7-28-17 – 7-31-17
A good friend of mine who is also a pastor joined me for this trip. He is now serving a church in Arizona, and felt that it was time for him to experience some altitude change. While it had been some decades since his last backpacking excursion, he felt up for the adventure.
Day 1 – Livingston Lean-To
For a very obvious reason I am going to call my friend The Photographer. He had no less then 7lbs of camera gear with him for this trip including a real nifty gadget that allowed him to attach his camera on his belt like a gun in a holster.
Obviously I take picture on my trips, but it is with my humble iPhone and nothing more. He had some very nice gear – lenses, filters, tripod, etc. and was looking for great pictures. I had not realized how much time is added when one is not only stopping to take a picture, but when one has an eye for color, composition, lighting, and the like. The pace of hiking was much slower than I was used to. So much slower that we didn’t get to the lean-to until about 9:00pm. While it was on the late side for me, I have to admit that I did enjoy eating dinner under the stars – and there were many, multitudes of stars.
Day 2 – Algonquin and Iroquois
Considering how long it has been since The Photographer had last been strapped with a pack on his back we decided that we would take it easy. He would climb one mountain, Algonquin, and I would climb two. Iroquois is an easy hop, skip, and jump from Algonquin (don’t be fooled, one still has to climb down and then up a bump and then down again and then up one more time before getting to Iroquois).
We had a good start and things began to slow down. I have been in the mountains for 7 trips now and I think my body is starting to get used to the climbing that is required in the Adirondacks. Which means I forget how hard it can be for the individual who has not been in the mountains before. The Photographer had a difficult time. He kept crying out that the landscape in Arizona was nothing like the Adirondacks, that Arizona was a much gentler and kinder place than upstate New York. But we kept going.
After a while we decided that I should go ahead and climb the two mountains and he would continue at the pace he felt would be best. If I met him at the top of Algonquin, then that would be great. If I met him on my way down then he would turn around and follow. So I made my way up the path and first towards Iroquois.
One of the great things about climbing mountains in the Adirondacks is that at a certain point you can turn around and see how high up you are:
As I mentioned earlier, I actually had to go down a bit on my way to Iroquois, including a traverse through what seemed to be a swamp at a very high altitude:
But eventually I found myself at the top of Iroquois Mountain:
At the top I continued my prayers with the Hopevale Martyr Jennie Clare Adams:
Let me serve faithfully; content with work to do, whatever life may bring, in service others well, thus do I serve my King. May I not weary grow, when tasks seem burdensome, nor turn aside distraught, before life’s work is done. As others served – proved true, let me be faithful too.
My vocation is the way in which I have answered the call to serve, and yet there are times when I wonder if I am serving faithfully. I wonder if I am working hard enough. I was reminded then that it is not about working hard enough, but about being faithful which requires trust. This is almost harder to do, but that seems to be a big part of being on sabbatical.
Back down and up and down again and then to start my climb up Algonquin. This is the second highest peak in NY and very popular. I saw many people stopping and resting on the way up, including a group of hikers arguing about the strongest form of “bending” from the Anime series “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” Of course the nerd/geek in me could not be kept back from joining in.
Being the second highest peak meant that there would be many great views from Algonquin, but I didn’t take any. Just one of the geological marker for the top and one of me with the marker in very bad light. It was too bad that The Photographer was not there to help me get a better picture.
The prayer was another part of the poem by Jennie Clare Adams:
Let me witness clearly, that be my sacred call, in Christ to live and move, for him to give my all. To him all glory be, my glory but his cross, except to live for him, I count my life but loss. As others witness clear and true, so may I witness too.
At the end of this whole journey I will have some bragging rights – 46 mountains in one summer. But this prayer reminded me that all the glory should go to Christ. This is something I am going to have to sit with for a while.
On my way down the mountain, before going below the tree-line I ran into (not literally) The Photographer. At that point, so close to the summit, I told him that he had to keep going, and I joined him up to the top again of Algonquin. We met another group of people who had some medicinal drink of celebration and I felt The Photographer earned it!
Now the journey down. Usually I employ the Sabbath “tuck-and-roll” method to go down a mountain, but with The Photographer I felt the more traditional “one-foot-in-front-of-the-other” method was more fitting. While the lungs do not burn as much with the descent, the legs are getting more of a workout with each step and it took us a while. It took us a long while. There comes a point when the body does not want to go any further, and if we could hop into a car and drive the rest of the way that would be fine. But our camp was still a ways to go and to The Photographer’s credit, despite his body’s multiple protests, he kept going. It was 11:00pm when we arrived at the lean-to. The Photographer went right to bed, and I enjoyed another meal under the stars.
As difficult as it was, I know that The Photographer was thankful he climbed Algonquin (he told me so two days later, after the initial trauma subsided), and I am inspired by the inner strength he found to make the journey.
Day 3 – Allen Mountain
I woke up at 5:30am. Something is very wrong with me.
The Photographer and I decided the night before that it would be best for him to take a “zero” day – meaning no hiking at all – after his adventure the day before. I had not planned on climbing any more mountains this trip, but knew that I would go stir crazy if I stayed at the lean-to all day, so I decided to try to climb the elusive Allen.
Avid followers of my journeys will remember that I had tried to climb Allen with StillWaters before and got very, very lost. This experience was still somewhat fresh, and with some anxiety I ventured down the trail to the lone mountain.
I was looking for the trail junction when the “herd path” to Allen broke off from the marked trail. About three hours into my hike I met some other hikers who had done the mountain the day before and asked how much further I had to go before reaching the trail to Allen. “You are already on the trail to Allen.” Was this some kind of trick? Was I on some kind of bewitched trail that moved and changed without my knowledge or awareness? I continued forward.
About two more hours later I came upon a small waterfall that many trail guides have said is at the base of the mountain. I found it and all I needed to do now was to go up.
While Allen is not one of the highest mountains, having to hike for so long and then start at such a low elevation makes it a difficult mountain to climb. It was tough. And, Allen was not done toying with me. On my way up a rockslide I stopped to enjoy the views of how high I had gotten
I then went to the right, following what I was sure was the herd path (It was later that I realized that I should have gone to the left). The trail got smaller and smaller, the trees became thicker and thicker, and it was not long before I realized that once again I was not on the established trail. Yet this time I was going up and that was hopeful. From atop a large bolder I could see the actual peak of Allen, muttered some choice words, took a compass setting, and started to push my way through the branches towards the actual top.
I am not usually a vindictive man. I am not usually angry at things, especially mountains, because they do not have agency, desire, or freewill. But when I finally reached the top and saw the sign that indicated as much, some hand gestures were made towards that sign.
With that out of my system I sat down to prayer the last of the group from Jennie Clare Adams:
Let me die heroically, steadfast in faith and calm, when that great day is near, knowing no hour of dread, feeling no anxious fear; for death is but a door, closed tight on pain and strife, a door that opens up that we may enter life. As heroes die still brave and true let me die too.
Here I am complaining about a difficult mountain to climb and then I read a prayer from someone who actually died for Christ. It was the humbling prayer that I needed.
The hike back went very well (albeit long). I realized that the place with the arrows was the mysterious junction that I was looking for:
And I enjoyed a nice stop at Hanging Spear Falls – the highest waterfall in the Adirondacks
I managed to get back before supper to witness The Photographer resting, writing, and having his camera take a picture of the sun every 10 seconds. I will never understand the art and craft of photography. I went for a swim, took some pictures of our eating area from afar, and the family of geese that enjoyed the same area that I had enjoyed so much this summer.
As we ate supper I reflected that I have now hiked 40 peaks and had only 6 left. I am starting to feel a little sad at the idea of this whole journey coming to a close.
Day 4 – Home
The hike out went very well. The Photographer was in a much better place physically – a much needed rest can make a lot of difference. I am reminded that we all hike at different paces, in our own ways. I am also reminded that the people you hike with will shape and influence the ways in which you will experience a mountain. I am grateful for the presence of The Photographer and the ways in which he helped me to experience the mountains on this trip.
While we may hike to different drummers (apologizes to Thoreau), we are still hiking together and can resent or celebrate the relationships and the community that can be found on the way.