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Posts Tagged ‘backpacking’

(If you missed parts I and II.)  

I woke up Tuesday morning not completely rested; my knee had been uncomfortable throughout the night. When I stood up to take advantage of the bathroom right across the hall, I knew it wasn’t good. Every once in a while I’ll twist my knee while hiking and although it’s uncomfortable, it’s nothing worth mentioning because I usually rest the next day. This was different but being someone with a high tolerance for pain, thought I’d be okay after taking something.

With a warm belly full of soup and homefries, and with my pack emptied for the day trip ahead of us, Paula and I were at the trailhead by seven forty-five. The first couple of miles I didn’t really notice my knee because the rest of my body was screaming at me for trying to move so quickly. This was our fourth day hiking and a first for attempting as many miles as we did. By mile five it was impossible for me to hide from Paula that I was in pain. I was limping and my pace was not at my normal chipper rate. I took another Aleve and ate a snack at Slant Rock in hopes that this would do the trick… but it didn’t.

Lucky for me the pain was nonexistent while going uphill. We took the little “shortcut” over toward Basin instead of taking the route that we took toward Haystack for two reasons: a) it was steep and b) it cut off a small amount of distance. I personally enjoyed the steep little climb, although, I had to be very cautious of my knee when stepping so high. I couldn’t trust it 100% even though there wasn’t pain, it was still weak. Paula kept asking me if we should turn around but we were almost to the middle of the mileage for the day, so I figured why not continue upward? I should have done my research about this hike ahead of time.

The mile or so up Basin once we met the trail junction was steep! It had ladders. It had a cliff. It had sheer rock with barely anything to hold on to. It was a test for my fear of heights. One young man passed us who said he had done this hike a number of times and suggested that maybe we not go over to Saddleback because if it was wet, it could be dangerous (we were in the clouds). I had no idea what he was talking about and didn’t care; I was in pain and there was no way in hell I was going to re-climb Basin. We got to the top, took our photographs and immediately headed toward Saddleback.

The descent was just as steep as the climb. It was slow-moving and because we were in the clouds, we couldn’t really see where we were headed. All I remember thinking was I will never re-do that mountain in the winter in fear of falling off cliffs.

Before I knew it, we were heading upward and it wasn’t bad until we broke the treeline. I literally could not believe what was in front of me: boulders stacked upon boulders. There was no trail. There was a yellow painted dotted line giving us a suggested route but there was no definite route. You could see dirt and skid marks from crampons all over the boulders. It was do or turn around and re-climb Basin; which was not an option in my book because of the pain in my knee.

It took Paula and I a good five minutes to assess what was about to happen. The rocks weren’t wet, which was a plus, but they seemed impossible to climb. I could conceptualize how I was suppose to move forward (up really) but I couldn’t physically do it; the fear was in me 100%.

Paula decided to go first; this tactic of her proving that it could be done is what had gotten me up other similar situations. When it became my turn, I followed her direction (meanwhile, she was clinging to the boulders up above us) and then froze. I was shaking and the tears were a-flowin’! There was no budging. I had to close my eyes and say out loud that I HAD TO DO THIS. I had to. And I did. Slowly. And ever so tightly gripped to rocks that didn’t have spots to grip onto. It was by far the most difficult thing I had to do on my 46er journey.

We got to the summit with absolutely no views and no fingerprints left on the tips of my fingers. I was happy but very worried about the walk out. After a quick snack in the trees to avoid the wind, we headed down Saddleback; which wasn’t too bad at all. Before I knew it, we were at the junction to either head out of the woods or go to Gothics; we chose to walk out (our plan all along).

All I really remember from the walk out was the amount of pain I was in. Luckily Paula let me borrow one of her poles which helped me take off some pressure from my right knee. It was a long steep out, and this time we got to see the finished staircase going down the slide that was created from the hurricane. When Paula and I hiked Gothics last summer, they were just starting this project. I was very thankful for those stairs because although I moved slow, they helped in that very steep section.

We passed JBL and Paula picked it up this time to get me motivated to get out to the car. We knew we’d be in the dark for a little bit of the trip, but with no water crossings ahead of us, we were both in a better mood. On the trail we got to see a man from PA that we had met the previous Sunday on top of Redfield. He was camping out there for a couple more days before heading home to his wife. We also met a father and son from western NY who were planning on staying out in the woods, but decided to get a room in Keene instead. They were shocked to hear that we only had one more peak left. How dare them doubt us! 

We only walked a mile or so in the dark, and reached the car shortly after seven. We stripped off our boots (mine were still wet from the water crossing the previous night) and cranked the heat… and cracked the window because our gear stunk! Despite the knee pain, it was a wonderful four days in the Adirondacks and it was an even better feeling knowing that we accomplished what we set out to do. 

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…so Paula and I woke up to rain Sunday morning; not exactly what we had in mind for one of the longest hikes on our journey to becoming 46ers. I personally don’t mind the rain and we’ve both hiked in it previously, but for eighteen miles?! I think the stubbornness within me kicked in and I was determined to reach that summit.

We loaded up our packs, put on our rain gear and started, slowly toward Allen Mountain. Because we were already at Livingston Point, we only had to travel a half mile or so to the trail that ran parallel to the Opalescent River. I would love one day to return to this trail because I could hear the Hanging Spear Falls and see them through the brush, but had no desire to stop because I was already coming to the realization that I was going to be wet soaked all day. Hiking in the rain is one thing but having sopping wet boats that squish with each step is another. From early on in this hike did I have to remind myself repeatedly why I wanted this so bad.

The three and a half miles went fairly quickly until we had reached an opening with private property signs. This threw us off because we could see where the trail kept going but Paula had the idea/inclination that we were suppose to be on this property. We continued on about ten minutes and came to an odd intersection. To the left was a yellow marker trail (what we needed to follow out to the car) and to the left was a massive sign carved out of wood that said Allen. That to me looked familiar (and obvious that that was indeed the trail to Allen) but the trail seemed to go into two opposite directions: left and right. The right was used far more frequently than the left but Paula swore she saw a yellow marker on that trail = Allen is NOT marked = couldn’t have been the trail we were looking for. We dumped the contents of our packs (in the rain) to the left and proceeded on. But this was clearly not the trail.

My assumption was that these were trails used by the property owners and not hikers. I hiked back out and over to that mysterious “marked” trail and my gut said go. Turns out the yellow markers were made of recycled plastic and were intended to help hikers. I convinced Paula to follow me and ensured her that if we didn’t get to some sort of registry, then we’d turn around. With my luck, the registry was found! One solo hiker had signed in previous to us so I was optimistic that we’d see him at one point throughout the day. I secretly hoped we weren’t too far behind him.

The trail to the mountain was long and somewhat uneventful for the two miles. It was muddy in plenty of sections but because we were pretty wet, we didn’t really mind. It was so cloudy we didn’t have any views and couldn’t even really see where we were headed/what we were about to hike. Things got very interesting once we got to the Allen Brook.

This trail normally runs up a brook. In the rain, it felt like we were climbing up a river; over rocks with slippery algae and very little to hang on to. It was very slow moving and each step was calculated. I could tell that Paula was out of her element big time and realistically she and I should have established a turn around time. The higher we got, the steeper the large sections of rock became and we were basically crawling. Right when I think the two of us were getting ready to call it quits in the heavy rain, we ran into the guy who was signed in before us! I of course had to ask him how close we were to the summit and he said another 45 minutes or so… “are you kidding me?!” I thought. He even went on to tell us that it got steeper, more slippery, AND almost dangerous. I could hear him hinting for us to turn around.

I could see it on Paula’s face, she was convinced in turning around. I was torn: I did NOT want to turn around. I also didn’t want her to sit there and wait for me in the cold if I decided to go on without her. I don’t remember what I said or the tone in which I said it but she kept going. She moved slower and I talked her into every step; also talking myself into every step forward. I do remember thinking, “this guy doesn’t know who we are or what we’ve hiked. We can do this.” And we did. And when we reached that summit there were high-fives and middle fingers.

After we got our photographs out of the way, we sat down for a quick snack and realized that it was after two in the afternoon. We still had get down that mess we had just climbed and walk an additional seven miles or so out. And those miles had their own obstacles for us to face.

See I don’t like heights, which means on hikes I don’t like cliffs, climbing hand over hand on boulders or climbing ladders. I especially don’t like climbing off of ladders. There have been plenty of times on my journey to becoming a 46er where this fear has been tested. For Paula, she does not like water crossings, no matter the size. She is just extra cautious in fear of getting wet and having our gear ruined. What I didn’t realize was that all she had been thinking about all day was the three water crossings that were ahead of us. And after a day of rain, she was worried that they’d be worse. I’d have been doing the same if I knew three of the biggest cliffs were ahead of me, potentially in the dark.

We walked as fast as we could. When we signed out of the registry, it was just after 5 o’clock. We both knew we had about two hours of hiking ahead of us and that the remaining portion of the hike would be in the dark. Luckily we were both prepared. I tried to stay as calm as positive and kicked it into high gear to get us out. Our pace was fast and I kept my head lamp off for as long as possible so that I could see more clearly in the dusk. Once the headlamps were on, all you could see in front of you was what was lit. We now had to be extra careful of our steps and alert to the noises around us. It was hunting season after all.

Our first water crossing was the Opalescent River. This looked like it had enough rocks for me to scramble over and I am usually a pro, but my right foot sunk into the water and I quickly hopped over other rocks as fast as possible to the other side. Paula managed great with the use of her poles. Our second water crossing was suppose to be over Lake Jimmy but the bridge, well, it is no longer existing. Lucky for us, a team cleared a marked trail around the lake with no issues at all. Slightly longer milage, no complaints.

Our third water crossing was the Hudson River. There was no avoiding getting wet here. It was either take your boots off and walk across barefoot or go boots-‘n-all because the car should only be a few hundred yards away. I decided on the boots-‘n-all option and started in. Paula hollered for me to stay with her, and I did, laughing and thinking to myself, “this is the best way to end the day.” The water wasn’t too fast but had definitely risen up over our gators to about our knees. And we were right, the cars was only a few hundred yards in front of us. Seven- thirty at night, after twelve hours of hiking in the rain, we had left the woods.

We were hooting and high-fiving and snapping photographs and stripping off layers of clothes and just talking about what we had just accomplished. There was so much excitement between the two of us. With the heat cranked, we called in our orders at the Noonmark Diner, drove up the Northway to exit thirty and checked into the Rooster Comb Inn. We had warm beds and hot showers awaiting us but couldn’t stay up too late; we had another day of hiking ahead of us.

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To say that I’m starting to get anxious about what’s to come over the next week, would be an understatement. I always look forward to returning to the mountains but with being this close to reaching my goal, the excitement is building.

Physically Paula and I will be hiking 45-50 miles this weekend. We are leaving Saturday afternoon and won’t be back until late Tuesday night. We are hiking the three mountains we had originally set out to do PLUS the two that we missed last weekend because of the rain. This will be the most consecutive days that I’ve hiked and although I know my legs will grow tired with each day passing and my feet will ache after each mile, I’ll continue to move forward. Sometimes when my head convinces my body that it’s exhausted, I start to slow a little. But then I realize that exhausted doesn’t mean finished and that I’ve got to give it all I’ve got until I see camp or the car. I don’t know if Paula appreciates these sudden bursts of energy but I know that we are both physically capable of reaching the five peaks that are calling our names. And loudly at that.

Emotionally I’m going to be “crossing the finish line.” Although there is no time limit for completing the Adirondack 46, this is a goal I’ll be finishing after working on for over a good year now. I’ve reached summits in the past with tears welling up in my eyes, I can only imagine what it’s going to feel like knowing that this bucket list item will be complete. My emotions have changed a lot over this past year toward the mountains- only for the better. There were days that I was on top of the world, doubting myself, and also feeling guilty for taking so much time to dedicate toward myself (and not spending the weekends with the beau or family). But that time spent in the woods only made me a better person for my return.

I know that the date is still up in the air because of the weather, but I am a little sad knowing that the beau most likely won’t be there in the parking lot to see my return. I’m sad that he or any of my family members won’t be able to see my face on the summit and help me celebrate. It’s not like a marathon where family members can cheer you on during that last .2 miles of the race. Emotionally I have to be proud of myself and not rely on others to tell me how proud they are of me. Buuuuut they better be ready for high-fives all around when I see them next.

Mentally I’m telling myself that this weekend and following trip is going to be amazing. That my body is strong and any doubt that may arise is due to fear. I’ve been afraid many times in the Adirondacks (not a big fan of heights) but remind myself that I should do one thing a day that scares me. Oh, and do it safely.

That’s me in a nutshell these past couple of days! I’ve got a long night of laundry and list making tonight, and a longer night of shopping for last minute food items and packing tomorrow night after work. My feelings are mixed, almost like I’m preparing for a marathon but also in the middle of the race with a few miles to go. Does that make sense? I hope so!

Are any of you preparing for a big race? Or maybe crossing off a Bucket List item like I am?

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Last Saturday afternoon (now two Saturdays ago) Paula and I headed north to hike the Seward Range in the Adirondacks. As I was packing, I realized that I really needed a new bladder for my pack, so we made a little pit stop in Lake Placid. The Ragnar race was wrapping up and the streets were packed! Luckily, we found a parking spot right across the street from EMS and were in and out within twenty minutes. I really hit the jackpot with the special that they were running last week! If you spent $100, you got $25 off. So I picked out a new bladder for $35, a new pair of gaitors for $65 and an ADK Nalgene water bottle for Paula at $10. Once they subtracted the promotional $25, the $7 of EMS reward dollars I had saved, AND my 15% off, I paid $60 total = SCORE! I filled up the bladder in the bathroom sink and back on the road we went.

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We got to the trailhead at 6:30pm, signed in and headed down the horse trail. Our packs were heavy but our pace was consistent; the sun now sets around 7ish and it was darker in the woods. We didn’t know where we were going to be setting up camp but had a general idea of where we wanted to be; centrally located. Just after 7, we took a right onto the intersecting marked trails and within a couple hundred feet, I spotted a tiny cairn on my left. There were no markers, but I decided to walk down the path because even with the disappearing light, I could tell that there was a little clearing. It was a campsite! Posts for horses, a fire circle, and a stream about 100 feet away! We set up in the dark, made a little fire, enjoyed dinner and after admiring the sky full of glitter stars, were both snuggled into our tents before 8:30pm.

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After breakfast and re-organizing our packs, we were on the trail around 7:45am. We came to the intersection with the cairn marking our turnoff and started our climb for the day. The trails were very easy to follow, muddy, but easy. It was a constant up and soon after we ran into a gentleman who not only is a 46er, but also a correspondent to aspiring 46er hikers. He sped past us but we eventually caught back up to him at the cairn just below Donaldson. He told us about their clean up efforts over the past 15 years on unmarked trails and their attempts to blaze new paths. Paula and I both commented later how great it was to meet him, but felt horrible for not catching his name; hopefully he’ll be at the dinner this upcoming spring.

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Up Donaldson Mountain we went, and within ten minutes were at the summit disc. Number 37 for me!

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We continued on to Mount Emmons and after an hour from leaving the peak of Donaldson, we reached the summit. Number 38 for me!

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Time from leaving camp: 4.5 hours. We sat down in the sun to enjoy our lunches of sandwiches and fresh fruit and headed back over Donaldson to the cairn intersection where we had stopped to chat earlier in the morning. The man had suggested that after reaching Seward Mountain, that we return down this same path because it was less steep and far less muddy. Once we started down and then back up toward Seward, we ran into a couple of people who had confirmed this information. It was a steep up with plenty of rocks to climb over, but the views were amazing. We reached the summit of Seward Mountain at 2:45, seven hours after leaving camp. Number 39 for me!

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After high-fiving and taking our few photographs, back down the mountain AND back up the adjacent mountain we went. Our pace was steady and being familiar with the trail was useful; within a mile of our camp I began picking up firewood to haul back. At 6:30 we were back at our site with firewood and plenty of daylight to clean up. We both washed up in the stream, stocked up on water to purify, and I built a nice little fire. The coals were hot and kept me warm throughout dinner until about 8:30 when I decided to snuggle in.

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Once again we were on the trail around 7:30 Monday morning and decided to not take the horse trail toward Ward Brook. The marked trailed was only about four miles long and fairly easy; only a few sections of wet mud that took us a minute to avoid. We stopped at the Ward Brook Lean-to around 9:30 for a quick bathroom break; the outhouse was the cleanest we’ve seen! After a few moments back on the trail, the cairn marking our turn was on right.

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Now the trail up Seymour Mountain is unmarked and just over a mile long; the longest mile of my life. I don’t want to exaggerate, but this was probably the most difficult hike for me to date. Being afraid of heights, the slides were daunting and I clung for my life onto surrounding roots, trees and fallen debris from the hurricane. The slides were wet, muddy and not my cup of tea (steep!). It took us just over two hours to reach the summit, where we were greeted by a group of three guys from North Carolina and Virginia. They were finishing up their 46 peaks this week (it had only taken them 4 trips into the mountains) and the youngest had completed the AT a few years back. Super jealous of his vacation time! Number 40 for me!

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We both sat up on the ledge, soaking in the views while enjoying a snack before our draining hike back down the mountain. We took our time and made it back to the Ward Brook two hours later to take a bathroom break and eat our late lunch. The sky was blue and the leaves were all shades of autumn. It really was the perfect day for hiking in the Adirondacks! We didn’t stay too long because we still had four miles to walk back to camp. Once back, we quickly packed up and rearranged our bags for the last mile walk out. Just as we were approaching the trailhead, we met up with a guided group that attempted the three mountains that we had hiked the previous day; they didn’t make it to Seward.

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I’m pretty sure Paula and I were both proud of ourselves for the weekend we had just shared, and were both grateful of the weather. Here’s hoping that we have the same luck over the next three weeks; 6 more peaks to go!

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With our bags packed (heavy) and the bear canister in hand, we hit the trails around eight a.m.. Our plan was to only carry the bear canister the few miles in, set up camp, hike and then return for dinner… but because the forecast was still predicting storms, we figured we’d hike just over three miles to the nearest lean-to and wander for the day.

Within five minutes of being on the trail, it began to pour. Not sprinkle. Not shower. Pour. We had to stop, put our rain coats on, manage to get the packs back on, and hike in the pouring rain. My paints were completely soaked through and sticking to my legs. At one point, Paula stopped and turned to ask me if we were making a safe decision- I of course said, “yes!” and into the woods we traveled.

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By the time we got to Marcy Dam, the rain had stopped and we stopped to check out the scenery; we had a glimpse into what the dam looked like pre-Irene! Because of all the rain the previous night (and the melting snow from the freak storm the week before), the “lake” looked full once again! The spots that Paula and I had walked out on the day before was now completely under water.

We didn’t stop for long (the packs were heavy!) so onward we went. By 10 o’clock we reached the lean-to and I flung my pack off and grabbed a snack. I wanted to take my wet clothes off but within minutes Paula got the craziest idea to keep hiking. Not going to lie, I was not up for this. Carrying that overnight pack was not what either of us had expected and by us hiking in with the packs further only meant we were going to be carrying them all the way out (instead of dropping the load to hike for the day and return). But with the whole day ahead of us, I agreed, and we set off an additional three miles of so to the Feldspar lean-to.

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I didn’t take many photographs during this part of the journey because, well, it sucked. My shoulders were aching, the trail was wet (and by wet I mean a small stream) and toward the end, there was a ton of blow-down. I had to keep reminding myself to stay positive because in just a few weeks I would be hiking even longer miles with the same pack. My phone stayed tucked into my rain coat… until we reached this bog.

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Now let me remind you that it had poured enough to fill the dam the night before and it was currently raining at this point of the trip. By this time, I was use to being wet and didn’t mind. “What’s a little bog action?” I thought to myself. Well, this little “bog” was so full of water, that it was deeper than I am tall! And those logs in the water, were floating! Paula took one step onto the closest log, and it began to spin. She turned and asked if we should go back. My response (not aware of how sharp it was) was HELL NO! I was NOT turning around and hiking all the way back with that pack on me. Paula turned to give it a second try. See, she hikes with polls and somehow maneuvered across those looking somewhat graceful. Me on the other hand, panicked. I hadn’t watched her every step and when my body started to move forward, there was no stopping it. By the middle of this bog, I had so much momentum that I couldn’t slow down and I almost fell into the water! I honestly don’t know how I caught my balance and made it over to the other side, but I was shaking and almost in tears. We were joking that if I fell in, I’d drown! My pack was so heavy it would have sunk me. I am thankful that neither of us went swimming that afternoon.

ready for bed!

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Just a short time after, we were at the lean-to around three o’clock. We unpacked everything to try and dry out, changed into warmer clothes (and my winter hat) and relaxed for a little bit; we didn’t want to eat dinner too early. We both sat and read the log journal, did a little writing and took a little snooze.

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Five o’clock came and it was dinner time! My favorite time of the day. I had been dreaming about my meal all day on the trail, so we started boiling some water. My channa masala and jasmine rice was just what I needed! So good, so quick and so much to fill me up! With my belly full, I cleaned my cookware, brushed my teeth, hid the bear canister and snuggled in for the night. It was much cooler but perfect sleeping weather. The sun wasn’t set yet and I could hear the campers on the site near the lean-to but that didn’t keep me up; I was tired and passed out before I knew it.

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