We left the Upper Works trail-head at 8:00 AM under a clear and sunny sky. The woods were damp and the fall foliage was at its peak. The trail-signs appeared to be relatively new and clearly spelled out destinations such as the Henderson Lake Dam, Duck Hole, and Mount Marcy.
The trail to Duck Hole was interrupted by a mirror-smooth beaver pond. We crossed it along a precariously spongy beaver dam. The bridge across Indian Pass Brook was surprisingly slippery. Its damp boards had frozen but showed no evidence of slickness until one's first step.
|Surprisingly slippery footbridge.|
|Mist on Henderson Lake.|
|Route of our exploration of the cliff.|
|View from cliff.|
|Slipping is not an option.|
We descended to an intermittent stream and then everything changed. It's normal for the woods to be denser near a source of water but they simply refused to thin out. Wherever they did it was either short-lived or due to a blowdown field. Our progress slowed to a crawl. It became increasingly difficult to flank the blowdown fields because they seemed to have no perimeter. My gnarlometer registered a new high-water mark.
While clambering over several fallen trees, I reflected on how my perception of difficulty had changed. This was my fourteenth bushwhacking trip in 2015 and what once caused trepidation now instilled stoicism. It is what it is, so just keep moving because it can't last forever (it only feels that way). Our doggedness was rewarded by excellent views of Wallface from blowdown clearings.
|Wallface and McIntyre Range.|
The summit offered no views. I climbed a fallen tree to get a partial view of the High Peaks. We paused briefly for a snack and then began our descent to the Santanoni lean-to (aka Bradley Pond lean-to). Our descent route was a welcome change from our ascent route. Henderson's western slope was mercifully free of blowdown. Forty-five minutes later, we intersected the marked trail slightly north of the lean-to.
|Yard-sale at Santanoni lean-to.|
The air of 'backcountry slum' was enhanced by a rumpled pile of tarps and discarded items like an adze and a sleeping bag. The fire-pit had the usual assortment of burnt and unburnt garbage. It was the polar opposite of the pristine Henderson lean-to.
Both of us had seen the Bradley Pond trail several times so we shifted into high gear and cleared the 4.4 miles in under 90 minutes. Along the way we found a hat and evidence of recent passage. We emerged at the Santanoni trail-head and caught up to two separate hikers preparing to leave.
Apparently the hat belonged to neither of them. However, its owner was known and we were instructed to deposit it on the "blue car". Both hikers graciously agreed to give us a lift to Upper Works and we accepted the first offer. I congratulated the younger hiker who had just completed his ADK 46 on Couchsachraga.
Back at Upper Works, we changed into clean clothes and made one sight-seeing stop at the McIntyre Iron Furnace before settling in for the 3 hour drive home. The balance of our trip was spent ogling the brilliant fall colors from the comfort of the car. Memories of Henderson's gnarly western side were already fading into the distant past.
|9 miles and 3300 feet.|