Steve (Little Brown Mushroom) coined the phrase "power outage" and it best describes how I felt on Saturday's tour of Marshall, Cliff, and Redfield. The route I chose covered 23 miles and 5300 feet of ascent and took me 12h 45m to complete. By day's end I returned to the Loj "draggin my butt" and was focused on a hot shower followed by a burger and UBU(s).
I left the Loj at 6:35 AM and headed in via Indian Pass to the breached dam at Scott Clearing. I continued past the clearing and followed the so-called high-water route. I wish I had simply scrambled down from the dam and followed Indian Pass brook because the high-water route is an ol' tyme Adirondack mess. I haven't hiked through this area in over 30 years but the trail's condition invoked a strong sense of déjà vu. It's as sloppy as it ever was.
I stopped about a hundred yards before the trail-junction to check my map and convince myself I hadn't already passed it. The junction presented itself plainly and it'd be difficult to miss. I turned east and began to ascend a trail I hadn't seen in decades.
The Cold Brook Pass trail, unmaintained since Hurricane Irene, was in fine shape and passed several lovely waterfalls and pools. The herd-path junction to Marshall is marked by a prominent cairn. The woods are tight at the top of the Pass so, even without a cairn, the mouth of the herd-path is hard to miss. I'd characterize the herd-path as easy to follow but "snug and scratchy". It is in far better shape than Herbert Brook.
I expected to emerge directly at the summit of Marshall. However, after skirting around the east side of a large glacial erratic, the path faded and I emerged on the Herbert Brook path about 50 feet from the summit. I guess if I went around the west side of the erratic I might have finished directly on the summit. I greeted two hikers on Marshall then stopped at the lookout for a few pics.
The descent along Herbert Brook was scenic but the herd-path is showing the effects of its popularity. I thought the western Cold Brook Pass trail was in far better condition and equally pretty. I met above a half-dozen hikers during the descent and arrived at the Flowed Lands trail about 4.5 hours from departure. It seemed like a big chunk of my day had been sapped by the first 8.5 miles.
I turned north, crossed the Colden Dam, and headed east up the Opalescent. The waterfalls, pools, and gorges of the Opalescent kept me amused and before long the 1.5 miles and 500 foot rise to Uphill Brook lean-to was done. I headed in along the herd-path then stopped to filter water from Uphill Falls Brook. It was my first lengthy pause and the black flies took advantage of it. After spraying a home-brew concoction of DEET and lemon-eucalyptus oil on my neck, ears, and hat-brim I returned to topping up my hydration bag.
I find Cliff's route to be more demanding than Redfield's so I chose to climb it first. The first few hundred yards past the junction have become a mess of muddy, braided trails. If the idea of unmarked, minimal-maintenance trails was to minimize the carnage caused by go-your-own-way herd-paths, it has failed to contain the damage on the approach to Cliff. Without gaiters and wearing only Raptors I managed to finesse my way over the remains of old corduroy, rocks, and fallen timber without soaking my feet.
Somewhere past Cliff's false-summit (muddy) I met two women who asked if I was Wayne. I said no. They explained there were two men at the summit waiting for Wayne. Upon reaching the summit, one of the two hikers exclaimed "There you are!" and the other said "No, that's not Wayne." I confirmed I wasn't Wayne. Shortly after tagging the summit, I met a lone hiker who proved to be the long-lost Wayne. He was also a ADK High Peaks forum member (Ebbinghaus) and we stopped to chat for awhile.
Descending Cliff wasn't as tricky as I had expected (ripped some skin off a finger on a previous hike) but certainly not as much fun as in winter. I returned to the junction and began the final peak of the day. I began to feel sluggish and slowed my pace to avoid frequent start-stops. I reached Redfield's summit and met the two women from Cliff. I introduced myself as "Not Wayne" and then snapped a few pics before heading down. I still had a "long row to hoe" and didn't dawdle on the summit.
I stopped at the head of Uphill Brook Falls to take on water. By day's end I think I went through 4 or 5 liters of water and most of that was lost through my pores. Upon arriving at the trail, I met a large group of young hikers and one asked me the distance to Lake Colden. I replied "One and a half miles." They claimed to have "a map" but it appeared to be in the hands of one person who emerged moments later to report the guidebook's version of the distance (1.6 miles). I wished them well and began the first step of many to cover the (approximately) 8 miles back to the ADK Loj.
I arrived at the Loj almost thirteen hours after departing and feeling a little worse for wear. I heard my name called and turned to find Bud (Bud3010). We chatted until the black flies made it impossible.
After a satisfying meal at the Lake Placid Pub and a solid night's sleep at Tmax-n-Topo's hostel, I departed to hike Giant and RPR. With 800 feet less elevation gain and a fraction of the mileage, it was an easy-breezy day and I finished feeling invigorated.