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.
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:
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.
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….
The weekend of August 13-14, I returned to the Adirondack Mountains, New York’s “High Peaks,” for the first time in almost twenty years, thanks to an invitation from my friend Dave. It would be interesting to compare and contrast the Adirondacks with the Catskills, where I’ve spent a lot of time hiking and running in the last couple of years, and fun to catch up with Dave and meet his companions on this trip.