Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Adirondack Whirlwind

(Linda stands on a bridge rebuilt since Hurricane Irene)

When my friend, Linda, and I spent a day hiking the West River Trail to Rainbow Falls in the Ausable Club Preserve, I lamented not spending more time in the Adirondacks.  "I'm homesick for the lakes," I told Linda.  "I'm not sure what I think I need," I added, "maybe I'm just wishing for old times when I camped with the kids."

In fact, I did wonder if I was in some sentimental place where I longed for those childhood years when Thomas and Meredith could hardly sleep because it was so exciting to be in a tent at Indian Lake. 

Linda and I had a refreshingly cool sunny day in the midst of a hot humid July.  "I want to see Rainbow Falls," she had said.  "Ron went there in the winter and it looked beautiful."

We quickly discovered that, despite the summer's drought, waterfalls, both large and small, tumbled over rocks along the entire trail.  Sometimes the trail ran alongside the water, and other times we were high above and could only hear the sounds of fast-running water.  We chatted as we walked through cool hemlock forests.
(Beaver Meadow Falls)
Occasionally we saw evidence of Hurricane Irene in rock piles along the brook's edge. Tumbled-down trees lay like match sticks here and there.  Still, serene beauty and silence made the tumult of last year seem very long ago.

( Beaver Meadow)

By the time we reached Rainbow Falls, we had begun to rate the beauty of the many cascades we had passed in our three-mile hike along the river.  The crown jewel of the trail, Rainbow Falls is huge and dramatic.  We had to tilt our heads back to see the top, but we decided that it was the trail as a whole with its great variety that really drew us.

(Rainbow Falls)

Although I had spoken as if I had no plans to spend time at an Adirondack lake, in fact, a group of us had organized a women's overnight at Lake Durant for the middle of August.  Little did I know that this was just the kick-start to what I later called my two-week Adirondack whirlwind. 

(Sharing some laughs at Lake Durant)

Last summer, I had tried to organize a Women's Camping Overnight through the Adirondack Mountain Club.  My friend, Claudia, was the only respondent and she and I had a great time at Lake Durant.  This year she took on the task of gathering friends and finding a site, while the rest of us contributed gear and food.  We had lots of laughs, told the best stories, were amused by being caught in a downpour in the middle of the lake while canoeing, and shared fabulous camaraderie.

(Lake Durant at evening from the campsite)

After we dried off from our drenching, we walked around the camp area scoping out sites we might consider for next year.  In the end, we said, "the one we're on is one of the nicest," and, even though we were only camping for about 24 hours, we all agreed that this should become an annual event.

I got home to more than 50 emails, but one caught my eye. Peter, a friend of my father's described a kayak outing he had been on with the Crooked Canes, a hiking group of retired people that my father belongs to.  The group had gone to Lens Lake in Stony Creek.  He offered to be a guide, if I wanted to go there.  I had been trying to think of a nice place for my father and me that wasn't too far from my parents' Saratoga home, and decided to take Peter up on his offer.

(My father and I kayaking on Lens Lake)

As my father's Alzheimer's progresses, trips like this are more complicated and I was glad to have Peter in charge. I also knew that my father would have even more fun with his good friend along. 

What a day!  Perfect weather, a calm lake with just a touch of Fall, great company, and a pair of herons flying in graceful swoops back and forth across the water. Although I expect to have many more small hikes with my father, I was reflective and grateful here, thinking that next year a kayak outing would probably no longer be possible.

In between my comings and goings, I spent a couple of days at home doing laundry, making dinners, and mowing the lawn.  I hoped my occasional touch downs would keep the place running while I was out playing.  Fortunately, Bill was not envious of my excursions as he came home from work to camping equipment drying across the clothesline and my detritus strewn about.  He was still reveling in our earlier outing to Vermont (see my previous post).

(Late afternoon at the Flowed Lands)
And then it was time for Meredith's and my annual High Peaks' backpacking trip.  We planned to conquer Cliff and Redfield, our 40th and 41st peaks. Since these peaks have unmarked trails and do not show up on hiking maps, I do lots of research so that I will feel safe heading into the woods.  We would backpack in 4 1/2 miles one day, hike the two mountains the second day, and backpack out the third day.  In all of my reading about trail conditions and hazards, somehow I had missed that our two-night camping spot at the Flowed Lands was a stunning location.  

(Our little tent nestled in the hemlocks at Flowed Lands)

In the evenings and mornings, we ate our meals on this rock, either watching the sun come up or go down. 
(Meredith at breakfast with our bear canister of food)
Not only had I not read about the beauty of the Flowed Lands, but I had had no idea that the summit of Redfield would offer this! Clearly, I had focused on things like finding the trailhead, or conquering the slippery bogs and treacherous rock cliffs on Cliff Mt. The advantage of my focus on the more dire aspects of the hike was that our jaws dropped when we stumbled upon gorgeous views.
(View from Redfield.  Meredith and I have walked the entire ridge in this view, one step at a time.)
I was surprised when, shortly after my hike with Meredith, Thomas called and asked me to join him at Indian Lake. 

(Thomas cooking marshmallows)

Unfortunately, he and Marlie had had plans for a few days there, but she could not get the time off from her new job.  Thomas said, "I still need to get away.  Would you want to go with me Saturday to Sunday?"

(early morning walk to a misty Lewey Lake)
He knew what my answer would be, although I did feel bad about Marlie missing out.

Thomas and I canoed to our favorite island in Indian Lake and swam, had a fire and s'mores, and hiked to Puffer Pond, just as we had over the nearly twenty years when Bill and I had brought the kids here for family vacations. 

I came home, put away the camping equipment, cleaned the mud off my hiking boots, and looked at all the beautiful pictures I had taken. It was time to get back into an at-home routine.  I could not play forever and responsibilities waited on the doorstep.

Just then my friend, June, called, "We're in the car on our way to Lake Placid.  Can you come up and go for a hike?  Plan to stay overnight."

June and Roger have a timeshare at Whiteface Lodge.  I had to shuffle a couple of things on my calendar but I didn't hesitate to say yes. This time, Bill would have enjoyed coming along but it was crunch time for him at The College of St. Rose.  I went up in the late afternoon.  Whiteface Lodge offers comfort and amenities antithetical to camping!  

(View of Whiteface in late-summer color, from the livingroom of our friends' timeshare)

June and I chose to hike Rooster Comb, a mountain whose trailhead is right off of route 73. Rooster Comb boasts one of the rare Adirondack Trails that was planned and laid out with switchbacks.  It is not your usual clamber-up-a-creekbed trail.  That does not mean it's easy, but very manageable with 6 miles round trip and 1700 feet of elevation gain.

(June dwarfed by tree roots on the trail)
We saw a few other hikers and ate our lunch on the open summit, admiring views to Giant Mt. in the east and Mt. Marcy farther away in the southwest.

(view of Giant Mt. near the summit of Rooster Comb)

Later that week, back in Albany, my friend, Linda, and I met for a walk in the neighborhood. She commented on my Adirondack whirlwind saying, "And you were feeling bad that you wouldn't have much time up north!"  Instead I had been near and far, with friends and family, every time in gorgeous weather. I had even had overnight trips with Thomas and Meredith.

Now I was ready to get some food in the house, dig up monstrous crabgrass that had invaded my garden, and talk to Bill!  I looked forward to my orchestra schedule resuming, and I knew that Sierra Club responsibilities would get more numerous with upcoming elections.  My plate would fill up, but, right now, it all looked good.