Thursday, August 25, 2011

On Top of the World

Schroon Lake is a wide part of the Schroon River, which snakes through a valley in the Adirondack mountains. One of the things I love about living here is the view of the mountains all around. I like to be in the midst of the solidness and stability of the mountains, where I feel safe and grounded.

While looking up at the mountains is grounding, looking out from their tops is breathtaking. If you've read my Wednesday Adventures post, you know that my son and I have been heading to the mountaintops every Wednesday when the yoga studio is closed. Each week we have taken more challenging hikes onto taller peaks. We visited the fire tower on top of Hurricane Mountain, explored the balanced rocks on Pitchoff and, last week, sat at the top of Noonmark looking out at most of the 46 High Peaks. The longing to visit the hiker's Mecca in the Adirondacks was too much.

We started with the smallest and easiest of the 46, Cascade Mountain. "Smallest" and "easiest" are, of course, relative terms as even the runt is over 4,000 feet. The hike up is fairly benign; the trail is so well worn and packed down that parts seem like sidewalk. The rocky bits are almost stairs. It was not until we neared the bald summit that the climb got challenging, but scrambling up the dome wasn't as hard as standing up in the wind once on the top.

Completely open, the summit is exposed to the wind from any direction and yesterday was a breezy day. At the summit the wind was strong and steady and worked hard to knock over anyone who got to their feet. We love to eat our lunch on the summits, but yesterday we had to retreat down the mountain a bit to find a sheltered spot where we could hang onto our food.

A short way from the top is a col between Cascade and Porter Mountain, its closest High Peak neighbor. Less than a mile was too easy to pass up, so we found Porter's summit yesterday as well. And now we have two High Peaks under our belts.

I find immense pleasure in sitting on top of a mountain, no matter how big, looking out at the beauty of nature and the sometimes less than beautiful human creations below. Being closer to the sky makes me feel closer to the source of inspiration and power. But the greatest joy from this summer's hikes has come from watching my now eight-year-old son gain strength and confidence as he tackled each peak. He has a knack for following even poorly marked trails and scales boulders so easily that more than one person we've met on the trail has likened him to a mountain goat. We have had some amazing conversations on the trail, his input varying from the kind of robot he'd like to build to questioning why there are so many songs about women. (Try explaining that to an eight-year-old while trying not to trip over a stone.)

And, after all the maturity and confidence he shows on the mountain, he still reaches for my hand when we step off the trail and onto the roadside. And then this mom is on top of the world.

In the wind on the summit of Cascade.

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