Well they're certainly not getting any easier! Today, in addition to the usual suspects (Hiking Buddy and youngest son), we were accompanied by Hiking Buddy's son, a very fit teen friend and a woman from Vermont that I met on the Adk Forum who did not want to do this hike alone (trailname veranoenvermont, which I'll shorten to VT). We met VT at the Adams trailhead which is off the road leading to the Upper Works in Newcomb at 5:30 a.m. We knew this was going to be a long day and we wanted to get an early start.
The forecast was for a sunny day in the 80s. Fortunately the temps did not start that high and we enjoyed a brisk start to the day. We started with our hiking boots on, but all had water shoes for the much discussed water crossings we expected on today's hike. First let me say that you should just start the hike with your water shoes on. The first crossing, the Hudson River, is less than 5 minutes down the hill from the parking lot. The crossing is to the left of the trail, away from what remains of the bridge. Hurricane Irene had her way with the decking on the suspension bridge. And for any flatlanders reading this, the Hudson is pristine, knee deep and about 30 feet wide at this spot.
Once across, we changed back into our boots. Again, not necessary. From the Hudson to Lake Jimmy is a relatively flat and easy walk through pine needles for about 10 minutes. Easily doable while still wearing water shoes. And here the fun began... The boardwalk across Lake Jimmy was also damaged by the Hurricane, although not entirely washed away (thankfully). The worst part is the initial section or two of board. It's not very sturdy and it moves! If you don't have hiking poles, it's strongly recommended you grab a long stick or branch for balance here. My son and VT made it past this spot without going in the drink. I was more afraid of getting completely soaked, camera and all, that I actually jumped in (after a few choice words). It was about to my thighs. I got back on at the section that dipped down about a foot in the water at the end, but after that it was smooth sailing.
Again we dried our feet and put them back into our boots. It was now 6:20 and we probably hadn't even gone 1/2 mile. After Lake Jimmy we came to the old Mt. Adams ranger cabin on our left. The trail bends to the right here, and shortly after forks to the left (the beginning of the Adams trail). We continued straight until we came to an arrow pointing left. The truck trail we were on continued straight, but I'm pretty sure that was private property. We turned left and the trail descended a bit. Lake Sally became visible through the trees on our right. This was a relatively easy walk with moderate ups and downs.
At 7:40 we came to our third water crossing of the morning, the Opalescent River. I opted to repeat the boots-to-water-shoes process but some of the others just rock hopped the best they could. The weather has been pretty dry and the river was fairly low. We resumed our hike. I really felt like we were getting into a pretty remote area of the Adirondacks. We had not seen another person yet. The trail was very narrow at this point. Actually, it was overgrown scrub and tallish grass, both wet with the morning dew so we were getting wet. That's ok, it would keep us cool.
Forty minutes after leaving the Opalescent we saw a sign for Marcy/Lake Colden, with the trail bearing off to our left. Immediately after there was a large wooden sign in the tree right in front of us that pointed right and said "Allen". We took this trail for 5-10 minutes, until we came out on a truck/camp road. We turned left and made an immediate right into a clearing that, if it were open to the public, would make a nice parking lot at the actual trailhead for Allen (and save those initial 5+ miles). Across the "parking lot" at the edge of the trees was a second signin log. We completed it and took a short snack/refueling break. The temperature was starting to go up as well.
We were on our way again at 8:40. Our easy little walk in the woods was behind us. The trail became more of a hike now. Without about 30 minutes we crossed a small brook (Skylight?) with some large slides to our left. If the water was really running this probably would have been more scenic. Also along this trail was a privy toilet. I mean literally RIGHT along the trail on our left. I was actually surprised how close it was to the trail.
I think we reached Allen Brook at about 10:10. I know the trail became markedly steeper at this point and I remember thinking we had about 2 hours to the summit. It actually took me about 3 from here, but did I mention I'm more out of shape than other years?! And I am also the caboose of the group. There was some blowdown (over, under, around and through), but in general someone had done a pretty good job of keeping the herd path clear. As long as you followed the brook, it was pretty evident where the trail was. For the most part the brook was on our left or we were walking up it. Again, because the weather has been so dry, we were pretty fortunate not to have encountered a great deal of the famous (infamous?) "red slime". We were able to carefully step on dry sections of rock for most of the ascent.
Eventually we came to a pretty decent sized slab of rock. We have not experienced the cliffs on Saddleback yet, but one of the few people we did see on Allen told us it was much scarier than this, although this did require some maneuvering. We found if you stayed to the extreme left and just pulled yourself along with trees, you could pick a path up the rock. At this point I was pretty tired and wondering how the heck we were going to get back down. Turns out going down wasn't too bad at all, although some butt sliding was involved.
After this rock my hiking friends must have been anxious to get to the top because I once again became the left behind caboose. But like the Little Engine that Could, I chugged along and finally made it to the summit by 1:10. That took a bit longer than I'd hoped. And because they were all waiting for me, they didn't give me much time to rest! I did have a chance to eat and drink a bit, and take our summit picture.
We also took a picture of another couple - the woman finished her 46 right there on Allen! They were from Michigan and traveled to the Adks for a week every year to cross a couple of peaks off the list. Her significant other was on his third round. It always gets me excited to see someone reach their goal, especially when I'm questioning whether I want to continue this journey myself.
The summit is completely treed in but there is enough of a clearing to sit and relax. The summit sign is showing a little wear, but someone fixed it up with a little duct tape. There were two paths, to the left and right, that lead to scenic overlooks. My son, who had reached the top way before I did, explored them and took some excellent shots. The photo here is his. I just didn't have the energy or the inclination to add even one unnecessary step to my hike!
Ever mindful of the time, and not wanting to cross that Lake Jimmy boardwalk in the dark, we began our descent at 1:30. I think this is the first hike in years that I did not use my hiking poles at all (other than for the Jimmy crossing). It just seemed like I need my hands a lot to grab onto trees, etc. Going down some of the rock was slow going, if only for the fact that I was carefully watching my step, trying to be sure I was on dry rock. I wasn't always successful, and took a nice spill at one point when my feet went right out from under me and I landed square on my butt. Thanks to VT for fishing my errant water bottle out of the stream where it finally settled after rolling, and for having 2 Advil in her first aid kit!
We did move faster going down and shaved an hour off our ascent time, reaching the "parking lot" sign-out by 4:55 (3.5 hours). The boys were moving and had gone on ahead. VT was next to begin the last 5 miles. Hiking Buddy, teen girl and I sat here for a few minutes, ate a snack and I changed my sox. Our feet were feeling the mileage. From this point out it was just a long walk in the woods. We chatted to take our minds off our feet. The water crossing at the Opalescent felt AWESOME on feet that were on fire. The Lake Jimmy crossing seemed a bit easier on the way back and we never took our water shoes off after that. We crossed the Hudson to find VT taking a cooling swim and signed out at 7:45. It was a 14 hour day.
This peak was named after Frederick Allen, a minor artist who listed in the mid-19th century and early 20th. I have no idea what he was so renowned for that this mountain was named after him. If anyone knows, feel free to send a message!