Well….I’m Back From the Mountains.

My hike/camping outing has been completed, and I’m getting ready to get back in action this afternoon.

The trip was a mixture of amazement, pain, humor, and excitement, with a small bit of fear tossed in for good measure.

It started off very well, relaxing even. My brother-in-law and I got to our overnight campground in the Adirondacks Friday evening. We grabbed a quick meal at the Noon Mark Diner, which has some fantastic food. Their mushroom-swiss burger I ate was phenomenal. This was the second time he and I have eaten there, and it won’t be the last. If you’re ever on Route 73 through Keene Valley and skip these guys, we can’t be friends anymore.

After that, we grabbed a six pack of a locally brewed beer, pitched camp in the shadow of Whiteface Mountain, and relaxed. Campfire, beer, and a billion billion stars overhead. I’d not been so relaxed in a long time.

We woke up, packed up, and met my college roommate at 0630 at Chapel Pond. He had planned the trip and the route, and we headed in for a “Short hike to the campsite” where we’d be staying Saturday night.

….Now, before I continue, the plan was to carry full camping packs in for that “Short hike” he mentioned, then switch to day packs and summit 3 or 4 of the High Peaks. So, we packed everything in.

His ‘short hike’ turned into 5.5 miles, with the trail coming to within half a mile of the summit of Lower Wolfjaw mountain. We dropped pack at a trail fork, took water bottles, and summitted the first peak. We went back, picked up the packs and made our way to the lean-to where we’d be staying.

Now, full camping packs are heavy, especially when you don’t own any of that fancy light-weight gear that is pretty much necessary. By the time we reached the campsite, I was done for. We dropped everything, switched to day-packs, and headed to the next three mountains.

Somewhere along the line, I decided that I wasn’t going to be making three more peaks, so I invited my roommate, who is in much better shape than I, to go on ahead. I’d summit Upper Wolfjaw and wait for him there. My brother-in-law came with me, and we picked our way up and waited for him there.

IMG_1637

I was told to “Look heroic.” I failed.

The second peak had an amazing view, and relaxing up there waiting for my roommate became the best part of the day. We took off our shoes and let them dry in the sun, (Mud season) chatted with some of the other hikers, and simply relaxed.

Summit of Upper Wolfjaw

Summit of Upper Wolfjaw

We headed back to the campsite, only to find that a couple and their dog had occupied the lean-to while we were away. Since we had planned on leaving very early, we opted not to wake the dog, so we traveled into the woods a bit to pitch camp.

Exhausted, by this point, I almost didn’t give a damn if I pitched the tent, or pitched it away. We struggled through setting up camp, cooked canned food over a campstove, and went to bed around 9, all three of us completely tuckered out.

Around 11, it started to rain. I realized this when the tent started to leak and the Chinese water torture began on my forehead. The rest of the night was spent rearranging gear around the wet spots and still capture a few moments of rest.

By the way, you don’t know what darkness is until you’ve gone camping in the middle of the Adirondack mountains and the clouds roll in to cover the moon and stars. It was one of those “Are my eyes open or closed?” sort of situations. Or:

We awoke the next morning at 4:30, sore, wet, and still exhausted. My roommate poured over his map with a headlamp. Our plan was to take the 5.5 mile hike back to where we had parked, a walk with wet and now heavier camping gear that none of us were looking forward to.

“You know, if we take a different route out, it’ll be flatter and probably safer. It’ll put us four miles away from where we parked, but it’ll be road walking and easy from there.”

We agreed to take the unknown path out in the budding light. The mud and soreness as constant companions.

This is where things got interesting.

“We should take the yellow trail to the blue trail.”

….except there WAS no blue trail. The path turned where his map said it would, but not only were there no blaze markings, there was a couple of “Trail abandoned” signs as well as a “There is no bridge when you get the end” sign. Still, we went on.

….and got lost.

Have you been lost in the mountains at 6am?

No?

It isn’t a spectacular feeling.

We had a rough estimate of where we were GEOGRAPHICALLY, but that was all. Unmarked trails, trails that vanished completely, forks in the path that nobody could explain, and not another living soul in sight, we pressed on hoping to find something that we could relate to on the map. It was to the point where we decided that if we kept a river to our left and headed downstream with the trail, it would have to come out SOMEWHERE….trouble was, we couldn’t even identify what river it was. At one point, while we were crossing a small stream, I slipped and banged my knee on a rock. It hurt like hell- and still does.

Onward.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, we find a sign. “The Garden” – the parking lot we’d been aiming for. Quite by accident it seems we had found what we wanted. Then we got to the river crossing, and were quickly reminded of the “No Bridge” sign we’d seen. We began looking for a place to rock-hop, but by this time, I was so beaten, wet, muddy, and tired, I said “Screw it” and waded across the swift water to the other side.

20150621_072707We crossed the river, and promptly lost the trail. Well….no, not exactly.
Erik’s map said that we should be going right, but the trail went left. Nothing went right. He insisted that something had to be there, so we brush-beat for ten minutes looking for the trail that didn’t exist. Eventually, we took the one to the left, which- lo and behold…..bent back to the right. There MIGHT have been some grumbling from the troops at this point.

A single sign said “The Garden, .5 Miles.” We headed down the trail, it being now just before 8am. We were soaked. We were sore, we were unrested, we were surly….AND we had a 4 mile walk on the road before we got back to the cars. Erik told us “There’s sometimes a shuttle that runs from The Garden” but we discounted this as a possibility, simply because of the way the rest of the trip had gone.

Eriks’s pace is a lot faster than ours, so we were still slogging down the trail when I hear him yell. He’d made the parking lot. Huzzah.

Not ONLY that…but there was a friggin shuttle bus there!

The bus didn’t usually go back to where we were parked, but after we offered the driver an extra $20 atop of the ticket fees, his tune changed, and he happily trucked us the 4 miles, dropping us off within a hundred feet of where our cars were gloriously parked.

I got back into cell range and checked my FitBit:

IMG_20150621_164417The above numbers are for Saturday. My trepidation regarding FitBit’s accuracy has been quelled, since we roughly estimated exactly the same distance based on maps and trail markers.

I got home around noon and spent the rest of Father’s Day playing with the boys and fighting off the urge to nap. I racked out around 9PM and woke once with Mini-Me at 4:40 when he started calling “Hello? Hello!” into his monitor, thinking it was morning.

I got up for good at 7:30, and start the usual schedule all over again this afternoon. I go to work tonight still not knowing what the future holds for me, but better equipped to deal with it, since I spent nearly two days worrying about the physical torment I was putting myself through, not slipping and dying on wet mud and rocks, grumbling about the constant assurance that the next leg of our trip was “Only about a mile” up the trail, and not work. The trip was stressful as well as painful, but nothing like work and real life has been. The distraction of the trail I think are what I needed, and I think I’ll be able to take what comes next, or at least keep my head in the game while at work and not make any bonehead mistakes or decisions.

So…..here we go. Monday. The morning is quiet as I sip coffee and watch Mini-Me disassemble his breakfast. In a few hours, I’ll gear up and get back into the swing of things, hopefully refreshed, reset, and ready.

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