Monday, June 27, 2011

Allen 2011-06-27

My alarm sounded at 2:15 AM and ended a few hours of fitful sleep; I rarely sleep soundly when I know I'll be waking before the birds. I was out the door at 2:45 AM. Less than an hour later I was at the border behind one car. The driver appeared to have had insufficient identification and was directed back to Canada. Talk about a bad start to your day!

South of Lewis, interstate 87 was shrouded in fog. As I came out of a patch of mist, I saw something I dread during pre-dawn drives, a deer standing by the road. Too late to brake but fortunately it didn't bolt and we passed one another without incident. En route to Upper Works, a squirrel was less fortunate and met its end under the wheels of my car. All I had time to do was flinch.

I rolled into Upper Works at 5:30 AM where DelawareMike, Iluvsnow55, and Ellie (a 7 year old Labrador), were already in the parking lot. By 6:00 AM, we were joined by BradleyC1316 and FootTraffic. DelawareMike registered the group and we departed at approximately 6:15 AM.

The first order of the day was the selection of a safe place to ford the Hudson River. The recent rains dashed any notion of an easy, 'knee-deep' crossing. After much scouting and deliberation we agreed upon a location approximately 50 yards down-river of the collapsed bridge. It offered mid-thigh to crotch-deep water with a fairly smooth bed. The speed of the current was a concern because, from observing surface debris, it seemed to flow at about two feet per second. There seemed to be no danger of being swept away; taking a dunking and ruining a camera seemed like the worse-case scenario. We donned our sandals, a few of us gents stripped down to our skivvies, and we all crossed without incident. In fact, the water was refreshing and a portent of the trail to come: wet.

We donned our boots, covered our soggy underwear with dry pants, and continued on to Lake Jimmy. Except for one section that is slightly submerged, the floating bridge is in fine shape. Beyond the bridge, we encountered the day's trail conditions, namely wet and muddy. The trees and vegetation were soaking wet and rained down on us all the way to Allen's summit. Wet pants and feet were the order of the day but the sun was shining so it all balanced out.

Foggy morning at Lake Jimmy.
We didn't encounter the belligerent grouse at the observer's cabin. Ellie's enthusiastic barking probably had something to do with that. She had several members of our group well-trained and they dutifully played 'pitch the stick' at every rest stop. Failure to pitch the stick resulted in corrective barking. However, by mile sixteen, Ellie's interest in the game had waned.

Fording the Opalescent river was a simple affair involving knee-deep water. Everyone agreed the Opalescent was significantly colder than the Hudson. We stashed our sandals in the trees, changed socks, and continued on to the next milestone, namely the 'Allen' highway sign. This section of trail is overgrown with tall grasses, raspberry bushes, and other brambly vegetation that efficiently soaked footwear and clothing. However, it had a wonderful cooling effect that was noticeably absent upon our return in the mid-afternoon heat.

Opalescent River.
Past the highway sign, the herd path was wet, muddy, and easy to follow. Nevertheless, we lost it about a hundred yards west of Skylight brook (easily found on the return trip) due to some blowdown. It didn't matter because we could hear it and simply headed towards the rushing sound. Skylight brook was running high but was easily crossed via a fallen tree. The opposite bank has an illegal campsite that, after the rains, was a muddy mess. 

We arrived at Allen brook only to find its attractive waterfall was obscured by fallen trees. It will probably take torrential rains, or another spring-melt, to dislodge the trees. We stopped to replenish our water bottles and prepared ourselves for the imminent ascent. The herd path weaves its way in and out of the brook. Allen's infamously slippery 'red slime' was present and caused a few 'slip and falls'. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured and everyone developed a healthy respect for 'red slime'.

Upon reaching the slide, the herd path follows along the righthand side. Several yards higher, there is a comfortable place to traverse the slide and follow along the left. However, the herd path also continues along the right. Some members forged ahead, along the right, whereas FootTraffic and I traversed to the left. Eventually, the righthand team dead-ended and had to bushwhack through dense woods to join the lefthand team.

We reached Allen's northern summit at 1:30 PM and stopped for lunch, photos, and to swap good stories. FootTraffic brought out his Spot transmitter and signalled his family "I'm OK!". He also showed us his summit talisman, a 'Hula Pig'!

The descent of Allen brook seemed longer than its ascent owing to the care needed to avoid a nasty spill. By the time we reached the 'Allen' highway sign, the sun was beating down and the morning's cool, wet foliage was sorely missed. We all looked forward to fording the Opalescent. I could imagine steam rising from its surface after five pairs of overheated feet plunged into its cool waters. Upon reaching it, it did not disappoint us and we took our time crossing it.

Butterflies puddling.
When we reached the Hudson, many of us chose to wade in fully clothed and with our boots. On the opposite bank, several of us dropped our packs, stripped down, and re-entered the river to wash away a day's worth of mud, sweat, and insect repellent. For anyone drawing water downstream, it would've been advisable to use a filter!

VIDEO: Return from Allen

At the parking lot, we took a few minutes to freshen up and then FootTraffic unfolded a few camp chairs and DelawareMike brought out ice-cold bottles of beers. Ellie wolfed down her dog-chow and then flopped onto her side, dog-tired. We reflected on the current day's hike, past hikes, and hikes to come. An hour later, we bid one another goodbye and drove off in five different directions. I had a great time and I hope our paths cross again soon.


See all photos.