Epic Adventures: Mountain Men

In many ways, last weekend was a tale of two trips. First, there was the trip from Baltimore to New Jersey. Then there was the trip from New Jersey to the Adirondacks. Let us go in chronological order.

After work on Friday, I came home to do some dishes and throw out the trash (to avert toxic fumes upon my return) and finished packing my trusty backpack (the big ol’ backpacking one). Forecasts for the Adirondacks were expecting temperatures to go into the 20’s overnight, so even with the suddenly Fall-like temperatures that had descended upon Baltimore at the end of the week, I had to take extra precautions in packing my clothes.

Speaking of that Fall weather, I was positively delighted when I felt it roll through. I’d been having serious end-of-summer sadness, so it felt like a bit of closure knowing that another season that I love was rolling in. It also meant that I wouldn’t have to stress out about finding time to force a beach visit when I was in NJ.

Even though I knew that I would only be spending a few waking hours in Jersey, I was as excited as ever. That drive home, especially in the crisp evenings of Fall, just really gets me excited. I know you may all be sick of hearing about how much I love NJ, but it really makes me feel alive. I passed the hours in the car listening to the Gaslight Anthem, Bruce, and some of my old favorite ska albums.

That evening, I hung out with my parents, ate dinner, and retired early. My stepdad and I woke a bit before 5:00 AM the next morning to head to the Adirondacks. We wanted to get on our way early, because we had a long hike into the mountains later in the day, and nightfall comes quickly in the forest. Although we didn’t weigh them in advance, our packs each weighed about 30+ pounds.

"Did you remember to pack your brick collection? Good, me too"

After a quick stop on the parkway for McDonald’s breakfast, we drove the rest of the way into New York and arrived in the Pharaoh Mountain Wilderness around 11:00 AM. After a quick once over of the packs, making sure we had some freeze-dried meals, trail mix, water, sleeping bags, tent, stove, and various other necessities, we started hiking in.

The Adirondacks is really one of the best places on the East Coast (THE SAME EAST COAST THAT CONTAINS NEW JERSEY). The steep slopes, dense foliage, and massive lakes seem to belong to a different world. However exhausting long hikes with heavy packs can be, I didn’t once stop to think about it; I was too enchanted by the sun filtering through the leaves and the many streams that we had to cross.

River, consider yourself forded.

Believe me though, it could be exhausting. We decided to hike up Treadway Mountain to get a nice view of the surrounding lakes and forests. For some reason, this didn’t strictly involve climbing a steep slope. Instead, it involved climbing steep slopes, then suddenly climbing down a drastic drop in elevation, and repeating. I swear, for every mile we moved, we zig-zagged 3 vertically.

Shortly before another ascent...

Once at the peak of Treadway mountain, we admired the views, ate a quick lunch of trailmix, got temporarily lost (How does one get lost on a peak? We will never know.), and made our way back down to the main path.

What we saw shortly before nearly losing our way back down the mountain.

The path we chose for the 2-day adventure wound its way around Putnam Pond, which is most likely the world’s largest pond. I’d love to hear someone explain why it isn’t called a lake. Anyway, in order to get back to NJ relatively early on Sunday, we decided to do the majority of the hike on Saturday. We therefore picked a lean-to about 3/4 of the way around the pond to set up camp for the night.

That's one hell of a 'pond' to hike around, isn't it?

Just before nightfall (about 6:00 PM up there), we reached the site and set up our tent. Our total mileage for the day was about 8 miles.

Where we almost slept.

Despite their daylong absence, swarms of mosquitoes arrived as it got dark, negating the lean-to as a sleeping option.

Where we ultimately slept.

We fired up the camp stove, boiled some water, and made the freeze-dried chicken and rice. It was surprisingly excellent. We then made hot chocolate, ate a granola bar, and put all the foodstuffs into a bear-proof container that we planted about 50 yards away.

Two things became suddenly apparent to me over the 2 days we were there. First, I found that I eat much better without access to a time telling device. If I don’t think that I should be eating, I just eat when I’m hungry. Second, I found that I sleep much better without a time telling device. Again, when I don’t know when I should go to bed, I sleep when I’m tired. It was in this way that we ended up asleep around 8:00 PM.

Pictured: The last thing I saw before passing out.

The next morning, we got up around 7 and made a quick breakfast. The weather was nice and brisk for our 2-mile hike out.

LOOK AT HOW CRISP THAT MORNING IS. LOOK AT IT.

It was especially enjoyable winding our way around a number of smaller ponds in the area and watching the foliage change. Some areas had dark, dense forests, while other spots open up into something resembling glades. It was also interesting to watch well-beaten trails devolve into nothingness at random spots along the trek. Even with the trail markers, we had to pause and examine our way forward several times.

Once back to the car, we took off our packs and set off for NJ. Thanks to our incredible swiftness, we were able to make it all the way back to NJ by 3:30, including a stop to buy burgers to grill. Although I had initially planned on taking Monday off and staying in NJ for the night, I made the painful decision to eat with my parents, watch a bit of football, and come back to Baltimore that night. Sometimes, being responsible sucks.

On the drive home, I got to thinking about the mental transformation I undergo when I leave NJ each time. At the beginning, I’m in a place I know so well and that I’m completely comfortable. Crime doesn’t exist, I don’t have a job to worry about, and I have friends and family abound. The closer I get back to Baltimore, the more independent I feel. I transition back into having my own little life where I have to be responsible, go to work, and deal with my own problems. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing, but the two sides are just very different. My goal is to somehow find a way to connect the two feelings. That is all.

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