15 June (No Bicycle Miles)
After a fine breakfast at the Downtown Diner I met my guide Don McMurray across the street as planned at 8 AM at High Peaks Cyclery. He was my age and is very experienced as a guide in the area. Before starting out, we discussed the options. Since it rained significantly during the week, many of the mountain trails would be muddy. Don recommended Jay Mountain as the best alternative. His rationale was that the black flies were less of a problem on this mountain. We were hardly bothered by them and they are out in force this year. Another factor was that near the summit on Jay Mountain, the hike would be over a rock field with wide vistas of the Adirondacks and less mud. That was the case and we could see many of the major mountains in the range.
I originally planned to hike one of the 4,600 foot mountains. Jay rises about 3,600 feet above sea level. A hike at a higher altitude would have been a disappointment because many of the 46ers such as Whiteface were in the clouds until mid-afternoon. That was not a factor in our decision to hike Jay Mountain and it was fortunate that we chose the lower altitude peak by chance. We both interpreted the weather forecast for the day to be sunny with few low clouds.
High Peaks Cyclery provided the backpack and rain gear. Don had a pair of ski poles for himself and offered a pair to me for the decent. I took them and appreciated having them. The made the hike down more comfortable. We loaded up on water and headed out.
We were on the trail by mid-morning. The hike was not difficult, but I fell behind Don several times on the way up. I suppose hiking up a mountain is different from riding a fully loaded bicycle, yet I was disappointed in my performance. I improved as I warmed up, but never achieved the tempo that Don was able to sustain. He was patient with me and we used my frequent stops to hydrate.
The view from the summit was just what I expected. I could see Lake Champlain and Whiteface Mountain as well as many other mountains in the Adirondack chain. Don was great at pointing out all of these features. As the cloud cover cleared, more and more of the Adirondacks as well as mountains in Vermont became visible. The weather cleared just enough to provide dramatic shadows from passing clouds.
Don mentioned regulation of the Adirondacks by the state. One of the things that I found troubling was a little regulation. It has to do with the placement of canisters at the summits of all of the 46ers, peaks over 4,600 feet tall. The canisters were used by hikers for two purposes. One purpose was to know that they reached the summit. The second was to record that they were there. At one time it was interesting for people to peruse the names as well as recording their own. The state legislature called this a non-conforming structure and will not allow it by statute. The troubling thing is that the lawyers in the statehouse regulate such minutiae.
Don is a real professional. He has a long history in the area. He has a lot of hiking experience that was reflected in his preparation and execution. He is prepared for contingencies as well as the nominal hiking. That gave me a confident feeling from the start.
I learned some important lessons, although you would think that by the time you reach my age you would have known these things already. I learned that I was not dressed for this kind of hiking. My hoodie, t-shirt, and pants were cotton. Cotton can be uncomfortable because when you sweat, it gets wet, and doesn’t dry out well while you are hiking. Don took a picture of me near the top with the Adirondacks in the background. I’m an unsightly mess with a soggy t-shirt and messed up sweaty wet hair. The t-shirt dried before we hiked down, but it was uncomfortable and chilly when it was wet.
My shoes were a problem because downhill I could not get them tight enough to avoid jamming by big toe onto the toe of the shoe. It hurt and there was little that I could do about it. I tried once or twice to tighten the shoelaces, but to no avail. The impact of the injury to my big toe came later on Tuesday.
The hike was a great experience and exceeded my expectations. After a quick shower at the hotel, I walked to Lisa G’s for a late dinner.