It is three o’clock in the morning when my alarm wakes me. I turn on the stereo in the living room and turn up the volume. Alex is awake before the first song is over. Matt sleeps a little longer, but we are out the door and on the road by three-thirty.
The full moon is still out, but so are the deer, and the trip to the trailhead takes almost two hours. We are the first in the parking lot, but as we sign the trail register two large SUVs arrive. We start our hike to Allen Mountain just as dawn is breaking.
The hike is long. A little more than twenty miles. We start by crossing the Hudson River walking around the shores of small lakes and along and then across the Opalescent River. These trails are easy.
At five and one-half miles the herd path starts and with a little over a mile to go we start the steep climb up and along Allen Brook. We climb until the water stops. Then climb along exposed rock formed after a landslide. Then climb some more. It is very hard work, and the rocks and roots are slippery today.
Today the climb is loud. The SUVs were packed with three families just starting a week’s vacation. They are ten, each apparently given a number. We hear yells behind us of “count off” followed by different voices shouting ten different numbers. Before long they are spread out along the trail. The older kids hike fast and pass us, chatting about the upcoming school year. Another group, slightly younger but trying hard to keep up, pass us too, but they are soon exhausted. They let us go around them but repeatedly yell to their vanguard demanding to know if they are at the top yet. The older ones, sitting at the summit, refused to answer.
We reach the top just before noon but do not stay long. We know it will take us just as long to get down as it has to get up.
And it does.