6-23-17 – 6-27-17
Not only was this my first solo trip, but it was also my first (and hopefully last) bear encounter. Normally, when one runs into a bear in the ADK it is not too big of a deal, they don’t like us (we don’t taste so good) and move on pretty quickly. That is unless you encounter a bear family, i.e. mamma and child. As the cover picture shows, I experienced the family fun experience. Hooray?
Day 1 -
I got an early start onto the trail into what is known as the Adirondack Mountain Reserve – a privately owned land that allows hikers to pass through. There was a dissonant feeling walking by a golf course and tennis courts with a full pack and heading into the mountains. The gate made me feel as if I was entering into a magical, Elven-type land
This was the first trip where I was going to be staying in my tent and not in a lean-to
Sawteeth Mountain -
After setting up the tent I headed off to Sawteeth Mountain – called because of the various bumps on the way up the mountain that give it a particular profile. There were a could of nice views on the way to the mountain, but then the rain came in and the views were completely lacking on the peak.
I still took time to pray even as the wind blew and the rain fell:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
- St. Francis of Assisi
In the midst of the wind and the rain, in what felt like horrible weather, this prayer of St. Francis had a stronger presence in my heart and mind. For a moment I felt a sense of peace.
I decided to take what is called the “scenic” route down the mountain – adding about 1.5 more miles but offering the opportunities for more views.
Things were beginning to get beginning to get better. The rain stopped, there were some views, and I was making good time to get back to camp. And then… I ran into the bear family.
For those who do not know, Black Bears are usually skittish and do not like to be around people, except for a mother with her cub. I saw the cub first scampering up a tree. It caught me by surprise and I could not see the mother at all. Afraid that I had inadvertently gotten in-between the cub and the mother, I blew my whistle (always hike with a whistle) to see if I could alarm and maybe scare away the mother and cub. The mother emerged from some rocks and then stood and stared at me. She stomped her foot and huffed and would not run away. This was not good. I blew my whistle again and she started to slowly move towards me. I slowly backed away and she followed. At this moment it would be appropriate to interject a flurry of curse words that I could not contain. After about 100 feet the mother stopped following me and turned back to her cub. This artist’s renderinggives a good sense of the moment:
With the bear(s) in my path I had no other choice but to bushwhack deep into the woods, up the mountain, and make a wide berth around the bears. So I wouldn’t surprise any more bears I started reciting poetry out-loud. I started with T. S. Eliot’s Prufrock when another bear showed up and requested Robert Frost. This was too much. I would not stoop to such a cheap cliché of reciting Robert Frost in the woods. The bear left disappointed.
I eventually made it back to my camp, had dinner, and went to bed.
The good news overnight was that my tent withstands a strong rainstorm very well and everything was dry. The bad news was that it poured all night.
Day 2 - The Colvin Range
The next morning I was able to enjoy breakfast in the rain. By enjoy I mean kept a stoic face while eating my oatmeal and dripping wet. It was still raining as I started my hike for the day. It was my hope to climb and enjoy four peaks this day, but the rain did not bode well.
Something happened on the way to Dial Mountain. The sun was beginning to come out. Yet the winds were still blowing hard, threatening to take me off the mountain.
The prayer for this peak was another one from St. Francis:
Most high, glorious God, enlighten the darkness of our minds. Give us a right faith, a firm hope, and a perfect charity, so that we may always and in all things act according to your holy will.
On the way to the peak I met a veteran hiker who I told about my bear encounter. “How exciting! What a wonderful adventure for you!” was what he said. I was not yet at the place where I could say that it was wonderful, but it was exciting.
Please, no jokes about the name of this mountain.
Something really weird happened on the top of this mountain; the sun came out!
I took advantage of the moment to have lunch and let my boots and socks dry out a bit. A number of “casual hikers” showed up at this time carrying no less then 2 dozen water bottles (screw the earth), and bananas, and complaining about the mud. Someone asked if the other trails were as muddy, and I said no – they all have either slate, paved trails or wood chips along the way. I wonder if they realized I was kidding.
Continuing with my Francis prayers:
God, all powerful, most holy sublime ruler of all, you alone are good – supremely, fully, completely good, may we render to you all praise, all honor, and all blessing; may we always ascribe to you alone everything that is Good!
As I struggle through rain and mud and insects, it is significant to be reminded that everything created by God is indeed Good!
This mountain offered some more good views which for some reason I did not take any pictures of. All I have is the geological marker:
The prayer from Francis seemed to be just a different translation of the prayer I read atop Dial, but it offered a good, different perspective:
Most high, glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart and give me Lord, a correct faith, a certain hope, a perfect charity, sense and knowledge, so that I may carry out your holy and true command.
The last mountain for the day was the least significant. The peak had no views (as you can see), and the bugs were aplenty.
It was at this peak where I had the great, famous canticle from St. Francis:
Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord,
All praise is Yours, all glory, all honour and all blessings.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.
Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour,
Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
And fair and stormy, all weather's moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.
Praised be You my Lord through Sister Water,
So useful, humble, precious and pure.
Praised be You my Lord through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night
and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You my Lord through our Sister,
who sustains and governs us,
producing varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.
Praise be You my Lord through those who grant pardon
for love of You and bear sickness and trial.
Blessed are those who endure in peace,
By You Most High, they will be crowned.
Praised be You, my Lord through Sister Death,
from whom no-one living can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will.
No second death can do them harm.
Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks,
And serve Him with great humility.
The day ended with a nice conversation with a college student I am going to call “Marathon Man,” because he started his hike at 4:30am and did at least 9 mountains in that day. Ah to be young and crazy.
Day 3 – Changing Camps
My plan for this day was to pack everything up, hike out to the car and drive to a different spot to set up a new camp. It was an early and easy hike out and in, back to Livingston Lean-to in The Flowed – I stayed there before with BabyBack.
I hadn’t planned on climbing any mountains, but the hiking went faster than I anticipated. So after having lunch, I got my day pack together, and decided to do a quick hike up Colden
When I say “quick hike,” I ask the reader to be aware that it was about 2.5 miles each way and was not an easy trail up or down. Even with the stairs.
The day was very nice and there were a number of great views on the way and at the top.
The prayer was from the 20th century pastor, theologian, and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer
O God, early in the morning I cry to you. Help me to pray and to concentrate my thoughts on you: I cannot do this alone. In me there is darkness, but with you there is light; I am lonely, but you do not leave me; I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help; I am restless, but with you there is peace. In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience; I do not understand your ways, but you know the way for me… restore me to liberty, and enable me so to live now that I may answer before you and before me. Lord, whatever this day may bring your name be praised.
I believe that this was the prayer he said/wrote on the day that he was executed. If he could have such an awareness of God when he was going to the gallows than I should be able to find something while in the mountains.
Day 4 –
It was a cold start this morning, hard to get out of the sleeping bag and get moving. But the morning views at breakfast were great:
The plan for the day was to climb two mountains:
This was a scenic path leading up a stream with some nice views at the top
The prayer was a more academic work by Thomas Aquinas
O Creator past all telling, you have appointed from the treasures of your wisdom the hierarchies of angels, disposing them in wondrous order above the bright heavens, and have so beautifully set out all parts of the universe. You we call the true fount of wisdom and the noble origin of all things. Be pleased to shed on the darkness of mind in which I was born, the twofold beam of your light and warmth to dispel my ignorance and sin. You make eloquent the tongues of children. Then instruct my speech and touch my lips with graciousness. Make me keen to understand, quick to learn, able to remember; make me delicate to interpret and ready to speak. Guide my going in and going forward, lead home my going forth. You are true God and true man, and live for ever and ever.
It is something to be able to write a prayer with this kind of spirituality and still hold to a high sense of theology.
Aptly named because of the cliffs one would have to climb to get to the summit. On the way I met one man with wings on his shoes and his partner who was going a little more slowly. They were both ultra-marathoners and were planning on climbing all 46 peaks in one week. I will call them the crazies.
While there were some views on the way up the mountain, there were no views at the top.
The prayer was another from the venerable Thomas Aquinas:
Give me, O Lord, a steadfast heart, which no unworthy affection may drag downwards; give me an unconquered heart, which no tribulation can wear out; give me an upright heart, which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside.
On the way down the mountain I was caught in a hailstorm and decided to call it a day after that cold and wet experience. Back at camp the sun came up, and I enjoyed dinner while watching a family of geese eat on the other side of the brook. This was a family time I could enjoy.
Day 5 –
Hiked out this day, having 24 peaks in total climbed – more than half way!