On a recent Adirondack trip, I thought about others we’d taken there in the past. Trips that were packed with preparation, anticipation and – truth be told – a bit of dread. Back then my wife, friend Steve and I were into hiking the High Peaks, the 4,000-foot-plus massifs that dominate the views around Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and other North Country locales. Our trips to the mountains each summer gave us some respite from the stressful aspects of our professional lives. But that respite came with a price: Those peaks are no joke. They demand much from one’s physical and mental reserves. Many were the hikes that humbled us and laid bare our fragile selves when thrown against mountains whose origins date back millennia.
Fast forward to the trip this year, when we joined our lovely in-laws for a relaxing week in a comfortable cabin on a pristine pond. There was preparation, sure (gotta make sure I pack my special homemade martini kit!). Meals were readied, hiking gear checked, clothes packed, etc.
And of course, there was anticipation: My wife, Teresa, and I couldn’t wait to ditch the daily routines and head to that beautiful part of New York that means so much to us. My sister-in-law, freshly retired, looked forward to her first “mellow” September in 35 years. Her husband, my trusty brother-in-law, is a guy who lives for the moments when nature steals any thought of his workday life and replaces it with a gorgeous view, or a quiet kayak outing capped by a big bass on his fishing line.
As for dread, thankfully this trip harbored none. Teresa and I are retired, which understandably can be interpreted as being permanently on vacation. But that’s not exactly the case. There is a difference between living each day at home and doing so somewhere else. The setting changes, and so do life’s rhythms – delightfully so: a fresh hot cup of coffee on the deck above the pond; views of water, hills and skyscapes of blue, white and gray; paddling in ponds, casting for fickle fish that one suspects are laughing just below the surface; climbing a short, arduous trail to a fire tower whose purpose has morphed from spotting smoke to providing views. These were the differences from everyday life and past trips that we embraced and cherished.
But much was also the same: the gentle interaction of grown-up sisters; enjoying together their morning yoga practice; my easy friendship with my brother (in-law), whose calm patience with my incessant fishing foul-ups rivaled Job’s; sharing their quiet joy when their eldest son came for a whirlwind visit, their wee first child grown tall and strong and sweet. He went off to hike in New Hampshire after seeing Mom and Dad.
Our past Adirondack trips had featured hard hiking, changeable weather and loads of natural beauty. So it was with this September trip. The fire tower hike left me panting, wishing for deliverance, before I reached the summit and gloried in the views. A torrential rain accompanied us back to the trailhead. During one sublime kayak outing, a gorgeous common loon and its teenage youngster delighted us simply by being themselves, diving and surfacing in the clear water.
Some subtle, pretty tinges of autumn color crept into the crowns of trees as the week progressed.
Teresa and I finished hiking the High Peaks nine years ago. After our last one (Mount Colden), I wondered what those mountains could offer us in the days ahead. The trips that followed have provided the answer: time spent away, together, in nature.
Peter Corrigan of Buffalo glories in trips to the Adirondack Mountains.