Nineteenth-century census maps show the American population moving steadily west across the frontier, with a few exceptions: northern Maine, the Everglades, and a large unpopulated circle in upstate New York. The Adirondacks were too inhospitable to sustain life for any but the most rugged people. Today, the 6.1-million-acre Adirondack Park is the largest U.S park outside Alaska. It is famed for its 46 “high peaks” over 4,000 feet, and an exclusive club of “46ers” has climbed them all. As of Wednesday morning I had climbed none of them. By Thursday morning I had quite unexpectedly climbed four, including Dix, the sixth highest in the range.
Wednesday was clear and beautiful when I set off with my friends Michael and Anne, 50 pounds of essential supplies on my back. The first indication we might not be heading into paradise was our arrival at the “the slide,” a several-hundred-foot, very steep open face of rock on Macomb Mountain. Too terrified to look at the panorama unfolding behind us, we crawled our way up, only to find that the mountaintop was still far away. We trudged up and down three peaks along an unmarked “herd path,” and as we slogged up Dix itself, exhausted and worried about our water, it grew dark.
We stopped at a spot far too small to pitch our tents, and when we threw our sleeping bags on the ground, Michael discovered that a chipmunk had eaten through his Ziploc bag of Tang. This rendered bear-proofing preparations unnecessary, and as we settled in for the night, we each adopted a bear strategy: Michael smoked a cigar; Anne stayed awake; and I snored. And of course we put Michael and his Tang downwind.
The rain began at 11:30.
PS For another way to do this, see http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/29/opinion/sunday/kristof-blissfully-lost-in-the-woods.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss