We did lots of research and thank you to all those who gave us great advice: Bob, Diane, Tracey, and Trail Boss on the ADF Forum. His advice and list of milestones for this trailless hike were invaluable. And, although a trailless hike, we found it to be well-used and easy to follow. (A smidgen of the hike is on a marked trail, for those who care.)
This time around, we stayed the DEC’s Lake Harris Campground which was very close to the Upper Works trailhead. A good choice, for sure. We signed it at the trail register at about 6 am and started our 18 mile trek. At the parking lot, we met a super nice red-headed and smiley family from Canada made up of a dad and his two boys. They were nearing the completion of their 46, too. It was great leap-frogging them throughout the day.
There were two other groups of hikers at the parking lot, too, including a solo hiker and a pair of guys from Rochester. I always am happy when I know there are groups in front and behind us, just in case you run into trouble.
For all the bad things I’ve heard about this hike, I liked it. Yes, it was very long but I thought it was interesting. We passed some great water spots: the Hudson River, Lake Jimmy, Lake Sally, and the Opalescent River. You have to wade through the Opalescent which, for us, wasn’t bad at all as the water levels were low. We donned water shoes and it was great, and especially rewarding on the way down.
After the water crossings and viewings, we hiked through meadows and a long slog through the forest. This was the one part of the hike that I kept wondering and hoping we were staying on track. We were following a used path and could see upturned leaves and a few footprints so we were confident we were good. Still though, a few question marks popped up in my brain here and there.
We came across all the milestones we were looking for including old fire observer cabins (these were at the beginning of the hike), a backwoods privy (which was located very, very close to the trail, probably put there because this is such a remote hike and, odds are, people won’t come upon you), some hand-made and carved signs, the turn-off to Mt. Adams (a fire-tower mountain I’d love to do some time) and Mt. Marcy, a second trail register, and lots and lots of cairns. I love cairns. Especially on hikes like this. Cairns feed confidence.
There were a few waterfalls here and there and when we got to Allen Brook and the waterfall there, the trail vibe changed considerably. From there it was a relentlessly steep hike up and up and up and up.
And soon on this part of the hike, we came across the other milestone we were looking for: the infamous red slime. It was indeed everywhere and it was just as slippery as advertised. Thank goodness we have good Vibram soles on our great new Vasque boots! They clutched the rock slabs at all the right times. I did take one unavoidable spill on the way down but it wasn’t that bad—my new Leki poles saved the day there and stopped me from slipping too much. This was the craziest part of the hike—so much rock slab to climb and navigate, lots of slime mixed in with good ole ADK mud, and, thankfully, enough tree branches to grab onto to help you stabilize. Getting to the summit and seeing our redheaded, smiling Canadian friends was nothing short of completely joyous.
Many say there aren’t views on Allen. If you move away from the summit a bit though, there’s a good place to get some. After taking it all in, talking with the Canadians, the solo hiker from the parking lot, and another solo hiker who showed up, we made our way down and did it all over again in the other direction.
Word of warning to those who climb this mountain: as you climb the giant rock slab up, pay careful attention to the cairns. The one solo hiker plus the two guys from Rochester made a right vs. a left at one of the final ones and got a bit lost. The solo hiker we talked to said he had to then bushwhack to the summit using his GPS. We were worried about him when we got to the summit and didn’t see him as he had been ahead of us. We were quite happy to see him, hear his story, and know he was okay. (We soon saw the Rochester guys and knew there were okay, too.)
The conditions were perfect that day—no rain, very few clouds, not humid, and hardly any bugs. Would we do it again? Well…yes! Ian, my 14 year old, wasn’t with us that day and really hopes to finish the 46 next year. If conditions are good, I’d love to hike this mountain on the longest day of the year again. This was Ben's 39th peak. Stay tuned for a post on a recent hike up Tabletop and up to Dial and Nippletop. (Ben and I are now at 42 and have one more trip left to make 46!). Happy trails, all!