Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The View from (Almost) the Top

It was a beautiful November day, 48 degrees and mostly sunny. The kids were off from school for Veterans Day, and the county offices were closed so my husband had the day off as well. I don't have any yoga classes on Wednesdays, so I was free. We had to take advantage of this day.

After sleeping in a bit, we stuffed lunch into a day pack and drove to Putnam Pond in Ticonderoga, NY. We hiked around the south end of Putnam Pond, then picked up the trail to Treadway Mountain.

Hiking in the Adirondacks in the fall is magnificent, but not without its challenges. The trails are blanketed with brown leaves. Green moss and the occasional fern provide contrast, and the scene is highlighted here and there with white curls of birch bark. The leafless trees no longer block the sun, and it streamed down to sparkle off the quartz embedded in Treadway's rocks. The trails are quiet and there are no bugs. The trails were damp and even squishy in places, however, and the leaf cover makes it hard to see the rocks and mud, so we had to take it slow at times.

Of course, when you're hiking with a six year old, you're always taking it slow.

We had been hiking almost 3 hours when we reached the last knoll before Treadway's summit. The guidebook estimated the total hike at 2 1/2 hours, but the writers of the guidebook must not have tried it with a first grader. He never stopped and he tried hard to keep up, but his legs are short and he just can't go as fast. The guidebook said the last bit to the summit should take 15 minutes, but we knew it would be longer than that and we wanted to be down before dark, so we decided it was enough for today and satisfied ourselves with looking at the summit while we ate our lunch.

Next spring there will be pictures from the top.

We were pleasantly surprised by this trail. The terrain changes from soft forest floor to almost solid rock as you near the top. There was even a five-foot rock wall to scramble up. Cairns marked the trail over the rocky bits, and my son amused himself by adding a pebble to each one. The hike took us past Mud Pond, which was not muddy but actually crystal clear and as smooth as glass. The quartz top is fantastic, and the views were great even though we didn't reach the summit.

During our hike, we caught glimpses of the rarely seen teenagera surlyous (commonly known as the American teenager). This solitary creature roams the trails, usually just out of sight. The only way to get a good look at one is to leave food out. The teenagera surlyous can't resist a meal and may risk being seen for a cheese sandwich. This species does not seem to get a properly insulating winter coat until the temperature is well below freezing, perhaps due to a genetic deficiency, therefore if may be possible to tell if one is near by listening for muttering about the cold. The impatient animal might also be spotted pacing near a locked car, especially if there is no cell service. (We thought this species was native to the Northeastern U.S., but we've since heard they've been spotted across the continent.)

Each time we go out, I am impressed with my son's ability to navigate the trails. He spots trail markers, and at junctions remembers which color marker to follow next. He took a couple of spills, and got "kissed" by the rock when we climbed down a ledge, but he never stopped smiling. I feel blessed to share these experiences with him.

Every now and then my son would slip a cool hand into mine and walk with me. I know that he will soon outgrow holding mom's hand, and in a few years he will probably only reach for my hand to help me up. I treasure these moments now and will gladly walk slowly along the trails with my baby, even if someone is already pacing by the car.

We made it down just as the sun was setting spectacularly behind the mountains.
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