Tuesday, July 20
as at least some of you know, i was backpacking recently in our old stomping grounds in the high peaks. it was a really fun trip (aren't they all?) and brought back lots of memories of you guys. although actually it was all new trails and peaks for me. and it ended up being somewhat shorter than originally planned.
we (= me, my college friend ben, my cousin bobby, and his girlfriend jeannine) started at elk lake, which is off 28N in the southernmost part of the high peaks, and hiked in something like 5.7 miles the first day (not counting a not-unappreciable distance on the wrong trail at first, because we left from the trailhead at the parking lot rather than across the street from the parking lot, as clearly indicated in the guidebook…) to share a site with some boys from a local camp.
the second day was quite a bit more trying - we followed a ridge (including two peaks, colvin and blake, although the best views were from the lower, and hence misnamed, pinnacle) that was only about seven miles but ended up being a lot of seemingly interminable up-and-down, and much more devilishly steep than i had anticipated. that, combined with some blister problems, slowed us down a good deal, and together with the fact that we'd gotten a fairly late start, meant that we were still around .5 from our goal campsite when we decided to give up and camp by the side of the trail in the face of some intense rain (which, thankfully, didn't start until we were on our last, albeit fairly treacherous - it's kind of amazing what passes for trails there - descent) and impending darkness. worse, we were almost out of water because there had been none on the ridge (the book said there would be some brooks, but they were basically dried up at that point in the summer.) i went off to find the stream that was pretty nearby on the map, but there was no good way of getting down to it, so i ended up just collecting water from the puddles that were forming on the trail. and the trusty filter-pump had broken that day. but fortunately we had potable-aqua iodine tablets. so the water was drinkable, despite was brown and full of floaters - many of which we were able to get rid of by filtering the water through bobby's t-shirt (as he proudly reminded us, the same shirt he'd been sweating in all day. but whatever.) lemonade mix helped too. the rain let up for just long enough for me to prepare my famous peanut noodle sauce, which we ate, circumspectly, in the tent (we only set up one of our two, using the other one's fly as a groundcloth), when it started pouring again.
i suppose you could say that was a pretty miserable night, and i appreciate the relatively small amount of complaining that went on compared to what it could have been (especially since two of our number were basically backpacking neophytes) but it really didn't bother me at all. i don't know, i think that's part of what i perversely love about being in the backcountry; subjecting myself to substantially physically stressful and uncomfortable situations and relishing the fact that i'm still fundamentally 'okay' in spite of it all. as well as the ridiculousness of some of it. and, most of all, that my mental processes and occupations when i'm out there are so far removed from everything else in my life (which, by the way, are pretty much all up in the air right now.)
and, of course, the beautifulness. which was even better the next day. it started out a bit grey and bleak, and there was briefly some talk of taking the 4+ mile hike out to the parking lot where we'd shuttled a second car, which was what bobby and jeannine were doing so that he could drive her to her flight out of albany and then come back and rejoin us, but ben and i went with the original plan instead, which was a magnificent nine mile hike including two peaks (nippletop and dial - which brings my total up to 22, almost halfway; we met some kids on top of nippletop who were serious peakbaggers - one of them, who was probably twelve years old, said he already had 37. by the way, we hadn't seen a single other person the previous day.), some lovely ponds at elk pass, and gorgeous views of the great range and ausable valley from the exposed shoulder of noonmark mountain, in an area which suffered some severe fire damage five years ago and is now full to bursting with green saplings, and the weather improved throughout the day. at the end of it we had to walk out through the ritzy ausable club, which was kind of surreal, being dirty and sweaty and walking past the manicured golf course and beautiful adirondack-style country club architecture.
there we met up with bobby, who was feeling very sick, apparently food-poisoned by a bad can of oysters he'd just eaten. because of that and our tired feet, we scrapped the original plan of continuing on to a new campsite for another two-and-a-half days of hiking (i was still in favor of doing that, it didn't make a lot of sense at that point.) instead we returned to my grandmother's cottage on saranac and spent a few lazy days recovering, playing a lot of bridge, going to see spiderman (disappointing) in placid, swimming and boating, and only made it out again a few days later, for a short hike up mount goodnow near newcomb, which has pretty nice views from a fire tower.
a few days later, we went for a canoe trip on raquette, with my parents and an uncle, which was in dramatic contrast to our intense few days of backpacking. for some reason, we only did about seven miles, or hardly more than three hours, of paddling each day. we read a lot, played cards, made fires, jumped off rope swings, dawdled until eleven or so and got into camp at three or four (the second night in a big state-maintained site with lawns and stone fireplaces.) it was kind of preposterously luxurious. so, still really fun, but in a different way…