I enjoy traveling and seeing and experiencing different things. I planned this trip for two months. My enthusiasm for such things waxes and wanes like the branches of a willow tree responding to the slightest breeze. The ebb and flow of my enthusiasm is like the ocean tides. I want to go but I don’t. My thoughts become caught in eddy’s of swirling water and I find myself struggling to get out. I ponder the freedom which backpacking brings and my enthusiasm waxes. I think of the cost of gas and other travel expenses and my enthusiasm wanes. My enthusiasm was on a recent upswing and like a surfer waiting for the right wave I decided it was to drop in. I picked up the phone and reservations were made.
I love the mountains and the solitude one can find there. The remoteness is something which many people find frightening; I find it exhilarating. I am frequently asked by others who have not experienced the wilds of a place such as the Adirondacks why I enjoy this region. It is difficult to explain. In my opinion, you either love it or you hate it. You love the solitude or it brings on a panic attack. I need it. For me the opportunity to be in the woods, alone with my thoughts,; silence my companion; this recharges me. When I changed jobs, I thought my trips to the ‘Dacks would have ceased.
I recall the first trip I made to the Adirondacks. It took place when I was old enough to appreciate the beauty of this area. I recall one snowshoe trek in particular. We camped at the base of Crane Mountain with the goal of summitting the mountain the next day. We made camp, set up our tents, dug a fire pit and cooked dinner. Shortly after dinner we traversed the surrounding trails on a night snowshoe. I cannot ever recall being in the midst of this type of darkness. Darkness so black all light is obscured. Darkness as thick as black velvet. With headlamps off I was unable to see my hand waving in front of my face. My hearing became more sensitive. I heard sounds which I normally would have not paid attention. It was as if the volume had been increased. I strained to identify one sound in particular, a sound which I was not familiar. I guessed it may have been snowflakes gently falling from their perch miles overhead in the clouds which I am sure covered much of the sky. I turned on my headlamp and verified it was snow. I took this thought to sleep that night. I was amazed at the level of sensitivity which my ears had attained.
We woke the next morning and donned our snowshoes and packs. We placed headlamps on our hats and turned them on to illuminate our path. We adjusted trekking poles and signed in at the trail head. The energy was rising in the group. The excitement I personally felt was incredible. I chose to bring up the rear of the group. It’s a position I enjoy the most I think because the day’s hike ends last for me and the enjoyment comes to an end not prematurely like it does for those who break trail. We hiked for 30-minutes and as we marched in single file, I saw a stand of pine trees to the left. The trees stood tall and regal as if to mimic our linear position.
We stopped when the trail we were hiking ended and branched into another section of trail. Barry told the group to shut off their headlamps and to remain silent. The sky was clear. The only light shone from the moon and the stars overhead. I had never witnessed stars so clearly as I do when I am in the Adirondacks. It was if the brightness of the stars were controlled by a dimmer switch and someone had turned the switch to “high.”
The group stood silently. The silence was deafening. The only sound was our breath and the snowflakes which fell gently to Earth. As I listened to these miraculous sounds, my thoughts were transported back in time to thoughts of trips not taken. Trips which were not scheduled because I was concerned about things well within my realm of control. I thought of my children and how I had deprived them and myself of such beauty and solitude. I thought again about my anger; anger when my children did what they were supposed to do; act like children. As I stood silently at the back of this group, I picked up my gloved hand raising it to my face and gently wiped away the tears which were now streaming down my face. We returned to camp and I found myself emotionally distant from the group. I remained lost in my thoughts.
As I wrapped myself in the comfort of my sleeping bag warmth found me but sleep would not come as easily. My head swam and remained consumed with the thoughts of being a “bad parent.” It was as if an avalanche had swept over me and picked me up to hustle me further down the mountain out of control That night as I attempted to sleep, I made a promise to myself; a promise to not let anything get in the way of the relationship I have with my family. I was reminded of the importance of having fun, relaxing and simply enjoying what is. As a social worker I understand what I can and cannot control. Having this knowledge does not make the process of not getting caught up in this thought process any easier. If anything it often becomes increasingly complicated.
These thoughts, rebounding in my memory like an elastic band stretched to its breaking point made the decision of going with my son an easy one. The date, location and activity were also easily decided. My first decision after making plans was easy. I contacted to Barry and invited him to hike with us. He accepted. Trip planning wax now complete. The only responsibility which remained was to have fun and fun we had.