Saturday, August 21, 2010

Redfield 2010-08-21

  • My "Apollo 10" trip.
  • Hike involved one 'penalty loop'.
  • East River trail from Flowed Lands is beautiful.

Morning: low 40's. Afternoon: low 60's. Overcast.


In preparation for Allen, my 46th, I wanted to hike a similar distance but with an 'early termination' option in the event of fatigue. Redfield, my 45th, fit the bill perfectly. If approached from Upper Works via the Calamity Brook trail, the return trip can retrace the inbound route or opt for four extra miles via the "East River Trail" (i.e. along the Opalescent river from Flowed Lands). Redfield would be my "Apollo 10"; a shakedown mission to determine if I could handle the 18 mile round-trip to Allen. In fact, after adding up the miles, the hike to Redfield is longer and slightly higher (21 miles + 1 mile 'penalty loop').

I departed Montreal at 3:00 AM and arrived at Upper Works at 6:00 AM. I could've arrived a few minutes earlier but I made my first mistake of the day and, en route to Upper Works, ended up at the locked gate. I missed the first lefthand fork thinking it was the route to the Santanoni trailhead (that's the second lefthand fork). Chalk it up to early-morning brain-fog. After finding a spot in the nearly full parking lot, I geared up quickly and left the trailhead at 6:10 AM.

At some point I was startled by a metallic noise in the woods and shouted "Hey!". A few steps later I saw a hiker preparing breakfast. I apologized for my kneejerk shout and moved on only to discover that the trail veered sharply to the left and over a log bridge. Thinking nothing of it, and still addled by the noise, I bulldozed over it and pressed on. A little while later I realized the trail markers were no longer red but blue. I forgot that, somewhere along the Calamity Brook trail, there's a junction with a trail that leads to Indian Pass. Now I had a nagging feeling that I may have taken a wrong turn. The terrain seemed correct, the trail well-worn, and the sun was on my right so I deduced I was heading in the correct direction.

At 7:40 AM I arrived at the Henderson Memorial and took a few photos. I had a sense of déja vu but could not recall which hiking trip in the past would have brought me here. Ten minutes later I was at the Flowed Lands register and looking out at Colden.

Henderson Memorial.
I caught up and passed a couple near the cairn to Marshall (the gentleman was wearing a 46er patch) and a lone hiker who was heading to Skylight and Gray. We chatted briefly while hiking and parted ways at Colden dam (8:15 AM). Based on my progress, I figured I'd be at the Uphill lean-to, and the cairn to Redfield and Cliff, within an hour.

In my mind's eye, I expected to arrive at Uphill lean-to and locate the cairn behind it. Of course, that's not how it is arranged but I didn't know it at the time. I did my best to zoom past all of the pretty views of the Opalescent. I planned to spend more time taking photos of this scenic brook on the return trip. However, a stop to peer into the gorge, and have a snack, was unavoidable.

At the head of the gorge.

Opalescent Gorge.
Somewhere around 9:00 AM I passed the root ball of a fallen tree and recognized it, from a photo I had seen, as being the old herd path to Cliff. A short distance later, I passed a cairn and thought it was an attempt to remark the old Cliff herd path (wrong). It couldn't be the route to Redfield because I haven't passed the Uphill lean-to yet (wrong). All of the campsite markers in the area were a surprise to me because I don't recall a camping area between Colden dam and Uphill lean-to thirty years ago (there still is none). I shrugged it off and continued my march towards Redfield (wrong).

I passed a troop of young hikers heading in the opposite direction. Hmmm, where were they going? The trail started to climb out of the valley. I looked back, saw Colden's slides and realized I made a mistake. That cairn popped into my mind but it was not accompanied with the requisite lean-to. A few paces later I saw a sign that forbade camping above 3500 feet. It might as well have read "You goofed!". I remember thinking "OK, smart guy, nobody has moved Uphill lean-to above 3500 feet." A quick glance at the map made me realize I was so focused on arriving at a lean-to that I had zoomed passed the junction with the Feldspar Brook trail.

Embarrassed with my severe bout of 'trail myopia', I hustled back, found the junction to Feldspar, recognized that the cairn was my objective, and flew down the trail towards it. I passed the lone hiker, heading for Skylight, and sheepishly admitted I had passed the cairn to Redfield. He reminded me that it also led to Cliff but that much, at least, I did recall. At 9:50 AM I arrived at the cairn, again. Arriving from the east, I saw a small yellow marker indicating the direction to the Uphill lean-to. The mistake amounted to a 1 mile 'penalty loop' for 'gross inattention'.

The herd path up Redfield starts along a smooth path and ends up following a wide brook. Where the two meet, there's a fine view of Algonquin that vaguely reminded me of the vista from Indian Falls. I stopped for a snack and a change of socks. I collected water into a spare water bladder and dropped in an Aquatab ostensibly to purify it but surely to have it taste vile. I stashed the water bladder and hung up my wet socks to dry.

MacIntyre Range viewed from Uphill Brook.
The brook's water level was very low thereby exposing a lot of smooth, dry rock and interesting water features. I found it easier, and more appealing, to hike in the brook as opposed to the trail. All good things come to an end, and the route veers right, out of the wide brook, and follows a smaller tributary brook. Eventually this too ends and the route returns to an earthen trail. I passed a father and son team who were making Redfield the third and final peak of their weekend trip together. The last stretch of the route was uneventful and I arrived at the wooded summit, in just over an hour, at 11:00 AM.

Redfield. Number 45 for me.
At the summit I met, for the second time, the troop of young hikers. Cameras were exchanged and summit photos were captured. The father and son team arrived and Redfield's miniscule summit became crowded. The troop left for Cliff and I moved to a boulder, a few feet past the summit, to get fine views of my next objective, Allen. It was a good place to have lunch and envision the hike to Allen.

I left the summit at 11:30 AM, collected my bag o'bleach and socks, and proceeded to spend time taking photos and videos along the Opalescent brook. The water level was low enough to let me stand at the head of the gorge and look down its length. This is a treat especially if you've seen the gorge during the spring runoff. I returned to the Flowed Lands register at 2:00 PM. I had another snack, and change of socks, at the Calamity Brook lean-to and patched up a few minor blisters. I felt reasonably good so I decided to pursue my original objective and exit via Hanging Spear Falls and the Opalescent river (the East River trail).

At 2:30 PM, I crossed the causeway at the breached Flowed Lands dam and, on the opposite bank, saw the sign indicating "East River Trail - Bridge Out". I was prepared to ford the Opalescent and looked forward to a cooling dip. The trail that follows the Opalescent river is remarkable. It is in such beautiful shape as to make it uncharacteristic for the High Peaks region. Virtually mudless and uneroded, it is a garden footpath through beautiful woods in a steep-walled valley high above a roaring brook.

Breached dam at Flowed Lands.
I arrived at Hanging Spear Falls at 2:50PM and followed the short sidetrail to a beautiful view of the falls. However, if not for time constraints, I would've found a way down to its base and fully appreciated its grandeur.

Hanging Spear Falls.
By 3:40 PM I arrived at the junction with the herd path to Allen. The trail here has exited the steep valley and is now mostly open, flat, and grassy terrain with chest-high bushes screening the trail. Although the trail wasn't difficult, and allowed you to stride at a fast pace, the area felt very remote and the trailhead seemed along ways off. The only way to change that was to press on and chew up those miles.

I arrived at the Opalescent river crossing at 4:15 PM. There were four people taking a break and I hazarded a guess that one of them was AdkWalrus completing his 46th peak. In fact, it was him, with his wife and friends, and I congratulated him on his success. AdkWalrus's group left a few minutes before I did after we exchanged farewells.

Opalsecent river crossing (low water).
I proceeded to cool my feet in the Opalescent and inhale another Cliff bar. The water level is so low that you can cross it by rock-hopping; no fording required. It also meant there'd be no cooling dip. I patched another tiny blister, put on dry socks, and prepared myself to burn up the remaining miles. I caught up to AdkWalrus and his wife and we ended up discussing all sorts of things all the way back to the trailhead (5:45 pm). It was a very pleasant end to a long and rewarding trip. By 6:00 PM I covered the remaining half-mile section of road and was back at the Upper Works trailhead.


See all photos.