A Long Loop in the ‘Daks

For a long hike in the Adirondacks, a big breakfast and real espresso would provide a good start to the day, but they would also necessitate a long drive out of the way, so a good start was also a late start, with the trailhead not reached until a little before 9 AM….and it wasn’t until 10 PM that I finally straggled out, having covered 15 miles, climbed three mountains, and waded through several thousand gallons of water and mud.  This may well have been the most taxing Adirondacks hike I’ve ever undertaken, but it bagged three more peaks, leaving me at 29 out of the 46 High Peaks complete without shoes.

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A Long Loop in the ‘Daks

Seven Adirondack High Peaks

The week before Labor Day is typically pretty quiet in New York, and with nothing much on the calendar, I couldn’t bear sitting around idle, so I threw together a quick jaunt up to the Adirondacks with the goal of making progress on the 46 high peaks (as a result of the trip, I’m now at 24/46).  Here are some quick notes…

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Seven Adirondack High Peaks

3 Days 30 Miles in the ‘Daks

With a week off from work and the weather turning unseasonably warm for late September, I decided to forsake the Catskills and head to the Adirondacks, with the goal of climbing a few more of the 46 high peaks barefoot.  Three days and almost thirty miles later, I returned with six peaks bagged, bringing the total to 17, and an even deeper appreciation for this lush, wet, rugged, steep, fragrant, unnerving, spectacular wilderness.

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3 Days 30 Miles in the ‘Daks

Some Adirondack Lichens

During a recent visit to the Adirondacks, I couldn’t help but admire the lichens.  These diminutive vegetative creatures (a mix of fungus and algae or cyanobacteria) thrive in the boreal forests that cloak the high peaks.  Why lichens?  Once you learn to focus in on very small scale, you discover a world of beauty and mystery.  This idea was expressed by 13th century Zen Master Dogen using the metaphor of the moon reflected in a drop of dew (“there are mountains hidden in hiddenness”) and 600 years later in the opening stanza of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself:  “I lean and loafe at my ease, observing a spear of summer grass.”  Appreciate the small patterns of nature, and you will never suffer from a lack of beauty, which is why Henry David Thoreau wrote that the “lichenist fats where others starve….his provender never fails.”

With thanks to nature photographer John Franklin for helping me identify the species, here is a sampling of what I encountered:

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Some Adirondack Lichens

Three more ADK high peaks

Emboldened by the successful completion of Rocky Peak and Giant Mountain, I laid out plans for an overnight hike that would bag me three more of the ADK High Peaks:  Wright, Algonquin, and Iroquois, with an option to bag a fourth, Mt. Colden, if all was going well.

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Three more ADK high peaks

Giant Mountain

Last August, my friend Dave invited me on a trip to the Adirondacks, and I had so much fun in these gorgeous mountains that here I am back again a year later and this time spending a full week.

In recent months I’ve been doing a great deal of barefoot hiking, in part because of a running injury (barefoot hiking is very slow, and this lets a sore tendon heal) and also because it’s a lot of fun (every step is a small adventure).  On a recent barefoot tramp in the Catskills I ran into a hiker who told me of a woman who had completed the 46 Adirondack High Peaks barefoot.  Predictably, that comment got me thinking, maybe that was an appropriate goal for me, too…

Arriving in the Daks a few days before Dave and his gang, I decided to try one of the high peaks without shoes, and feeling ambitious, I chose the 16-mile round-trip from New Russia Trailhead to the summit of Giant Mountain, which if I made it would also bag me Rocky Peak along the way.  According to the ADK Club website, this route is “difficult” due to the mileage and also 5,300 feet in cumulative elevation gain, but it is also described as “probably the best hike in all the Adirondacks” — and that comment seemed very intriguing.

Here are a few notes from the hike….

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Giant Mountain