Trip #1 – The Santanoni Range
And now… the first day of hiking in the Adirondack Mountains and the beginning of my journey towards climbing and praying on the top of all 46 High Peaks. On the Pentecost Sunday (read into that what you will) I enjoyed worship at the First Baptist Church of Worcester, a great lunch with a great pastor, and then meet my hiking partner for this trip – Still Waters (I will be using trail names throughout these writings to protect the innocent, or not-so-innocent). A long drive from Worcester, MA to the Adirondack Park (all 6 million acres of it) got us to the tail head at about 7:00pm. There is an unspoken ritual that happens with the first hike of the season. It starts as one purchases gear, packs and repacks, and tries to be a prepared as possible. Thoughts go back and forth to food, water, shelter, bears, weather, bears, clothing, and often in the litany of these concerns, the total weight of the pack is forgotten. Hence the ritual of putting on the pack for the first time and taking those first few hundred steps. Groans are expressed, leg muscles complain, and in one’s head the question is asked again and again, “why am I doing this.” It is a holy time when God’s name is invoked often.
It was not a difficult hike in, but there was one bridge that took a little skill to work around. I’m not sure if I would call it a working bridge, but perhaps instead an encouraging bridge, encouraging you to not fall into the waters.
Full of energy and pep and anticipation we headed off to experience the Santanoni mountains. Part of what sets these mountains (and some others) in the Adirondacks is that they are “trail-less peaks.” Don’t be impressed by the name; it is not as challenging as you might think. There are trails going up these mountains, but they are not labeled nor are they maintained. This means mud, lots and lots of mud. And the added bonus is that it was raining almost all day. And it was cold. This is what we call a great hiking day. With our daypacks and no expectation to see any sun Still Waters and I headed up the trail. Our hope was to hike all three and make it back in time for supper.
Times Square is the place on a ridge, among the Santanoni range where the trails for the three mountains diverged. It was our go-place to make sure that we were on the right track. I miss the prostitutes, dope-fiends and singing cowboys of the 1970s Times Square, but I guess it is now a more family-friendly place (if they can find their way).
Couchsachraga is a mean, cruel peak, teasing and tempting us all the way. With each pathetic view, with each moment that the clouds seemed to move out of the way we thought we saw the summit only to realize that it was a “bump” that we needed to go over (up and down). We may have only gone over two bumps, but it felt like at least ten. As if to add insult to injury, as we were nearing the actual summit the sun started to peak through. You may think that this would be a good thing, but of the three mountains we were going to climb this day, Couchsachraga had the least amount of vistas and views.
The prayer for Couchsachraga:
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. – The Jesus Prayer
Panther was where I wanted to have lunch. I say that I wanted to have lunch there because I knew that there were some nice places that would be in the sun, if the sun still existed. Just as we were nearing Times Square after experiencing all that Couchsachraga had to offer, the sun went away and the rain started to fall. Lunch was under tree cover to keep the crackers from getting soggy – it didn’t work.
So Panther was an after-lunch date; an easy hike from Times Square. Someone decided to leave rocks and lumber and such on top of the mountain – I wish they put it along the giant mud puddle right in the way of the summit.
Panther did not have a sign, but a marker telling us that we had indeed arrived.
Sitting on the rocks for prayer was wild as I watched the clouds move below me, above me, and right by me. The wind was strong and it was getting cold.
The prayer for Panther:
We come to you in penitence, confessing our sins: the vows we have forgotten, the opportunities we have let slip, the excuses whereby we have sought to deceive ourselves and you. Forgive us that we talk so much and are silent so seldom; that we are in such constant motion and are so rarely still; that we depend so implicitly on the effectiveness of our organizations and so little on the power of your Spirit. Teach us to wait upon you, that we may renew our strength, mount up with wings as eagles, run and not be weary, walk and not faint. – William Sloane Coffin, Jr., b. 1924
Finally was Santanoni, the namesake of the mountain range. It felt like Santanoni was trying to tease us in a way similar to Couchsagura, inviting us to descend into gullies and then ascend to a bump before descended again and then back up again. By this point the rain was steady and the temperature was in the low 50s. Not great hiking weather. But we made it.
The prayer for Santanoni:
God be in my head, and in my understanding; God be in my eyes, and in my looking; God be in my mouth, and in my speaking; God be in my heart, and in my thinking; God be at my end, and at my departing. – Book of Hours, 1514
The day ended with a tedious descent down the “express trail,” called so because it did not take the dangers of gravity into account – just go down. A good, warm supper ended the day but it continued to be cold and wet. Still Waters and I were cold and wet.
It was our first trip, and more specifically Still Waters’ first trip ever into the Adirondacks and he needed to make some mental, physical, and emotional adjustments. There is a difference between being uncomfortable and unsafe and it takes a bit to really get the difference (and it is not the same for every person). After a long day Still Waters asked if perhaps we could cut the trip a day short – I agreed. I was disappointed, but also realize that when hiking with others you need to be aware of how they are doing. There is probably a message in that about life and community and such. We packed our things and headed back to the car. I rained the entire way back and throughout the drive. Maybe it was a good decision.