With Allen out of the way, it was time to bag two more in the same region. The forecast called for a sunny, mild day so it was decided that Heidi and I would go for Cliff and Redfield. Why not? We’d just come off of an 18 miler the week before, so how hard could it be to do another of similar length. It’s just one more peak, and cliff isn’t even above 4k’! Well, shocker – this hike kicked my butt. I walked away with a huge thigh bruise, a massive gash on the shin and a weird scrape on my back. Battle scars. But, it was worth it. This was one of the best hikes I’ve been on this year. People like to give Cliff grief and no one really says much about Redfield, which is criminal.
Anyway. First a couple of tips, in case you don’t want to read this entire post:
- There was lots of mud. Mostly on the first .3 to cliff from the second cairn. There were a few spots on the main trail. None were impassable.
- The hike up Redfield is partially through a brook. Walk through the water and rock hop when you can. Trust me. Stay off the mud and avoid the ice and tree roots.
- The cliffs on Cliff aren’t horrible or impassable. Take your time, find your footing, keep your balance and you’ll be fine.
- Watch for the cairn from the main trail that signals the unmarked trail to Cliff/Redfield. For some reason we missed it. We only stopped because we passed a lean-to sign and one of the new bury your waste signs. It’s on the right.
- Cliff has a wicked false peak. You’ll want to scream at the gods as you descend from it and up to the real peak. Screw you Cliff.
- The unmarked trails are also un-maintained. This means lots of mud and when large trees fall, they won’t always be chainsawed out of the way. You’ll need to go over or under.
We arrived at the UW trail head at 7:00 and were on the trail by 7:15. The thermometer on my phone said it was already 41 degrees. Several cars were already in the parking lot and several hikers had signed in ahead of us. Side note, all of the houses along the road have been torn down and are piles of rubble. The fireplaces still stand, however. When nature wants to reclaim nature, sometimes it needs help. Here’s some info on the Tahawus track, including a bit about the old town. Here’s an interesting site that documents the ruins in 2012. And here is the ultimate resource on the Tahawus Club.
The first part of the trail is on an old road and an easy walk. When you hit the signs for the Indian Head trail, the real trail begins. No real tricky ascents or tactical climbing, but it is definitely a trail with water crossings and mud. About 2 miles in there is one water crossing that gives you two options – a bridge or rock hop. If you can, avoid the bridge. When we took it, it was lopsided and a real pain in the butt to cross. I think it was more dangerous than going through the water.
We skipped the Henderson memorial, opting to check it out on the way back. If you’re of the same mind, don’t take the trail to the left at the end of the large open field, instead, bear right. Our goal was to cover as much ground as we could when the sun was still shining. Anyway, we moved on and made it to the flowed lands. Beautiful and stunning and other more proper verbs are probably better suited descriptors than oh my god that’s some funky shit (thank you Mike D), but that’s all that my brain was broadcasting at the moment. It was beautiful, but the trail around it to the Colden Dam was a real slog. A few ups and downs got our hearts pumping for sure. We crossed Colden Dam, taking in the indescribable views, and made good time to the next bridge.
Passed an Indian (P)ass sign that gave us both a laugh (see pics). Damned vandals. The please don’t bounce on me bridge was crossed with ease and we kept on going. The trail was getting rockier and rootier and we were slowing down a bit. We finally made it to the cairn for the turnoff to Cliff and Redfield at about 10:30. We actually walked right by it and the only reason I saw it is because I turned back to say something to Heidi. We must have been slightly delirious because we questioned, only for a second, whether this was the right cairn. Quickly dismissing that hike induced brain cloud, we made our way down the path looking for the second cairn that marks the split between the two mountains we were on a mission to bag. Continuing straight would take us to Cliff, going left would take us to Redfield.
We opted for Cliff first. The mud started almost immediately. Lots has been written about this mud on other blogs and trip report sites. But you really have to experience feet first it to fully grasp the overall gravity of the mud. The mud is deep, it is thick like wet cement in some spots, medium like butternut squash soup in some spots, and like a watery mango smoothie in others. Don’t trust the logs and sticks when you cross. That will guarantee wet feet and swear words. We got through it eventually, using some creative positioning, tactical know how and leaps of faith.
Once we cleared the mud the trail broke right, marked by another cairn. From here the climbing starts. The base of the first cliff was reached quickly, followed by the second and then a section of woods walking. The next set of cliffs were taller and a bit more difficult to climb, but not horrible. There’s one right before the false summit that required some tactical know how but it wasn’t a deal breaker. The real pisser? The top, or what we thought was the top. It was muddy and wet and a pain in the butt, and after all that work we thought great, the top! But it wasn’t the top. It was a false peak. It was a real soul crusher. It was spit in the eye from the gods. We shook it off and walked on. Losing altitude hurt a bit but we sucked it up, pressed on and made it to the summit. Some views, but not amazing. Mostly blocked by trees. Anyway, most importantly: #29 for me, #44 for Heidi.
We stayed there for a few minutes to refuel and booked it, hauling butt back to the false peak and down the cliffs. The views from the cliffs going down were pretty good. We had good views of out next peak. We quickly made it back to that second cairn, suffering through the mud. We took a few deep breaths, got psyched up, and made our way toward the next feat. The Redfield trail was pretty dry compared to Cliff, until it began crossing into a brook. Then it was wet and muddy. But not as muddy as Cliff. This trail is up. Lots of up. The ascent starts immediately and doesn’t stop. We started off around 2900 feet and end up close to 4600 in about 1.2 miles. That’s roughly 1700 feet of elevation gain.
It starts sxzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzw (<– Chappy helped write that). The trail starts off in the woods and then it hits the brook after about .3 miles. Once you start in the brook, it’s rock hops, rock climbs, rocks rocks rocks. Nothing insurmountable, but a workout just the same. My best advice is to stay in the water when you can and follow the rocks. This will keep your feet out of the mud and will help you avoid the ice. We came out of the brook, tired, questioning why this was a good idea, and followed the trail into the woods. I was really dragging at this point but pushed on. There was one, and only one, rock scramble right before the peak. When I saw it my brain started screaming and my eyes went wide. My watch said the altitude had us right at the top but what if my watch was wrong? What if we had 100 more feet of rock to climb?
Well that sure wasn’t the case since the peak was right after the scramble. I dropped my pack and almost kissed the ground! We hung out up there for awhile, snapping the requisite selfies. It must have been 50 degrees up there. This was my #30 and Heidi’s #45. The views from Redfield were amazing. They are unique. You won’t see Skylight or Marcy or Grey like this anywhere else in the Adirondacks. It’s an amazing summit. It was breathtaking. We stayed for about 30 minutes just taking it all in and refueling. It was worth it, for sure. The Redfield summit reaffirmed why I’m attempting this challenge.
We snapped a few pics, took a few deep breaths and started down. The trip down was slightly faster, but slow. I whacked my thigh on a tree stump and it left a massive welt. The views on the way down were amazing and interesting, sometimes surreal. We even had a good view of Cliff and that awful false summit. We made it back to the second cairn in about an hour, and 10 mins later were back on the main trail. We went as quick as we could, trying to keep up with the daylight. We passed a bunch of people on the Colden Dam who told us all the lean-to’s were full, which I though was nuts as the forecast was calling for 12″ of snow that night. People love the outdoors at all cost! We passed a ranger on the trail that ran along flowed lands, another first for me. We made good time from there forward, and got to see the Henderson memorial with that last bit of daylight hanging in the sky. I ran out of water right around that point. The Henderson memorial has some interesting history tied to it; click here if you’re interested in learning more.
After that the headlamps came out and we made our way back to the trail head, signing out just after 6 pm. I think we were in the dark for about three miles. I only fell in the mud once! We changed in the parking lot and headed out, drinking the soup Heidi made (which was clutch), eating popcorn and drinking the water I’d wisely left behind in the truck.
App Stats for November 19, 2016:
Around 48 degrees all day
3550′ elevation gain
Approximately 11 hours