Hiking in the Adirondacks

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View of Lake Placid from the top of Whiteface

View of Lake Placid from the top of Whiteface

I have always loved the outdoors. Growing up I enjoyed climbing trees, riding my bike, swimming, and exploring nature. But of all of my outdoor memories, I have very few recollections of hiking as a kid and the only one that stands out was with my grandfather in the Niagara Gorge.

I was so excited to be out hiking that I ran through the woods, climbing over boulders and scrambling high above the trail. My grandfather tells the story differently: that I ran off, out of his sight, and was being a daredevil and meanwhile, on the trail, my sister and brother were whining and asking how much further (this may have had something to do with why my family didn’t do a lot of hiking).

Hiking in the Niagara Gorge

Hiking in the Niagara Gorge

It wasn’t until college, when I met Pearson, that I began hiking and spending time in the woods. And I fell in love—with Pearson and with hiking. For the first couple of years we mostly just hiked around Harriman State Park: Bear Mountain and part of the Appalachian Trail. Then we discovered Breakneck Ridge, Storm King Mountain, and the Shawangunks.

I’m afraid of heights, so climbing on exposed rock is terrifying for me. But there is something about facing that fear and getting to the top that is empowering and exhilarating and addictive. I remember hiking Breakneck Ridge on a hot August afternoon and feeling like it would live up to its name. But I also felt more alive than I had in months. The fresh air, the rush of endorphins, the muscle fatigue, and the accomplishment of getting to the summit by my own power pulled me out of myself and into the world and I felt reborn.


Not even close to the top of Breakneck Ridge

In 2010 Pearson and I went up to Lake Placid in the High Peaks of the Adirondacks and I got my first taste of “real” hiking. We climbed Catamount Mountain, which Pearson assured me was an easy climb. At 3169’, it’s not one of the 46 High Peaks, but it is 1.8 miles each way with a 1542 foot elevation gain and difficult rock scrambles for the last .6 miles.

Trail up Catamount Mountain DSC_3776

It was a tough climb for me. About a quarter mile from the summit there was a point—as there is on every climb I’ve done—that I wanted to give up. I had had enough, my legs and lungs burned, my body ached, I was hungry and thirsty and tired, and Pearson was sick of my bitching. But my stubborn determination, or masochism, made me push on—as it always does. And then there was the summit with the rush of victory and the breathtaking panoramic views; the remarkable payoff for all the pain.

View from the top of Catamount Mountain in the Adirondacks

View from the top of Catamount Mountain

View from Catamount

View from Catamount

By the time we got down the mountain and back to the trailhead the achievement of the summit was a wonderful memory, my adrenaline was drained, and my body was wrecked. For days after I could barely walk. Leg muscles I didn’t know I had screamed with every step.

Despite the pain, I was hooked. The next summer we spent a week in Lake Placid and hiked around lakes and waterfalls and climbed Mount Jo, Cascade, and Porter.

Beginning the Climb to Mount JoHeart LakeView from CascadeAt the Summit of CascadeBeginning the Descent from CascadeHiking Down Cascade

The next year we were back for more hiking and climbing and again the year after that.

Swamp in the AdirondacksThe Road to the Adirondack LojHiking in the AdirondacksHiking in the ADKsView from Baxter MountainView from Mount BakerSunset in the High Peaks

I haven’t been back to the High Peaks in two years, but in that time I have hiked all over the country. The Grand Canyon, The Wave, Arches National Park, Canyonlands, Joshua Tree, White Sands, the Sandias, the Sangre de Cristos, the Upper Peninsula, Shenandoah, the Rocky Mountains, Grand Staircase Escalante, Zion, Acadia, the Hollyridge Trail, Death Valley, Konza Prairie… And on every challenging hike it’s the same emotional roller coaster: this is amazing! we’ve gone too far, I can’t do this anymore, I give up, we’re almost there, oh my god: look at the view! this was totally worth it, I want to stay here forever, I can’t wait to do it again.

JKW_1654 JKW_1765
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