It's been a minute. Let's get caught up.
Not much is new with me. All caught up? Good. Oh wait. One thing. First new Tool album in 13 years! Musical highlight of my summer.
For real, I feel the same as everyone else. I’ve seen the memes. Summer is Dis. Ap. Pearing. It’s bullshit, yeah. I feel like I’ve had the busiest summer of my life and in a blink it’s freakin’ September already. It’s been a bunch of weeks since I’ve checked in on the blog, because it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve done any hiking. And man, did I need it. Not just for my sanity and to itch the scratch. But because I’ve been eating like a monster and not exercising for the entirety of August. Leading in to this week, I was thankful to have bought a new lightweight backpack, allowing me to pack lighter. Because this summer gut is definitely heavier packed than it was in May or June.
I would’ve felt bad that we left at 5am just one day after Lauren’s birthday. But anyone who knows her, or heard her on the radio last week, knows that we celebrated her birthday for like a week. Or more. It’s one of my favorite things about her, to be honest. I find it hilarious. Anyway. This time around, maybe she was dreading another two nights without me, but she wasn’t as sad as previous overnight trips. We had so much fun at Wood Brothers Brewery and at The Glengarian Pub for the Questionable Comedian show, I think the fact that I was disappearing in to the mountains for a couple days was neatly tucked away in the back of both of our brains. But finally the morning came. Joel was bringing along a new friend, Dave. From the moment Dave stepped out of the car, he looked like a hiker. Ball cap, flanel, sexy leg muscles. You know how we do. You could tell this was gonna be an easy couple of days. The plan was to hit four more Adirondack High Peaks. The initial plan was to hike Monday and Wednesday, but frequent weather checks on the way clearly showed Wednesday was going to pee-pee rain down. Monday, Tuesday it was. Back to back days. Same thing happened last time when Joel made a wrong turn and made me climb Marcy by accident. Right?? Remember when it was all Joel’s fault and not my fault at all that we climbed Marcy by accident…..No??? Anybody?
The Smiths and The Terminators
The best part about being on this end of the keyboard, is that I get to decide exactly how much I’m allowed to talk about poop.
If you’d prefer to skip the next paragraph, I understand. I’ll even leave a link to a 13 hour audiobook of one of my faves, A Tale Of Two Cities, here for you to distract yourself. Then come back and jump paragraphs. Or, keep reading on. It’s like a choose your own adventure blog. “If you’d like the poop story, keep reading. If you’re normal and not fecally concerned, skip ahead.” Some of my favorite kind of books, choose your own adventure. Shout out to the Central Public School library in my grade two years. And grade eight years, who am I kidding.
Lemme tell you, until the parking lot on Monday morning, I had never seen a porta potty – yep, had to Google if one word or two – almost completely full up and so full of nightmares. Like, the previous soft serve that had been gifted, was a perfect Dairy Queen swirly cone and was nearly at the top of the bowl touching mine own. And thankfully we always pack our own TP, because there was none in there. I only now realize that I should’ve taken a picture. Be glad I didn’t, I suppose.
Anyhow, if you’re still here, it was gross. But, better than diggin’ a hole on the trail I suppose. Anyhow, anyhow (cuz I already anyway’d once in this paragraph), let’s get this show on the road. Day one was bringing with it Mt. Colvin and Blake Peak. It was about 23km and was gonna take us between 8.5 and 10 hours. Joel and I like to stop a lot and take photos. Plus I was allowing for additional gut carrying time.
The way up was typical Adirondack terrain. Lots of tree roots that sneak out of the ground, tripping you up and causing the best kind of four letter words to spew. Like Ouch or Ahhh.
Oh, I totally forgot this until now, for real and I don’t want to forget to write about it. That’s why I’m interupting myself writing. Up until about a week ago, I hadn’t even heard that summer song, “Old Town Road”. Oh my god, is it horrible. Nonetheless, I heard it once about a week before our hike. Thanks, Panda. And the whole morning on the way to Mt Colvin, I kept thinking “I’m gonna riiiiide til I can’t no more” and I couldn’t place where the hell those lyrics were coming from. Until I came home and heard it again. Since it’s so terrible, but stays in your head, I’m gonna share it right here:
It hurts my head. Word is I know some folks at the radio station. I’ll see what I can do. But back to the hike. The trek up Colvin was pretty standard. Dave was a champion. He hasn’t hiked a High Peak in over ten years, but he moved like he did it every day. He skis the ADKs a lot with his family. Stacey, if you’re reading this, this guy really loves you a lot. Even with a stranger, you get to know a guy pretty quickly over 50km in two days. He talks about you and your kids with such pride and love, it’s no wonder you guys have been together since high school.
Joel and I were about on par with our normal pace. Soon enough we hit the peak of Mt. Colvin. This was #17 for me, #11 for Joel and #13 for Dave. I didn’t have anything special planned for #17, but I know this number has a big significance to Lauren. Her dad, Barry, passed away at only 48 years old when Lauren was a teenager. His football jersey was #17, it was the date he married my mother-in-law, Kathy, and it was also the date he passed away. This number has loomed over our relationship since forever. Not in a bad way, but, in a way that I just glance at her and know that she’s smiling whenever it comes up. So I had a moment on the peak of Colvin to think about her and silently acknowledge the beautiful view I was experiencing on this one, the Lauren Smith mountain. It was just us three and a couple of Cheerio-eating teenagers up top. They quickly took off towards Blake peak – and that’s when the silence ended. The Terminators had shown up. I call them that because these dudes were trying to pack 24 High Peaks in to just five days. The guy in the orange shirt, just last year, had completed all 46 High Peaks in just a bit over 7 days. These guys were absolute machines.
My quiet moment thinking about my wife was over. But these three guys from Philly – names we did not get – were just hilarious. And they could not have reminded me of my two brothers-in-law, Ian and Tyler, any more. Because Tyler lives out in Calgary, he’s only here at home once a year. When you see him and Ian in a room together, it’s constant chirping each other. One-upping each other. In nearly nine years, I’ve yet to see either one concede to the other that maybe at (insert activity here), you’re better than me. From Nintendo games to golf to small menial tasks, these two are hilarious every moment they’re together. You can see this camaraderie in Ian when he’s around his long time buddies too. I think it’s my favorite thing about him. He (and Tyler) are infectious to be around. And that’s what these Terminator guys were like. From the moment they stepped on the summit, it was like we’d been friends our whole lives. They were so congratulatory for our own accomplishments, so hyper about their own, so chatty and so down to Earth. I thought it was super ironic that in a moment when I’m thinking about Lauren and the whole Smith clan, and the bond that they all share, that these particular guys joined me on a mountain and reminded me exactly of my family. The guy in the hat photo’d above asked us to take their photo and without missing a beat, I demanded he take his pants off. We laughed so hard for nearly twenty minutes with these guys. Thinking back on it, I think they’ll remember the interaction for a good long time like I will. And the way they reminded me of Ian and Tyler, makes me think now about something Lauren always used to say: we would never have gotten married if Barry were alive. He had never “met an intelligent person with tattoos” as she puts it. I think, after all these years, I would’ve won him over. Times have changed and I am pretty awesome. I think Ian and Tyler and Kathy would’ve had a say in it too, so I think I’m good. Smith clan, #17 was for you. It was such a great experience for me and I thought about each of you up there. Terminators, there’s only a snowball’s chance in Hell you’ll ever read this (not only did we not introduce, I didn’t even mention the blog. Mountain air…..), but you made our Colvin summit experience so much fun, so thanks for that!
The trip to Blake Peak (3970ft), my 18th High Peak was honestly pretty uneventful. We’d heard that this trek was steep with limited views at the end. This is true. I guess that’s why it’s written on the internets. Still, we pushed, tagged the summit. I took a photo of Joel peeing. I will sell this photo for $50. We had a quick snack and headed allllll the way back down the mountains. The best part of both of these two day hikes is that the beginning and end is about 5km along a dirt road. So flat ground. Still, Dave and Joel’s feet were on fire as we approached 22km. We soaked our feet in a little stream near the end of the day. There were some fish. We’d learn the next morning that they are some kind of trout. I forget the exact name the dude told us. But he seemed to know his stuff, so who am I to doubt him.
We hit up the store to get our stash of snacks for the night, firewood…and a really big, tall can of Michelob Ultra. Set up camp. Started fire. Boiled water for our dehydrated meals. Yawn.
Twenty High Peaks, Y'All
Waking up, we were simultaneously excited to grab two more peaks and dreading the footsteps in between. I think each of the three of us joked about taking breaks within 15 minutes of starting. The trail was the same 5km dirt road in, so at least we had an easy start and finish to the day. On the agenda for Tuesday was Nippletop Mountain and Dial Mountain. I was initially going to write this whole blog trying to sneak in a ton of boob jokes. But I wasn’t in the mood for it. So….TITTIES. Yeah, it’s called Nippletop. I wonder if it’s named after the image of the ideal nipple according to the person who named it or what. All nipples are different. From the ground, all summits look almost the same. Whatever.
Towards the summit, we followed, then traded placed with Heather & David. A married couple from Atlanta, they own a summer property in the ADKs. Nippletop was their 15th High Peak. David was a little dizzy and we were worried about him after we left on our way to Dial Mountain. But all these folks were super fun to share the summit with. Dave mentioned that Nippletop is now his #1 favorite High Peak in terms of views. He’s hard to disagree with. It was unreal up there. Just mountains for days. I’m not even sure photos can do it justice, but I’ll try.
After a great lunch, great views, great friends, it was time to leave my 19th summit and head across the way to the next, and last, mountain of the trip. The trail that day was a loop, unlike the out and back from yesterday. A loop is a loop. Up one side, down the other. An out and back is a trail where you turn around and head back down the same way you came. That was all probably self-explanatory. But I figured I’d throw it in there. So, we’d heard that the loop trail we were on could go one of two ways. Which you chose was up to you. Really hard, but shorter, on the way up with an easier, steady downhill. Or an easier, but longer way up, with the hard steep part at the end. We’d chosen to get the hard stuff out of the way first thing in the morning, so now heading over to Dial Mountain was pretty easy, relatively speaking. There was some major downhill towards the end, but the path between mountains was relatively flat and easy terrain. We’d heard and read online that Dial didn’t much of a view at all…..
About 8 hours in, with a two-plus hour hike back to the car ahead of us, it was this point when all of our feet started really screaming at us. We were approaching 50km in two days. We each took turns leading that pack down the mountain. We’d talked so much over the last couple days about getting Donnelly’s ice cream and our newest patches on Wednesday morning on our way home. But I think we were all getting pretty eager to get home. In the end, we all came to the conclusion that heading home that night was the better option regardless of the fact that we wouldn’t be home until about 10pm. We’d miss out on ice cream and patches. We’d been hiking since 8am, we still had to break our camp down and then drive. Instead of just sleeping at the campsite and heading home in the morning. This is how you could tell how sore our feet were becoming. We craved comfort above everything. I got about 4 seconds worth of cell service to let Lauren and Dave’s wife Stacey know that we’d be home that night instead. By the time I was settled on my couch, it was about 10:30pm and Skip The Dishes was a godsend. I ordered up $40 worth of Dominos (McDs was closed). And I ate almost all of it. Plus two Cokes. Speaking of McD’s, Dave mentioned on trail that it has been about 22 years since he had McD’s, ever since he was on the receiving end of a hot-sauced-up cheeseburger in one particular drive thru prank. I was really trying to get him to break that streak and eat some Quarter Pounders on the way home. He has willpower like I do not, he wouldn’t budge. I on the other hand have literally just texted Lauren to ask for a Quarter Pounder on her way home while I finish writing and editing this thing.
Lauren was super happy I was home early. I can’t tell you how happy, this is a PG-13 type blog. I was happy to be home, now at 20 High Peaks. The plan is now to hopefully finish the year off at 23, exactly halfway to my goal. Once I do that, we’re gonna focus on getting Johnny Mountaintop caught up to me towards the end of this season and early in to next season. Then him and I are gonna knock em out together all the way to our finish in 2021 on Mt. Skylight.
I really have nothing left to write. But I’ve still got three photos in this folder that were meant to be shared. So I’ll just leave those below. Thanks for reading. I’ll catch up with you all soon. We’ve got a Rookie Hike scheduled for next Saturday and a Big Brothers Big Sisters hike shortly after that. I’m also gonna sneak in a hike up Mount Jo with my friend Loni that we’ve been looking forward to all summer. Photos from all of that coming soon.