Girl Who Travels :: ADK

As the hardcore outdoor enthusiast that I claim to be, it may come as a surprise to you to know that my first backpacking adventure occurred when I was 20-years-old!  I was entering my Senior year of college at Mount Union and had signed up for a course in Group Dynamics.  Bar none, this was the coolest class I ever took.

The prerequisite:  a 5-day backpacking trip in the Adirondack mountains.  SIGN ME UP!  (note:  a quick look through the current course catalogue leads me to believe that this course is no longer offered.  I believe the "Wilderness Trip" still occurs, led by a husband/wife duo...Laura who joined me in this adventure and John, who I cajoled to join me the next year.).

Tan and fit from a summer of working as a camp counselor, I was exhausted, but ready for an adventure!
I almost always wear Edelweiss bandannas when I hike.  It's my thing.
Having missed the initial day of group building exercises on campus, I showed up just in time to load-up my ENORMOUS backpack with my share of the gear and hop into the 15-passenger van.  Much to my chagrin, out of the 2 "teams", I was assigned to Trey's team.... and he was also late.  So, we left without him.  Now, I didn't actually know Trey, but I knew who he was.  Oh yes, the stereotypical Rico Suave frat boy who drove around campus in his jeep with the top down and the guy whom everyone simply loved.  Blech... I was less than thrilled to be led through the wilderness by Mr. Metrosexual.

As these things usually happen, Trey went on to become one of the best friends I ever made in college.  We lived together off-an-on (depending on my mood for the semester and whether I wanted a roommate.  He was a good sport... since I had free housing) during his grad school career and he remains high on my list of favorite people.  I've looked past his ridiculous sex appeal and he's cast aside his memories of my glaring at him throughout a course or two (oops... he noticed!).  I digress...

Back to the mountains.  The "team" is assembled and we begin our long drive to upper New York, to the Adirondack Mountains.  If you've never been there, plan a trip NOW!  Starting near Lake Placid, we hiked for 5 long, hard, fantastic days.

Fresh from my "camp counselor" mentality, I quickly got over my sour attitude and focused on the joy of a week in the wilderness with some close friends, without the responsibility of caring for campers and getting to know some new people.  

Day 1, I was eager to be part of the team.  Each day one person was in charge of the map (with the guidance of the leaders) and set the pace.  I eagerly volunteered and begin hiking the motly crew STRAIGHT UP A MOUNTAIN.

One of the suggested preparations for this trip was regular running throughout the summer.  Though active, I had had no time to run.  Figuring everyone else was in amazing shape, I gritted my teeth and hiked my little heart out.  Determined not to be the cause of snickers and sideways glances, I kept up a fast pace.  Fortunately after a ridiculously long time at this pace (felt like an hour, probably more like 20-minutes), we took a break and slowly people began to admit that the pace was a little rough.  PHEW!

Discovering freeze-dried backpacking food, consuming ridiculous amounts of GORP, nightly sleeping bag wrestling matches (not as kinky as it sounds!), learning to make bear-proof food storage and delving into deep discussions, I was in complete heaven.

Mid week was HIGH PEAK DAY!  If the weather cooperated (it did), we were going to head to Mount Marcy for a peak experience (he he).  This was the first time I ever hiked above the tree line.  Wow.  Feel the burn. Even now, 10 years later, my calves burn with the memory of such a steep, long hike.

On the way up, our leader, Trey, and our student leader, Becky, kept our spirits up with frequent breaks and silly songs.  I used this opportunity to release my campy dorkiness and taught them the BEAVER SONG!  

Beaver 1, Beaver All, let's go to the Beaver ball.  *hand motions* ch ch ch (x4)
Beaver 2, Beaver 3, let's all climb the Beaver tree.  *hand motions* ch ch ch (x4)
Beaver 4, Beaver 5, let's all do the Beaver jive. *hand motions* ch ch ch (x4)
Beaver 6, Beaver 7, let's all go to Beaver heaven. *hand motions* ch ch ch (x4)
Beaver 8, Beaver 9, come on everybody it's BEAVER TIME! *dance around like a beaver*

Group Shot on our 2nd-to-last day, sporting our BEAVER FINGERS.

Though this trip and the next year, when I joined Trey as his student leader, could be a mini-series of it's own, I'll end with one more I'm-a-hardcore-hiker story.  After the above photo was taken, we had the option of a solo night.  Packing up the bare minimum we were led to private sites in the woods for us to reflect, write, be silent and create a "Christmas" present for a teammate.

I took my pen, knife, journal, sleeping bag, raincoat, head lamp, and 2 garbage bags.  That night, the heavens opened up and it stormed!  Luckily for me, I knew how to make a shelter...however in the heavily trampled woods, my resources were severely limited (or perhaps that's just my excuse for being lazy).  I made myself a ghetto lean-to, lying underneath a fallen tree which I lazily laid some long limbs across, I used my rain coat and one opened garbage bag to make a shelter from my upper 1/2 and slipped my sleeping bag into a garbage bag to keep my lower 1/2 dry.

When the thunder and lightening picked up, I shuddered.  However, I remained remarkably dry and toughed through the night, determined not to be the only "scaredy cat".  The next morning, my dear friend, student leader Becky, came to find me... she hadn't slept a wink because she was so worried about me.  She awoke me by singing, "Good morning beautiful.  How was your night?".  I'm certain there is no better way to wake up after a solo night!  She snapped this shot of my ridiculous shelter:
No one does "bed head" like me!  Though I don't remember this, looking at this photograph, it seems that my shoddy shelter was almost more dangerous than the storm... some of the sides fell on top of me!
I was the only girl to spend the night in the storm... I think I need a badge or something :)

So there you have it, a few reflections of the week that ignited a life-time passion for backpacking!  Isn't it amazing the way time in the woods can reinvent your attitude, your friendships and your sense of self?

Post #1:  Excons on the AT

1 comment:

  1. Loved reading your experiences. I was on the other team of the same trip, so similar but different. Fun times. I had no idea that was your first time backpacking. It's sad that it is not an official course anymore.


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