Lost on Dial Mountain

I keep saying that I’m happy to get out of my comfort zone. Michael keeps taking me at my word, so it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise when on an early October Saturday, with the sunlight filtering through the changing maple and poplar leaves, I was convinced that I was doomed to wander through the Adirondack parkway forever walking in circles.

With enough supplies to last a week, we had set out for a hike, the sun barely over the horizon, reaching the mountain ranges just in time to snag a remaining spot on the roadside. Confident in our maps and in our ability to tackle our chosen route we started down the first miles of a dirt access road which we knew would lead us to our trailhead. As the miles slipped under our feet, we pulled out the map to compare it to the various trail headings we were passing. While the map directions were somewhat similar to the headings, all resemblance stopped there. Not sure which ones to follow, we kept on, just to see what was behind the next bend in the road. Slightly frustrated, we knew we were losing valuable daylight hours. Finally we rounded a bend only to see the access road disappearing into a lake. In that moment we were certain of two things: we now knew where we were on the map, and we had missed our trailhead. This left us with two options. Hike those miles back to where we had started, or set out on another trail hoping to intersect it with an alternate route to the summit.

We picked another trail, and started off. Before going a hundred yards, the mid-west native who gets lost as soon as she loses the horizon line, was completely turned around and we found ourselves in the middle of the woods with no trail in sight. Cue the first panicked moments.  Trust me when I say that pine trees all start looking the same after about the 100th one. Michael’s calm presence of mind slowed the panic and we decided to stick with the original plan: back we went until we found the original trail, a few hours poorer and a little winded with our 5-mile detour.

Three hours of steady hiking found us hiking up and down several smaller peaks and climbing through a varied terrain of pine, maple, oak and birches. The beauty around us was enough to take your breath away, if the hiking itself hadn’t already done that. It was right about that time that I started to reach a breaking point. My knee was acting up and it seemed that no matter how many baby peaks we conquered, we weren’t getting any closer to our goal. As we reached a particularly cold, wet and rocky patch, I looked up over our heads, and the mountain rose in front of us, dark and never-ending. I didn’t know how much longer my knee was going to hold out, and in that moment realized the mammoth task we had of going back down the mountain. Cue the second panicked moments.

Envisioning night falling on us lost on the mountain, never reaching our goal, I was ready to sit down right there and start bawling. The tears started coming, and just as I was about to bury my head into Michael’s shoulder for a good wail, I realized there were voices coming towards us from the trail ahead. There was hope! Someone was coming back down….the end had to be near! Pulling it together so I didn’t look like a complete wreck, we kept at it. And suddenly, just beyond that bleakest of moments, the summit was there. The trees cleared and we were gazing across miles upon miles of peaks and valleys. The colors varied and changed across the horizon, looking as though God had tipped a paint box over the ranges. The wind whipped at us, and eagles soared over the pines. It was a wild, raw kind of beauty that tugs at your heart. It was there, waiting, but you had to conquer the mountain before finding it.

Content to sit and soak it in, we knew we had to return to reality, and quickly, since daylight was fading fast. The all-too familiar dirt road held its own kind of beauty as we stumbled upon it in the dusk: it took everything in me to keep from kissing it! Safe in the truck with night quickly falling around us, we drove back through the ranges toward Albany, taking the beauty of the mountains with us.

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