At 7:00 pm, I began my hike from the Hanging Spear Falls trailhead at the Upper Works, the common name for the trailheads at the former National Lead Company and McIntyre Iron Company strip mining operations. My plan was to camp at Flowed Lands, and meet MudRat, who was driving in the following morning, at the beginning of the herdpath to Allen.
The first stretch of my hike was along the road leading to the Calamity Brook trailhead, past the dilapidated living quarters of the people who used to live in the Upper Works. Although I took some photos, a pleasant mix of mosquitoes, blackflies, and deerflies made sure I didn’t stop for long.
I signed in at the Calamity Brook trailhead, and began my hike to the Flowed Lands camping area. Wild raspberries and strawberries were located all along the first part of this trail, which was located in a former clear-cut forested area. I was feeling full of energy, confirmed by the trail sign I past that told me I had hiked 2.6 miles in less than an hour. The remainder of the hike to the Flowed Lands went by just as quick, and was pretty uneventful until I reached the first lean-to with its view of Mt. Colden. I reached “my” lean-to, at the site of a former dam, just after 9:00… 7 miles in just over 2 hours!
I unpacked, and looked for a spot to hang my bear bag. I decided to climb on top of the dam for a better view, and noticed this small pine tree hanging over the edge. I thought if I could just pivot the tree close to the dam, I could tie my bag on the end and push it back over the edge of the dam. I took a little muscle, but I broke the tree loose from the blowdown it was tangled in, and put my plan into motion. I was quite pleased with myself… this was definitely the most bear-proof hang I’d done, and I’m pretty good at hanging bags.
I was asleep by 10:00, and had a sound sleep until I woke up at 6:00am. I packed, got my bear bag, had an energy bar for breakfast, and was on the trail by 6:30… right on time. I was planning on stopping at the Hanging Spear Falls for some pictures, which would put me at the beginning of the herdpath to Allen at 8:00. I was making good time on the trail, but just before the falls, I began running into some blowdown. The blowdown got progressively worse, and the trail was soon overgrown as well. Many times, no trail was visible. I (correctly) assumed that the trail followed the line of brush that was two feet shorter than the surrounding underbrush. The dew on all the overhanging braches soaked me, and I got constantly hung-up on pricker bushes, which constituted about half of the overgrowth. I never did see the side trail to the falls.
As I neared the bottom of the valley, the grade began to ease, and the understory began to open. I soon passed a nice campsite along the trail, and stopped to check it out. I heard some breaking branches on the small ridge on the opposite side of the trail. The sound was coming closer, so I decided to wait and see if it was some hiker/camper who got off-trail. To my surprise, a very large black bear came galloping down the ridge, right toward me. I could tell he was pre-occupied with navigating through the dense brush, and had no idea I was standing 50 feet from him. I grabbed my camera… ready to get a wonderful picture. However, the bear kept walking towards me, and I decided it would be in my best interest to make my presence known before I totally startled an animal that was three-times my size. I said a quick “Hey bear” and he froze. Before I could snap a picture, he barreled through the underbrush and went up and over the ridge.
I reached the beginning of the herdpath to Allen at about 7:45. The sun was out, and I thought I’d be able to get a short nap while waiting for MudRat. I found a nice spot on the ground surrounded by some tall grass. All I could hear was the buzzing of insects, and I soon had to put on a layer of DEET. Just after 8:00, I heard someone coming down the trail, so I sat up… and scared the crap out a woman. We said “Hello”, and she continued on her way. About 15 minutes later, I heard someone else coming down the trail, so I sat up… and scared the crap out of MudRat.
Although uneventful, the herdpath to Allen was very nice. Before we had reached the base of the mountain, we had passed the woman I had scared earlier. Once we reached Allen Brook, which heads directly up the mountain, the trail became steep. Although a majority of the rocks along the brook had good traction, they became like ice if they (or our boot soles) were wet. The trail got progressively steeper, and we were soon at the bottom of a slide.
There was a trail off to the side of the slide, but I figured it would be more fun to ascend the slide. One pitch was particularly steep, and just before I got to it, I stepped in a small puddle. Once wet, my boot soles lost their grip… and I was “stuck” on the slide for a few minutes until my soles to dried. Once I had traction back, I easily ascended the remainder of the slide, making sure I didn’t step in any puddles.
I figured the top of the slide was near the summit… I was wrong. The trail continued its unrelenting steep ascent. Just as I began to think that the trail would never end, we reached the summit ridge, and the grade eased. Within another five minutes, we were at the summit (11:00). The woman we passed joined us about 30 minutes later. We spent close to an hour on the summit, eating lunch and taking photos.
At around noon, we began the steep descent of the mountain. The slippery algae-covered rocks were even more treacherous on the way down. After falling HARD three times, I decided to let MudRat take the lead. He, too, fell about three times before reaching the base of the mountain. The herdpath back to the main trail seemed to be about twice as long as it was in the morning. It seemed to go uphill more than anticipated as well. We passed, and got passed by, the woman we had been “shadowing” all day. Near the junction of the herdpath with the main trail, we stopped and talked, and found out her name was Betty.
We all hiked out on the main trail together, eating wild strawberries and raspberries as we found them. The main trail soon turned into a gravel logging road, exposed to the full force of the sun. The conversations ended as the sun began to sap the little energy we had left. MudRat stated that he felt like he was on a forced military march. Good analogy.
I was totally zoning-out, just putting one foot in front of the other, and occasionally swatting the deerflies that landed on my head. We passed the trail to Adams Mountain, and I knew that we were getting close to the trailhead. We got to the parking lot at 4:00. We were surprised when we calculated that it had only taken us 8.5 hours (not counting the hour on the summit) to hike approximately 18 miles. No wonder we were tired.