Heart Lake

Change is inevitable in life.  It is amazing how much can change in just a year’s time.  It was just last August that I found myself turned around on Lower Wolfjaw.  I had accidentally taken the path towards Rooster Comb rather than the path directly to my car, which was parked near the Ausable Club. I was just about to turn around when I ran into a very kind gentleman, his wife, and their golden retriever. He jokingly asked me why I was turning around so soon, and when I told him, he encouraged me to keep going up this trail and that it would eventually get me back to my car. There may be a little more climbing, but there would be better views and it was a beautiful afternoon. With his encouragement, I continued on my adventure, completing a journey that I had never intended on doing.
The lower wolf jaw loop over Rooster Comb was not the only unexpected journey that I completed this year.  Last fall, I began my journey with the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) as a guest at the Adirondak Loj.  I had just withdrawn from graduate school after discovering that I no longer wanted to pursue a career in Psychology. You could say I was a little lost after that and found peace in regularly hiking in the High Peaks.  Now, after being out of school and working at the Loj as a cook for a year, I am returning back to South Carolina to pursue masters degree in human resources.

My year in the Adirondacks was life changing, and beautiful in every way. One of the most defining points of my Adirondack experience was the change of seasons, which I feel I was able to experience up close and personal through hiking. I grew up in the southern United States so I had never lived in a place where the change in seasons was so dramatic.  Upon moving here I was awed by the fall foliage. I had never seen such brilliant colors on trees before. There is no better way to bring out your inner child than fresh, crisp air and walking on a rainbow of leaves on the forest floor.  I was expecting winter to be drastically different, but I did not realize how different. You can read about my winter experience here.  Luckily, I had plenty of support from my ADK friends and was able to learn and adjust to the joys of a northern winter. I did not realize however how the drastically different winter would effect my perception of the other seasons. The colorful blooms of wildflowers have never looked as beautiful as they did when I saw them come to life from brown fields that had been blank white and frozen for what seemed like an eternity. They truly seemed like little miracles.  I fell in love with them, especially the orchids and irises. I became obsessed with taking pictures of each new one that I saw on my adventures and sending them to my ADK education friends asking, “What’s this?”. I was also amazed by all that spring brings with it, like mud season. Just as I got my car stuck in the snow on Adirondack Loj Road in the winter, I sure enough got it stuck in the mud in the spring! I also got myself stuck in the mud several times. Spring and summer seem blurred together by what seems like a separate season of
rain.  Hiking in the rain felt like dancing in the shower.  Summer finally came, bringing with it familiar warmth and sunshine, and brilliant shades of green and blue that I had come accustomed to while growing up in the South. My definition of summer has been forever changed by living here. Summer is now an emotion to me. It is some combination of impulsiveness, like spontaneously jumping into a swimming hole; freedom, like carrying a light, small pack after months of
carrying around several pounds of extra clothes; comfort, like laying in
a hammock after a long day staring at the full moon; and appreciation,
because you are in awe of each and every experience, but recognize that
it will not last. If my time here was defined by one season, it would be
summer.

Another journey that I completed this year was my completion of hiking all 46 high peaks.   Two years ago my dad and I hiked our first high peak together, Giant Mountain. Early last month, my father and I hiked my final summit, Skylight. I am so grateful that he started me on the journey to becoming a 46er, and even more exciting was that he finished it with me. Hiking these mountains has been life changing. I have learned so much about my surroundings, met so many amazing people on the trails, found incomprehensible peace and strength, seen such perfection in beauty, and learned so much about myself. One of the things that I love about these mountains is that they always seem to have a way of revealing the truth. I find that my motivations are never clearer to me than when I am halfway up a mountain, drenched in sweat, muscles aching, staring up at the general direction of the summit and wondering how far I have left.  I have come to think of hiking as an art: as a lesson in seeing, in feeling, in presence and being. The Adirondacks will always hold a special place in my heart, but I am excited to begin new adventures in new mountains!

My year at Heart Lake has been extraordinary. I am grateful to ADK for the opportunity to live and work at Heart Lake. It is hard to leave this place and the people in it, but I am looking forward to beginning a new season in my life, a new journey and returning to the Adirondak Loj many more times in the future. I hope that everyone’s experiences are as beautiful and enjoyable as mine have been.