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While the primary purpose of our Adirondack vacation was to get into the mountains and hike, we did other things too!  We specifically decided to make Lake Placid our home base, so we’d have access to water activities and Adirondack town fun.  I’ve always loved Lake Placid Village, and I was looking forward to introducing Steve to its charms (he grew up near here, but randomly had never been).  For our lodgings, we chose an Airbnb right on the lake.  The location was perfect – midway down the main street in town – and you can’t beat that view!  My only complaint was that I wished there was a balcony to sit on after the kids went to bed.  But you can’t have everything.  We had a fabulous sun porch and we enjoyed it all week.

Especially in the mornings!  The kids wake up before the crack of dawn, and I found myself getting up at 5:30 with them every morning and watching the sun come up over the mountains.  Spectacular.

We went out for dinner most nights of the trip, and it was easy to find restaurants – we just walked out the door and wandered along until we hit upon something that looked good.  We checked out the other sights in town along the way.  I always find the library!

 

Drinks and lunch on the peaceful lakeside deck of The Cottage, just before leaving to head back to Nana and Grandad’s house on our last day.  I’m planning to do a travel guide to Lake Placid with young kiddos in tow, since that was something I never found during my vacation-planning research – not all in one place, and not for the summer, at least.

The Village of Lake Placid is situated on Mirror Lake – Lake Placid itself is just over the road, less than five minutes away – and no matter where you find yourself in town, you will probably catch at least a glimpse of sparkling water.  There’s nothing like a mountain lake, right?

Mirror Lake has a beautiful public beach area, and we found ourselves wandering over there several times during the trip.  The beach has been recently improved – and it was lovely even before the improvements – and the soft sand and shallow waters made for a perfect place to take the little ones.  Nugget, in particular, is a beach boy – Peanut is more of an indoor child and can run lukewarm on the idea of swimming in something that’s not a pool, but Nugget (Pisces!) can’t get enough beaches and water.  Oceans, lakes, he’s not picky.

Peanut enjoyed wading in the shallows, too, and she even did a little swimming.  In general, though, she was happy to dig in the sand.

The beach also provides a couple of launch points for kayaks and paddleboards.  I was hoping to get out on the water a lot – both kayaking and SUPing – but the way the schedule worked out, we were only able to kayak once.  I made it count, though.  Mirror Lake is fairly small, and I paddled end-to-end (and back again) with Steve, then dropped Steve off back at the beach, picked up my mom, and paddled the kayaks back to the Airbnb to leave them on the grassy lakefront area.

Getting ready to launch!

I took Nugget out for a spin with his little paddles.  It wasn’t our most successful ride – we can fit in a single kayak together, but he got strangely afraid once we paddled out past the beach.  He’s never been scared to kayak before, so I don’t know what that was about.  The season is over now, so I guess we will find out next summer if it was a fleeting thing or an off day, or something that is going to continue.

I love paddling with this guy.  (Look at him, so responsible in his life jacket!  I stowed mine.  I couldn’t flip one of these kayaks if I tried – and I’ve tried – and I can swim.)

What’s this on the water?

Just an Adirondack loon.  No big deal.  (!!!!!)  I couldn’t believe how big these birds were, and how much they didn’t care about my kayak.

Steve and I paddled all the way down to the Mirror Lake Inn, one of the fancy expensive hotels in town.  We sent my parents here for their fortieth anniversary and have bought them gift certificates for the past few Christmases.  One of these days, I’ll get to stay here for myself!

Steve and I turned around and headed back to the beach, and I picked up my mom to deliver the kayaks to the Airbnb.  As it turned out, we didn’t make it back out on the water again – my parents did, but we didn’t.  But at least we got out there once!

By the end of the vacation, we were all a little wiped out.  What’s better than a lakeside park for napping?

Next week: the final hike of vacation.  Check in with me then!

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I’m falling way behind on this challenge – less hiking than anticipated this summer, and now I’m trying to make up for it just as I cruise into the busiest season of the year.  Between back-to-school meetings and obligations, a parade of September birthday parties (including throwing one ourselves), and powering through to the end of the fiscal year at work, it’s total craziness and hiking is taking a backseat – I’m pretty mad about that, but what can I do?  I need a few weekends of back-to-back hikes, and I’m finding myself dreaming of a situation in which I would have a week to catch up on trail time.

Hike 31: Monument Falls and Ausable River (North Elba, New York), August 25, 2018 – With time for just one more hike and to grab lunch before heading out of town at the end of our vacation (sob), we took in the views of Monument Falls, a pretty little waterfall with views of Whiteface Mountain, and then wandered up a trail alongside the Ausable River for a while, where we saw chickadees and a blue jay.

Hike 32: Lake Burke (Burke, Virginia), September 2, 2018 – Back in Virginia after vacation, and I was craving some time at one of my favorite local parks.  We strolled along Lake Burke, waved to dogs, tracked imaginary forest creatures and discussed holiday plans.  And it was refreshing.

Hike 33: Great Falls Park (Great Falls, Virginia), September 3, 2018 – A Labor Day weekend hike with some new friends who just moved to Virginia from California.  They’ve gone native already, and I am crediting Great Falls with some of their falling in love with NoVA.  The kids splashed in a little creek, the moms chatted about work, breastfeeding, hiking and more, and we all saw some awesome birds.  At the end of the hike, all three of the bigger kiddos (our friends have a kindergartener and a baby) earned their Junior Ranger badges.  It was the perfect way to kick off the school year.

Hike 34: Mason Neck State Park (Lorton, Virginia), September 16, 2018 – Such a lovely late summer day at one of my favorite area parks.  Belmont Bay was sparkling in the sunshine, the turtles were out in force, and the kids trucked along cheerfully and only bickered a little bit.  A  good day.

Hike 35: Jones Point (Alexandria, Virginia), September 22, 2018 – We only had time for a very short hike in between chores, (fun) obligations, and other weekend bustling.  But I wasn’t willing to give up on trail time all weekend – Jones Point it was.  You GUYS, this hike was buggy.  I even got bit by a mosquito, which is how you know they were everywhere – because I am usually disgusting to them.

Hike 36: George Washington’s Mount Vernon (Alexandria, Virginia), September 29, 2018 – Wandered all over our favorite places, including the nature trail, the farm and the upper and lower gardens.  (I count Mount Vernon as a hike when we include the nature trail in the wanderings.)

Hike 37: Huntley Meadows Park (Alexandria, Virginia), October 6, 2018 – Fall has come to the wetlands and brought with it ALL the birds!  We saw a green heron, several great blue herons, and at least three snowy egrets – gorgeous.  The only downside was that the park was crawling with people, including some large and rather shouty family groups.

Hike 38: Piscataway Park (Accokeek, Maryland), October 7, 2018 – We got moving too slowly to make it to a park outside of the metropolitan area, but the consolation prize was the most adorable piglets and a hike on the story trail at Piscataway Park.

Hike 39: Bears Den Overlook (Bluemont, Virginia), October 8, 2018 – Just a quick hike after apple-picking with friends, but the views of the Shenandoah Valley were stunning.

Hike 40: Big Meadows, Shenandoah National Park (Luray, Virginia), October 13, 2018 – My birthday request was to finally explore Big Meadows, and I was not disappointed!  The meadow in fall was a beautiful kaleidoscope of greens, reds and browns – completely spectacular.  What a way to spend a birthday!

Just one more update to go – I’m nearing the finish line here!  This update contains what I’m sure will become some of the highlights of the year – from hikes with friends at Great Falls and Bears Den to a birthday in one of the most beautiful spots in my beautiful state, every hike brought fresh joys.  Onward to 52!

Yawwwwwwn.  I’m even more unready for Monday than usual.  I stayed up late on Saturday night (well, late for me, which means a little after 11:00) and on Sunday-into-Monday I was up for a few hours in the middle of the night – so I’m feeling extra sleepy this morning.  It was a lovely weekend, though.  My birthday fell on Saturday this year, so we had a big weekend of celebrating on the trails.  I don’t love having a big deal made out of my birthday these days – all I want is a day or two of quality time with my three favorite people, bonus points if it’s mostly outdoors.  And that’s exactly what I got, so I was well contented.  On Friday evening, I came home and the kids gave me my birthday presents early – an(other) adopted southern resident killer whale (J-26 Mike! he’s always been one of my favorites; he’s GIGANTIC) from everyone; the 25th anniversary Automatic for the People on vinyl from Steve; and a homemade card from Peanut (“HAPPY BRTHDY FAMLY MOM”) which I absolutely loved.  She was upset that she didn’t have a present for me, but I assured her that cards are my favorite presents, this one is the best one I’ve ever gotten, and I’ll treasure it forever – all true statements.  On Saturday, we were up and out the door to Shenandoah National Park – my birthday request.  We packed a picnic of homemade vegetable and bean soup, fresh baguette, sliced veggies, my goat cheese and sundried tomato pesto spread, and apples from our apple-picking trip last week – yum.  We knocked out two hikes in the park – Big Meadows and the Story of the Forest Trail – and it was chilly but beautiful.  We started Sunday with another hike, this time at Fletcher’s Cove, where we like to go kayaking in the summertime.  Turned out there was a beautiful trail down by the river – beautiful, but insanely muddy.  We all fell in the mud, then rushed home to clean up and welcome Zan and Paul over for football and friend time.  The guys watched the Bills game while Zan and I ate soup, caught up, and took Nugget to the library.  Ended the weekend as I always do – curled up on the couch with a book.  It was all delicious.

 

Reading.  My reading week went from charming to interesting but unnerving, and back to charming again.  I finished my re-read of Queen Lucia last Tuesday, then turned to Fear: Trump in the White House (the new Bob Woodward book for those who’ve been living under a rock).  It may be different elsewhere, but in my community of Washington, DC and NoVA, everyone is talking about the new book and I felt compelled to read it.  It was chilling.  After that, I obviously needed some comfort reading, so I picked up the final volume in the Brensham Trilogy of lightly-fictionalized memoirs about English life in a country village in the middle of the last century.  It’s basically the literary equivalent of a thermos of hot tea, and I’m loving every minute.

Watching.  The second season of The Good Place dropped on Netflix, so all other viewing has been pretty much suspended while we laugh until we cry at the antics of Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, Jason, Michael and Janet.  (“No, this is good!  He’s having an existential crisis!”)  I did branch out one night last week when Steve had plans, and watched the fall kick-off episode of The Great American Read (yes, I’m woefully backlogged).

Listening.  The best listening was to my vinyl of Automatic for the People on Saturday night!  That was a very cool gift.  Other than that – lots of podcasts, mainly Speak Up for Blue and Marine Conservation Happy Hour.

Making.  Is there anything more comforting than starting the week with a huge container of homemade soup in the fridge?  I threw together one of my odds and ends soups and it ended up particularly good, featuring tricolor carrots, broccoli, orange cauliflower, brown rice and navy beans, and lentils.  Yum!  A very good way to fuel up before hiking and to welcome friends over, and I’ve got enough left over for a week’s worth of delicious lunches.

Blogging.  Mixing it up this week.  I’ll have my third (and penultimate) 52 Hike Challenge update for you on Wednesday, and on Friday, instead of sharing our sixth and final day in Lake Placid, I’ll show you a few snaps in town and on the water.  (We’ll do the last day of vacation next week – I’m not ready to be done!)

Loving.  Like I said above, birthdays aren’t really a big deal to me anymore (at least, not my birthday – I do make a big deal out of the kids’ special days).  But I felt really loved all weekend.  Between lots of time on beautiful trails with my family, the thoughtful gifts my sweet ones gave me, tons of love on Facebook and an absolutely hilarious card from my work wife – it was just a nice way to celebrate surviving another trip around the sun.  I feel pretty great about the people in my life, and that’s a nice place to be.

Asking.  What are you reading this week?

 

With two stiff parents, still sore from hiking Big Slide the day before, and two kids ages six and under, we were looking for a nice, easy, short shake-out hike on Thursday of our vacation week.  We found one, but apparently we were cursed, because it was the unluckiest hike I’ve ever taken.  Beautiful!  But unlucky.

Backing up – we got a late start in the morning, after sleeping in and then bumming around the Airbnb for awhile (and frankly, longer than I wanted to bum around, but the rest of the family was maddeningly slow-moving).  Plan A was to hike the circumference of Heart Lake, over by the Adirondack Loj.  I’d heard it was a nice, easy, flat trail, and that sounded darn good to me.  But when we arrived at the Loj, we discovered – unlucky event #1 – that all of the hiking trailhead parking lots were full.  (The Loj is the starting point for a great many Adirondack trails, including the trail to Mount Marcy – we had a lot of competition.)  The closest overflow parking was a mile down the road, which was clearly not happening on our post-Big Slide legs and with two generally uncooperative children.  So we moved on to Plan B – Heaven Hill.

I’d wanted to hike Heaven Hill, but was planning to save it for Friday.  No matter – Thursday it was.  We arrived, found parking, and let the kids sit in the trunk of the SUV to eat their snacks.  Don’t mind the underwhelmed expressions on their faces.  They were tickled to have snack back there.  What is it about kids and the trunk of an SUV?  I used to LOVE sitting in the “way way back” of my parents’ Explorer.

Once they finished eating, we hit the trail.  Heaven Hill is a community preserve, owned and operated by a private foundation, so it’s marked and maintained a little differently from the trails and herd paths of the state park.  (Not better or worse – just differently.)  Since it is still the ‘dacks, there are still tree roots, which led to unlucky event #2: Nugget, who was at the time (and is still) going through a running-ahead-of-the-pack phase, tripped over a root and face-planted on the ground.  Ouch.  Poor guy!

A piggyback ride from Dad helped.

Our goal was the Orchard Loop, around a large-ish meadow with gorgeous mountain views.  To get there, we followed the orange “Old Orchard Connector” trail markers.

To distract Nugget from the effects of his fall, I pointed out the sights of the wooded connector trail – including a pretty mushroom growing out of a tree stump.  Finally, we arrived at the meadow, and…

WHAT A VIEW.  I was in awe – it was absolutely breathtaking.

Nugget and I walked up a little ways and checked out the waving grasses and the tall wildflowers, with the incredible mountains all around us.  We made it probably about a quarter to a third of the way around the meadow when unlucky event #3 happened–

PEANUT WAS STUNG BY A BEE.  Apparently the thing about a meadow full of wildflowers is that it’s also full of pollinators.  Yikes.  A bee was buzzing around, very interested in Peanut in particular.  Steve and I were talking her through as we do with the kids – telling her to stand still, don’t make any sudden movements, etc.  The bee landed on her back and we cautiously guided her forward, very slowly, until it flew off into the wildflowers.  Hoping that was the end of it, we continued our hike, but realized quickly that something was wrong, beyond the fear that the bee would come back.  Peanut was complaining about her foot, so we sat her down and took off her shoe and found – a bee sting.  OUCH!  Poor kiddo – it seemed that before it made its way to her back, the bee had gotten stuck in her sandal and had stung her as a warning.  It was a bumblebee, so it didn’t lose its stinger after pricking her.  What a brave kid she was – walking calmly away from the bee even after it had stung her foot.  After a hurried whispered adult conversation, we decided that she didn’t seem to be having an allergic reaction more than the standard human reaction to a bee sting, so the ER was not in order.  We asked her what she wanted to do, and she said she wanted to go get ice cream, so naturally, we went and got ice cream.  Hardcore ninja Peanut gutted it out on her bee sting foot all the way back to the car and was rewarded for her bravery with a BIG scoop from Emma’s Lake Placid Creamery.

Heaven Hill!  You were beautiful, and I’d love to come back some day – but maybe after bumblebee season.

Next week: our final hike of the vacation, along the iconic Ausable River.  Check back! 

Reading is my oldest and favorite hobby. I literally can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t love to curl up with a good book. Here are my reads for September, 2018

The Woman Next Door, by Yewande Omotoso  – I had to read this book after I heard it described on the Book Riot Podcast as “Golden Girls, but woke and in South Africa.”  It was a lot of fun.  Hortensia and Marion are next-door neighbors, rivals and frenemies.  Both successful businesswomen, both fairly recently widowed, when they are thrown together by an unexpected event they find that they have more in common than they originally thought – and maybe, just maybe, the seeds of a friendship are there?  I enjoyed this, and it was a fun read, but I didn’t find myself particularly drawn to either of the main characters.  I suppose that’s to be expected, since they were both written to be crotchety old ladies.  But I would have enjoyed it more if at least one of them was slightly less caustic.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple – It was my month to host book club, and therefore my turn to choose the book.  Trying to keep my fellow clubbers’ preferences in mind (they had trouble getting through Northanger Abbey) I went for something more modern this time – but still one of my favorite books.  I can’t count how many times I’ve read Bernadette, and I find something new in it each time.  This time, it was interesting to hear my book club’s perspectives on it.  Most of them loved the book but found Bernadette herself to be irritating – to me, it seems clear that Bernadette has severe untreated postpartum anxiety and no support system, and my heart breaks for her.  It’s an incredibly moving portrayal of a broken woman who finds peace, sneakily disguised as funny chick lit.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, by Reni Eddo-Lodge – I’m not sure if I’ve only just realized it or if it’s really a recent phenomenon, but there are so many wonderful memoirs about race, written by black women, these days.  Eddo-Lodge’s book is a worthy addition to that shelf, and is a little bit different in that Eddo-Lodge is British.  I try to make sure I am acquainted with racial issues and current events, but my perspective is necessarily American-focused, because I am American.  It was an important experience for me to read about the racial history and current attitudes faced by people of color in Britain, too.

Slightly Foxed, No. 6: Taking the Plunge, ed. Gail Pirkis – I am slowly reading my way through the back issues of Slightly Foxed, and reaching for one whenever I need some comfort reading.  This was a good, relaxing read between two searing memoirs of race issues.  Slightly Foxed is like a large cup of tea with a good friend – always a pleasure.

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir, by Patrisse Khan-Cullors – I have seen this on other book lists and it caught my eye on an endcap at the library, so I grabbed it and read it in a day.  Khan-Cullors is one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, that has become such an iconic presence in our current landscape.  Her memoir of growing up in Los Angeles and finding both a place in the world and her political voice – inspired by the treatment she witnessed her disabled brother endure in prison and at the hands of police – is powerful and searing.

The Modern Guide to Witchcraft: Your Complete Guide to Witches, Covens and Spells, by Skye Alexander – ‘Tis the season!  I was in a witchy mood and had such a fun time learning to hex you.  (Am I kidding?  Do you want to find out?)  Seriously, though – the different theories and styles of witchcraft were fascinating to read about.

Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living, by Nick Offerman – I listened to this one (read by the author, naturally) on Audible and it was a lot of fun.  I’ve been a big fan of Nick Offerman’s since first starting to watch Parks and Recreation years ago, and Paddle Your Own Canoe was a great – excuse me, delicious – time.  Offerman writes about his childhood in Minooka, Illinois; his raucous days in the theatre department at the University of Illinois; his move to Los Angeles and navigating the Hollywood scene; his marriage to Megan Mullally, and more.  My only complaint was that he didn’t get around to talking about Parks and Recreation until the last chapter, and even then it was only about half of the chapter.

The Fortnight in September, by R. C. Sherriff – I’d been saving The Fortnight in September for months, intending to read it in September, and it ended up taking me about a fortnight.  That’s not a knock on the book, which was a delight; I was just in an extremely distractible mood, I guess.  Fortnight follows the Stevens family – parents Ernest and Flossie and children Dick, Mary and Ernie – through their annual vacation to Bognor.  It’s one of those books in which nothing much dramatic happens, but every word is a joy and as fresh as a sea breeze.  I loved it.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil DeGrasse Tyson – I am proud to report that I understood two whole sentences of this book!  Okay – to be honest, I tried really hard, and I have a decent working knowledge of how things work in the universe, but I found this to be so far over my head it was almost funny.  I was hoping for something more approachable.  Tyson uses layman’s terms for the most part, and there are some funny asides, but mostly, I guess I was in too much of a hurry?

Class Mom, by Laurie Gelman – Final read of September was my book club book for October, fluffy chick lit about a snarky kindergarten class mom at an uptight private school.  Apparently the author was inspired by Where’d You Go, Bernadette, but I personally didn’t find nearly as much substance here as I always find in Bernadette.  I also found the main character to be irritating and occasionally offensive – which I think was the point, but it was too much.  The storyline about her wild past with rock stars also seemed contrived.  I just wasn’t a fan.  The other ladies in the book club enjoyed the book more, I think, and they wanted me to tell them how true to life it is (being a current kindergarten class mom) but we really didn’t get into discussing the book, because there was very little to discuss.

Some September!  I thought I was having a slow month, but looking back, it seems I was pretty busy after all.  My highlights were Bernadette and Fortnight, as you’ve probably already discerned.  I also had a lot of fun listening to Nick Offerman on my commutes – who wouldn’t?  Looking ahead to October, I have a stack of most excellent library books and plans to read through the Mapp and Lucia novels.  Check in with me again soon!

What did you enjoy reading in September?

Loooooooooook at that adorable face!  Oh, and happy Monday to all of you, too.  (That FACE!)  Happy Columbus Day to my friends who are lucky enough to get the day off, as well – but the kids’ school is closed, so I took the day off and we’re going apple-picking with friends.  Hey-o!  Steve has to work, so it’ll just be me, the munchkins, and my friend Katherine and her daughter.  We’re planning to pick a couple of bushels and then take the kiddos for a hike.  That should burn the whole morning, so hopefully Steve is able to get some work done.  This weekend was pretty low-key.  We hiked both days – at Huntley Meadows on Saturday, where there were so many herons and egrets that I lost count, and at Piscataway Park on Sunday, where we visited with turkeys, chickens, and the most darling bunch of precious piglets.  I was hoping for a hike a bit farther afield – at least to Sky Meadows, if not Shenandoah River or Bull Run – but we were too slow in the mornings and it didn’t happen.  We still had fun – more fun than I was anticipating, as it happened.  Afternoons were spent puttering around, digging in the sandbox, running errands and reading – nice and slow.  And actually really relaxing.  I’m still me, so I spent a decent amount of time panicking over a decision I’m going to have to make soon (tell you all about it once it’s a done deal) and hiding in the bathroom while the kids bickered.

  

Reading.  I’ve had a nice, relaxing reading week.  On Monday, I finished up The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and then I dove into some good, old-fashioned comfort reading.  I picked up Miss Mapp, the second in the Mapp and Lucia series – which I’ve been meaning to get back to, and which is on my rebooted Classics Club list – and enjoyed every second over the course of the week.  I finished it up on Saturday, then realized that I’d also intended to re-read Queen Lucia, the first of the series.  So I’m reading a bit out of order for the moment, but once I finish with Lucia, I’ll be back on track to read in the proper order.  I’ll have to take a short break from E.F. Benson though, because my library holds came in – and I have Fear, the new Bob Woodward book.  There are about 800 people on the wait list after me, so renewals are not going to be an option.  I think that’ll have to be my next read.

Watching.  I don’t think I actually watched anything until Sunday night, when Steve realized the second season of The Good Place is now available for streaming.  Yes, please!  We watched two episodes, and it’s just as much fun as the first season – moving at a breakneck pace, though.  I can’t wait to see where this is going to go…

Listening.  Lots of podcasts again this week.  The highlight was an old episode of Speak Up for Blue, in which Andrew interviews a fellow marine biologist about the experience of researching orcas in the Antarctic.  WOW.  I’ve always had it in the back of my mind that I’d like to go to Antarctica someday, and now it’s sort of in the front of my mind.  What an amazing experience that would be, huh?

Moving.  Well, there were those two hikes I mentioned above, and I also registered for Barre3 online.  At $29/month after I finish my free trial, it’s not free, but it’s a heck of a lot less expensive than actually attending classes (I do love Barre3 classes, though…) and hopefully this will be the sweet spot of not too expensive, but enough of a financial outlay to motivate me to try and get my money’s worth.  I’ve done a couple of workouts through the online system and I’m definitely sweating!

Blogging.  September reading recap coming to you on Wednesday; I read more than I realized in the moment!  October is shaping up to be a good reading month, too – here’s hoping.  And on Friday, I’ve got a hiking recap to share – a beautiful, but very unlucky – hike from our Adirondack vacation

Loving.  I’ve certainly talked about my neighborhood before, but I’m feeling especially in love with it this week.  Fall is starting to appear in little nooks and crannies, and it’s just such a nice, relaxing place to be right now.  It’s recently hit me anew that we’re probably not going to live in this neighborhood forever (maybe…) and I’m really glad that I get to enjoy it while I can.  I love living in a walkable area and being able to just step out my door and pop in at the bookstore, grab a coffee from a local independent cafe, walk to the library and playground, or metro in to work.  Our neighbors are a joy, and this just feels like the right place for us to be right now.  Maybe knowing that something probably isn’t forever makes me appreciate the sweetness of it while I have it – I’ve been thinking a lot about that concept lately.  Anyway, enough rambling – I’m just really happy to live where I live.

Asking.  What are you reading this week?

With a whole week to spend in the Adirondacks, it wasn’t a question of will we hike a high peak? but how many high peaks will we summit?  Steve and I are slooooooowly working on the goal of summiting all forty-six high peaks (loosely defined as the Adirondack peaks over 4,000 feet above sea level – but they were measured over 100 years ago, and more accurate measurements have since revealed that there are a couple of peaks under 4,000 and at least one 4,000-footer that didn’t make it on the list).  When I say slowly, I mean slowly.  At the rate we’re going, it will take us approximately 90 years to finish the challenge.  But it’s all about the journey, right?  (I’m not kidding.  It is all about the journey.)

Anyway, when we actually sat down and looked at our schedule for the week, we realized that there was only one day that was going to work for a high peak – Thursday.  Monday and Friday we didn’t have all-day babysitters, Tuesday was Peanut’s birthday (and high peaks are a grownups-only affair), and Wednesday looked to be gloomy.  Thursday it was.  We looked over our list of possibilities and decided on Big Slide Mountain.  Relatively short, breathtakingly scenic, and lots of people say it’s their favorite – sounds good to me.

Actually, I was nervous.  Steve has been running consistently all summer, but my time has been consumed by work for months on end.  I wasn’t in as good shape as I was when climbing our first three high peaks (Cascade and Porter, and Giant) and I was just hoping I’d be able to summit.  Anyway – we woke up at the crack of dawn and got ready to hit the trail.  It was in the low 40*s, so I decided to wear yoga pants and a flannel.  Steve went for mesh shorts and a tech t-shirt.  We’d see which one of us was going to regret our life choices.  (Spoiler: it me.)

The first 0.7 miles of the hike was moderate climbing through the woods.  Despite the climb being just that – moderate – and despite knowing that the altitude gain was going to slow down once we gained the ridge line, I complained the entire time.  I was actually kind of relieved when we started hitting some of the technical spots.  It gave me a chance to slow down and catch my breath while I thought about how best to tackle each section.

Whenever I plan an Adirondack high peak hike, I go back to every ADK46r blog I know and read their trail reports, but I’m rarely able to discern from there what to expect.  I finally figured out why that is: when you’re thinking about how to approach a section of steep and probably slippery Adirondack granite, you’re not taking photos.  My phone was in my backpack for most of the hike – until the views started.

Big Slide can be tackled from two directions: over three smaller peaks known as “the Brothers” or via Johns Brook Valley.  A lot of hikers choose to do the hike as a loop – up over the Brothers, down via the Valley.  We decided to stick with the Brothers for both ascent and descent, for a few reasons – it meant less distance overall, the views would be better, and the trail would be familiar so we probably wouldn’t get lost.  And ohhhh, the views.  Once we hit the ridgeline, it was all panorama, all the time.

We spent a lot of time loitering at various overlooks, pouring over guidebooks with our fellow hikers and trying to work out whether we were on one of the Brothers and if so, which one.

(see the big hulking monster about two thirds to the right there? that’s Giant, which we climbed last year)

(a view of the Great Range)

Eventually, even these breathtaking views started to get old, and I began to whine again.  I was a real peach!  If you’re wondering how Steve puts up with me, don’t expect me to explain it to you.  It felt like an eternity before we hit the junction with the Johns Brook Valley trail and saw this sign:

Just 0.3 miles to the summit!  At this point I knew there was no way I was turning back without reaching the peak.  Unfortunately, I also knew (thanks, research!) that the toughest part of the climb lay ahead.  In just a little more than a quarter of a mile, we were going to gain 700 feet of altitude.  Ouch!  My quads hurt just thinking about it.  Also, a good chunk of the altitude gain came via this freak:

Yes, that is a section of rock so steep that they put a Helpful Ladder up for hikers.  So, this is a weird thing about me: while I love heights, and will happily perch on a mountaintop precipice, I am weirdly skittish about exposure.  Steve, meanwhile, hates heights but isn’t bothered by exposure in the slightest.  Together, we make one confident hiker and one basket case.  Anyway, this ladder gave me the willies.  But–

I did it!  Adirondack high peak number four in the books!

The views were pure gorgeousness.  Big Slide’s summit, like Giant’s, is partially wooded – but there was plenty to soak in from the summit ledge.  Steve and I took off our backpacks, plunked down on the granite, and enjoyed a summit snack – some high protein nut and seed mix, Babybel cheese, apricots and mangoes.  We eavesdropped as a local hiker gave some French Canadian visitors the lowdown on which high peaks we were looking at, snapped more pictures, and thought about how lucky we were to have a beautiful day and grandparent babysitters along to watch the kiddos.  And then it was time to head back downhill for dinner and, after, hugs from our babies.

(Giant again!  Can’t believe I stood on top of that bad boy last year.)

If you’re wondering how Big Slide got its name – that’s how.

It was a beautiful, if exhausting, day in the mountains!  We booked it down the trail and took our sweaty, dirt-covered selves straight to Big Slide Brewery to celebrate our achievement with local beers and carbs.  (Steve had a burger, if I remember right, and I had pasta with Impossible sausage.)  The brewery staff didn’t bat an eye when we staggered in.  I think they’re used to seeing people just off the mountain.  They asked where we’d been hiking and seemed genuinely tickled when we said we were celebrating Big Slide at Big Slide.

Another high peak handled!  It’s been a couple of months now, so I’m already forgetting how painful it was and starting to think about the next one – Phelps, maybe?  Or possibly Nye and mighty Street.  Next week – a hike with less altitude but more drama.  Check back!