Hiking, Long-Distance Walking, USA
Comments 20

The Hiking Dead

So, where was I? So, where am I? So, where will I be? So many questions.

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Wedding location & Lake George, right, scene of our hike

But as for the first one, we’d done the wedding, and now, a few hours later, Dude & Trouble were still married and it looked like they were going to stay married. Midnight had come and gone, there’d been much kissing and hugging of friends and strangers, the first few lines of Auld Lang Syne were heartily attempted before the song quickly fizzled out, heart-shaped sparklers had been lit and waved around in the dark till they went the way of the song, while we crunched around in the snow outside the wedding cabins: a new year was underway and by God let’s hope it’s better than the last one…

My jetlag was blending nicely with my insomnia, euphoria, effects of various refreshments and a debilitating infatuation with the sister of the groom. My senses were deranged and intermingled like the contents of a very hastily and drunkenly loaded pack. You know what that’s like, right? When the thing you most need — in this case, clarity — is buried right at the bottom between the seven Snickers bars and the Dr Bonner’s? It was very, very, very cold, and I really should’ve laid down and rested. But there was one more complication.

See, D & T have this nutty tradition where they celebrate a new year by a) hiking a mountain before dawn and b) doing a “polar bear swim” — jumping in a frozen lake, thrashing about whilst pretending they’re having fun, ideally eating a seal or two. And like idiots several had committed to joining them. I was one of those idiots. Maybe some snow and hypothermia would aid clarity. We adjourned to our cabins sometime after 2:00 after swearing a solemn Hiker Oath that we would be up again for our excursion by 3:30. THREE THIRTY A.M.

So I grabbed two delicious baked items for extra sustenance from the seemingly bottomless stash of Wedding Cupcakes…

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..and took them into my room, Bunk 27, which was spacious and cold and woodsy…

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..and fulfilled all my essential girls’-camp bunkhouse criteria:

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Apparently “chill” & “rebel” can nowadays be used as adjectives!

Home, sweet home. Granite & Terrapin were snoring charmingly in the one double bed, and Fidget was giggling and muttering something incomprehensible in one of the other bunks.

I set my alarm and my cupcakes, perfectly aligned, on a ledge, and lay back in an insulating mound of clothing, replaying the movie in my head and concluding that it required subtitles. At 3:15 the alarm sounded, superfluously, and I sat up again, cursed D & T and their ridiculous traditions, and whispered the good news to Fidget. She giggled, muttered something that sounded like “$%?#! Dude and Trouble,” and made no movement.

“Fidget. FIDGET. Come on. We can’t let them down. They’re counting on us!

This worked. I left her fumbling about, giggling, singing, conversing with imaginary friends, while Granite & Terrapin continued to snore charmingly, and went out into the arctic night to rouse the others. Against all odds, after much stomping through snow, and many whispered exhortations, pleas and outright threats, we somehow assembled a party of nine. Just before we had crammed into Frog & Renee’s rented van I remembered something, ran back into Bunk 27, grabbed my cupcakes before Granite found them, and decided it would be the hikerly thing to do to share them with my team.

I’d demolished them both before I reached the van.

Jammed in there in the back, we rattled and bounced along a deserted backroad or two or seven and pulled up somewhere with a lot of snow and conifers. Everyone but me was surprisingly chipper. Most of them had snowshoes. I had spikes, but in my derangement had been unable to locate them in my duffel bag. We set off up into the woods and up the mountain, via a buried path like we were back in the High Sierra (but this time without the terror). With a few headlamps and the blush of pre-pre-pre-dawn through the treetops, there was light enough for me to land my boots in convenient footprints; only once did I step on someone’s snowshoe. Hypnotised by the rhythm of foot placement and the flapping heels of the walker in front, I let the minutes melt away while I tried and retried to mould my gelatinous recollections and impressions into a coherent whole.

So then she said…and I said…No, wait! Did she really say that? Of course she did. But when she said…No, wait! Go back! Was that before or after I said…? After…no, before! Well, that was a good sign, wasn’t it? Maybe she was just being friendly? I hate it when women are friendly…

We trudged upwards, stopping repeatedly to wait for stragglers or regroup for safety meetings. And at last we made the summit: Fifth Peak, and its beautiful little lean-to. What a relief; I shut out the futile blizzard of analysis and enjoyed my company:

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Fidget enjoys a joke with the voices in her head

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Time for a quick nap

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Fifth Peak Lean-To: a history lesson

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There were yet more sparklers. A hint of approaching dawn. My camera was a block of silver ice; fingers throbbed in agony when I bared them for a shot.

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Nemo & Trouble, their sparkle undiminished

A lovely Adirondack view:

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And our victory shot:

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The Nine

The descent was fast and fun — we had a lake to swim.

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But every time the topic came up, someone inexplicably changed it. We were starting to tire, and anyway we were all focused on breakfast.

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Escape from Fifth Peak

We found a diner; pancakes materialised, omelettes, gallons of coffee. I felt at home, at ease, and very, very good. But something was missing.

And then she walked in the door…

(This is my 200th post!)

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote

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20 Comments

  1. Such a contrast to your solitary series of adventures in Korea! Wow! 200 posts! You’ve got my attention (-:

    • Thanks, Am! Yep, and I’m really enjoying writing up such a fresh, positive series. 200 is a milestone I never thought I’d reach, that’s for sure. But the recent posts have come relatively painlessly!

    • Cheers, Josh. Really excited about exploring them in much greater depth over the coming years. 200 posts seemed to take forever. Let’s hope the next 800 come easier so I can retire from this game!

  2. 200? Wow, you’ve snuck them in under the radar! I didn’t think you had that many? Well ahead of me! Nice work hitting a snow covered hill whilst hammered! It’s a pity there wasn’t a frozen swim for a finale. Maybe next time…?

    • I suspect I wouldn’t be here typing this if I’d taken that swim, Greg. A human heart can only take so much!

      200 posts… Where’s my freaking statuette?!

    • The day they learn how to dip a seal in chocolate, you’ll read about it here, SW. Thanks for the congrats — your own prodigious output is something I can only dream of. I suspect the effort would prove fatal, though I must say recent posts have been easier for me.

    • Oops, sorry about that, Fidge! If it’s any consolation, they were most nutritious, and sneaky cupcakes are all the more delicious. Next wedding I’ll share ;).

  3. skavop says

    What a great post. I love reading about other people’s uncomfortably cold adventures while slumped warm and comfortable at home. And lots of pics too. Thanks, I haven’t had such a good time since reading ‘The Worst Journey in the World’.

    • Thanks very much! I’ve often regretted that the title of that book was already taken! I’m way overdue for a follow-up or seven, and may even get around to it tonight (been rather sick this past fortnight).

    • You wouldn’t know me today, Alice. Not exactly ebullient, but almost recovered and the first classes with fresh-faced first-years went pretty well. Also, it’s sunny and clear and Spring-like outside and my spirits floated upwards on my lunchtime walk.

      • Alice says

        Oops that was happy 200th–apologies–so glad you are better–and a new term to begin anew. And springish–hooray!

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