After a number of class meetings, packing, and re-packing, it is time to hit the road. After arriving at school at the regular start of school, the group loads everything into van and heads for the Adirondack Mountains in upper state New York. It is a long van ride that takes most of the day. The van parks next to an Adirondack lean-to, this is a three sided shelter common in this area and now used in many wilderness hiking areas. The time has come to choose what goes in the pack and what is left behind. From this point on the Leave No Trace policy dictates that we carry out everything we carry in. The goal is to have the backpacks as light as we can. Then we are ready to go, but we will have to wait until morning.
Day 2. Everyone is up early, packing sleeping bags, eating a good breakfast, and loading backpacks. By 9:00 AM it is time to find the trailhead. This area is very popular, there are a lot of other backpackers, and still more day-hikers. The trail is easy going with a lot of scenic vistas and clear mountain streams. After crossing Mary day, our trail enters Avalanche Pass where steep walls rise more than 1,000 feet on either side and the floor of the pass between the walls is only 100 feet wide at the most narrow point. From the pass the trail follows the edge of Avalanche Lake where boulders block the trail and a rock ledge go straight into the lake. Thanks to the trails crew, ladders are set to help people over the boulders and a boardwalk has been built on the side of the ledge. The views are breathtaking. With any luck, one of the lean-tos at the far end on Lake Colden is open and the group can move in to this campsite with a view of the pass.
Day 3. The goal is to is to climb Mount Marcy. Marcy is the highest peak in the Adirondack Mountains with the summit at 5,344 feet of elevation. It is a long day with a lot of climbing up and then back down, but it is done as a day-hike. On a day-hike the group only carries what they need for the day, lunch, raingear, water, water filters, extra clothing, and flashlights incase it get dark before returning to camp. Teams of two or three people share one backpack and they take turns carrying the pack. What a difference it is hiking without a backpack, compared to the full packs of the day before. If the mountains smile favorably on the group, everyone can make it to the summit. Many members of the group have made the summit, but often there are members who turn bake before reaching the top. Tenacity is the key to success as it is with many challenges in our lives.
Day 4. It is time to reload those backpacks and move camp. The next location is back to Marcy Dam where there are many lean-tos and tent sites. This time the group will set-up tents for their home away from home. With time left on the day after setting up camp, Mount Phelps (elevation 4,161 feet) is a good destination for an afternoon hike. Again, the group travels with little gear and is able to more quickly up the trail to the summit. It may not be as high as Mount Marcy, but it is still one of the significant peaks in the High Peaks regain.
Day 5. This is the last day of hiking and there are many choices. For the more ambitious, the plan is to climb Algonquin Peak (elevation 5,114 feet), the second highest peak, before packing up and taking the easy trail out to the packing lot. Other members of the group may choose to hike out to the parking lot first, to then hike up Mount Joe (elevation 2,876 feet) and visit Rocky Falls. Either way it is a good day to see more of the Adirondack High Peaks, get some good pictures and end the journey with a positive experience. After dinner the group get to sit around a campfire, something not allowed in the interior of the park, and reflect back on the experience. Individuals sharing what they got out of the trip is a big part of these trips and serves to reinforce the memories for years to come.
Day 6. It is time to return to civilization. With hot showers and clean cloth everyone loads the van for the ride home. A early start allows the group to arrive at school in time for the end of a normal school day. If need be, individuals can ride home on the bus or train as they do everyday. Bake home feels so good with a real bed