Father’s Day 2015

Hike: Cascade and Porter Mountains
Distance: ~6.5 miles
Elevation: 4098 ft (Cascade) 4059 ft (Porter)
Total Ascent: ~2300 ft
Date: June 20, 2015

Discussions of a return trip to Cascade and Porter had been ongoing for some time between my brother Brian and I. He had been up Cascade a decade earlier, but had not caught Porter at the time. I had been up both 8 months prior, but the weather had prevented seeing any views. And so it worked out that we could gather on Father’s Day weekend to resolve these issues.

The plan was to make a quick trip to grab them on Saturday, and then do a shorter, less rushed hike with my dad and kids Sunday. We arrived a bit late at the trailhead, and were worried about finding a parking spot. However, we lucked out because someone had just pulled out right next to it. While we were getting ready to kick off, a small car attempted to park on the other side of the street and went in a bit far, until only 3 wheels were on the ground. I was about to run across and jump on his trunk, but thankfully he was able to back up and get the fourth back down.

Stream Crossing on Cascade Trail
Stream Crossing on Cascade Trail

The hike up Cascade went fairly quickly and smoothly. We both felt like we were in pretty good shape after our Marcy summit a month prior, so we were excited to see how this went. Before we knew it we were on the last push above treeline.

Summiting CascadeThe ADK has a summit steward program which posts a person on many of the more popular High Peak summits during the summer months. They are there to educate hikers and keep them off the fragile plants that grow there. A very kind and knowledgeable young woman was posted on Cascade this day, and took our picture (the other, unofficial, duty of stewards). It’s one of my favorite pictures of us.

Brian and I on CascadeWe were fortunate to summit during a lull, and spent quite a while chatting and enjoying the views.

Dix, The Great Range, Big Slide over Porter from Cascade
Dix, The Great Range, Big Slide over Porter
Marcy, Colden, Algonquin, etc etc
Marcy, Colden, Algonquin, etc etc
Facing East over Round Lake from Cascade
Facing East over Round Lake
Facing North over Pitchoff and Whiteface from Cascade
Facing North over Pitchoff and Whiteface

Feeling good, we hauled ass off Cascade back to the junction for Porter. There is a semi-technical descent for part of the 0.75 miles out to Porter. We passed a pair of women, one with a young child on her back, who was a 46er multiple times over. Climbing back up to Porter’s summit, the ascending fatigue returned and I slowed down. I still hadn’t achieved my climbing legs.

My Non-Beach Legs
My Non-Beach Legs

The summit of Porter is treed in, but it turns out there are still pretty good views over the tree tops.

Cascade from Porter
Cascade from Porter
The Great Range from Porter
The Great Range
Big Slide, Marcy, Colden, Algonquin from Porter
Big Slide, Marcy, Colden, Algonquin

Hike: Mt Severance
Distance: 2.4 miles
Elevation: 1693 ft
Total Ascent: ~800 ft
Date: June 21, 2015

Sunday, Father’s Day, started with a nice motivating tantrum from my youngest. Clearly it was time to get into the woods. My children were not particularly interested, but I wanted them all to at least get a taste of the experience, and Mt Severance is a short climb with rewarding views, so it fit the bill.

The trail starts by literally tunneling under Interstate 87, followed by crossing some bridges over a bog area. Then the trail gets pretty easy, with very gradual climbing.

Kids Are Off!
Kids Are Off!
Jenks Men
Jenks Men

There are a few fun stops along the way, such as this giant rock.

Giant Rock

King of the Mountain
King of the Mountain

Having become used to longer, taller hikes, it was a surprise when we came to the summit. Not to the kids, however. My daughter, especially, was not particularly enjoying the experience. She now says she’s happy to have a helicopter drop her on top and she’d be willing to walk down.

Happy Father's Day
Happy Father’s Day
Schroon Lake from Mt Severance
Schroon Lake

Night Walking

“I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.”
Vincent Van Gogh

A rustling came from the bushes, 15 feet away. The beam of our flashlight revealed a pair of glowing eyes, peering out at us. We were just a couple of kids, down by the lake at my parents’ house. Two teenagers looking for some alone time, sitting on an old wooden picnic table in the blackness of the night. Coyotes howled and yipped in the distance. She gripped my arm hard, fear rising. It was time to retreat.

Years later, when visiting my parents, my brother and I began taking night walks up the road into the desolate back roads of the Adirondacks after everyone else went to bed. It was our alone time, to reconnect. We would walk for miles up the road, catching up on each others’ lives. There were nights the moon was so bright it was practically daylight. There were nights so black you couldn’t tell where the ground ended and the sky began, trusting your feet to tell the difference. And there were nights so clear that the sky was filled with an unimaginable density of stars, the Milky Way Galaxy appearing to be just a long narrow cloud of cosmic dust streaking across the sky.

In the darkness, our eyes, normally leading the ship, take a more backseat role, and the other senses become primed. If you let them. Fear of the unknown can be strong. But tap into all your senses, expand your awareness, allow your eyes to adjust and trust your instincts, and it can be an awakening and wonderful experience. Eyes become attuned to the ever-so-slight shading differences in the gray scale, and the brain becomes adept at processing them. This is useful if you’re trying to avoid stepping on roadkill at 1 o’clock in the morning.

All of this was the pond of wisdom I was hoping to bring my kids to drink from when I suggested we take a pitch black night walk in the university’s nature preserve behind my house.

“Can I bring a flashlight?”
“No, we don’t need flashlights.”
“But how will we see?”
“You’ll figure it out, don’t worry.”
“But I’m scared. It’s dark.”
“I’ll be right with you, don’t worry. Your eyes will adjust. You’ll see.”

Night Walk with the KidsExiting the fence in the backyard, shit got real. It was dark. Not wait a second and let me figure this out dark. It was I’m in a lead box let me out kind of dark. I laughed at the absurdity of it, trusting my instincts. I reached out my arms to feel the bushes lining the trail, which leads to the main trail, tentatively feeling forward with my feet as I knew there were several tripping hazards to get past. My ducklings followed obediently behind, clinging to my tail feathers.

Reaching the main trail that runs behind my house, we stood still for a minute. I spoke calmly to them, reassuring that their eyes would adjust. After a short while the sky could be seen through the clearing between the bushes on the sides of the trail, lighting the way. They grew excited at noticing the difference for themselves, and we were off!

A few weeks later they were begging me to take them out again. We’ve had many memorable experiences since, mostly involving college students. I get more entertainment than I should from three small children walking out of the complete darkness to surprise a group of college kids clinging to their flashlights.

The last time we were out, on a meandering trail through the dark forest, we came upon two students searching the ground with a flashlight.
“You guys ok?”
“Yeah, I just lost my phone.”
“You lost your phone? Wow. I’m sorry. Do you want help finding it?”
“No, that’s alright. It doesn’t help that I threw it.”

Yeah. To be in college again.

But do get out and experience the rich colors of the night. You won’t be disappointed.

When the title for this post came to me, this song immediately popped into my head. So there, now it can be in yours, too. You’re welcome.