Spoilers: There were no giants on Giant Mountain.
No Beanstalk-kind. No BFG kind. No Hagrid kind. Certainly no Game of Thrones kind. They’re all hiding from the not-so-happy fans, I’m guessing? And Thank God, though, right? Who wants to run in to a giant? What would you even do?
While we’re on the GoT topic. I can’t believe (redacted) killed (redacted). But how can you blame him after she (redacted). Crazy (or mad?), but bound to happen. Also, I never thought (redacted) would be the one to kill the (redacted). Came out of nowhere for me. And (redacted) becoming (redacted) of the (redacted) realms. While (redacted) finally runs the (redacted) like she’s supposed to? I’m glad we talked about it too.
Can I keep him?
I feel like with each hike, mountain, adventure, whatever, a new story has come with it. It’s been such a journey already. And this time around was no different. I can’t even express — wait. Don’t you hate it when people say that, but then go on to express it just fine? I think I’m here to document this entire journey to becoming a 46er, and I feel like I should write it all as honestly as I can. I was so, so, so happy when I got a quick message from Joel, an old buddy from high school and beyond, outta nowhere. It had been a few years since we’d been in touch, and a few years before that too. You know how it is. I’m terrible about keeping in touch. Reach out to your friends! I feel too busy living my own life sometimes. I think that’s somewhat selfish, but also, not in a way. I feel aware that life is great and I’ve got to take advantage. Joel’s quick message was simple: “Dude, let’s hike together!!!”. I’m sure I said “YES!” out loud when I got the message. I was actually looking through his Instagram photos when he messaged me. I noticed he had hit up some Adirondacks already. I had a good feeling about this one. Like that time you jump in to a new relationship and just immediately fall head over heels. I immediately said to Lauren “I may have just found a full time hiking buddy”. How premature of me. I’m sure it happens to everyone. Anyhow, it’s not that you need a team to hike, obviously. But constantly not knowing if it’s going to be a solo day or not can be frustrating. Finding a hiking partner who has the passion, the desire and the free time means more ideas about where to go, support while you’re on the go and is so much more rewarding. And like any good relationship, sometimes it comes when you’re not looking for it. All of that to say I was excited that Joel had reached out and seemed open to trying so many cool things. Can I keep him???
Photos: 1) It started out steep. And stayed steep all day. 2 & 3) See if you can spot Joel’s green bag after scrambling up this rock face. 4, 5 & 6) A 180 right to left 3 photo shot of the view from the summit.
Giant Mountain Lives Up To It’s Name
There’s still, as of June 5th, multiple Adirondack mountains with snow at their summit. I’d been following trip reports and weather forecasts about two weeks out and was bouncing back and forth between a few different hikes. Giant mountain, it seemed, was just a little bit wet and a whole lot muddy. Shortly before Saturday we had decided that this was the one we’d go with. The day started out steep. I’d read that this climb was steady steep most of the way up. And, not coincidentally, on the way down too. It turns out that whoever wrote that wasn’t making it up. Before I talk about the actual hike, lemme just say this. From the minute I picked Joel up shortly before 5am, we were laughing. It was as if we had been hanging out all these years since high school. Eighteen, if you’re counting. That’s right class of ’01. You’re old. But anyway, hooking back up with Joel was so easy and such a great time. If you’re in need of a good time, I’ve heard rumblings of his phone number being listed in bathroom stalls around a few cities. He’s got it like that. Anyway (again), the hike was quick to start working out our legs. I made such a huge effort to pack lighter than I ever have. I went through each piece of gear and cut weight wherever I could and it payed off. My pack was about ten pounds lighter than usual and it was so much more comfortable. On the downside, I forgot extra camera batteries. Again. The whole second batch of photos had to be taken on my phone. First world problem. This particular trail on Giant mountain zig-zags its way up the mountain. For that reason, we got the same huge, sprawling view all day, just from higher up each time. We joked about this so many times on the way up. And on the way down. It was definitely not a view to be mad at.
We alternated taking the lead and taking breaks. We took our time and let so many other hikers pass us as we enjoyed the view, the nature and the conversation of catching up the years. I must say, after two consecutive hikes that were not only solo, but also without anyone else on the mountain, it was nice to see other hikers on the trail. The heavy foot traffic probably also helped keep the giants from launching their attacks. I’m willing to bet that anyone who has ever heard Joel yawn, knows that there were some people on the mountain that day looking around for giants. Or a Wookiee at least. To compensate for getting rid of the snow, Mother Nature blessed us with some serious mud puddles. Some we went through, some we went around when it was appropriate to do so. Gotta keep off certain plants, as they’re endangered. We had no complaints about any of it all day. It was also pretty awesome that the trail was super easy to follow. Lots of trails aren’t marked and you really just have to rely on the footprints that came before you. And a map and compass, which neither Joel or I know how to operate. Yet. I’ve given myself two serious goals for the very near future. First, I need to learn to use a map and compass. Joel and I are both on the hunt for courses around here. Secondly, I need to start learning some of the mountains that I’m looking at in these views I’m experiencing. This one should be fairly easy, as long as I put a focus on it. Joel and I also joked about this many times throughout the day, just pointing at other peaks and yelling out names of ADK mountains that we know. Gimme time, I’ll get there. Then I can point them out and I can hopefully start giving some context to my photos.
“Everything will eventually come to an end. So try to savor the moments, cuz time flies, don’t it?” -Nas
We reached the summit of Giant mountain at about 10:45am. About 3 hours after we set out. I knew from research that this was about par. Maybe a little behind, but considering we stopped so often for photo ops, it was decent. My last few hikes have been colder and I was alone, so I didn’t spend an enormous amount of time on the summit. Joel and I took our time on the summit of Giant and I couldn’t have been happier. There is a huge bare rock area to chill on. We ate, we took photos. There’s a great ledge that you can totally and safely sit on while you dangle your legs over. I took a photo of that, but it’s got a weird perspective on it and isn’t worth posting to be honest. So, just go climb it, sit at the edge and see for yourself. Like I said, views all day. After we both touched the summit marker, we celebrated a bit. This was my 10th and Joel’s 6th Adirondack High Peak. I think we both knew there are more to come. After we’d had the summit to ourselves for about ten minutes, we were joined by a group of 5 or 6 folks from Ottawa. This was the first High Peak for one of the ladies in their group, so we took turns taking group photos and generally talking about how awesome we all were. No, you’re awesome. No, you’re awesome. I already know I’m awesome. Other people’s excitement is contagious. Like them, our plan was to continue the extra few kilometers to a second High Peak that day, Rocky Peak Ridge. One of the hikers reminded us that there were possible thunderstorms in the forecast for 3pm, wished us a safe hike and the group took off. We all knew that thunder=lightning and lightning high up in the mountains is a pretty serious no-no. Joel and I discussed turning around, but we weren’t at that point yet. There had been some clouds all day and the last I had checked the forecast was at 5am when I had intenet service. Which is probably why the weather guy said “Partly Cloudly” and “Chance of Thunderstorms”. We decided to pack up and hit the trail towards our second mountain of the day, anyhow. I also knew from research that this second mountain was not an easy task. Actually crossing the border that morning, when the dude at customs asked us which High Peak we were doing, he said “Giant’s easy, Raaacky Peak Ridge is a killer tho”. Raaacky in that New York accent. Not the mob-type Brooklyn NY accent, but that New York State accent where O’s become A’s. I love it every time I hear it.
There were a few moments on the way to Rocky Peak Ridge that I think we knew the day was over. Not only did we have to descend Giant, then climb up Rocky, we then had to retrace all those same steps to get back. If only I was allowed to teleport in front of other people. There were a few groups on the mountain that day that we continuously passed and were passed by. Because we’d spent so much time at the summit of Giant, they were all now ahead of us. And slowly, one by one, each group turned around. The trail was too tough-going and there was no way we’d make it there and then all the way back without risking the sun going down behind the dark clouds. It wasn’t necessarily getting too late, but combined with the dark clouds rolling in and the lightning potential that came with them, turning around was the smart move. And a first for me. I have often wondered how I would feel about being forced to turn around and not hit the daily goal. More than that, I also wondered IF I could turn around when I knew it was smart to do so. I’m so, so stubborn sometimes. To be completely honest, neither of us minded the turn around. The decision came surprisingly easy to me. And that’s kind of a personal comfort. I don’t remember who said first “You wanna turn around?” but I know the immediate answer was “Yep!”.
In my efforts in the aforementioned “cutting weight” to make my pack lighter, I cut back from 3 liters of water to 2. Every time I hike, I take 3L and I end not needing 1L. So I thought I’d be doing myself a favor. I was wrong and I will never run out of water again. This is the second time it’s happened. I haven’t bought any new gear related stuffs in a while, so I have just ordered some water purification tablets that will allow me to collect water from running streams and safely drink it. I seriously doubt the tablets do anything about the flavor of pond water, but I’ll let you know. As long as I don’t catch a frog when I’m collecting water. Because then I would throw my water bladder while flailing my arms uncontrollably and running back to the summit. For real tho, I did run out of water with about 2km left. Not a huge deal, but not very prepared either. I more than made up for it at McDonald’s on the way home when I had not one, not two, but three large Cokes with my ridiculous meal. As the day was winding down and we could start to recognize the very early parts of the trail, the biggest shock of the day happened. It was now about 3pm and two very amateur looking hikers had hit the trail, looking to climb Giant. Now, mostly, the hiking community is very much about “hike your own hike”. And I’m a new hiker too. And I’m not interested in telling anyone what to do or how to do it. But the first guy was carrying the smallest backpack I’d ever seen. Maybe he had 2L of water stashed in there, but I doubt it, it was tiny. And the second guy didn’t have anything with him at all. Not even a bottle of water. They were both in shoes with no grip and the second guy was in some very, very tight skinny jeans. I felt that in about ten hours I’d be checking out that day’s trail reports, only to come across a Search and Rescue article. This type of thing happens so often in the Adirondacks. And, I’m sure, in mountain ranges everywhere people hike. Hopefully they made it out ok.
Despite all of the unsafe things about this situation and having just been witness to some of the long-ass leg stretches needed by myself and Joel to reach certain spots on the trail we’d left behind, I still had just one question in my head for Skinny Jeans:
“Where exactly do you keep your balls in those things, man?”
Eventually a link for Chapter 13 will be right here. But for now, enjoy this haiku:
A great wide valleyBirds flying freely and wildOver horizons.