…so Paula and I woke up to rain Sunday morning; not exactly what we had in mind for one of the longest hikes on our journey to becoming 46ers. I personally don’t mind the rain and we’ve both hiked in it previously, but for eighteen miles?! I think the stubbornness within me kicked in and I was determined to reach that summit.
We loaded up our packs, put on our rain gear and started, slowly toward Allen Mountain. Because we were already at Livingston Point, we only had to travel a half mile or so to the trail that ran parallel to the Opalescent River. I would love one day to return to this trail because I could hear the Hanging Spear Falls and see them through the brush, but had no desire to stop because I was already coming to the realization that I was going to be
wet soaked all day. Hiking in the rain is one thing but having sopping wet boats that squish with each step is another. From early on in this hike did I have to remind myself repeatedly why I wanted this so bad.
The three and a half miles went fairly quickly until we had reached an opening with private property signs. This threw us off because we could see where the trail kept going but Paula had the idea/inclination that we were suppose to be on this property. We continued on about ten minutes and came to an odd intersection. To the left was a yellow marker trail (what we needed to follow out to the car) and to the left was a massive sign carved out of wood that said Allen. That to me looked familiar (and obvious that that was indeed the trail to Allen) but the trail seemed to go into two opposite directions: left and right. The right was used far more frequently than the left but Paula swore she saw a yellow marker on that trail = Allen is NOT marked = couldn’t have been the trail we were looking for. We dumped the contents of our packs (in the rain) to the left and proceeded on. But this was clearly not the trail.
My assumption was that these were trails used by the property owners and not hikers. I hiked back out and over to that mysterious “marked” trail and my gut said go. Turns out the yellow markers were made of recycled plastic and were intended to help hikers. I convinced Paula to follow me and ensured her that if we didn’t get to some sort of registry, then we’d turn around. With my luck, the registry was found! One solo hiker had signed in previous to us so I was optimistic that we’d see him at one point throughout the day. I secretly hoped we weren’t too far behind him.
The trail to the mountain was long and somewhat uneventful for the two miles. It was muddy in plenty of sections but because we were pretty wet, we didn’t really mind. It was so cloudy we didn’t have any views and couldn’t even really see where we were headed/what we were about to hike. Things got very interesting once we got to the Allen Brook.
This trail normally runs up a brook. In the rain, it felt like we were climbing up a river; over rocks with slippery algae and very little to hang on to. It was very slow moving and each step was calculated. I could tell that Paula was out of her element big time and realistically she and I should have established a turn around time. The higher we got, the steeper the large sections of rock became and we were basically crawling. Right when I think the two of us were getting ready to call it quits in the heavy rain, we ran into the guy who was signed in before us! I of course had to ask him how close we were to the summit and he said another 45 minutes or so… “are you kidding me?!” I thought. He even went on to tell us that it got steeper, more slippery, AND almost dangerous. I could hear him hinting for us to turn around.
I could see it on Paula’s face, she was convinced in turning around. I was torn: I did NOT want to turn around. I also didn’t want her to sit there and wait for me in the cold if I decided to go on without her. I don’t remember what I said or the tone in which I said it but she kept going. She moved slower and I talked her into every step; also talking myself into every step forward. I do remember thinking, “this guy doesn’t know who we are or what we’ve hiked. We can do this.” And we did. And when we reached that summit there were high-fives and middle fingers.
After we got our photographs out of the way, we sat down for a quick snack and realized that it was after two in the afternoon. We still had get down that mess we had just climbed and walk an additional seven miles or so out. And those miles had their own obstacles for us to face.
See I don’t like heights, which means on hikes I don’t like cliffs, climbing hand over hand on boulders or climbing ladders. I especially don’t like climbing off of ladders. There have been plenty of times on my journey to becoming a 46er where this fear has been tested. For Paula, she does not like water crossings, no matter the size. She is just extra cautious in fear of getting wet and having our gear ruined. What I didn’t realize was that all she had been thinking about all day was the three water crossings that were ahead of us. And after a day of rain, she was worried that they’d be worse. I’d have been doing the same if I knew three of the biggest cliffs were ahead of me, potentially in the dark.
We walked as fast as we could. When we signed out of the registry, it was just after 5 o’clock. We both knew we had about two hours of hiking ahead of us and that the remaining portion of the hike would be in the dark. Luckily we were both prepared. I tried to stay as calm as positive and kicked it into high gear to get us out. Our pace was fast and I kept my head lamp off for as long as possible so that I could see more clearly in the dusk. Once the headlamps were on, all you could see in front of you was what was lit. We now had to be extra careful of our steps and alert to the noises around us. It was hunting season after all.
Our first water crossing was the Opalescent River. This looked like it had enough rocks for me to scramble over and I am usually a pro, but my right foot sunk into the water and I quickly hopped over other rocks as fast as possible to the other side. Paula managed great with the use of her poles. Our second water crossing was suppose to be over Lake Jimmy but the bridge, well, it is no longer existing. Lucky for us, a team cleared a marked trail around the lake with no issues at all. Slightly longer milage, no complaints.
Our third water crossing was the Hudson River. There was no avoiding getting wet here. It was either take your boots off and walk across barefoot or go boots-‘n-all because the car should only be a few hundred yards away. I decided on the boots-‘n-all option and started in. Paula hollered for me to stay with her, and I did, laughing and thinking to myself, “this is the best way to end the day.” The water wasn’t too fast but had definitely risen up over our gators to about our knees. And we were right, the cars was only a few hundred yards in front of us. Seven- thirty at night, after twelve hours of hiking in the rain, we had left the woods.
We were hooting and high-fiving and snapping photographs and stripping off layers of clothes and just talking about what we had just accomplished. There was so much excitement between the two of us. With the heat cranked, we called in our orders at the Noonmark Diner, drove up the Northway to exit thirty and checked into the Rooster Comb Inn. We had warm beds and hot showers awaiting us but couldn’t stay up too late; we had another day of hiking ahead of us.