The Adirondack Mountains of New York never fail to enchant. Whether balmy and sunny or inclement and ominous, this range of rugged peaks, countless lakes, and endless forests begs to be explored and enjoyed. When a complete escape from the city’s frenetic nature is the goal, it’s to these lands of the Great North that I set my sights on….
I’m always amazed by the amount of trees present within the Adirondack Park. No sooner than you penetrate its southern boundary, a stone’s throw away from Lake George, you’re smacked in the face by a veil of green that extends out into the horizon, seemingly un-interrupted. The Adirondack Northway becomes a mainline shot into a realm of pine, hardwoods, fir and spruce. The aroma at times can be quite intoxicating….
The New York metropolitan area disgusts me more times than not. I think about the endless pavement, the turnpikes, parkways, potholes, anxiety, and daily grind and how fortunate I’ve been to be able to seek refuge and re-charge in places like the “Dacks”. I wish I could bring others with me. I wish I could take kids from the projects, street blocks, and war zones of the inner city with me, to sit along the placid shoreline of a mountain lake or near one of the region’s many waterfalls. Close enough to feel the spray….
This is rugged country. This is the epitome of what we call, “Upstate New York”. It’s an outdoor enthusiast’s dream come true. Fishing, hunting, hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, skiing, or lake hopping. If you can think of an activity that takes place in the great out-of-doors, the Adirondacks has it and in abundance. This is why I’m able to justify hauling my half asleep ass out of bed to make the four and a half hour trip from North Jersey. Returning on the same day is a bit insane but you can tolerate it when you know that paradise is sitting lovely, waiting for you at the end of that drive….
Cascade mountain in the High Peaks district of the park was my trip’s objective last weekend. After a beautiful hike along a trail that traversed bare hardwood forest and slopes of deep snow, I was granted entry into the sub-alpine zone. The zone of Balsam Fir, Red Spruce, and Paper Birch. Remnants of the great Northern forests that existed long ago and that represent a transitional area on mountainsides between valley and alpine summits. Reaching the top of Cascade, I was instantly buffeted by wind gusts of up to fifty miles per hour! It was as though the mountain was yelling at me, “GET THE FUCK OFF. NOW”!!!!!
With every step I fought my way through the last bit of trail to the summit. I managed a couple of photographs, a quick video, and a moment of the briefest reflection. I turned around and made a drunken beeline back down to the protective embrace of the Balsam Firs. It felt great upon exiting the chaos of the wind torn summit. I felt accomplished, proud of myself and my ability to survive in such extremes, and I felt ALIVE….
The mountains care not about your presence but one thing is for sure, they have an uncanny ability to make you feel whole again. One foot in front of the other, mile after mile, your experience becomes distilled. Only the most essential of your human needs remain. And if you don’t answer to their call, you perish….
I stopped at Chapel Pond with a cappuccino in hand after descending back down to the car and the relative stillness of the lowlands. It’s hard to imagine that in the summer, this gorgeous little body of water that was now frozen solid, becomes the perfect spot to go for a swim. Instead of a refreshing dip, I was treated to a natural skating rink framed by the lower cliffs of Giant Mountain. Cliffs streaked by narrow curtains of ice, some becoming cascades of water during the warmer days of spring….
My Adirondack tour was over. I sipped my coffee, gazed at my sublime surroundings one last time, and headed south, satisfied but a bit sad. It’s never easy leaving these mountains behind. There’s magic up here. Driving back to the city, I thought about my return….