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When I am planning a vacation, a weekend getaway, or even a day trip to a new place, one of the first things I do is google “family friendly [insert destination here].”  This strategy has led me to find activities that have turned into cherished family memories – hikes in Joshua Tree and Shenandoah National Parks, for instance.  So naturally, it was the first thing I did once we decided upon the Adirondacks as our summer 2018 vacation destination.  Having grown up just south of the region and played there with my family all year ’round, I knew there was an abundance of activities for kids – and that’s why I was surprised not to find many online resources catering toward families with very young children.  That’s not to say the resources aren’t there.  I found travel guides for young families focusing on winter activities (fun, but not what I needed to plan an August getaway) and plenty of blogs with lots of great options – but I had to sift through them to get to the information I needed, or the kids in question were just a little bit older than mine.  (And parents know: every year older makes a big difference.)  So here’s my attempt to gather together a travel guide for a summer trip to the Adirondacks with preschoolers and toddlers.

WHERE TO STAY

Where We Stayed:  Airbnb all the way!  I know there’s some controversy over Airbnb and its effect on the tourism industry in Lake Placid, but I have to say – in our stage of life, having the freedom of an Airbnb (or a VRBO) is critical.  We were able to find a fabulous unit on the top floor of a walk-up apartment building with huge windows overlooking Mirror Lake.  The kids had their own room, which gave us plenty of options after they went to bed (because there’s nothing worse than hunkering down in a pitch black hotel room and communicating by text so you don’t wake the baby from 7:30 p.m. onwards) – we were able to watch the sunset, read, share a bottle of wine and talk without worrying that we’d wake them.  Having our own kitchen really helped, too – we did breakfast and lunch in the Airbnb every day, and even a couple of dinners.  For a family with little kids, it was a dream arrangement.

Maybe Next Time:  When the kids are a bit older, or we have more disposable income and can afford a suite, I’d love to stay at the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort.  The newly refurbished rooms look gorgeous, and I was watching with barely concealed envy as the guests enjoyed the hotel beach and played with the fleet of kayaks and paddleboards.

WHAT TO EAT

Where We Ate:  A lot of our meals were cooked right in our Airbnb kitchen, thanks to a stockup run to the Hannaford right outside of town, and I can’t overstate the ease, convenience, and money-saving points – especially with little ones in tow.  But we did get out and about a fair amount.  With Nana and Grandad, we enjoyed The Great Adirondack Steak and Seafood Company (pretty self-explanatory) one evening and Smoke Signals (barbeque, but they had a wide variety on their menu) another.  Both restaurants had good kids’ menus, and the staff at Smoke Signals was especially welcoming to the little ones.  (We’re very conscious of how the kids are received at restaurants, as they can both be unpredictable and Nugget is still in the stage of wanting to do laps around the dining room.)  On our own, we enjoyed our last lunch at The Cottage, which is another must for us in Lake Placid – nice laid-back pub food and atmosphere, and a deck overlooking Mirror Lake – what could be better?  And for afternoon treats, you can’t beat Emma’s Lake Placid Creamery.  We went there three times and I ordered the maple soft serve every time.  I regret nothing.

Date Night:  After descending from the summit of Big Slide, Steve and I celebrated at Big Slide Brewery.  We enjoyed local brews (IPA for him, sour for her) and a hearty, satisfying meal that totally hit the spot after a day of hiking.  There were actually lots of families there, with kids as young as babies, so this would be a good option for a family dinner – you don’t have to do date night here.

Maybe Next Time:  I heard great things, both from my parents and just while eavesdropping on conversations on the beach, about Lake Placid Brewery.  That’s one to put on the list for next time.  For date night, I’d love to check out Purple Saige or Salt of the Earth, both of which had delicious-looking menus and a slightly more sophisticated vibe.

WHERE TO HIKE

Where We Hiked:  Adirondack hiking, even at its easiest, is a different animal from pretty much anything in Virginia.  The trails are often rocky and root-y, there are exposed summits, ledges and precipices that are just fine for older kids but can give a toddler parent a stroke.  But there are trails that are toddler-appropriate and preschooler-approved, and we hiked a bunch of them.  Brewster Peninsula was a good introduction to the area hiking – the kids loved the trail and the parents enjoyed the water views.  (Pro tip: if you have a small Pisces, be prepared for them to ask to go swimming every thirty seconds.)  Our big family hike for the week was Owls Head Mountain in Keene, which my three-year-old hiked with no trouble.  There was one steep rocky section, but he got help from parents and grandparents and he did fine.  (Note that Owls Head is on private property and the landowners have elected to close it to public foot traffic on weekends and holidays, so you’ll have to plan this one on a weekday – we did the hike on a Tuesday and it was totally worth the little bit of planning ahead.)  We also took our little hikers exploring at Heaven Hill Nature Preserve and up the Ausable River from Monument Falls – all nice, relatively flat and easy, trails by which to introduce kids to the beauty of the Adirondacks.

Parents’ Day Out:  If you’re lucky enough to have babysitters for a day (thanks, grandparents!) Mom and Dad can knock off a high peak.  There are plenty of family-friendly hikes in the high peaks region, but the mountains themselves are really more suited to older kids.  Of course, you know your own kids and what they can handle, but for mine, eight miles of climbing up and down a steep mountain of exposed granite just wasn’t in the cards.  Thanks to Nana and Grandad, we made Big Slide Mountain a day date activity, and it was gorgeous.

Maybe Next Time:  If Owls Head hadn’t worked out, our Plan B for a kid-friendly mountain was Mount Jo, and I’d still love to check that out.  We also hoped to hike the trail circumventing Heart Lake, but didn’t get to it, so that’s another one for the next trip.  And I’d love to take the kiddos hiking to a swimming hole like Copperas Pond.  For date activities if we’re lucky enough to entice the grandparents to watch the babies again (they love it) another high peak is always on the table – Nye and Street sound like possibilities for the next outing.  Or we could go a bit farther afield and start knocking off Saranac 6 hikes or Fire Tower Challenge trails.  One thing about hiking in the Adirondacks is – there will always be more to do.

WHAT TO DO

Where We Played:  Hiking is the main focus of an Adirondack trip – at least, for our family – but there are other things to do and we certainly took advantage of the opportunities to play in the region.  The Wild Center in Tupper Lake is a fabulous family destination, with animals, nature trails, and interactive educational exhibits suitable for the youngest visitors.  Closer to home base, we had plenty of water fun at the Mirror Lake Public Beach and paddling Mirror Lake end-to-end in our kayaks.

Maybe Next Time:  I was really hoping that we’d get a chance to see some of the Olympic sights.  I thought the kids would probably be too young to really get into them (although they did love watching the Seoul Olympics last winter) so we didn’t prioritize them.  But I wish that even if we didn’t see the rest of the Olympic Museum, we had at least poked our heads into the Miracle on Ice rink.  We also were sad to miss out on the Summer Jumping Series at the ski jump complex – it wasn’t going on while we were there.  Next time!  I’d also love to rent paddleboards at one of the many outfitters lining Main Street and get back some of my SUP skills on Mirror Lake.  When the kids get a bit older, I’d also like to take them to the Mt. Van Hoevenberg Sports Complex to try out some of the fun adventure sports.

Have you vacationed in Lake Placid in the summer?  What have I missed?

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Shall we take a few turns in the way-back machine?  Somehow I’ve gotten terribly behind in sharing monthly trail reports – whoops!  It’s time to catch up, so I’m wrapping up in a sweater, grabbing a cup of hot tea and looking back at a few pictures I snapped on a hot day in early September at Great Falls.

Great Falls is one of our go-to haunts in northern Virginia – I don’t need to tell you that we love it there, because I’ve written about it so many times you surely know all about it.  We also love taking out-of-town visitors and newcomers to the area to see the park, because it’s one of the great beauty spots of northern Virginia.  So when a new friend, who just moved to NoVA from San Francisco, asked for trail recommendations for her family of avid hikers, Great Falls was near the top of my list.  We decided to get our families together for a hike on Labor Day Monday – at first, we considered a drive out to Shenandoah National Park, but our friends had visitors in town and couldn’t get out until late morning.  So we decided to stay closer to home, and Great Falls was the obvious choice.

The waterfall was sparkling in the sunshine!  Our friends’ jaws dropped and they immediately remarked on the beauty of the river, the gorge, and the surrounding scenery.

We decided to walk upriver toward Riverbend Park, rather than downriver along the edge of the gorge, because we had three small hikers on foot (our friends also have a one-year-old, but she was riding along in an Ergo on her mom) and the downriver walk includes some ledges.  So upriver we went, and the decision paid off immediately when we saw a Great Blue Heron soaking up the sun on a rock.

We didn’t actually get very far, but that was okay.  The kids found a bubbling brook and the shoes came off immediately.  They had fun wading, splashing, and moving rocks from one side of the stream to another (kids are so weird).

After the hike, we stopped by the visitors’ center and picked up Junior Ranger booklets for the older three, then filled them out together at one of the picnic tables.  (Nugget’s was a lot of scribbles, but the rangers let him through anyway – ha!)  They turned in their booklets and took the Junior Ranger oath.

Two proud Great Falls Junior Rangers!

What’s your go-to local hike to show off your area to visitors and new residents?

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On the final Saturday morning of our vacation, we woke up to the bittersweet knowledge that we’d be back in the real world before long.  We were planning to drive back to my parents’ house that afternoon, but we wanted to squeeze one more hike in before the vacation came to an end.  Looking for something short and easy with a big payoff, we hit on Monument Falls – more a section of rapids on the Ausable River than an actual waterfall, but right off the main road, with smashing views of Whiteface Mountain and access to a trail winding its way upriver.

The falls itself was a small waterfall and actually visible from the road, but very scenic nonetheless.

And of course, that view was astounding!  We drank it in for several minutes, pointing Whiteface out to the kids and telling them all about the mountain, and then turned upriver to explore along the bank for awhile.

Just a few feet upriver from the falls, the river was so still and peaceful you’d be forgiven for forgetting there was a section of whitewater only feet away.

We walked along the bank, watching for birds (we saw a blue jay and a few chickadees, but all were too fast for my camera shutter – alas) and listening to the kids rattle on about their imaginary trail friends.

A certain tired guy hitched a ride in Dad’s arms.  Couldn’t blame him – it had been a long week, and those little legs did an awful lot of hiking.  I was proud of both kids for being such troopers on such an active vacation!

After a good long ramble upstream, we turned and made our way back to the Falls, for one last wistful look at Whiteface before we piled back into the car and – after a short stop for lunch in town – trundled down out of the mountains and back to our busy, hectic life.

It was a lovely and peaceful way to wind down a beautiful week spent breathing in crisp mountain air and relishing the feeling of trail beneath our hiking boots.  Now, when can I go back?

Stay tuned for one more Adirondack post, coming in a few weeks.  Vacation, I miss you already!

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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!

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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! 

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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!

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