I remember the first time I heard of the Adirondack mountains, it was in my second year of university while chatting over coffee with a good friend from New York. Ever since then, I have wanted to see them, more so in the autumn, or as they say in America, ‘fall’.
One of the US’s largest parks at 6.1 million acres (2.5×106 ha) in area, including more than 10,000 lakes, 30,000 miles of rivers and streams, and 5000ft mountains there is no shortage of adventure. But it is the thick covering of deciduous woodland that truly entices thousands during a few weeks of autumn, the come to participate in the seasonal sport of ‘leaf peeping.’ I was now one of them.
With a few days to spare after the NE Collegiate Kayak Symposium, I had the perfect chance to finally explore the Adirondacks. Joined by Matt Smith, who lead the way, we set off together late in the afternoon hoping to camp in the woods. Our plan was to shelter in a lean-to, stash breakfast in a bear proof barrel and then at 4am wake to hike for the summit of a Algonquin, just in time to ring in my 27th birthday at sunrise.
Arriving to the park just as a heavy front of rain pulled over the hills, we set out prepared to arrive after dark. Leaving late we largely had most of the park to ourselves, the trails were quiet and those who we did pass were venturing back toward the carpark. Matt, who leads trips here regularly took the lead and under torchlight we scrambled beneath the narrow rock walls of ‘Avalanche Pass.’ By the time we arrived we were soaked and tired, our cheap Stewarts-Shops Gas station sandwiches made tasty from a few hours of sturdy exercise. ‘See you at 4am,’ Matt Laughed as I clambered into my far too thin summer sleeping bag, I had regretfully left my winter one in London.
‘Nearly there’- we had been climbing steadily for two hours, mostly following a river channel as the trail wound from slabs of icy stone to narrow forest floor. It was 6am, the sun would rise soon and we were almost above the tree-line, the early start and effort to get here now worthwhile as a skyline emerged from a dark horizon.
At last we emerged, and soon reached the top. At 1559m, Algonquin is the second highest peak in New York state, it’s bare rocky summit gave the perfect vantage point to sit and ring in a new day and a new year of my life.
As the blue hour burned into gold the warmth of the sun cast over frozen puddles glittering between the rocks. Lingering in the quiet for well over an hour Matt and I simply sat, grazed on snacks and enjoyed the stellar view.
Looking down to cloud inversions and the rusty colours of autumnal trees we felt on top of the world.
As gold turned to the faded blue of day we packed bags and set off toward the car. One advantage of an early hike was an early escape, we would return to the Maynard household for lunch and a final celebratory dinner. Satisfied to become a ‘leaf peeper’ I am addicted to the sport, to gaze upon the colours of fall is just as alluring as I had hoped those years ago at University and it is with certainty that I will be back one day to explore deeper into the wonderful Adirondack national park.