A few months ago I revisited my old childhood tradition in a new way. My grandparents for the last few years have been renting a cabin in Upper Jay, New York. This year was the first year I made sure I made time to go up there, and boy was it a change from when I was younger. The house was a perfect size pushed back into the woods. Fire pit in the front yard surrounded by Adirondack chairs, and a stream just a few feet down the hill. The visit made me miss camping in an RV and cooking pancakes on the campfire. Pancakes just aren’t the same from a stove when you’re in the middle of nowhere, but having an actual shower was definitely a perk!
The plan for going up there was based around hiking a High Peak. This plan quickly changed into hiking a few High Peaks. This was one thing I was not prepared for… no matter how long I walked at an incline on the treadmill. My grandpa is a huge hiker, from morning walks with the dog or small adventures to see a beautiful view. Sometimes I think he is more comfortable walking around the woods blind than he is walking down a sidewalk! My grandpa would love to be a 46er, which for those who don’t know means hiking all 46 High Peaks in the Adirondack Mountains. Who I’m going with, well call him CB, is also aspiring to be a 46er, providing me with another reason to take on this new challenge.
My grandpa, CB, and I started at 7:12 in the morning. Me not a morning person at all struggled from the start. With a big cup of coffee in my hand, a packed day pack stuffed with what CB thought was important, and my new hiking boots, I thought I was ready to take on my first three high peaks…
Now that it is over I would beg to differ.
I was nervous when we started. I didn’t think I was going to be able to keep up with CB or my grandpa. It took us a few hours to get to the bottom of the peaks. About a 3 mile hike into the woods before we would actually truly start to climb up a high peak. Our first peak was Algonquin (5,115′), which is the second highest peak in the Adirondacks. Talk about easing into high peaks…
The first peak was good, challenging but I made it with very little struggle. I will say it sure wasn’t easy by any means. Our second peak was Iroquois (4,803′) which is when the burn started to creep in. For me Iroquois was the most fun. The trail was partially dirt, partially wooden bridges and partially cliffs. My least favorite part was watching my grandpa scale some of the cliffs as if he was 20 again.
Back down Iroquois was scary, it was all about finding the right footing and hoping you weren’t grabbing onto a loose rock. During the hike up and down Iroquois there were many signs saying not to bother the vegetation. This to me was a problem because it seemed all of the easier routes were covered with the different plants. CB told me that this was the most vegetation he has seen on the top of a mountain.
The burn really set in when we started back up Algonquin. The way back up seemed to be one steep sheet of plain rock that never ended. It was worse than the early morning conditioning practices. It was take 10 steps, stop for the burn to cool off then take ten more. It was the ABSOLUTE worst part of the entire day.
Going back down Algonquin wasn’t bad, it was challenging making sure I didn’t slip. It was getting a little later in the afternoon and the rocks seemed to have more water running down, causing it to be a little more slippery (which of course made me nervous).
Once we got down to the split between bottom of Wright and Algonquin we were worried about how much time we had left to hike. We really wanted to do all three but were worried about hiking in the dark. Actually I think I was the only one worried about hiking in the dark. CB and my grandpa were more focused on getting all three of the High Peaks that we planned. So when the question of do we hike the last one or not came up… my answer was the losing one.
It’s not that I didn’t want to hike the third, but I had done a lot more hiking in that day than I had probably in the last year or so. Both in length of time and in the difficulty. I was not only nervous of hiking in the dark but also not being able to do the whole thing. My legs at this point were jello and the only way I new they were still working was because I would look down and see them moving.
So I kept my head down and struggled to hike up Wright Mountain (4,587′). It was steep but the nice thing was that it was short. We wanted this part of the hike to be quick since there wasn’t a lot of sunlight left, but we still wanted to be able to explore. In 1962 there was a plane crash at the top of Wright Mountain. It was a B47 Bomber plane taking a training run that lost contact with the ground crew. The high winds and bad whether had pushed them out of radar reach and due to the low flying training exercise they met the summit of Wright pretty quickly. In memory of the pilots there is a plaque at the top of Wright Mountain, and I think CB and I spent more time looking for that plaque than we did hiking up and down.
It was a challenge I would never take on my own. A challenge I didn’t realize I would even enjoy. Maybe I hated it at times but the views at the summits, the adventure and the different challenges were worth it.
During the hike up and down Wright I think my legs got some kinds of second wind, that was until we got back to the bottom and started on the 3 mile trail back to the car. That 3 miles seemed like 10. It was difficult in the steepness but in the kind of terrain. It was a lot of broken rock that was a lot easier to climb up than down. Once we finally got back to the car it was starting to get dark fast, and we were hungry tired and in dire need of a beer!
I can’t say I want to hike more high peaks, maybe just one at a time next time. Being able to say I hiked three high peaks in one day, a 12 hour hike, with my 76 year old grandpa is pretty cool. The fact that me and CB also made it through a 12 hour hike is one for the books. I’m not one that likes to be coddled or needs pep talks to get through something tough. Sometimes I just need someone there which is exactly what he did. As if he knew it would piss me off and make the burn worse.
I don’t know if I want to be a 46er but I sure wouldn’t mind hiking with CB again. And to answer what I read in his log book I like him a lot too and I want to hike more with him. Can’t say ill act excited during the hike but before and after I will be!