Saturday, July 1, 2017

Lyme escape -- Mount Van Hoevenberg!

(Virginia on the summit of Mount Van Hoevenberg)
I knew that I was fortunate, having a clear-cut, rather than a vague, case of lyme disease.  I had the obvious bull's-eye rash, fever, headache, stiff neck -- no question that antibiotics would come my way.  I had one bad week, lingering fatigue, and not much else.

(The trail began through tall pines and low fern)

Still, I think it's okay to wallow in self-pity for a brief period, and I was very disappointed to have had to cancel all my hiking plans.  Meredith and I had four days scheduled to hike in New Hampshire, a new adventure for us, and I had been excited about another year of time together on the trail.  In addition, I had offered a women's backpacking trip into the high peaks, through the Adirondack Mountain Club.  I emailed my participants telling them that I would not be able to muster the high level of energy necessary for a backpack trip into demanding terrain.

(a wilderness pond made by a beaver dam, with Mt. Van Hoevenberg in the background)

As I felt better each day, I hatched a plan.  I would head north after my weekly trip to see my parents in Saratoga Springs, stay at the Keene Valley Hostel, and hike a very do-able hike the following day, returning to Albany before dinner.  I hung onto this idea and intended to make it happen rain or shine.  My environmental side felt a pang of guilt about driving a long distance with just one person, me, in the car, but I threw this off.  Getting to the mountains seemed a necessary part of my recovery.

(If all these berry bushes had had berries on them, I might have had some ursine companions!)

I love the Keene Valley Hostel.  It's well-kept, a hiker's retreat, and cheap.  I cooked my spaghetti dinner in the hostel's kitchen and went for a walk in the rain. In the 13-person bunk room, I chose the only top bunk.  The top offers privacy, and the light there was better for reading. Despite my fondness for the hostel, I don't sleep well. The room was nearly full and there were a couple of light snorers.

( Had I really thought I might not have classic Adirondack black mud on this hike?)

I was up and dressed by 6:15, and the sun shone.  A couple of other people were already having their breakfast when I arrived in the kitchen. 

(the trail begins its ascent)

I chose to hike Mount Van Hoevenberg, reported to have fabulous views of the peaks from a rocky summit.  For my first outdoor getaway in weeks, I thought the 4.4 miles round-trip with 750 feet of elevation gain, would provide a modest adventure that I felt up to at this point.

(This panorama greeted me as I arrived at the rocky summit)

I parked on the South Meadow Road, with no other cars in sight.  I knew that just 3/10ths of a mile away, the Adirondak Loj parking lot would be overflowing.  Not here.

The forecast predicted that sunny hours would only last until early afternoon, when rain would return.  I hit the trail by 8 a.m., and felt like an escapee.  I reveled in the solitude, woodsy aromas, and bird song.

(Mount Colden above the marshy South Meadow)

The first half-mile was fairly flat in woods edged by ferns between towering pines.  The mud hit as I arrived at an old beaver pond, and the ascent began.

(I watched the clouds lift off Mount Marcy, to the left)

With the temperature hovering around 60 degrees, I knew I had lucked out with the morning's weather on this day.

I began to think that the summit was near when the trail suddenly opened from a forested needle-covered path to open rock and an astounding view. A panorama of peaks from Gothics, across the Great Range, and to the ski jumps in Lake Placid, surpassed the descriptions I had read.

(Aren't these fir trees fascinating with their thin blue cones standing upright?)

Many people who hike the 46 Adirondack High Peaks, as Meredith and I had, leave the lesser mountains "for another time."  Today was one of those "other times."  Even at my relaxed pace, the hike had taken only an hour and 15 minutes.

(Gothics Mountain with its forbidding slides.)

Two overlooks offered variations on the same scene.  I chose one and spent the next hour there.  I took pictures, had a snack, compared my map to the mountains I could see in front of me, reminisced about being on the summits, and just sat, soaking it all in.

(I love summits that have white birches, weathered by wind and storms)

I was picking up my gear to leave, when the first people I had seen all day arrived.  A young couple from Chicago, trying to snatch a quick hike before leaving the area, joined me in expounding on the weather, the view, and the day. Then they were gone.

As I headed back towards the wooded trail, I turned around to remember how I had first seen the panorama when the trail opened from the forest.  I stood for a moment, and then walked back to the overlook, once again taking in the view of these mountains, that I loved and knew so well, for a final time before leaving.

(A last look before beginning the descent)

The hour-long descent went quickly.  I thought about when I would hike this trail again.  Maybe friends would snowshoe here with me.  I imagined the view of all those peaks in deep winter.

Five people passed me, as clouds began to roll in.  I arrived at my car and a few sprinkles fell.  I took my time heading home, stopping at other favorite spots along the way.  And I was home by dinnertime.

(the return on this serene path)


  1. I hope somebody had dinner waiting for you. You must have been tired, recovering from Lyme as you were. Thanks for taking us on this climb with you and showing us the magnificent views.

  2. Keene. My old stomping ground. but, alas, I knew the diners with best coffee better than the trails. However, as a bird watcher, some of my best discoveries were found on the stretch between the interstate and Lake Placid, not so far from where you were. Glad you are back on the trail.