SpecificsDuration: Friday Night-Sunday Morning
Route: Upper Works – Allen – Skylight Brook – Redfield Slide – Redfield – Flowed Lands and out to Allen Trailhead at Upperworks
Trail Conditions: Mud, Snow, Ice, Hail
MudRat Clothing: Golite Trail Running Shoes, Silk tights under Northface Rainpants, Columbia Titanium Wicking Shirt and Integral Designs Rain Jacket
MudRat Pack Weight:30 lbs.
Upper Works to Skylight: 7:50pm – 11:00pm 7.5 miles/1500 vertical
Camp to Allen: ½ mile, 20 minutes
Allen brk to fork: 0.4 mile and 200 vertical feet; 8:50am
Fork to unnamed pond: 0.6 mile/600': 3 hours (0.2 mph)
Unnamed Pond to Slide Base:0.5 mile/315': 1:30pm (¼ mph)
Slide to Summit: 0.2 mile/850': 2:30pm
Summit to Uphill: 1.6 miles: 3.3 hrs (0.5 mph)
Uphill to Flowed Lands: 2.8 miles/-1080'
Flowed Lands to Allen Trailhead: just over 5 miles/+350/-1350
Diet: Saturday 1.5 cups scrambled eggs, 1.5 cups macaroni and cheese, optimum bar, 2 liter water.
Upper Works to Skylight Brook:MudRat's Account:
This seven mile section of the trek that began at 8:00 p.m. would really not bear much discussion, but ended up being a good bit of fun. The partially sunken area of the boards crossing Lake Jimmy was our first challenge and thankfully done in the light. The subsequent wet areas of Lake Jimmy and Sally are swampy treks that saw the dusk overtake light. The last rays faded while on the gravel-covered road that parallels the Opalescent River. The bridge across the river was torn away a couple years ago by high water levels which left a nighttime crossing of the snow melt. We discussed the option of camping prior to the river, but several reasons made this impractical, so we found feasible area looked acceptably shallow and began the crossing.
I went first and had no problem until I stepped on a large stone near the middle where the current increased and funneled between several large boulders. My foot briefly slid before finding purchase and the necessary leverage to lean against the river’s push. WWBF did the same, but up several feet farther where the current was not as great. I committed myself to the last underwater stone as the river reached my hips and grabbed a large stone near the shore. WWBF was, by now, up to his ribs and whooping with energy and the cold water. We exited, though I remained in for a couple quick pics. A few jokes followed along the next several miles.
The network of old roads paths that connect them would us closer and closer to Allen Mountain. By 10:00 p.m., we’d reached an area that I remember as confusing and only flagged with surveyor’s tape. It was now well worn…for a bit. Suddenly, it disappeared (or rather veered when we didn’t). We, of course, could have turned back, but did we?…No. We tried to locate it by traversing forward and down. We’d inadvertently begun a bushwhack and simply pushed ahead toward the giant lump of mountain silhouetted by a full moon. The nighttime bushwhack was through thick, but not overwhelming spruce, so we continued and eventually got out the topo, took a heading and veered to the north. Soon after our directional change, we again located the herd-path, walked another few minutes and made camp near Skylight Brook.
We were tarp camping, and this was my first time setting up a tarp outside my home. I did a fine job of messing it up…totally. WWBF was nearly in tears the next morning when he saw that it had sagged in the night to form a convex water catcher right above my head. At least it didn’t rain. I noted that I also needed to replace the thin nylon ropes I used this time with something that tangles less easily. The night was an experiment since I’d not taken a sleeping bag, but a simple and small fleece blanket. It didn’t work well. My legs grew too cold and my feet were numb in the morning as the temp had dipped near 40 F. Live and learn, no harm no foul.
The trip from Syracuse to the trailhead at Upper Works was unexpectedly uneventful. I had taken Route 28 instead of my normal Route 8. It was a decision that I usually ended up regretting due to the multitude of tourons that frequent Route 28… gawking at every rock outcrop, tree, and pond… and the infrequent areas to pass. However, it is an absolutely wonderful winding road when I’m not slowed to a snail’s pace. This was such a day, and I had fun hugging the curves in my Camaro.
I had told MudRat I’d be at the trailhead at 7:30, and I arrived at 7:28. I didn’t see MudRat when I pulled into the lot, so I walked over to the trailhead register and began signing us in. MudRat arrived 30 seconds later. Near perfect timing.
After performing a last-minute inventory in my head, we headed down the trail. It was muddy, as expected. I commented to MudRat that I had hiked about 100 miles in my new shoes and hadn’t yet gotten them muddy. We laughed at the futility of continuing the streak on this trip. Spring peepers signaled that we were nearing the boardwalk across Lake Jimmy. A few of the boards had dislodged, so MudRat and I grabbed a nearby log and used it to span the missing section.
The next couple of miles were uneventful… basically just a trek along a semi-overgrown logging trail until we reached the Opalescent River. The next few minutes were anything but uneventful. The bridge over the river had been washed out a couple years prior, so we had to ford the river, which was high due to snowmelt. Due to the semi-darkness, we couldn’t find the best place to cross, so we just plunged in where the bridge used to be. MudRat went first and picked a good route until the halfway point. At that point, he went straight ahead through a narrow gap between two big boulders. I thought the current would be too strong through this point, so I went a few feet downstream where the current was wider but not as strong. As I had expected, it was also deeper… up to my ribs. I exited the river first, and surprisingly, I was not cold. I guess swift-moving 40-degree water has a tendency to raise adrenalin levels. I went to take a photo of MudRat in the river, only to realize that my camera had gotten wet during the crossing, and now wasn’t working. MudRat, being a good sport, gave me his camera while holding his position in the river.
Once again, the next couple of miles were uneventful. As we reached the pass before our planned camping spot, the herdpath disappeared. After 15 minutes of bushwhacking, we stumbled upon it again. Then promptly lost it, only to find it two minutes later. Route finding was difficult until we reached Skylight Brook and our camping spot. It had been awhile since I’d been backcountry camping, and the length of time it took me to set up camp revealed that I had a few mental cobwebs. However, I must admit that I set up a damn fine camp.
Allen to Redfield Slide: Hell's 'Whack
The second test was one of trail-food. Rather than bring a stove or weighty items, we brought dehydrated foods and a naglene bottle. I put some water in with my scrambled eggs and prozone, shook it and began to hike. A half hour softened the eggs enough for breakfast. This conveniently put us at the base of Allen’s herd-path and Allen Brook. This also marked the first signs of snow. We ate in leisure while discussing the next portion of the route.
An opening in the woods across Allen Brook looked relatively open, so at 8:50 a.m. after twenty minutes of relaxation, we plunged into the forest with high hopes of finding an efficient route up Redfield using the southern slide. If we could find a route, then we’d be able to bypass the longer mileage of retracing our steps back down Dudley Brook and traversing around Cliff Mtn. via Hanging Spear Falls and Flowed Lands. This could potentially save about seven miles. The first task, however, was to locate Skylight Brook through the tight spruce and blow-down. The brook’s roar could be heard a few hundred yards ahead.
The steep banks offered little consolation since the sides were tight with trees and the stream choked with blow-down. The distance to our next brook was less than ½ mile and 200 vertical feet, but it felt long as we pushed uphill through the thick forest. We crawled, climbed or broke through rotten logs. A small brook marked the first tributary from the north. The following and larger unnamed brook that drained was our target and served to drain the pond below Redfield Mtn.
Our commitment to the task began in earnest with our first step up the brook. The trees and blow-down tightened. The melt from above was obviously still an issue as the flow was strong, steady and colder than Skylight Brook or the Opalescent the night before. The first forty-five or so minutes found us pushing up through the trees before WWBF set to walking the stream as a route. I followed suite soon after, giving up the fight to stay out of the water which was, in fact, warmer than the snow that was increasing in the woods to either side, but still no more than a foot or so deep in spots. The drainage was picturesque as so many in the ‘Daks are. My feet became cold from walking in snow and water intermittently. Boulder climbs became commonplace and after nearly two hours of hard work the slope lessened as we approached the pond. Never ending trees gave way to the sky and the flow abruptly lessened. The cold water became bone chilling as we came near the first of many small beaver dams. A healthy lodge set in the center of the boggy southeastern end. We maintained a track along the eastern side.
The remainder of my eggs and an optimum bar became my brunch while we plotted our next move on a wet bed of sphagnum moss. Choking spruce surrounded the foggy pond. A low cloud ceiling concealed most of Redfield’s ridge and any hope of a good picture of the, now, totally obscured slide which set somewhere ahead. By map it set about ½ mile away through the forest. The pond became slimy and deeper as we progressed. A network of beaver dams flooded this area as the water flowed over the grasses. I finally resorted to some on-tree gymnastics to get out of the pond and into the edge of the blow-down and new growth. After belly crawling under and balancing on several larger pieces, I noticed a path, though not one made by any club in the Adirondacks. Based on the width and area height of the clearing, I’d say it was a beaver path that blended into one used by mainly deer…stupid deer that enjoyed this area as much as we.
WWBF made note that a better route might have been to skirt the western side of the bog and then cut through the center near the southern shore of the pond where trees appeared seemed to promise some more solid ground and perhaps a direct route to the slide drainage stream. We came to this conclusion while on the slide, which we hadn’t yet reached, however.
The sun finally began to shine as we balanced on some of the fallen trees a bit away from the pond after WWBF’s first round of grunts and exclamations of exertion. The cloud ceiling rose and Redfield Slide appeared out of the mist as if we’d said the magic words that called it from another dimension…the dimension of spruce hell. Our target was still the drainage somewhere to the north who’s rush could be discerned through the trees some distance away. Only patches of deepening snow, horizontal trees and tightly woven evergreens stood in our way. One half hour later and a brief respite through a loose birch stand found us at our goal.
The drainage is about three feet in diameter and about one to two feet in depth. Waterfalls and numbing water would serve as our staircase. It took two hours in this area to reach the slide base. The edges were as tight as anything I’ve walked in the Adirondacks: a mixture of woven conifers and horizontal deadfall. At times, we were forced from the stream since it was actually better in the woods. The slow progress of time marched on as did we at ¼ m.p.h. over the next ½ mile, our slowest advance to date. Snow and water number our feet and made boulder hopping and climbing the increasingly tight network of stones more difficult, as did the elevation gain of about 400 feet. Amidst the fun we were having, the natural beauty of the area was as stunning as always: pristine and untouched by the common hiker. No pole marks marred the rocks or paths eroded the banks.
Several feeder streams broke off as we neared the slide base. My mind played tricks on me as I saw “clear” areas ahead at several junctures, only to find they were clear, but as a result of large blown downs. By now, Rico was intermittently checking the GPS, which stated that we were about 70 feet east of the slide. We took a perpendicular route and entered the base of the slide at 1:30. This route was turning out to be…less than efficient.
I slept relatively well until the early morning hours when I woke up with cold legs. I battled this feeling until an hour later when I put pants on, and immediately fell into a comfortable sleep. MudRat woke me up a couple hours after sunrise. After taking longer than expected to pack camp, we hit the trail. Judging by the sounds, a couple that had passed by our camp a few minutes earlier had trouble crossing Skylight Brook, and I envisioned another crossing like the Opalescent. MudRat and I didn’t even get our feet wet, although there was one leap that required some courage.
MudRat set a good pace up the trail until I exclaimed “Allen Brook”, where the herdpath ascended Allen Mountain, but where we were to begin our bushwhack. MudRat said that it couldn’t be, since he remembered a waterfall at the base of the mountain. Twenty seconds later we reached the waterfall, and ate breakfast at a nice clearing.
We began our bushwhack trying to angle to Skylight Brook without losing elevation. We soon found this was a losing proposition, and crossed Skylight Brook at the first opportunity. The woods seemed more open on this side, though “open” is a relative term when bushwhacking in the Adirondacks. It would likely be described as “chokingly thick” in other areas of the country.
Based on topo maps, we would reach a minor drainage and then the unnamed brook that we would ascend to an unnamed pond and finally the slide. I’ll refer to these as Redfield Brook and Redfield Pond for ease in writing. The actual features were just like they appeared on the map, and we soon were ascending alongside Redfield Brook. The trees and blowdown continued getting thicker as we ascended, and I decided to hike in the drainage itself. Kevin joined me a few minutes later. The drainage would be open for a while, and then be choked with blowdown. At one point, I ascended the left back to see if the woods would be easier, and was amazed by the view of pure devastation that I saw… the blowdown looked like a scene from Mt. St. Helens. Not surprisingly, we decided to continue hiking in the drainage. I should note again that the water was primarily snowmelt. And it began raining.
Boulders were getting larger as we ascended, but we were always able to pick our way through them. Almost immediately, the terrain flattened, and the cascading brook turned into a gurgling stream that lead to Redfield Pond. We stopped at the pond and rested for quite some time. We could explain this time as having to eat, discuss our route, and strip off layers since it had stopped raining; but in all truth, I think it had more to do with the daunting view in front of us… quite possibly the thickest wall of trees I’ve ever seen. I think MudRat felt the same way, because we were more than content to walk knee-deep in stagnant stinky snowmelt water that beavers had dammed.
Eventually, the water became too deep, and we had to head into the woods. All I really have to say about this next section is that it took us nearly two hours to go one-half mile. That’s a blistering one-quarter mile per hour. It seemed that every step required one of three moves: over, under, or through. Jessie Ventura’s character in Predator said it best, “This stuff makes Cambodia look like Kansas”. We also began to encounter snow. So now our feet were immersed in either cold melt water or rotten snow.
I knew we had to be close to the slide, so I glanced at my GPS that showed the bottom of the slide to be 75 feet to our left. Looking to my left, I saw a very small but steep ridge, which I’ve found is indicative of slide borders. On top of the ridge, the slide came into view. I commented how the woods weren’t giving up, even with the slide in sight. It took us a couple of minutes to traverse the last 30 feet to the slide, where we took a well-deserved rest and ate lunch.
This account could well hold the title, "What Not to do During a Bushwhack".
I would break this slide down into four sections:
1.Bottom section of moderate grade (30-35 degrees) consisting of small ledges and slab.
2.Upper bottom made of more ledges, higher and more grade.
3.Mid Rubble connecting lower to upper and where the slide direction changed.
4.Upper Section made of increased ledge climbs and a divergent wedge offering two climbing routes
5.Headwall and cliff.
Twenty minutes found us ascending the slide which is covered in the dreaded red algae along with some green mixed in to keep it Christmas like. We paced ourselves for to continue what was already a strenuous day. Even wet, the red and green algae offered plenty of traction, though it did get a bit slippery up higher as I fried the traction in the flow of the runoff. Striated cracks and a largish dike intersected the slide at a diagonal. The sun broke through intermittently and I hoped for the best when we approached the nearly vertical headwalls higher up.
I wanted to see if this was a viable route in wet weather as well as dry. I would say it is, at least for our purposes. We turned back in awe when looking upon the woods to the not so distant pond…it seemed impossible that it took two hours to navigate woods. They really didn’t look thick from a distance. Neil Luckhurst stated that his trek from McDonnell to Redfield Slide found him on meadow-like areas. We were hoping to employ these as a possible route which we’d first view from the slide. His trek was during late winter and I can only assume that he was on top of the blow-down fields because the only open areas we spotted were areas of destruction and horizontal tree falls.
The middle portion of the slide closed in with debris including soil and growth as the slide changed direction by about 35 degrees toward the pond. The width narrowed as more vegetation was present before it opened back up onto the moderately steeper upper portions below the headwall. It was by no means precipitous, but I used switchbacks to navigate the cracks to ease the ascent. WWBF and I traded my camera back and forth to get pictures of each other and none too soon. Our lazy ascent was soon to take a more urgent turn.
The first portion of the headwall was climbable as the diagonal cracks offered multiple hand and footholds much as the small ledges offered below. Suddenly, WWBF noted that the area had become uncannily quiet. The last time he said a comment like that was on Santononi’s Twin Slide before a storm set upon us. This time was no different except I was covered in full rain gear and didn’t suffer from the cold as before. Instantly, the wind broke the silence and rain began, lightly at first. The headwall developed several small trickles before becoming thoroughly soaked in runoff. I opted for the conservative way around the edge as Rico scaled the rough face. As usual, I probably chose the most difficult way in the end. He had no problem and reached the top as I was grappling with several small trees and a face full of blueberry bushes as the face