Nearly two months have passed since my last hike. I hit the trail pretty often in June through the first week of July. Then the rains came. In July we had only a handful of days without any rain. August wasn't much better. Anybody that has hiked in the Adirondacks during the summer knows that the trails tend to be muddy even in the best of times. After two wetter than average months, I imagine the trails were sloppy at best most of July and August.
I chose to avoid the trails during the wet spell. I kept in shape by putting a lot of miles on my road bike, while running on the days I didn't cycle. By the end of August, the area dried out a little bit and I was ready to get back on the trails.
Since moving to the Adirondacks a little over two years ago, I have been slowly chipping away at the Adirondack 46er peak list. While I made a point to finish the list, it wasn't my hiking priority until this summer when I found myself with only six peaks left to climb. My last four remaining peaks; Redfield, Cliff, Gray, and Skylight are all relatively close to each other.
Eager to finish the 46, I chose to climb the four remaining peaks on one hike. Typically Cliff and Redfield are climbed together on one hike, while Gray and Skylight are often climbed together on a separate hike. Usually the four are not climbed together in a day, although some backpack into the area and split the peaks up over multiple days. My plan was to hike the four in a single day from Upper Works. Although hitting the four peaks in a day requires over 25 miles of hiking with nearly 7,000 feet of elevation gain, I have done longer hikes with more elevation gain and was up for the challenge.
I decided to make the trip on Thursday, September 2nd, trying to catch a dry spell between more rainy weather. The forecast called for clear skies to start the day with some clouds moving in later. My drive to the trailhead looked promising with clear and starry skies. Anticipating a long day, I started hiking at 610AM from the Upper Works Trailhead. Unlike most of my recent hikes, due to the longer distance, I traveled without my dog Choya.
The start of this hike was familiar territory. The first 5.4 miles retraced my route of my Mt Marshall hike at the end of June. These first 5 miles went by fairly quickly with little elevation change. Most of the trail in the first five miles is relatively smooth by High Peaks standards. As I reached the Flowed Lands area, the sun started to rise over the mountains. The day was looking promising with only a few clouds on the higher summits that appeared to be breaking up.
|Crossing the Hudson near Upper Works|
|Early junction along the trail|
|Rocky stretch of trail|
Flowed Lands is the first scenic area along the route. If you stick to the main trail toward Colden, you only catch a few glimpses of Flowed Lands through the trees. If you travel about a minute down the East River Trail at the junction with Calamity Brook Trail, you will be rewarded with nice views of the surrounding terrain over the boggy waters of Flowed Lands.
|Sunny view over Flowed Lands|
|Upper part of Flowed Lands|
Beyond Flowed Lands, the trail reaches the dam at Lake Colden. Excellent views over the Lake provide a nice look at Avalanche Pass. Although I was still in the sun, the clouds seemed to be thickening over the higher summits. The summit of Colden started to cloud over as I passed the lake.
|Lake Colden view toward Avalanche Pass|
|Crossing the dam at Lake Colden|
After Lake Colden, the route passes a series of campsites and lean-tos and soon crosses the Opalescent River on a suspension bridge. Be aware if crossing this bridge, it's extremely bouncy whether you want it to bounce or not. You may want to hold onto the cables. By this point, the sun seemed to fade away for good.
Most information about hikes to Redfield and Cliff from Upper Works focus on the long distance. People don't seem to focus much on the journey. Part of the journey travels along the Opalescent River. The trail along the Opalescent passes a series of waterfalls and flumes on a gorgeous, wild river. I stopped frequently to enjoy the tumbling water along the river. The rocky, tumbling river would make a worthwhile destination by itself. Many of the falls are easily accessible and visible from the trail. A few drops plummet through steep, narrow gorges and allow only a glimpse. Give yourself the time to enjoy the travel along the river in this stretch.
|Waterfall viewed from the suspension bridge|
|Opalescent cascading over ledges|
|Several small waterfalls- I would like to|
see this in higher water
|A bigger waterfall|
The trail climbed away from the Opalescent and I soon arrived at the Uphill Lean-to. I stopped at the lean-to briefly to consult my map to confirm the start of the herd paths toward Redfield and Cliff was nearby. The two peaks share a herd path for the first few hundred yards, which starts almost directly across from the trail to the lean-to.
|Stairs climbing along the Opalescent|
|Along Redfield's herd path|
|Another nice drop|
At 4,606', Redfield stands as the 15th highest summit in the Adirondacks. Unfortunately, as I climbed, it wasn't looking too promising for any views. The morning sunshine by this point gave way to clouds. The heart of the High Peaks were pretty much shrouded in clouds. The clouds occasionally dropped to the upper reaches of Redfield. I did get some partial views to the south, but the visibility wasn't the best. With not much to see, and a long day still ahead of me, I didn't linger too long. I managed a few partial views as I descended, but the best scenery was mostly in the clouds.
|Partial views on the south side of Redfield|
|Another partial view from Redfield|
|View while descending Redfield|
I made my way back down to the Cliff/Redfield junction. By this point I was approaching ten miles on the day and decided to take a quick break for a snack. From the junction, the Cliff herd path looked pretty muddy out of the gate.
Almost immediately, I encountered a group coming from Cliff that told me the mud was short lived near the start of the trail. Sure enough the worst of the mud only lasted a few hundred feet, and was easily crossed by stepping on branches and rocks within the mud.
Apart from the mud, Cliff has a reputation for a lot of scrambling. It is called Cliff Mountain for a reason. Sure enough, I soon encountered several long scrambles. Not having Choya with me, I could enjoy the scrambles. After several sections of scrambling, the path levels off. Unfortunately this is a false summit. The trail travels another half-mile through a shallow col before reaching the actual summit.
|The scrambling begins|
|One of the more technical scrambles|
|A view along Cliff's herd path|
|The wooded summit of Cliff|
|Looking back at one of Cliff's scrambles|
|Corduroy helping with the mud|
|Convenient logs helped getting|
through the worst of the mud
|Peak three of the day|
|Lake Tear of the Clouds with clouded over Skylight|
|A small break in the clouds|
|Skylight emerging from the clouds|
|I think Redfield is on the right and Allen is just|
beyond Skylight's shoulder in this shot
|Lake Tear of the Clouds|
|Last half-mile of climbing of the day|
|Just below treeline on Skylight|
|Making my way across Skylight in the clouds|
|Not too much to see|
|Looking across Skylight's summit|
|The extent of the views|
|Last 46er summit|
|Heading back down Skylight|
|Final destination: Upper Works|
|Last look at Lake Tear of the Clouds|
|I'll pass on running this stretch|
|Bog bridges over wet trail|
|Looking upstream at a creek crossing|
|Cascades on the Opalescent|
|Waterfall framed by a narrow gorge|
|Suspension Bridge over the Opalescent|
|Getting ready for the shaky bridge|
|Easier said than done|
|Indian Pass from Lake Colden dam|
|Trailhead sign at Upper Works|
|After the hike, I came home to |
this congratulatory sign from
Puma. The lower part shows all
46 High Peaks completed.