Monday, October 24, 2016

3 chicks and 1 stony cold bitch: Birthday adventures on Esther

A few weeks ago, we planned to go on a ladies-who-adventure trip to the Adirondacks this past weekend. A few days prior we were inundated with winter storm warnings for the area. Rain! Flash flooding! Up to 15" of snow! It was not the fall forecast I was expecting and my excitement was soon dampened by nervousness. I don't have much mountain climbing experience. I'd like to change that but I don't want to be an idiot about it. I'm not an aspiring 46er, I don't care about peak bagging. I just like climbing on things. And not being broken or developing hypothermia. So we let go of our original plans to hike a peak like Skylight or Panther and decided to make a day-of, weather dependent agenda, whether that involved a hike, snowshoeing or, if it got too bad, staying inside to play games and watch movies.

We stayed at The Little Peak Chalet, an adorable A-frame cabin in Wilmington, NY. Friday night we stopped for dinner at Strong Hearts Cafe in Syracuse, then continued on to the Adirondacks. It rained for the entirety of the trip there and was still raining when we woke up Saturday morning. It was damp and chilly but there was no snow yet so we decided to attempt hiking Esther, the little sister of Whiteface Mountain.

Ladies who adventure!

We parked at the secondary trailhead on Reservoir Rd, went up Marble Mountain and then on to Esther. It was a beautiful trail, particularly with the rain glistening on the fallen leaves. At first it was a pleasant, albeit wet, fall hike.

In the beginning...still Fall

But as we climbed higher in elevation, the temperature dropped and the pine trees were covered in ice. Esther was turning into one stony cold bitch. We were nearing the peak on Esther when we came to a section of trail that was more like a mini pond. We were wearing waterproof shoes, but the water was deep enough that our feet and legs would have gotten wet anyway. The visibility was so poor that there wouldn't be much in the way of views at the peak and then we'd have to brave the freezing wind at the top with drenched feet and legs, so we decided seeing the top wasn't worth the wet and cold we'd have to endure to get there and back. This was perfectly in keeping with our goal for the weekend: do something active and not be miserable. So we turned around and headed back down the way we'd come.

Up until this point we hadn't seen another soul on the trail. It was only on our way back down Esther that saw our first fellow hikers, a yellow lab and a woman who succinctly summed up the conditions with a friendly smile and an "It's not a nice day." As we continued our descent, we passed a couple of big groups a few more hikers on their way up, plus a couple of dudes headed down from Whiteface. The way back was less rainy but increasingly more windy. Other than my hands getting cold, which was remedied with hand warmers and gloves (Thanks Mort!), it was a very enjoyable hike. There's something about being in the woods that is very soothing, despite the weather. I suppose it's sort a of a zen place for me, where I don't have to think about anything except putting one foot in front of the other. And luckily, we arrived back at the car just as fall was turning into winter.

After showering and changing into warm dry clothes, we drove into a snowy Lake Placid for warm beverages and window shopping. Which turned into actual shopping when I saw some elephant pants (!!) in a storefront display (once I got home, I got rid of a few articles of clothing, in keeping with my one in/at least one out policy on possessions). We spent the night eating soup and cake, chatting and watching a movie at the chalet.

And now it's Winter.

Sunday morning we awoke to howling winds and started our drive home through snow covered trees. We stopped at Buttermilk Falls in Long Lake, NY, for an accidental detour down a super long (but pretty) dead end road (thanks Google Maps!) and then to eat at Keye's Pancake House in Old Forge (buckwheat pancakes are an excellent second breakfast and it's totally worth paying $2.75 for the tiny bottle of Adirondack Maple Syrup).

The other Buttermilk Falls

It was a fantastic weekend and a most excellent start to my 35th year of aliveness. I am infinitely grateful for the past 35 years of life and especially for all the carbon based lifeforms I have been lucky enough to meet. I hope the next 35+ years are filled with more mountains to climb, friends to love and experiences to share.

Bear! For obvious reasons.

Lyric of the moment: "Climb a mountain to reach yourself. Climb a mountain to find zen. Free your mind and drift away. Free your tribe and float away..." ~The Cult "In The Clouds"  

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