This was our first hike of 2010. The first one after the winter layoff should probably be something a little easier. But what did we know? Twelve of us prepared to hike this mountain, which did not have an established trail but is one of the 46 with a herd path. We had read the herd path was pretty well traveled, so we were not worried about getting lost.
Hiking this day were Hubby, my daughter, her boyfriend and two of their friends (who had never hiked a High Peak before and I'm pretty sure they never will again), my sons, one of their friends, Hiking Buddy and two of our regular teenage companions. We set out from the Upper Works parking lot at 7:10 a.m. It was a bit humid, but there were clouds early on and that kept the temperature down (at first). We took our first break at 1.6 miles, just after crossing a cable suspension bridge.
Our next break was at the Henderson monument in Calamity Brook. This spot is easily missed, but Hubby had the ever-present ADK guidebook and so we knew where to look. Backing up for just a minute... The Upper Works parking area is located in Essex County in the abandoned mining town of Adirondac. In the early 1800s, partners Archibald McIntyre and David Henderson formed a mining company to extract ore from the area. For some time, the little town was a prosperous mining community. The houses are barely standing any longer, but a blast furnace that is passed on the way to the Upper Works lot was restored recently.
On September 3, 1845, Henderson, his son and a guide, John Cheney, were searching for alternate water sources for the mining operations. As the story goes, Henderson handed his shotgun to Cheney to shoot a duck. Cheney could not get a shot off and handed the weapon back to Henderson, who placed it in his backpack. When he set the pack down, the gun accidentally discharged, fatally wounding Henderson. He lost his life at the spot where the monument now stands. His family had the monument brought in by sled around 1850 and erected in what is now called "Calamity Pond". The stream that runs into it is "Calamity Brook". It's pretty impressive that some 150 years later, the monument is still standing and in pretty good shape.
We resumed our hike, and took our next little scenic break at the Flowed Lands. The Flowed Lands were created when the aforementioned mining company diverted water from the Opalescent River to their blast furnace. It's a beautiful spot and one from which you can see the slides on the face of Mount Colden. There is also a lean-to in this area, so if you're planning this hike as an overnight trip, here is one option for setting up camp. We did meet a gentleman in our travels though who told us he had had a bear encounter the night before. Apparently, he was none the worse for the experience, but another group not far from him was using the old "hang your food" method rather than a bear canister, and Smokey ate their provisions.
The next lean-to we came upon was the one across from the beginning of the actual trail up Marshall. This lean-to was in good shape and had a nice fire pit and flat area to set up a tent as well. There was also a pit toilet down the path away from the lean-to. I'm very familiar with outhouses, but this wooden box with a lid was new to me. No thank you on using that at this point.
Because this is a herd path, don't look for any of those nice DEC disks in the trees to point out the trail. There is a cairn (pile of rocks) at the start of the trail. It could easily be missed. From here we had about 2 miles left to the summit. We began the ascent at 11:15. Initially, we had to bushwhack a bit as the "trail" is pretty narrow and branches pull at you from both sides. Fortunately, this part doesn't last very long and shortly thereafter you meet up with Herbert Brook. Not only do you pretty much follow the Brook almost to the summit, there are several spots where we had to cross it. Needless to say, this was a muddy part of the hike. Those last two miles took us over 2 hours, but we finally reached the summit at about 1:40.
For all the effort, the summit is hardly worth it. There's a big rock with some small trees on top. If you look up in one of those trees you'll see a yellow disk with the word "Marshall" on it. There's a view if you climb up the rock and meander a bit down a small trail. The 12 of us did our best to share the limited space with two French Canadian women who had climbed from the Adirondack Loj. One was completing her 46 with this hike and declared it her least favorite of them all! So if you're reading this and wondering which peak to make your last, you might not want it to be Marshall. They left before we did and we wished them well on their long journey back to the Loj.
We began our descent at 2:15. Hubby and Hiking Buddy had dropped their packs for the last tenth of a mile climb. I left a hiking pole here as well as it was getting in the way navigating some rock. Unfortunately, by the time I passed this spot on the way down, the others had picked up their packs and I completely missed my pole! I didn't realize it until we were further along so some lucky hiker after me inherited a fairly new pole. The bad news for me was that I soon realized why I started using poles in the first place. My knees were SCREAMING on the way down. Hiking Buddy and I were bringing up the rear for some of the descent and I think we were starting to get giddy. At one point we couldn't find the spot where we should cross the stream and we got a bit nervous. After some poking around, we found it. THEN it was funny, but not while we were looking and thinking about what food and water we had left...
One amusing part of the descent was when we met up with the Canadian women again. Ok, it was definitely NOT amusing for them, but we chuckled a little to hear them dropping F-bombs like crazy as they stormed past us, realizing they had missed a turn off that would lead them back to the Loj so they had to backtrack. It was getting late and we offered them a ride to Lake Placid if they wanted to hike out with us. They declined and again, we wished them well on their long journey back to the Loj.
By the time we got to the last mile or so, where the trail widens to something more akin to a service road, we were just exhausted. I think that feeling was not exclusive to the "older folks" either. We finally hit the parking lot at 6:50 p.m. The overall theme of this hike was rocks, roots and rapids. We all had wet and muddy feet and there were plenty of blisters to go around. It was good to be done with this 14.6 mile trek. Mt. Marshall's #25 on the High Peak list at 4,360 feet. It was named for Bob Marshall, a wilderness activist and one of the first people to climb all 46 High Peaks.
Now, if you put a gun to my head and MADE me say something nice about this hike, here is what it would be: it was soothing to listen to water for much of the way and the greens on this trip were just so... green. And we thought the worst trip of the season was probably behind us.