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If you were to ask me what the number one reason for attempting a thru hike of the Trans Adirondack Route was, it would be a surprisingly simple one and one which might not come to mind. To as cheaply as possible, avoid New York City during the hottest month of the year.
Distance hiking requires only the occasional hotel/hostel and resupply stops and is in fact a rather inexpensive daily undertaking. Gear aside of course, which for this trip I had most of already.
Why the Trans Adirondack Route? There were certainly other hikes I considered. I was keeping it to the east coast for cost reasons. The Appalachian Trail was out of the question. Far too crowded these days and it’s peak season right now. Also strongly considered, Vermont’s Long Trail, the Finger Lakes Trail, and the Long Path which runs from NYC to near Schenectady, NY.
A journey for personal growth
I eventually settled on the TransADK for several reasons. My love of the Adirondack Mountains and eventual desire to live there, to walk the entire length of the Adirondack Park, it would be the route least traveled, and mostly because it was different from other hikes in that you would not simply be following a series of blazes down a clearly marked trail. Hiking the route would mean using some new navigational skills as well as my first “bushwacks” or off trail/cross country hiking. It would mean taking my previous hiking and backpacking experiences and skills to a higher level I had not yet experienced, which of course would cause me to grow as a person in ways other hikes would not, and who doesn’t want to grow as a person?
So how was it?
The Bushwhacking: Was this always going to be about “bushwhacking”? I had to use several tools to degrees I previously had not. Maps, a compass and guidebook were all used constantly. Navigating was almost a part of every moment of travel, however After my first day of bushwacking I wanted to swear it off forever. I was sure I’d do what was required to complete the route including any more bushwhacking, then never, ever travel off trail again. Being older and more experienced I knew better. I knew I was somewhat traumatized by the experience and I knew that it would take time to digest, reflect and grow on. I also knew not to speculate whether I’d ever be up for it again. I’d let the experience settle in become a part of me and just focus on completing the tasks ahead.
Of course South Notch was still ahead. My longest, most difficult and perhaps least sucessful off trail travel of the trip. To say I was at any point afraid, would be inaccurate. It was probably one of the few situations in my life where I was able to not only recognize how bad fear would have made the situation, but was able to keep fear from becoming a additional part of the equation, remain calm and rational. As someone who has struggled with anxiety in other area’s of my life, I keep thinking back to those moments and wishing I could only understand and pinpoint how or what it was that enabled me to remain so composed.
I don’t feel like I’d ever “enjoy” off trail travel, however there are places not accessed by main trails which I loved. Pillsbury Bay, the great beaver meadow in the Whitney Area. These places are in part so magical and special because they cannot be easily reached by trail travel.
I am somewhat conflicted and challenged I feel there are places that should be “forever wild” and remain untouched by humans. Conflict and challenge in such context can actually be very helpful and a integral part of our learning and growth processes. As much for anything I did this to learn and grow as a person.
And to be fair in hindsight I learned a lot of very useful things about navigating off trail. How important topographical information can be, how it can be read on a map and used in real situations.
Overall the trip was simply amazing. I still have some things to sort out ponder over with regards to off trail travel. I feel though as I have truly experienced something. Not just a hike, but a part of something. I feel like a part of those mountains now. And that’s not something I could have gotten from a few day hikes. That’s only something you can get from being immersed in and dependent on your surroundings for several weeks at a time.
Some stats. Total days 22, 4 zero (miles) days, miles 235 route + walks in and out of town, a couple of side trips Total est. 250. Peaks 3, High Peaks 1 (over 4000 feet), lakes, rivers, and streams, too many to count.