Archives For August 2014

2014-08-30 17.34.32

The two of us left Baltimore early Friday and had just crossed into Pennsylvania when my phone alerted with a text message. A quick stop was followed by a quick phone call and a quick change of plans. We circled back and after a short stop for coffee the three of us were back on our way to the Baseball Hall of Fame and then on to Lake Placid.

The next morning we started the hike a bit later than planned. The parking lot at The Garden trailhead was full so we parked at Marcy Field, five miles away, and took the local bus to our starting point. The driver stressed that the last bus back would leave at 7:00 PM, “sharp ’cause I’m not waiting.”

We signed the trail register and started our hike to Big Slide by way of The Brothers. We would hike nearly ten miles before the day was finished, ascending 2800 feet to the summit of Big Slide, which at 4,290 feet is 27th in the order of height of the 46 high peaks I hope to climb over the next four years.

2014-08-31 08.05.09

The weather was perfect and everything we saw was beautiful. We stopped two hundred yards from the trailhead to watch a young deer as she slowly crossed the trail in front of us. We paused at every overlook, sometimes to enjoy a sandwich, others to share cheese and apples, and still others just for quiet contemplation. We taught her how to use a compass and how to orient a map. She picked most of the routes up the rocks and we followed.

2014-08-30 13.40.28

We met interesting people along the trails and at the overlooks. A couple from Montreal was just finishing a hot lunch and shared stories of their other hikes together. As we approached the summit, we paused to let a family pass us by, the pre-teen boys descending with abandon and using saplings to break their falls and slow their descents. Their sisters were a little older, but just as courageous. At the summit it seemed that everyone there had some connection or another to Indiana.

We finished the food we brought, took some pictures and headed back by way of a trail along Slide Mountain Brook which we crisscrossed several times hopping from rock to rock to keep dry.

With four miles left we heard the same laughter and shouting we had heard earlier and knew we were coming upon the boys and girls we had watched scamper down from the summit a few hours before. They had found a natural water slide and were taking turns gliding along its moss-covered rocks into the pool of very cold water at its bottom. We were tired and very short on time but stopped anyway. We emptied our pockets, placed our packs in a dry place and for fifteen minutes became young again.

We hustled back to the trailhead and made it in time for the last shuttle bus. We had spent the day to the fullest, not compelled to rush away from the beauty we were experiencing and had even played in a water slide and still made it back in time.

Which goes to show that sometimes you just need to forget about the schedule, take time to enjoy beauty and turn around for a friend.

2014-08-30 15.38.59

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August 28, 2014 — 3 Comments

2014-09-13 16.28.53

My brother lives in the house where I grew up and when we were younger we used to throw the football to each other along the driveway that cuts through the back yard.

I always wanted to play football but never was good enough. When I played catch with others I dropped more passes than I caught. But when the two of us played along that driveway it was different. He knew just the right touch to apply to the ball and whatever he threw to me I could catch. We would run imaginary pass plays from the time we finished our homework until our mother called us in for dinner.

He would later play high school football after I left for college and I often wondered what it would have been like, had there not been a difference in age and in skill, to have played as brothers on the same football team.

Last week his two oldest sons did just that, starting at quarterback and receiver. I was unable to make it to the game but listened to the local radio station’s play-by-play over the Internet while in Chicago. I marveled while listening at how well Tommy and Alex seemed to play together. Although constantly under pressure and close to being sacked, Tommy always seemed to get the pass off in time and to find a wide open Alex for a completion and good gain. Their team lost that night but not before Tommy set a new school record for passes attempted. Alex caught 8 of those passes for 80 yards, one reception short of another school record.

Alex played both offense and defense and late in the third quarter was slow getting up from the turf after blocking a pass thrown into the end zone. I would learn later that Alex injured his kidney during that play and would spend the next several days recovering from surgery in the hospital. He is fine now and expected to make a full recovery but will not play football again this season.

I am typing this while seated at the kitchen table in the house where I grew up. Tommy has already left and in a little while Alex and I will make our way to the field and watch this year’s Homecoming game from the stands. And while I regret that I never got to see Alex and Tommy play together, I know that Tommy will play his heart out tonight, that Alex has many great games ahead of him and that they will always have the driveway.

2014-09-13 17.45.29

Alone in the woods

August 17, 2014 — Leave a comment

2014-08-17 11.27.49

It’s 56° and there’s a light rain as I drive from Lake Placid into the Keene Valley to begin today’s hike to Porter and Cascade Mountains, two of the forty-six high peaks I hope to summit in the next four years. The conditions are not great but if I’m going to complete this journey in time for the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the 46ers I’m going to need to hike in all conditions.

I have probably over-packed for today’s hike, a vestige from my Boy Scout days. I am carrying three liters of water in a Camelback, the pockets of which I have stuffed with a space blanket, emergency sleeping bag, signaling mirror, first aid kit, map, guidebook, flint and a survival knife. I am also carrying two sandwiches, some fruit and the compass pictured above.

I start at 7:20 AM from the Marcy Field parking area and climb first to Blueberry Mountain and then on to Porter and Cascade before returning to the parking lot. I am alone today and will hike for thirteen miles, not seeing another person for eleven of those miles.

The trail to Blueberry Mountain is very steep at the beginning but the mountaintop offers wonderful views of the fog lifting from the valley below. The trail is well-marked with yellow trail markers and stone cairns placed strategically across the rock outcroppings where there are no trees.

2014-08-17 09.19.52

While following the line of cairns atop Blueberry Mountain I came upon some stones made into the shape of a heart. The moss growing on the stones tells me they have been here for sometime. As I head on to Porter I wonder about the story behind the heart on top of the mountain and begin thinking about a backpacking trip I took in the Adirondacks with John and Jerry in the late fall of our senior year of high school.

At the time I had a terrible crush on a girl in our class. We’d become friends that summer and spent a wonderful day taking her younger sister on all the amusement rides at that year’s State Fair just before school began. I never mustered the courage to tell her how I felt about her and our relationship never went any further. Just before leaving for the trip I learned that she was going steady with the captain of the basketball team.

I was heartbroken and not very good company to John and Jerry. With John, though, a bad mood never lasts long. While he had no great words of wisdom he just knew how to make you feel better and when we walked out from the woods three days later I was ready to move on from the heartbreak.

Jerry died of cancer at age 41 and I remember how devastated his son JT was at the funeral. Later that spring John organized the first of many annual trips to South Carolina to take JT golfing and visit with Jerry’s parents. Over the years I watched JT grow into the amazing person he is today and marveled again at how John knew how to say and do just the right things to help JT deal with the tragic loss of his father.

As I finish today’s hike I realize that I have never known a more dedicated and caring friend than John. So while I’ll never learn the true story behind the heart made out of stones I came upon in the Adirondacks today, I will choose to remember it as a symbol of the love shown by John to a friend who left us too soon.

2014-08-17 09.18.12

Trails to Porter and Cascade

Trails to Porter and Cascade

Next weekend I hope to climb two of the Adirondack’s forty-six high peaks, Porter Mountain (4059 feet, order of height 38) and Cascade Mountain (4098 feet, order of height 36). I’ll be guided on my journey to become a 46’r by the 14th edition of the Adirondack Mountain Club’s amazing book, High Peaks Trails, and the topographic map that accompanies the book and illustrates the trails to each of the high peaks.

Porter Mountain is named for Noah Porter, Ph.D., the president of Yale University from 1871 to 1886. He was a summer resident of the Keene Valley and made the first recorded ascent of the peak in 1875 with renowned guide Ed Phelps.

Cascade Mountain is one of the most popular high peaks hikes because it is easily accessible from a trailhead on Route 86, number 90 above, and has a bald summit that affords spectacular views of the area’s other high peaks as well as the Champlain Valley to the east. The mountain was originally called Long Pond Mountain but later renamed Cascade Mountain for the steep and beautiful waterfall that cascades down the mountain into the two lakes below.

There are three trails to Porter and Cascade mountains. I have chosen the trail to Porter Mountain from Marcy Airfield by way of the Ridge Trail, number 17 above. High Peaks Trails notes that “there is some steep climbing in the lower sections, but the variety of views makes it worthwhile.” I’ll let you know whether I agree next week.

2014-08-09 13.53.49