Not literally an ass kicking. That would've been like grade 2 or 3. And not since. Duh.
Confidence. Cockiness. And just plain old acting like a dingleberry. That’s the spectrum of how my own belief in myself sometimes makes me think I’m Superman – there is no belief that I can’t, no matter what it is. I’d knocked off two of the 46 High Peaks and while the hikes were challenging, I expected more of the same, for the most part, going forward. Wrong. Immediately wrong, I was. I think it was about 20 minutes in to my third hike that the physicality of these 46 High Peaks really showed me it was for real and I was going to have to level up. Lauren and I had continued our great eating habits and exercise throughout the summer, so I was in better shape than when I started. But this third Adirondack trip was my first hike that was scheduled to be more than 1 mountain in a day and I don’t think I was expecting everything this day would take out of me.
After gearing up and signing in at the Adirondack Loj trailhead (great place to stay with access to multiple trails: Adirondack Loj), I was ready for my third adventure in the Adirondacks. This time around, I hit up the trail with my buddy Zack and his two friends Phil and Luke. Zack’s a super guy – always positive, always encouraging – and totally in to being in shape. It was the first – and only – time I’d met Phil and Luke, but it was immediately clear that they knew what the hell they were doing when it came to hiking. Within maybe 20 minutes, Zack was learning the difference between weight lifting and the type of “being in shape” that some of these mountains demanded from you. I was pretty floored by the fact that he was having his ass handed to him so soon in to the hike, despite his own warnings that his cardio is terrible.
After eating some mushrooms we came across, we ran in to this lizard who told us he was from Newtington. I didn’t believe him. What are the chances there’s even a place called that?? Kidding. We did not eat these mushrooms. (Matthew McConaughey in my head: “It would be a whole lot cooler if you did…”). So the first couple of hours were slow with many breaks taken to allow Zack (and myself!) to realize the full scope of how difficult the day was going to be. The plan was to tag three High Peaks – Wright first, then over to Algonquin before finishing on Iroquois. We were only a couple hours in, having a lunch at the trail split and I was already worried that this would be the first trip where we had to turn back. Succeed as a team, fail as a team and all that. I was not looking forward to driving home without accomplishing that day’s goal. Somehow, with no ability to keep food and water down, Zack found a second (third, fourth, fifth) wind. Up first was Wright Peak. Photos may not do it justice, but the climb looked like a motherfucker.
It ended up being easier than we anticipated. Phil, clearly a hiking champion, did the whole thing with his hands in his pockets. Luke made it look easy too. After exploring for a few minutes, the four of us were standing at the top of our first peak – #3 of 46, here I is! I fully expected at this point that we were done for the day, but the lunch and calories mustv’e given everyone some needed gas. Not like farts in the wind, fuel for our bodies. Zack was proving to be one tough son of a gun. I was adrenalined up, ready to go. Back to the trail split and ready for peaks two and three for the day. At this point, we picked up two more hikers. A female teacher and bodybuilder from Massena and a lone, hungover hiker dude from New York somewhere a few hours away. I forget both of their names. Natasha and Sean maybe. It could just as likely be Frodo and Sam tho. She (Natasha?) was in wicked shape and was speedy enough to keep us company at the lead of the pack. He (Sean?) was pacing himself well enough to keep Zack company heading up the rear of the group. It was also at this trail split that we realized there was also a fourth mountain – Boundary, not one of my 46 quest – between Algonquin and Iroquois. I feel like at this point there was no deterring us. Everyone was hiking with someone at their own pace, we were having a great time and one extra mountain wasn’t getting in the way or our goal. There’s no way I’m not winning.
I think Wright Peak mentally and physically prepared us for the rest of the day. In hindsight, I think Algonquin was pretty tough, but I also feel like I didn’t notice the super crazy winds, the sore legs, the heavy backpack or anything the rest of the day. I was tuned right in like old rabbit ears. On top of Algonquin, we hid behind whatever large boulders could keep us from the wind and sprinkles of rain until the whole group had made the summit, including our two new hikers. A few folks mistakenly told us that Iroquois was only 15 minutes away. They must’ve climbed Boundary without knowing. Algonquin Peak is the second highest of the 46 High Peaks at 5115 feet. This was the highest I’d climbed so far. The wind was not very awesome and I’m sure some sun would’ve made for great views, but being right in the clouds made for it’s own kind of moment.
Algonquin to Boundary and Boundary to Iroquois ended up being a bit of a rough go. We weren’t actually whacking our way through bush (there’s a joke to be had here, I’m sure of it.), but the trail was very steep and had trees packed so tightly, it was single-file moving for most of the 45 minute trek. We didn’t stay on Boundary long, the wind was becoming so misery-inducing, I thought Kathy Bates might be behind it. Everyone was still moving well tho, so on to the next. The trip to Iroquois was starting to dictate how the rest of the day would go. Silence. Everyone was just focused on tagging the peak and beginning our journey back.
After tagging my fifth High Peak, I was done for the day. I think at this point I became pretty miserable company. My knees were super sore, I was running out of water to the point that I almost drank from a not-so-clean-looking source. I just wanted to be back at the car. I think it was around the time that the rain started coming down harder that everyone just kinda started doing their own thing. Phil was chillin listening to a podcast like the super-athlete he is. Luke was doing well too, but mostly keeping to himself. Our speedy teacher friend bolted way ahead so she could finish and get home. Zack and the cool, chatty New Yorker were still following behind. Some of the descent was really rough and tough – slips, slides, falls, butt-rides down some bare rocks. Finally, my head down, my focus as tunnel-visioned as I can ever remember being, we made it back to the car. It was about 19km round trip and I was already feeling everything. I ate my weight in McDonald’s before driving home about 3 hours later than we had anticipated. Cascade and Porter were fun challenges, but Wright/Algonquin/Iroquois was the first time the mountains kicked my ass. Three more High Peaks well earned. And only one thing left to do tonight…..