Mount Marshall: A Lovely Return to Upper Works

A few weeks ago, I attempted to hike Mount Marshall in the Adirondacks.  Unfortunately, I had to abandon my climb due to thunderstorms.  This past Friday, July 22nd, I returned to Upper Works for “Mount Marshall: Take 2.”

I have left home at around 7 am, and after a 4 hour drive up to Newcomb, I reached Tahawus Road.  Then it would be another 15 minutes (or longer…at least it felt that way) drive up and around the windy road to the trailhead.img_1490

The parking lot was quite full when I arrived, but I still managed to find a spot to park my truck. I was excited to use my new Osprey Skimmer 16 pack for this hike!  No more hauling up heavy packs with big bottles of water.  After getting my gear in check, my feet hit the trail at 11:45 a.m. The temperature was already up to 80 degrees and the humidity was inching its way up the trail as well.

Keeping with tradition, I wrote “Don’t be pushed by your problems, be led by your dreams. -RWE” in the trail register.  This quote has been in my mind since I climbed Sawteeth.  It was fitting yet again, today.

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The last time I walked this trail, it was overflowing in enormous puddles of mud, like a gloppy, sludgy mess.  But today, it was completely dry and easy to navigate. The hike up to Mount Marshall from Upper Works is definitely one of the most interesting journeys I’ve been on so far.  The terrain changes constantly, each portion of the trek revealing a different climate, unique trail and unexpected twists and turns.img_1357

So here we go again…walking, reflecting, observing, listening…my mind was full on this hike and the need for release was before me.  I’m notorious from heading out of the gate too fast, which usually leaves me dragging my feet on the hike out. I tried my best to stay present in each moment, instead of succumbing into the “tunnel vision trance.”

“Lovely day..lovely day..” My earworm was Bill Wilthers “Lovely Day” for some reason…but it was easing my mind so I just embraced music and the lyrics continued…

Two weeks ago, Calamity Brook was rushing angrily…but today, a calm , gentle peace arose from its waters.

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The Calamity Brook Trail is relatively easy on the knees for the first few miles.  The loose-stoned path leads you through tall grasses that wind around the brook along the way. I would be following the trail towards Lake Colden.  This would be one of the first a few junction points on this journey.

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Following the red trail markers and listening to the gravel crunch beneath my boots, I began to relax enough to observe the little wonders that surrounded me.

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“Lovely day…lovely day…”

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The next 1.4 miles of the trail to Calamity Pond was quite lovely.  It changes from an open gravel trail through those tall grasses to a soft pine trail bed through the beautiful pine trees.

Many, many footbridges to help navigate through the muddy ground.

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This was the only trail marker I saw on this section of the trail…img_1379img_1380

I reached the next junction after about 25 minutes of walking…and this would be where the trail terrain begins to change in both composition and elevation.

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I would be following the blue trail markers now, continuing on towards the Flowed Lands, over the bridge and into the forest…

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img_1385I’ll be honest…this part of the journey was slightly unnerving.  It is the typical “darkening of the forest” that hiking in the Adirondacks brings.  But I hadn’t seen another hiker yet, as many probably set out much earlier than I had, and the silence of the forest was getting to me.  It would be a 2.9 mile hike to Calamity Pond and the Flowed Lands, I enlisted my earworm, courtesy of Bill Withers again, reminding myself, it was a lovely day…lovely day…lovely day..

I sang on in my head, as I crossed my first nemesis, rock-hopping brook, with ease this time actually…

When the day that lies ahead of me…seems impossible to face…when someone else instead of me…always seems to know the way…lovely day…lovely day…”

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My cadence of climbing matched my singing…which helped refocus my mind.  It was a very peaceful journey…and a little fear is necessary for safety reasons…but I was trying to prevent an all-out-panic attack.

The only blue trail marker I spotted…

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The trail opened up a bit after about hiking 1.5 miles the forest…I could hear water so I knew I was approaching a bridge crossing soon.  Another blue trail marker in the distance along this footbridge.img_1388

5 minutes later…down a ladder! Love finding ladders on the trails in the Adirondacks!

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This ladder leads you right to the newly constructed suspension bridge that guides you across Calamity Brook.  You could actually see the remnants of the old bridge crossing a little further down, which was quite fascinating.  I reached this bridge at 12:50 p.m., so roughly an hour of hiking so far.

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Feeling weary of crossing this bridge…

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It moved..alot! I ran across it! Haha…I’m laughing now writing this because this would be one of the easiest crossings of this hike.  Little did I know..

The next half mile or so (these are rough estimates of distance) narrowed a bit and there was some climbing over fallen logs, tree roots, more mud, and up and over small rock paths as you head back into the forest again.

Lovely day….lovely day…

The hike to Marshall is full of beauty, if you slow yourself down enough to look around, especially underfoot.  The seasons are beginning to change in the mountains as I continued to find little red fallen leaves scattered here and there…

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I prefer hiking in cooler temperatures…the summer heat is tough! However, if you didn’t hike in the summer, you would miss the beauty it too brings the trails.  A  little bit of pink heaven helps soothe the soul and nerves…

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So pretty and delicate…

At 1:26, I arrived at Calamity Pond and the Henderson Memorial.  There was an eery beauty about this pond.  It was absolutely silent. No birds. No water rushing. No winds blowing. Just silence.

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The Henderson Memorial can be found if you walk off the main trail around the pond.  It was erected for David Henderson, who accidentally lost his life right here in 1845, when he shot himself while scouting out a place for the dam.  When I say it was absolutely silent…I mean it.  Definitely spirits of some kind floating around Calamity Pond.

I mean the word calamity means “an event causing great and sudden distress or disaster; a great tragedy.” I didn’t stay long!

The next 15 minutes towards the Flowed Lands was all uphill and over boulders.  I tried to settle my nerves once again on the extremely quiet trail.  At 1:45 p.m., after 2 hours and 4.5 miles of hiking, I reached the Flowed Lands.

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Here is where I would meet a nice hiking couple who were setting up camp at the lean-to up the hill.  There was a rock at the trail register (which I didn’t sign in at…I guess this one is for hikers coming down off the NPT or maybe for the overnight campers? I wasn’t sure…), but I sat here anyway and ate my lunch.  Water, a protein bar and an avocado, cucumber and hummus sandwich I made that morning at home.

According to my map, it was just another .5 mile or so to the Herbert Brook Trail that would lead me to the summit of Mount Marshall.  It was hot…and humid. My energy level was fading a bit, even though I was making great time so far.

Lovely day…lovely day…

For those of you who have never hiked this trail before…when you see this bridge…victory!  I crossed this bridge after 20 minutes of leaving the Flowed Lands.

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I met a dad and his young son, who were eating lunch here. They were heading into Colden Dam to camp for the night.  So far, no other hikers were heading up to Marshall. I had bet most were already on the summit at this point.

The junction split for the Herbert Brook Trail is literally 5 steps after this bridge!

The Herbert Brook trail is not an easy one!  At 2:07 p.m., I headed up my 2nd trailless peak so far on this journey through the 46 high peaks. (Esther was my first.)

I wish I had taken more pictures of the first part of this trail, but I was so focused on staying on the herd path.  After a few minutes of climbing up and over fallen logs and fighting through overgrown shrubs and grasses, I came to a clearing by a water pool.

There was what appeared to be a trail off to the left of the water pool, if you rock-hopped across the brook.  Off to the right, was an enormous wall of trees that looked like you would have to scale and inch along it all the way up to the top.  I didn’t see any cairns…

So I sat down and took out my map..trying to figure out if the trail crossed the brook this early on or not.  That tiny voice inside my head began to chide, urging me to give up and just turn around.  The voice reminded me that if I was to get lost on this trail, there was a good chance I would be hiking down in the dark…which would be that much more challenging and scarier.

I closed my eyes and remembered the words a dear friend had told me not too long ago, “Stay within yourself.”  Don’t panic….don’t give up or get overwhelmed with emotion.  Stay within yourself…

When I opened my eyes…the wall made the most sense.  I would have to climb up the wall.  That’s what my gut was telling me…my intuition was telling me to trust my gut.  So up the wall I went…

As I was climbing up, I encountered my first group of hikers on their way down from the summit.  Immediately reassured, I let them pass and continued on.  They advised me to turn around actually, that following the cairns would be tricky for me.

Of course, I don’t listen well and onward I went!  And guess what?!  Once I made it over that wall, the herd path was much easier to follow! I had NO trouble spotting the cairns that guided you back and forth over the brook.

After 30 minutes of climbing in and out of many, many enormous tree roots, I reached the slides.

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This was BY FAR, my favorite part of the ascent! I climbed the slides as much and as far as I could.  It was like being a kid again! Plus, MUCH easier than the path along side the brook that was FULL of tree roots, mud and more uphill climbing of gigantic tree roots.

Looking back down on a part of the slide I just climbed! It was absolutely amazing! The dry weather and hot summer allowed these slides to be climbable quite honestly.

I reached the section of the slide that I could no longer climb, which led me back into the “rain forest” of Marshall.

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I kept my eyes open for the cairns and climbed onward.  My heart was pounding, my legs were burning…fire had infiltrated my calves and quads.  This was a tough trail!  For me, it was very aggressive.  Being short…the “up and overs” proved to be one of my biggest challenges.

I passed about 4 groups of hikers who were descending the summit by this point. Some had encouraging words, others looked completely exhausted in their own right. I just forged forward with determination now.

After an hour of ascending, at 3:30 p.m. I arrived at a lookout.  A view of Iroquois Peak could be seen though the trees! This was actually a relief because I knew I was close to the summit now!
Yay!!  Hard to believe I stood on the summit of Iroquois in the snow just a few months prior.

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With a renewed energy, I turned the bend on the trail to see….

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Noooo!!  Ok…yes…I knew better than to speak badly of these cliffs.  Especially after what happened when I climbed Sawteeth.

Ok, Mount Marshall…lovely day…lovely day…

I scrambled my way up to the top of the rocky cliff and 7 minutes later…

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At 3:37 p.m., I had summited my #17 high peak!!!  Mount Marshall is the 25th highest peak in the Adirondacks, standing at 4360 feet tall.  I have now completed the MacIntyre Range as well!

This was a tough victory for me, both mentally and physically.  I’m not sure of the exact distance of this trail…but it took me 1:36 hours to reach the summit from the split at cairns, and 3:45 hours to reach the summit from the Upper Works trailhead.  The terrain was ever-changing, yet full of beauty.

Here I am…giving Mount Marshall a piece of my mind!

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A few paces past the summit, there is a boulder you can stand on and see:

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It was incredible…Mount Marshall is the epitome of the ying and yang.  Beauty…such beauty juxtaposed the rugged, messy, gnarly trail.  It was difficult to remain angry at Mr. Marshall after breathing in Mother Nature’s blessings here.

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Time was of the essence for me…I did not want to hike out with my headlamp in the dark so I quickly chugged some water and devoured another protein bar and some carrots. I departed the summit at 4:00 p.m.

Here is another junction point on the Herbert Brook Trail that I hadn’t noticed on my descent.  Maybe this is where the trail splits and leads down to the Cold Brook Trail.    There is an “M” carved on it as well.

Some more trail shots along the way on my descent.

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My focus was strong on the way down…despite the pain in my knees. I was desperately trying the “mind over matter” approach.  The instant I could climb down the slides, I did! I stayed on the slides as long as possible, which made the descent much quicker!

At 5:09 p.m., I reached the cairns at the base of the mountain.  My descent only took about 1:10 hours!  And so I began the 2 hour trek back to Upper Works.

I had actually passed 3 of the 4 groups I met on my ascent up to Marshall.  I was certainly hiking fast at this point.  Fear was on my side for once…I did NOT want to be in the dark, no matter how excruciating the pain in my legs and knees were.  I quickened my steps and pushed myself to continue, even when my mind was trying to convince me like the devil to stop and rest a while.

At 7:05 p.m., I arrived at the parking lot.  I refused to give up…plus there was a frozen Gatorade in my truck with my name on it!

Total time: 7 hours, 20 minutes.

Total distance:  roughly 14 miles.

I love this quote by Brené Brown:

middle2bmessy2bmagic2bbrene2bbrown2birene2blatham

Yes…the middle is certainly messy…but that is where the healing happens.  It is in the midst of the journey.  Mount Marshall was my messy, magical peak.  In order to fully comprehend what Mr. Marshall and his summit has to offer, you will have to make the trek yourself. You will be tired, achy, face-down in the mud exhausted…but you will also be filled with precious little wonders, tiny victories, and a reclaimed spirit of a child.

Lovely day….lovely day….amen.

Courageously climbing out of the mud,

J

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