Hiking in the Adirondacks can be an amazing experience, if you come prepared. But if you don’t, that amazing experience can turn into something much less enjoyable. Take it from me, an inexperienced hiker who hiked Catamount Mountain early fall without the proper gear and expectations. Catamount Mountain is on the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation's recommended hiking list, so I thought it would be a good hike to try. And it was, but next time I would do things differently.
The main lesson I learned from this hike was to plan and prepare. The first principle of Leave No Trace is plan ahead and prepare. I did not do either of those things well on this hike, and it hindered my experience. We set out for our hike around noon on a sunny Sunday in September. It was a very warm day, and we didn’t get to the trailhead early enough. The beginning of the hike was an easy climb, with a gradual incline covered under the canopy of trees. The easy hike shaded under the trees did not last long as the incline started to increase quite substantially. It was at this point when I really started to feel the afternoon heat.
The mountain is very rocky, so as we continued climbing the steep, rocky trail, about half way up I started to become concerned with the amount of water we had brought. We each brought one Nalgene bottle full, and mine was already half gone. Even if we had brought a water purifying device with us, there is no source of water on this mountain where we could have used it. We realized at that point that we had to start drinking the water sparingly, which became harder and harder as we continued to climb the mountain into more open areas with less shading from the trees.
As we reached the first summit, I felt so relieved, as I thought we had made it to the top. Little did I know we were not actually there yet, and as I looked to my right and saw the actual summit my heart sank. I thought to myself, and even said it out loud, “There is no way I can make it to the top, I’m too hot.” I’m a fairly fit person, I run and figure skate, and so I become extremely disappointed in myself when I can’t accomplish a physical task. We sat down for a bit so that I could catch my breath, take my shoes off, and take in the views. The views were worth the climb, I have to say. It was early fall, so it wasn’t full peak foliage season yet, but it was still really beautiful. The longer we sat there, the more I started to think to myself that I had to make it to the summit. I had already made it this far, and it didn’t look too much farther from where we were.
We decided to keep going, even though I was still really hot, and we didn’t have a ton of water left. I continued to stop every so often and take breaks, but the mountain as I mentioned, is very rocky and the top is very out in the open. We finally made it to the top and I couldn’t have felt more relieved, until I remembered that I still had to make it all the way back down. It took us much longer to get to the top than we had originally anticipated, but the way down was at least a little less of a challenge bit, even though my legs were tired. We stopped at the first summit we had made it to to take another look at the views. And when we finally made it to the bottom under the shade of the trees, I felt more than relieved.
After we made the full descent and signed out at the trailhead, we immediately traveled to a convenience store in Ausable and I bought water, juice, and ice cream! I cooled off, admired my photos I had taken, and while I was happy I finished the hike, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed in my lack of preparation. I should have known better, but now I know that I will never go out for a hike under those circumstances again. I will always watch the weather, dress appropriately, arrive with ample time, and bring enough water. I will make it back to Catamount Mountain someday for round two!
You can find more information on Leave No Trace principles at LNT.org. Need to re-fuel and re-energize after a hike? Stop at one of the many nearby dining options, and then relax at these comfortable accommodations after your Adirondack adventures.
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