I decided I needed a hiking partner – I wanted the moral encouragement a well-matched companion might provide. In high school, Champ had been on the football team, while I was a decidedly unathletic music geek…In 2012 we hiked Algonquin, followed that up with Marcy in 2014, then we hiked Esther and Whiteface in 2018. I proposed the Traverse shortly thereafter.
Jim had been concerned about bears as the trip approached; he’d read about several close encounters on the message boards he followed. I wasn’t too worried, because I’d never actually seen a bear in 35 years of hiking in the Adirondacks. I’d camped before in areas where the NYS DEC warned visitors to be cautious, and I followed their rules, printed on bright yellow signs at most trailheads.
I finally summited McKenzie and took a selfie under the sign on the wooded summit. Almost 8 hours into the trip, with a 5.3 mile return still to go, and I was washed in an emotional mix of satisfaction, gratefulness, relief, and a touch of euphoria – the delicious endorphin cocktail that comes after trying and achieving something difficult.
I stepped out of the car, into the cool pine air. The ground crunched underfoot, a combination of dirt, stones, tree roots and leaves. What I’d missed most of all: the unhurried silence. My heartbeat slowed, I breathed deeper, I was home.