|(Virginia on the summit of Mount Van Hoevenberg)|
|(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)|