Vipin and I spent hours researching possible destinations for a weekend of backpacking, hiking, and camping. We settled on the Adirondacks and a hike to the summit of Mt. Marcy, the highest point in New York State.
We rented a car, bought dry goods, drove 5 hours (250 miles), and rented a 'bear-proof food canister'. Arriving late Friday, we hiked 2 miles from the Heart Lake Adirondack lodge, and quickly set up camp at sundown. That night we drank all our beer celebrating friendship and nature.
We woke up late, probably because of our beverage choice, and began hiking with our full pack of gear and supplies up a 6-mile trail to the summit of Mt. Marcy. Our path first wove steadily upward alongside a rocky stream. Mid-way we passed over Indian Falls, a bare bald mottled bulbous rock with a stream-cut path over it and a 200-foot waterfall.
It was a lovely hike, and the weather was sunny but not oppressively hot. Other hikers were abundant, and many passed us because we were one of the only folk carrying our full equipment load. One group of hikers brought their pet dogs, and amazingly the pets seemed to do better than their owners.
We summited Mt. Marcy around 3:30pm. Just one hour earlier we could see the people crowded on top and the sky was cloudy but beautiful. By the time we were on top, however, it was empty. The peak and ourselves were completely shrouded in a misty grey cloud. The mountain was living up to its Native American name "Tahawus", or "cloud-splitter" in Algonquin.
With low visibility and rain forecast, we quickly ate on the summit and then hiked down the backside of the mountain. As we descended below the cloud mist it began to rain on us. We wished we could stay in the cloud, above the rain, but it was late and we heard distant thunder. By 6pm we were tired, sore, and soaked to the bone wet on every piece of clothing and some of our bags and equipment.
The trail conditions were swampy, to say the least. Roots, rocks, and slippery mud were everywhere. The fastest we could go was about one and a half miles an hour. Overall, we hiked over 12 miles from campsite to campsite, up and down the mountain, from 11am to 8:30pm. As hard as it was, it was even more exhilarating and rewarding. We finally found a semi-dry campsite, laid a tarp and tent, dried off, warmed up, and ate dinner around 9:30pm, by flashlight, after dark.
Sunday morning we wanted to wake up at dawn to hike back to the car, but it was a dreary, rainy morning and we were exhausted from uncomfortable fitful sleep. When the rain finally stopped we emerged from our cocoon and packed up the wet clothes, tent, tarp, and began to crawl home.
This hike, although swampy and wet in many places, was much easier and more horizontal than the day before. It was also beautiful, stunning, and very enjoyable despite the wet kisses of every leafy branch and minor injuries from slippery rocks.
We walked along an alpine lake margin, through the boggy woods, across a bridge, and past idyllic streams. Then we passed through a narrow canyon with beautiful steep rock walls, a waterfall, and a narrow lake-filled interior. Avalanche Lake, not only phenomenally beautiful, is flanked by avalanche pass where skeletal birch tree trunks litter the whole ravine like a disaster zone.
Finally we crested a hilly woodland and knew we were less than 3 miles from our car. We picked up our pace and sang many silly songs with joy and enthusiasm even as our muscles spasm.
Luncheon at the dam near our first night's camp permitted us to reflect on the trip's successes. We had crested the highest peak in the state, exercised vigorously, eaten a purifying, natural diet, and had tons of fun! As we looked across the lake we were in awe at how it was now full, whereas two days prior it was a fordable, shallow mud flat. Some of that rain was still in my tent and clothes in my bag. We hiked the last miles toward the car and although more rain fell, the forest shielded us from most of the light afternoon shower.
Soon we were driving back: music blaring, shoes airing, eyes staring, and stomachs bearing a hunger for sugar and fat. After 3 days of eating fruits, nuts, and whole grains we gorged ourselves on a tasty double-scoop waffle cone when we got gas enroute to New York City. It was a wonderful weekend at the top of the empire.