5:45 a.m. The alarm sounds. Coffee. Banana. Packs and gear are strewn across the floor. Food is pulled from the cabinets. I check the weather app. High 80, Cloudy, 0% chance rain. Looks like a perfect day to go for a High Peak slide climb.
Our destination: The summit of Grace Peak via the slide. Formerly known as East Dix, Grace is one in a range of five High Peaks and comes in at 4,012 feet. The mountain was renamed last summer in honor of Grace Hudowalski, the ninth person and first woman to climb all 46 High Peaks of the Adirondacks.
Andy and I meet Dominic, Hanna and Mitch at the Post Office at 7 a.m. Dominic and Hanna are Osgood students and Mitch is a PSC friend along for the adventure. Expedition is a key aspect of the Osgood Pond Semester. It’s important that we explore and have the proper knowledge to navigate our big back yard. In Lake Placid, we pick up one more hiker — Henrike, a German friend living in the states and wishing to climb a High Peak. In two cars, the six of us journey along Rte. 73, pass through Keene Valley and pulled over next to the Bouquet River.
The morning chill is quickly burned away and fleeces are removed and stashed in packs. Our first break is along the shores of a stunning back country river pool. It has been a dry summer and the water levels are low. Three miles in, the incline steepens. We follow a river bed, rock hopping and trying to keep our shoes as dry as possible.
About a mile from the summit, the birch forest opens up and we see the start of the slide. We leave the trail and opt for thick slabs of Adirondack rock. This is a good place to test out shoes and grip. Fifteen minutes later, the slide opens up and we can see the Bouquet River valley. White limbs of birch stretch upwards and the late morning sky is hazy. Giant Mountain rises in the east and we’re able to make out the ridge line of Dix Mountain.
After a refuel and stretching session, Dominic, Hanna, Mitch and I start our slide climb. While Andy and Henrike address the limitations of their worn soles and bush wack over to the trail. We’ll all reconvene at the summit. The slide is steep and burns your calves in places you were never aware of. It feels great. After each section of steep upgrade, we pause and stretch. The end of the slide is a fun meander of small rock climbing problems. We enjoy the pursuit of personal routes, rest on rocky perches and sit quietly—looking out and around.
On the summit, we join Andy and Henrike and a crowd of weekend hikers. As a group we find a quite, sunny spot to enjoy lunch. Clif bars are unwrapped, bananas unpeeled and G2 powder sprinkled into water bottles. Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains of Vermont lie before us. Birds swoop up and down, riding the thermals. We try to determine if they’re hawks or vultures. Stomach side, I lie down and take a deep breath. The body at rest feels amazing.
The descent and hike out passes quickly. Henrike and I talk about environmental issues in the United States and Germany. She comments on the amount of individual cars in the United States and how we use a lot of plastic. It boils down to lifestyle, habits and behavior change. At times, the environmental and social problems of the world overwhelm me. I take a deep breath and remember: One step at a time. Just like climbing a mountain or living in a yurt. Life is truly an exciting journey and we can choose how to honor it.