As it turned out, Wednesday’s jaunt up Baker Mountain, would serve as a great “warm up” for Thursday’s excursion up Cascade Mountain, the most popular of the forty six High Peaks. The reason for it’s popularity may be, that it is considered the easiest climb of the lot, but it is also known for the panoramic views at its summit. So, we were all up and out of the house early and hit the Trail Head before 10am. I think we all were excited and probably a bit uncertain about how hard it would be, regardless of its reputation.
There were barely any parking spaces, but that meant that everyone was already ahead of us, and we did not see many people for a pretty long time, and when we did it was the early risers, who were already on their way back! We found the ascent, not quite as steep as Baker had been, but there were few natural breaks in the uphill. It was unseasonably cold, with the temperature at the base of the trail only in the low forties. But with the steady climb, over rocky and winding terrain, it did not take long to work up a sweat. I was pleasantly surprised by how good I felt and the stamina I seemed to have.
We all felt like we were travelling at a good pace, but got several reality checks, when several younger hikers, pretty much blew by us. And then there was the “crazy runner guy”. He wore only running shorts, no shirt, a heart rate monitor and running shoes and he was running (yes RUNNING, not walking or hiking) up the trail at an almost inconceivable pace. I wondered what he would do, upon reaching the top. Turn right around? Would he take a break? Wouldn’t he be freezing? We did see him on his descent, and remarkably, he was moving even faster on the downhill. I wish I could have gotten a photograph or a video of him either coming or going, but both times he was upon us and gone, too quickly for me. I think I am forever a humble novice, thanks to him.
As is often the case, our pace quickened, as we sensed we were getting close to the summit. The final stretch of the trek, had been called “a scramble”. As we emerged from the woods and could immediately feel the cool wind, pick up, we understood what had been meant by “scramble”. The last of the climb, was over fairly steep rock faces, much of which required the use of hands, as well as feet. It was, of course, longer and more difficult than it first appeared, and the wind seemed to steadily increase, the higher we got. But, upon reaching the top, and looking around – it was more than worth it. To say that the 360 degree views, were spectacular, does not really do it justice. Being up there and taking it all in, was pretty exhilarating and we lingered for a good amount of time, before we realized how hungry and cold we were.
We found a low spot up against some rock, and enjoyed a mountaintop lunch, before beginning the long trip downhill. It seemed like the adrenaline boost we all got from the views up top and the good vibes of making it to the top of a “High Peak”, allowed us to move fairly swiftly down the mountain. Though it probably took nearly three hours, the time seemed to fly by (I am not sure everyone in our party of four, would agree with that). As we began to hear vehicles passing by out on the road, I began to feel bad that the epic hike was nearly over. For me, it was the first signal that our week of adventure was drawing to a close. Sure, we still had Friday in Lake Placid before actually heading home on Saturday, but somehow, as we approached the road and stepped out of the woods, it seemed we were concluding something great. We had a great early dinner at the Ray Brook Brewery and enjoyed our last evening back at Camp Lilly Pad – on Lake Flower.
Checking out of the Camp on Friday was simple, but with a touch of sadness – the sign of a great vacation. We headed to Lake Placid, where we spent the day walking around town. While the rest of them shopped, I tried to watch the NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Semi Finals, on my phone. Syracuse was fairly dominant in their win over previously unbeaten Northwestern. And later back at the hotel, we watched top ranked and also unbeaten, North Carolina fall to Boston College. It was, as always, great to watch Lacrosse with Diana (and Jon. Debi opted out). After a terrific dinner, we said our good byes and called it a night. I fell asleep, grateful for the wonderful week we had been able to spend together. Though I am not sure about ever doing all Forty Six High Peaks, I would love to get back up there again, sooner rather than later.