“Is that snow on the mountain?”
Mike was the first to spot the blanket covering the peaks of the Adirondacks. It was beautiful. We were at the height of fall foliage, surrounded by bright reds, oranges, and yellows. This distant white provided a stark contrast to the explosion of color around us. The pickle: those peaks were where what we had intended to scale over two days. But we hadn’t packed for snow.
A month before, emboldened by a few glasses of wine, I had agreed to join Mike on an overnight hiking trip of the Adirondacks. I had already proven myself up the slopes of Marcy, the biggest mountain in the range, but the challenge of a multi-day hike intrigued me. We agreed on a date, I gathered the hiking gear I lacked, and Mike plotted our route, up 2 peaks the first day, with an optional third on our way out.
The snow gave us pause, but we decided to risk the adventure. The sun was shining, and we could always stay below the tree line if passage was too difficult. Plus, I just had invested in brand new hiking boots (my very first pair!) and had spent my week pacing the apartment in them in a futile effort to break them in.
The “trail” was a snaking swamp of rocks and mud, 6 miles to the first campsites along the shores of Lake Colden. I am not sure what’s considered a normal hiking pace, but Mike assured me that we made good time in those first few hours. We eventually reached an unoccupied lean-to (a three walled shelter for hikers) where we left our heavy packs and camping supplies. Our next stop: the snow covered peaks seen on our drive in.
LL Bean claims that my boots were waterproof. That claim had stayed true for our muddy hike to the campsite, but once we began wadding through a foot of slushy snow, it quickly crumpled. The road from the lean-to to the summit quickly pitched upward, and within half a mile, we had entered a cold winter wonderland. And in this wonderland, I learned that my shoes might be waterproof, but they were not snowproof. My feet were soaked within the hour.
I can’t say I enjoy the act of hiking. It lacks the endorphin rush of pure exercising. The views at the top though - those are worth the miles of walking uphill. And today, the views were incredible: clear skies, visibility stretching to the edge of the mountain range, white around us, fall colors to the South. The first time I ever came to the Adirondacks in 2015, three straight days of rain had dimmed their beauty. This here - these were the mountains so many loved.
The come down was miserable after that high. Soaked, we hurried in the dark back to our lean-to, where we quickly devoured our dinner (lentils and rice) before disappearing in our sleeping bags. Unfortunately, I hadn’t brought enough change of clothes and spent the entire night shivering, damp, in a sleeping bag not meant to keep warm below freezing temperatures. The morning, we opted to skip the third mountain and made a beeline out of the woods and straight to the car. The highlight of day two was the warm full egg bacon pancake breakfast we stopped for on our way back to Albany.
Type II Fun. I had to explain that one to Mike. Type I Fun is the conventional fun: hanging out with your friends, watching a movie, dancing. Type II Fun is an activity where you are miserable throughout, where it hurts or it’s uncomfortable, but when you’re done, you can look back and be proud of what you’ve accomplished. This trip fell squarely in the realm of Type II Fun. It confirmed my dislike of hiking, but also, made me itch for the draw of tough, memorable adventures. It’s always the hard ones that make for the best stories.