Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Redfield and Cliff in Mud Season

My morning began at the Stewarts shop in Chestertown where I left my car and hitched a ride with a fellow hiker. We met at the old Frontier Town Parking lot and followed the convoy into the Upper Works trail head. The trail was marked up to the actual herd path to the summit.

From Upper Works we followed the Calamity Brook trail to Colden Dam, stopping for pictures at Calamity Pond where we admired the monument erected by David Henderson's family in the place of his death. David Henderson, whom Henderson Lake was named after, was a pioneer in the mining industry in Tahawus. One day Henderson, his son, and a guide were scouting for places to join the Opalescent River (which flowed into the Hudson below the Blast Furnace) with the Hudson to divert more water past the furnaces. At this small pond he placed his handgun in his backpack, which went off when setting the pack down on the rocks, killing Henderson. The pond was later named Calamity Pond, and the brook running from it Calamity Brook. After his death a dam was built to direct the entire Opalescent River down Calamity Brook into the Hudson past the blast furnaces. This was later breached by the DEC for safety, creating the Flowed Lands.

From Colden Dam we followed the Opalescent River Trail through the Flowed Lands to the Uphill Brook Lean-to. The fun began here as we followed Uphill Brook to the summit. The ascent required rock-hopping most of the way, and avoiding several sections of ice. We were post-holing through the snow and slipping into the brook. It took much longer to climb Redfield than expected, so we didn't stay at the summit for too long, but there were views of Colden and Allen.

Heading down Redfield was just as muddy, icy, and dicey as it was going up. At one point I tripped into a dead tree which jabbed me in the arm with a stump of a branch. Bleeding and bruising instantly, I continued on with that throbbing feeling in my arm. At the bottom it was decided that those without headlamps should not continue. One hiker, who had a headlamp but also had hiked Cliff and Redfield several times decided to go back to the Flowed Lands Lean-to to meet us later. The rest of us went up Cliff. My branch stump injury already looked like I had been sucker-punched.

Cliff's heard path started where we had split off for Redfield earlier. It was soon apparent why it was called Cliff. We had to scramble up several cliffs to reach the top, a tough task for someone with short legs. Using roots, branches and a rare handhold formation in the rocks, we made it up to the top. Our tired, muddy crew looked like we had been through war. At the summit we could see Colden a little. Normally there is now view, but the winter's blow-down had opened up the summit some.

All those spots that I wondered how I got up, I then had to go back down. It wasn't as hard as I had expected, but my butt was complete soaked from sliding and my feet were tired of squishing inside the boots that went in the Uphill brook numerous times on Redfield. It was also obvious that my boots had a leak because I was not going in water above the boot, yet more muddy water seemed to be seeping in.

At the junction we decided that if we booked it we might not need our headlamps to come out. We split up a little, agreeing to meet at the Flowed Lands where our other hiking mate had headed back to. We regrouped at the Flowed Lands, had a snack, and some water. I changed into my last dry pair of socks, my feet were deathly white, pruned, and blistered. The leader gave a pass to anyone that wanted to go on to the car, instructing us to be careful. Some stayed behind with the leader a little while longer.

Those of us in front stopped for some pictures at Colden Dam now that Colden was out of the dense fog and headed out to the car, getting to Upper Works after sunset but before the need for head lamps.

About 45 minutes later the second group emerged in head-lamps - without the leader. He had let them go ahead stating that he'd catch up. We waited, and waited... There was discussion that they had heard us blow a whistle - but that was not our half of the group. We did not blow a whistle or even hear a whistle. It was decided that the leader had blown the whistle and needed help (He had actually blown the SOS three whistles). The groups strongest hiker went back in with just a head lamp to find our leader. We waited a while and neither one had come out, so a car was sent into Newcomb for cell service to call the ranger.

While on the phone with the ranger, the leaders wife was also on the other line. By the time the car that went for help returned, our leader and hiking mate emerged slowly. He had hit a wall and couldn't go any further. He rested and drank water until he finally had the energy to slowly walk out eventually meeting up with our hiking mate who carried his pack out for him. We had to wait for the ranger to come to tell him that we were all okay.

I finally got home 21 hours after I had left the house that morning. Lessons learned: Stay within a whistle's earshot from your other members and three blows to the whistle means SOS.

All other pictures can be found here.


knittingdragonflies said...

I so need to go hiking and get out and about!
Thanks for the photos!

Bradley said...

climbed this the thursday before last with my two golden retrievers. best day of the year, best mountain for water dogs, plenty of pools. exzperatingly slowww.
like guiding little children. thanks for the memories.