There are some places in the world that you visit once and instantly have a connection with. Something in the air hits you, and you immediately know you’ve found a place you can call your home away from home. For me, it’s the Adirondack Park in upstate New York, the largest park in the continental United States. At roughly the size of the state of Vermont, the Adirondacks always provides an abundance of excitement.
I first visited the Adirondacks several years ago. A few friends of mine had invited me to do some hiking in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness, and having been bitten by the backpacking bug not long before, I gladly obliged. The Eastern High Peaks is well known for housing the largest mountains in New York, the highest being Mt. Marcy at 5,344 feet. For me, it was a chance to really test my mettle against a few of the peaks.
Upon arriving we stopped at the Adirondak Loj to rent some bear canisters. Since the region is extremely popular, the bears in the area have actually learned how to overcome many of the more traditional methods of securing food. The friendly and knowledgeable staff at the Loj were able to provide a quick lesson on how to use a bear canister, and showed us the best way to pack them. With that, we loaded up our rucks and hit the trail. Base camp for us was near the ever-busy Marcy Dam, but my sights were aimed a bit higher, towards the peaks of the mountains I’d be climbing the next day.
When we set off in the morning for Wright Peak, I didn’t know what to expect. I had never hiked a mountain before, so the thought of having a few thousand feet of elevation before me was a bit daunting. One by one, I put my feet in front of the other and steadily gained height. It wasn’t long before our party reached the Alpine Zone, a small, precious ecosystem in New York. In total there is less than 100 acres of alpine ecosystem in New York, so it is critical for hikers to be mindful of where they place their feet in this fragile ecosystem. Staying on the bare rock and off the vegetation is crucial. As we journeyed upward, we were quickly rewarded with fantastic views of the surrounding area, and when we reached the peak we decided it was time for a hard-earned lunch break.
Now I had a decision to make. For those of you familiar with the area, you’ll know that not far past Wright Peak lies Algonquin, the second highest mountain in the state. There was a spirit rising up in me that screamed to venture on and continue up the next peak.
So onward I went, with only one from the original group of 5 joining me on the trip. Our tired legs and arms scrambled our way up the boulders and winding paths that lead to the top. Several times I thought about how much I’d love to be heading down the mountain. My limbs ached, and I wished I had just turned back towards camp. But I pushed on and persevered.
After what seemed like an eternity we triumphantly reached the peak. The view from the top of Algonquin was incredible, and the joy I felt from pushing myself was immeasurable. Immediately before me were dozens of other peaks, covered in thick green foliage. I could see Lake Colden to the south, and Heart Lake in the distance to the north.
For experienced hikers this might not have been much of a challenge, but for me, at the time, it was really stretching myself. The Adirondack Park is great for beginners, as it’s not incredibly difficult, but the beauty will keep even seasoned veterans coming back year after year. It’s where I cut my teeth, and while I have since taken on more difficult ventures, I look back on this event as the start of something wonderful.
This was the moment I knew the Adirondacks would always hold a special place in my heart. I learned how to push myself further, how to expand my comfort zone, and what it means to truly rely on only myself. Any place that teaches me about who I am and challenges the very core of what I can achieve is a region I will always connect with. And the fact that it’s at most a 5 hour drive from anywhere within New York State means it will always be that home away from home.
Photo Credit: Michael MacDaniels
Jason is a Sr. Account Manager at Brand Networks in New York City, with a penchant for exploration. He also currently serves in the Army National Guard. His website, Faith & Guts, is dedicated to helping the average person shift their mindset to embrace a life of freedom, adventure, and new experiences. Jason is an adventure enthusiast and is happiest when outdoors walking trails, climbing mountains, or traveling.