tough to photograph. Just barely tinted the color of the rock. I’ll check through my photos to see if I have any to send you.

  4. Good job, Pru! Another ADK46 adventure under your belt. That is an interesting note about the oil pools you saw, which I never observed before. I’ll have to look that up.

    • Thanks, John! If you dig up any info on the oil, please share! I’m very interested… I have some pics of some of the pools that didn’t wind up on the blog and will send them to you.

      • I have not been able to find anything definitive in my Google searches. However, I do know that National Lead Industries operated in the Lower Works, around Lake Sanford (south of Lakes Sally and Jimmy). The mines closed in 1989 and the abandoned structures still exist. I don’t know if NL Industries operated around LJ and LS, or if the oil is somehow connected to the mining operations.
        You may want to post a question on the ADK High Peaks Forum. Someone there may know. Good luck!

  5. I really enjoyed your trip report…so much so I may just redo this hike…not. Nothing would ever make me want to hike Allen again.

    At least one thing, it looks as though you had more raspberries to eat than when I did Allen!!! Hopefully it was a yummy hike, at least part of the way.

    Congrats on getting this one done; which in my opinion is the most mentally tiring high peaks hike. And congrats on 6 more to go!!! I only wish we’d be finishing up the same year.

    I especially love that early morning shot that you posted…that is simply breathtaking. Submit that to the forum’s calendar for next year.


    • Yeah, I can’t say I’ll be rushing to re-do this one either… 😉 Thanks, re: the pic! I like the one you just posted of the herd path – great shot. I wish we were finishing the same year too, but now I’ll have lots of time next summer to hike some of your final ones with you!

  6. So any ideas as to your next quest? The 4000 footers in New Hampshire? The Long Trail in Vermont? The Northville-Placid trail?

    I’m so looking forward to hiking with you again. I only wish it could be before the Colden (final) hike!!!

  7. Pingback: 19. Allen Mountain | 46 Ups and Downs

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  9. wondering if anyone has any information about possibly skiing Allen with cross country gear. I would like to cut the hiking time down and enjoy what sounds like it would be a fun ski.

    • Sorry I am just seeing your comment now. I don’t know myself, but maybe someone else will comment with some intel? Definitely post your question to the adkhighpeaks forum – you’ll get your answer, no doubt.

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