From couch potato to Adirondacks mountaintop
This is not a story of a person who never exercised but after climbing a mountain lost 20 pounds and is now living a healthy lifestyle.
Instead, this is a story about finding adventure with a fitness level of one step above a couch potato. Basically I could walk a couple of miles without needing oxygen.
Like most people this year, I have craved something to break up the miasma of social distancing, but finding the time and the place to get away for a few days wasn’t always available when I wanted it.
Instead, I packed adventures into one-day mountain hikes in the Adirondacks.
Each time I’ve gone it I’ve felt like I have been on a minivacation, I have experienced spectacular views from the summit and even the hike through forests can be stunning. Near the top of Goodnow Mountain, I felt like I was walking through a fairy tale, with the way the light was filtering through the pine trees.
I also connected with my 13-year-old in a different way. We shared the experience of doing something physical together and chatting along the way. It has been fun to watch her go from being grumpy about the long drive to being excited to show me a particular view, or grab my camera to take photos.
For our hikes, we have used the book "Best Easy Day Hikes Adirondacks" by Lisa Densmore Ballard to find a hike at our level. The book also provides interesting information about the hike as well as the history of the area. We noticed that the people who write hiking books hike more than the average person, though. On our first hike from that book, the author said there was a steady incline. To us, it was steep, and for a long stretch, I was huffing and puffing (perhaps because it was July). Now our rule of thumb is to expect a stretch of huffing for each incline described as gentle.
If you are goal-oriented, as we are, there are several patches to earn through various Adirondack organizations, and they don’t require triathlon fitness.
The Tupper Lake Hiking Triad. I learned about this one a few months after we had climbed Mount Arab in July. The patch is earned after hiking Mount Arab, Goodman Mountain and Coney Mountain in either the summer or winter months. The three mountains are all around Tupper Lake. All are just over a four-hour drive from Rochester and could be done in one day, but that's one long day. We were tired after doing Coney and Goodman mountains back to back.
Each hike was no longer than 1.7 miles one way and none has a hard ascent. They all have great views, with the best at Coney Mountain, which has a 360-degree view. My daughter and I did both Coney and Goodman mountains in a day; between the two it totaled just over 6 miles. We hit the road at 7 a.m., got to Coney Mountain at noon and spent some time on the summit before driving about a mile down the road to Goodman Mountain. We left the area at 3:20 p.m. and were home by 8.
Mount Arab is a bit farther than these two. It's 24 miles from Goodman and Coney mountains on the other side of Tupper Lake. The view from the ground isn’t as good as those two mountains. To get the best view you have to climb the stairs of the fire tower.
In addition to taking in views, my daughter and I have learned some incredible history. For example, Litchfield Mountain was renamed in 2002 to Goodman Mountain after Andrew Goodman, a summer resident who was one of the victims in the notorious Mississippi Burning case. He was killed along with James Chaney and Michael Schwerner, by the Ku Klux Klan and Neshoba County Sheriff’s Department, while trying to register Black voters in Mississippi in 1964. Information about Goodman is posted on a board at the beginning of the trail.
Our next goal is the ADK (Adirondack Mountain Club) Fire Tower Challenge, which requires people to climb 23 towers split between the Adirondack and the Catskill mountains. You do not have to actually climb the fire towers; you just have to hike up to them. The book and website outline the rules.
It sounds daunting, but to date we've climbed six mountains, four with fire towers on them. No one hike was more than 4 miles round trip and the highest elevation change was 1,550 feet at Blue Mountain.
My advice to you, to beat the social distancing blahs, is to go take a hike.