Adirondacks 2.0

This past weekend I went for the second time to the Adirondacks in New York State. I went last year with a group of friends and probably talked about it too much because my friends Vikkie and Rachel had it in their minds that I should take them there this summer. We went with the same group of girls who did a canoe trip together last summer: Vikkie, Rachel, Jacky, and myself. Because I had been there before I had the fun job of selecting where to camp and what hiking paths to take. I decided that Wilmington Notch was probably the cheapest place to camp and selected trails that were described as being challenging but still okay for “out of shape” hikers. I didn’t really know what that meant but I decided we could try it out and change plans if necessary. We drove down on Friday and had smooth sailing the entire way. We even had time to stop in Kingston for a nice lunch on the water followed by ice cream. I was a bit anxious about crossing the border because I had to travel on my dutch passport because my Canadian one was in processing for a Congolese Visa. I have discovered that being a dual citizen has its benefits! For the first time ever we had to pull over at the border crossing and I had to go inside to fill out papers for a Visa waiver. Luckily there was no border wait and we were on the road again in no time.

On Saturday we hiked Giant Mountain, the 12th highest peak in the Adirondacks. We took the primary trail from Chapel Pond and it was six miles (9.7km) round-trip that took us seven hours. The ascent began right from the car until the summit and we found it quite challenging. The first part of the path was very rocky with a steep ascent where we often had to grab on nearby rocks and trees to pull ourselves up. The first view we got looked down on what we thought was the “Giant’s Washbowl” that looked like it had a beach and road access. From that point on we dreamt of swimming in the refreshing water after the hike! We later discovered that it was actually Chapel pond that we were seeing, just a step away from where the van was parked! The second portion of the path had long stretches of slanted rock face that opened up to continuous views. It was kind of cool to get the same view again and again, but each time higher. Eventually we couldn’t see the pond or road anymore but could see above and then further beyond the adjacent peaks. The trail was busy and at the top we joined a substantial group of people who were chilling and enjoying the view over lunch. It turns out that outdoorsy people are also dog people because I’m convinced there were more dogs on the mountain than people. The descent felt much faster than the ascent but by the time we were done our muscles were exhausted. I think that this first day was bit of a revelation for us of what climbing a mountain actually takes! Even though we were tired nothing would stop us from a refreshing swim after the hike. It was beautiful to swim surrounded by the trees and hills and felt amazing to let our limbs be weightless for a time. Getting out of the water after was a bit difficult! Even though we probably could have turned in early, we decided that camping wasn’t camping without a cold beer (Leffe to be precise), a fire, and some smores.

The ascent

The first view


Pano from Giant Mountain

On Sunday we woke up even earlier because I had planned an even longer hike that needed an earlier start. We were very stiff and sore but even though I offered the suggestion of doing something easier, the others didn’t want to give in and so off we went to conquer mountain number two. We hiked Algonquin Peak that is indeed the second highest peak in the Adirondacks. Even though we had done a previous day of hiking, the ascent felt quite fast. We all agreed that we thought the second day was easier, even though we learned later that the climb has a higher level of difficulty. My theory is that we just toughened up as time went on! On the way up Algonquin there is a side route that leads to Wright Peak, the 15th highest peak. Since it was only 0.4 miles out of the way we decided to go for it and aim to summit both. It took longer and required more energy than we thought, but the top was worth it! Unlike Giant that was limited to a view in one direction, the top of Wright was bald and had 360 degree views. Another thing that was awesome is that we were completely alone except for one guy who was chilling out a ways from the summit. The only problem about ascending Wright was that we saw Algonquin looming large and far in the distance. Some doubts passed through our minds of whether we had the energy to get there. We had summited a peak and that was good enough, right? Nope. We had to go for it or we knew we would regret it later. So off we went. We descended Wright (which thankfully felt fast) and began the last 0.9 mile ascent of Algonquin. The climb became much more technical by that point with very steep sections of rock, but somehow we made it! The top of Algonquin was much busier with people and so we were glad we had time alone on Wright. The views on Algonquin were even more spectacular and we chatted for a while with a ranger who told us a bit more about some of the rare alpine plants that grow on a few of the tallest peaks. The descent felt loooooong, especially the final few kilometers that had felt so fast that morning. In total we hiked 9 miles (15km) in 9 hours. It was dusk by the time we approached the car. The parking for hikers was nearby the Adirondack Loj and so we decided to check it out. We discovered that the Loj was on a lake with a private swimming area. Even though we weren’t supposed to, we went swimming there anyways. Afterwards we parked on an empty campsite and prepared a dinner of pasta since it was our plan to go check out Lake Placid without stopping first at our campsite. In town we wandered the main street and explored several interesting shops. We didn’t last as long as we thought we would and were almost stumbling down the street. We went to the campsite and went straight to bed.


Pano from Wright Peak

Arctic Vegetation

Group shot

Even though we intended to sleep in, some obnoxious birds woke us up early. We took the morning nice and slow though. By late-morning we packed up camp and headed to our final destination – Whiteface Mountain – the 5th highest peak that actually has access to the summit by car and elevator. It was fun to play tourist even though it cost thirty dollars to get in. The access road wound its way up the mountain and parking was a single row along the road after a cull-de-sac. From there we had the option of either taking the elevator up the final 27 stories or taking a curated trail up to the summit. We took the trail that had magnificent views the whole way. The top of Whiteface was flooded with people. We saw that there were still hikers who had come up on foot and joined the crowd at the top. I got talking to a Belgian woman who had driven up with her grandkids and were waiting to meet up with their parents who were hiking up to meet them. We also coincidently ran into the man we had met on the top of Wright Peak. We descended by the elevator so that we could experience the tunnel. You could tell the elevator and tunnel were old and the tunnel was very chilly. On our drive back down the mountain we pulled over at an overlook with a picnic table and enjoyed a final lunch of noodle soup. We sat four in a row on one side of the picnic table so that we could eat and enjoy the view. From there we began the long drive back home. We arrived at the border quite quickly and of course I didn’t even have to get out of the car this time. Thanks Canada for making me feel welcome (although they didn’t stamp my passport :P)! Unfortunately we got stuck in quite a bit of traffic on the 401 because of construction and didn’t make it home until almost midnight. We stopped for dinner at a pub we knew had a Monday night wings special and had to stumble into the restaurant after sitting so long in the van!

Tourists on Whiteface

Noodle soup with a view

Pano from Whiteface

It was a fantastic trip and am glad I got to visit the Adirondacks for a second time. The running joke now is that I might as well be a 46-er since I have 5 peaks down already :P.I prayed for our safety several times and am thankful we succeeded without injury beyond general soreness. The thing I really liked about climbing the peaks was that it was impossible to think of anything else but the next step ahead. All attention had to be on what stone to step on next or what tree to hold on to and so I didn’t have time to be anxious about my thesis or upcoming trip. My muscles were refreshed by the physical challenge and my mind and spirit by focusing on the present and enjoying the mountain air and glorious views of God’s creation. Pictures are compliments of Vikkie and Jacky! :D

Some funny memories (Rachel, Vikkie, and Jacky you have to help me add to this):

– While stuck in traffic I told the others that I felt like running alongside the car for a while kind of like a Chinese red-light. Turns out they didn’t know what it was and so we preceded to look it up in the urban dictionary to prove I wasn’t making things up.

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