Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Cliff and Redfield 2011-07-05

Before the day's end, I would become intimately acquainted with the term 'Road Rash'. I fell while descending Cliff and left behind a tiny piece of me. My 'take home' was a bloody souvenir and a valuable lesson.

I didn't begin this hike in the best frame of mind. I left the Upper Works trailhead at 8:45 AM feeling out of sorts. It was an uncommonly late start for me but the day was long and the objective was reasonable.

The trail to Flowed Lands had a few muddy patches but, overall, was in fine shape. I had noticed that Altbark registered to hike Marshall and Cliff and I thought we might cross paths but it didn't happen. I arrived at Flowed Lands at 10:20 AM and paused to take in the wonderful view. I reached the Marshall trail junction, just past the "Pi Bridge", at 10:40 AM and confirmed my assertion that it takes less time to reach it from Upper Works (2 hours) than the Loj (3 hours).

Idyllic morning at Flowed Lands.
The "Pi Bridge" across Herbert Brook.
Along the Opalescent, I met a young man who had been unable to locate the herd path to Cliff. I indicated I was also heading to Cliff and described the route. He dashed ahead and waited at the junction for me to arrive. We continued to the cairn whereupon he thanked me and sped off. Despite dozens of hikes over the past year, I don't think I'll ever move that fast.

The approach to Cliff is along a well-worn and very muddy path. I characterized it as 'one muddy cuss' of a trail and shared that description with a group of four people descending Cliff.

I found plenty of handholds, in the form of overhanging trees, to help me ascend Cliff's steep, rocky pitches. Once past the false summit, and a very muddy section, the trail traverses the ridge via a surprisingly attractive footpath carpeted in fir needles. I arrived at the summit at 12:30 PM, about 45 minutes from the cairn.

Aside from a partial view of Colden, Cliff doesn't offer much in the way of views. Nevertheless it was far more than what I saw from its socked-in summit when I climbed it thirty years ago. It wasn't a scenic rest-stop so I chose to press on and have lunch en route to Redfield.

At the muddy section near the false summit, I met two cheerful hikers ascending Cliff. We exchanged brief pleasantries and then continued on our ways; I'd meet them again on Redfield. I believe I was descending the second steep pitch when I tried an expedient maneuver. I leaned over the edge of an eight foot drop, planted my hiking poles on a foot-wide ledge about four feet below me, and decided I could hop onto it. I believe this photo, taken by Snav3, is the section. My accumulated hiking experience was not involved in this poor decision. If it had been, it would've said to grab an overhanging branch and lower yourself, like you've done countless times before you owned hiking poles.

I landed on the ledge, my feet slid off, and I slid down the coarse rock. I wear cycling gloves to protect my hands and I'm thankful for it. However, the finger-tips were exposed and, being the chink in the armour, that's precisely where the damage was inflicted. The fall was brief and chaotic yet one sensation overshadowed all else, namely the feeling of a cheese-grater running across my right pinky.

I normally finish a hike with a few minor scratches but today would be different. I was relieved that I hadn't fractured or torn anything yet angry that I had made a bone-headed move.

I inspected the painful wound, now bleeding profusely, and saw the epidermal layer had been lost and the exposed dermis was soiled with embedded dirt. The human mouth may be a cesspool of bacteria but it was the most expedient way to clean the wound.

I retrieved bandages from my pack, all the while dripping blood everywhere. Despite my best efforts, I could not remove all of the dirt. I figured the best I could do is staunch the bleeding until I could get to a stream. I spat out another mouthful of blood, bandaged the finger, and then lowered myself with the aid of a branch, like I should've done in the first place.

After bandaging the wound, the pain diminished and it did not impede my hike. I returned to the cairn at 1:25 PM and continued to Redfield. Fifteen minutes later, I arrived at my favourite rest-stop, namely a very pretty section of Uphill Brook with a great view of the Macintyre range. I feel this is a destination in itself and well worth the twenty minute hike from Uphill Brook lean-to. It lies at the head of one waterfall and the base of another and features a large flat rock from where you can rest and view Algonquin and Iroquois.

My favourite rest-stop en route to Redfield.
I removed the makeshift bandage and plunged my hand into the cold, clear waters of Uphill Brook. Clenching my teeth, I used a wet micro-fiber cloth to scrub the dirt out of the ragged wound. I wiped it with an alcohol pad and then wrapped it with an oversized bandage. With that unpleasant chore out of the way, I turned to slathering my feet with diaper-rash ointment and changing my socks. Now I could enjoy my lunch and the excellent view.

I sterilized a half-liter of water with my Steripen, added some Gastrolyte (oral-rehydratrion salts left over from my trip to China) and downed it. I had been sipping water, from my 3-liter hydration bag, throughout the hike but it doesn't beat the satisfaction of guzzling a big glass of cold water. By the end of the day, I'd consume four liters of water and wouldn't have turned down a pint of beer.

Other than a lone hiker descending Redfield (possibly Snav3?), I had the babbling brook all to myself for forty-five minutes. At 2:25 PM I packed up and continued to the summit. En route, I met the group of four hikers once again. The eldest of them was bleeding from scratches on his arms. I grumbled that the trail had taken its toll of blood from both us on this fine day.

I arrived at Redfield's summit less than an hour later at 3:20 PM. I spent ten minutes admiring the commanding view of Allen, where I had been the previous week. I've always imagined hiking the route between Allen and Redfield by following Skylight brook to the nameless bog and then onwards via Redfield's slide. Perhaps some day I'll do it, but not this 'lame finger' day.

I left the summit at 3:30 PM and carefully made my way down. Chastened by my previous fall, I was now treading very carefully, perhaps more than necessary. Once again, I met the two hikers seen on Cliff. They offered me antibiotic ointment but I declined. I indicated I'd get home and flush it with peroxide. One of them suggested downing a little Jack Daniels to ease the sting of the 'old school' peroxide. Given enough Jack Daniels, I'm sure its antiseptic properties could work its magic from the inside out.

One long, overly-cautious hour later, I was back at the trail junction. I followed the unmarked side-trail to inspect Uphill lean-to, took its photo, and then returned to the main trail where I met Aaron. He was returning from Skylight and was looking for the junction to Lake Arnold in order to return to the Loj. I indicated he had overshot the junction by at least a half-mile. I empathized with his situation because, during a hike to Redfield last year, I passed the herd-path junction and the Lake Arnold junction before realizing I had overshot my target! He replied he had turned back more than once and was unable to find it. I suggested he could either try again or follow me to Lake Colden whereupon he could return via Avalanche Pass. He agreed and we spent the next hour discussing hiking, travel, politics, etc.

Along the way, I assisted a father and daughter team looking for Uphill lean-to. Fortuitously, I had a time-stamped photo of it to show them, indicated it was empty and a half-hour away, and described how to find the unmarked side-trail. Aaron and I continued to Lake Colden where, at 5:25 PM, we shook hands and parted ways.

A half-hour later, I was standing on the shore of Flowed Lands and taking one last look at the beautiful vista. Given the excellent weather and the beautiful surroundings, it seemed like a shame to leave. But, camping was not part of the agenda and a hot shower and comfortable bed were a few hours away. I stopped at the Henderson memorial to pay my respects. I was rewarded with a beautiful view of Calamity Pond illuminated by the sun, low in the sky.

The remainder of the trail seemed to be longer than when I hiked it in the morning (isn't that always the case?). I stopped one last time to tend to a blister and change socks. I made good time and arrived at the trailhead at 7:40 PM. Twenty minutes to stow gear, wash up, and change into clean clothes. In lieu of dinner, I snacked on a protein bar and settled back for the three hour drive back home.


See all photos.