July 17, 2014

Cliff: The Swamp Mountain

By Stephon Boatwright In ADKs

Peak: Cliff
Hike distance: ~15 miles
Trail Map

As times goes on my trips to the ADK’s with Allie and Brian have become less frequent, mostly due to scheduling issues.  That is a reason to be a bit sad, but at the same time, the reason that scheduling is becoming more difficult is that we’re getting closer to the end.  The days of driving up in the morning, hiking a peak, crashing the night and leaving the next morning are over.  There’s nothing left except 17 mile trips or longer, requiring us to stay two days or more.  Once again, the downside is that we’re hiking less often, but on the up side, when we do hike we summit 2-5 mountains per trip, not too shabby.
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Getting on the trail with my friends for the first time since March was an awesome thrill, almost from the second I laid foot on the trail.  The mission for the day was Cliff and Redfield, two remote peaks that require a 17 mile hike to bag them both.  After a sleepy drive up (see pic at the bottom) we were ready to hit the trail.  Hiking out of the ADK Loj requires an 8 mile hike before the climb even begins.  It was about then I realized how remote these peaks were and began contemplating whether we were going to have enough day light to summit both.  The day was cloudy and a bit ominous because of our terrain. The trail was a swamp, no I don’t mean wet, I mean swamp.  I didn’t think swamps existed above 3,000 feet, but it was a day for learning.

 photo 5
Navigating the trail was a mixture of acrobatics and luck.  The trail snaked along the most shallow portions of the swamp, with 6 inch wide log bridges allowing you to avoid outright wading through the muck.  I would have bet every penny to my name that Allie was going to fall face first into the grime, shortly after a series of shrieks and “Nooooooo!” (Her balance is notoriously and hilariously awful).  Somehow we all managed to avoid swamping ourselves…sorta.

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Neither Cliff nor Redfield have maintained trails to their summits, just heard paths where past hikers have climbed.  Once at the junction for the climb we decided to take on Cliff first, given the fact it has no views (another peak below the 4,000′ mark, but was mis-measured decades ago).  The trail up Cliff was miserably muddy and claustrophobic.  Branches reached out and touched you from both sides of the trail at practically all times.  The march was made so much better by the mud that was knee deep in spots.  After about an hour we were on what clearly seemed to be the summit.  There’s only a small and faded trail marker indicating the summit, which was impossible to see in the clouds.  Eventually I had Brian pull out his altimeter as we started going down in elevation again. “3,890 feet” he said.  “Turn the hell around!” I shouted.  We had descended dozens of feet and the mountain is only 3,900 odd feet tall; we walked up and over the summit.

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After what was the most lackluster summit ever, we began the march back.  I had the misfortune of slipping knee deep into the grossest mud ever.  After unleashing a torrent of obscenities and grunts Allie was kind enough to break the post-rant silence with “That’s what she said, all of that, even the grunts.”  I was slightly less irritated after the laugh.  The march back was chilly as it began to rain and the wind joined in.  Unfortunately, I was correct and we didn’t have enough time for Redfield, no matter though, we were camping next to a BBQ joint that was going to eliminate all of our pain.  Now, it’s a given that you’re going to smell after a long hike, however this was freaking stunning.  We’ve never held quite a stench as magnificent as this one.  I blame Brian.  The car ride back involved rolled down windows despite the rain.  A bit later, showered and starving, we begin chowing down on Memphis burgers (pulled pork on a half pound burger) and fries with Maple syrup dipping sauce (don’t knock it til you try it).

The night ended the way all nights should end, drunk with friends and laughter.  Allie and I became reacquainted with our favorite black man (other than me), Guinness, while Brian nursed a Canadian, Labatts.  For a second we were at a loss for drinking games, until it was discovered Allie had never played the most common one under the sun, Kings.  She was thrown into the fire, as Brian and I were more than happy to interject bizarre rules and not explain the normal rules all that well.  Eventually she got the hang of it and produced my favorite moment of the entire trip.  Brian and I both broke a rule, making it so we both had to take deep sips of our beers.  First she called out Brian, then after her realization I had broken a rule too, Allie leapt to her knees, took a deep breath, pointed at me like she had just discovered the body of Jimmy Hoffa, and shouted “BOTH OF YOU DRINK!”, before falling back to her butt and nearly falling over into the wall of my tent.  I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen excitement with such reckless abandon…giggling followed.

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The next day we took on another peak, but I’ll save that for my next post.  For now I leave you with the words of Sublime, whose music was playing in my internal soundtrack all night.

“Loves what I got
Don’t start a ri-ot
You’ll feel it when the dance gets hot”
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