Bagging the Adirondack 46ers: Part I
When I was eleven, I hiked my first Adirondack High Peak with Dad. I have vague recollections of the experience, including a carsick induced haze from crossing the Appalachian Gap, tromping across crunchy autumn leaves, and seemingly endless rocks, roots, and slabs.
Since my parents’ divorce three years earlier, Dad had been making regular journeys from Vermont to New York to tackle the Adirondack “46ers” during weekends we spent with Mom. Mountains were nothing new to the family. I’d been raised hiking the Green Mountains of Vermont, and scampering the peaks of Acadia in Maine each summer. But these mountains were something altogether foreign.
Dad’s tales of iron rungs and exposed ledges, combined with the sheer scale of the Adirondacks, created a heady blend of fear and allure. To be part of this adventure felt tantamount to being let in the inner circle.
There are 46 High Peaks in the Adirondacks (a.k.a. ADKs) of New York, nearly all standing at 4,000+ ft. How you hike the 46ers is a choose-your-own-adventure. Some peaks require a down-and-back hike, while others can be done in a loop. Bagging peaks can be done in a collection of day hikes or with any combination of car camping, backpacking, base camping, and/or accessing the cabins and lodges within the Adirondack Park. Ascending all of the High Peaks earns one the title of a “46er,” a feat less than 10,000 people have conquered to date.
Dad continued to peck away at the 46ers until moving to southern Vermont and ultimately to Maine. By 2002, he had twenty peaks under his belt. This past fall, in 2015, Dad visited me in Burlington, Vermont. On his final morning in town, we walked along Lake Champlain’s waterfront en route to breakfast. Gazing across the placid water, Dad spoke wistfully to the behemoth mountains he had not visited for thirteen years, “Those 46ers…they’re still a bucket list item.”
In that moment, I let go of plans for undertaking the Colorado Trail the following summer to snag hold of this rare opportunity: sharing the mountains with Dad once more. By the time we devoured breakfast, we’d concocted a scheme. As educators, summer vacation would provide the perfect opportunity for me to hike the twenty peaks Dad had already done and, together, we could summit the final twenty-six.
Where weeks used to pass between exchanges during the busy school year, a flurry of emails and texts became the norm. We spent winter break huddled together next to the fireplace with guidebooks, maps, and trip reports splayed across the floor while we sipped on Adirondack beers. A quick spring trip to Maine solidified our itinerary, including booking a combination of stays at campgrounds, a B&B, and two nights at the coveted Johns Brook Loj.
Since completing the Appalachian Trail in 2013, I have taken to the mountains each summer to tackle shorter long distance hikes. My annual 3-4 week pilgrimages on the trail are essential for recharging my battery, for allowing time to slow once more, and for reconnecting fully with my center and surroundings.
In 2015, knowing how much the trail had done for me, I was inspired to raise money so that others too could benefit from my hike. On the John Muir Trail, I raised over $2100 for a nonprofit organization called Hike for Mental Health, whose proceeds go toward research/prevention/intervention for mental health illnesses, as well as helping to maintain and protect trail systems.
This summer, while taking on the 46ers, I am teaming up with Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports. Their mission is to make outdoor sports and recreation, be it skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing, biking, etc., accessible and available to all people with disabilities. What could be more important than making sure that the outdoor world I hold so near and dear to my heart is open to everyone? I’m humbled and proud to be representing VT Adaptive, continuing to share their incredible work with others.
On Memorial Day weekend, Dad and I drove back to the Adirondacks for the first time together in over a decade. Stay tuned for monthly installments filled with tales of our exploits, gratuitous amounts of pictures, and a haiku for each day!
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