Thursday, July 26, 2007

7/17 - 7/22

Prior to Tuesday for about a week, Su and I had planned to take a trip somewhere. Due to time and costs, Glacier fell to the side but we looked for an alternative closer to home. Our attention zeroed in on the Catskills and Adirondacks as possibilities and we received some wonderful destination ideas from Clare, Eileen, and others. With all the appointments and paperwork that I had to attend to during this period, I wasn't able to do much research. That fell to Su, who did a terrific job. Between the sundry medical appointments and the anticipated admission to Sloan on the 27th, we had to rush to find something but it worked out. With the help of Clare, Su settled on The Hedges at Blue Mountain Lake in the Adirondacks, the largest state park in the United States and the largest national park east of the Mississippi.

I took Amtrak to Saratoga Springs on Tuesday morning, where Su had arrived the day before to get situated at her parent's home for our trip. We thought that driving a car would give us more flexibility and freedom (which turned out to be true) in the Adirondacks, so she went home on Monday in order to practice a bit in her parent's car before I came up on Tuesday since it had been awhile since she drove last.

We reached The Hedges late Tuesday afternoon and spent the remainder of the day exploring the site. Rain was a constant companion during every day of our stay in the Adirondacks except for Saturday, our last day (which turned out to be the most important of days to not have rain). As expected, it rained Wednesday morning and early afternoon, so we decided to make it a museum day. We went to the Adirondack Museum, which is at most a 15 minute drive from The Hedges. I was surprised by the scope and size of the museum. Prior to our visit there, we were told how much there is to see at the museum but I didn't give it much thought. I was in for a surprise. For a regional institution, it offers a surprising amount about the culture, industry, fine arts, transportation and history of the Adirondack region. Segments of the museum are indoors as expected, but a fair amount of what there is to see is outside, thus, making it an open-air museum as well. Later that afternoon the sky began to clear up but we decided to remain at the Adirondack Museum to see a few more exhibits before returning to The Hedges before dinner. After dinner, we met a few of the other couples there who told us about some of the various hikes around Blue Mountain Lake.

Despite the continued rain, Thursday afternoon we headed for Castle Rock, a small mountain located on the opposite side of the lake from The Hedges. In order to get there, we had to kayak across Blue Mountain Lake which we did and disembarked on the shore at the base of a private home (whose owner we were told didn't mind). It was our first time kayaking. I had a blast. The view of the lake and its environs was lovely and the misty landscape created by the dense cloud cover made for a dramatic sight. Su had canoed back when we she was a girl scout, but not since then. Nevertheless, we made it across and set forward for the woody trail leading to the 700 foot summit of Castle Rock. We had a blast. The view from atop Castle Rock was beautiful. For moments there was little to no visibility due to the thick cloud cover, but after a little waiting the billowing clouds would pass and Su and I could catch a clear glimpse of the lake and its various islands before the white clouds returned again and so, the process went. Unfortunately, our stay atop the mountain was short because we arrived there in the late afternoon and had signed out the kayak with the intent to return back to the camp site by 6 PM. We were concerned that The Hedges' staff would become worried if we didn't return back to base by the time indicated on the kayak/canoe sign-out sheet. We also didn't want to miss dinner, which was served until about 8 PM. I carried my cell phone, but was unable to pick up a signal. Despite that, I kept the cell phone on in the event I'd finally get a signal allowing us to call The Hedges to let them know that we were fine but that we'd just be returning back late.

During our descent, we spotted a mother deer and its fawn in the thick woods along the trail. I snapped a few photos, but they didn't come out well due to the poor light. Interestingly, the deers didn't seem bothered by our sudden appearance at all. They left us calmly into the dark, thickness of the woods. Unknowingly, we made the wrong turn at the fork in the trail during our descent and soon found ourselves at the wrong shore of Blue Mountain Lake. We turned back and while hiking back to that same fork in the trail, my phone rang suddenly. It was an agent from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (which Su and I attended once) asking for a donation. Laughing at the strangeness of the situation, I told the person that I was in the forest and wasn't able to talk but if they'd call me back on Monday when I'm back home that would be fine. Having also realized the bizarreness of the situation, the CSO agent giggled and thanked me for my time. It was a very funny moment. Yet, we were thankful for that call, because we then knew that my cell was getting a signal and so, Su called The Hedges informing them of what would be our late return to the camp. We took the opposite path at the trail's fork and made it back to the spot where we had left our kayak. But just before reaching the kayak, we spotted yet another deer grazing in an open space before the forest. The trip back across Blue Mountain Lake was a lot of fun and we made it back to the Hedges a little past 8 PM. We were still able to get dinner.

On Friday the 19th, we started out early for another trail and this one led to Blue Mountain, the highest mountain around Blue Mountain Lake. As soon as we arrived at the entrance to the trail, it began to rain and it rained heavily. Waiting for the rain to ease a bit, we paused for about 10-15 minutes under the cover of the trees before we started our hike on the trail. This hike was considerably tougher than Castle Rock more so because of the dangerous conditions caused by the heavy rain on a trail that was muddy and full of small to medium sized rocks and large, slippery boulders. It would rain heavily for a period and then, clear for awhile before more rain returned. Despite the conditions, Su was a great sport during the entire hike.

During the hike, we met many other people who endured the rainy weather on Blue Mountain. This was very different from Castle Rock, where we didn't see anyone else. Atop Blue Mountain, there was absolutely no visibility. There was no impressive scenery like the summit of Castle Rock. Nada. Yet it felt great to reach the top. The hike back down was challenging as well. Indeed, it was more challenging because we had to be so careful to not slip on the wet rocks and fall. Also, the rain picked up significantly during our descent, thus, making our climb back down slower. Upon our return to The Hedges, we took off our soaked clothing and placed them around the fireplace in our cabin, The Coop, so that they could dry. Not surprisingly, we spent most of the night nearby the fireplace as well.

Saturday was a gorgeous day. The rain cleared finally. If there was one day when we needed clear weather, this was it. We had reservations for whitewater rafting in the morning followed by a hot air balloon ride in the early evening. After breakfast, we said goodbye to The Hedges as we left for Indian Lake where the Adirondack Rafting Company is located and where the rafting begins. Su found Adirondack Rafting Company, one of several operators in the area that offer whitewater rafting. ARC had four rafts that morning. Our raft was led by Len, a guide for the ARC who works for the NY State ski patrol during the winter months. He was great. Our raft had six people, all couples. The trip started at Indian Lake, which we traveled along for about 3 miles before entering the mighty Hudson River where we traveled for another 13 miles. The intensity and depth of the river varied. At certain points, the rapids were intense while at other areas the water was calm at which point the rafters were allowed to jump into the water and swim for several minutes as the rafts remained idle before preparing for the next set of rapids. I, of course, wasn't able to swim due to my catheter but Su swam at least twice during the trip.

Everyone wore a helmet and life vest. It was optional to wear a wet suit and/or splash jacket. I learned afterwards, however, that the splash jacket is not water proof. Despite wearing the wet suit and splash jacket, my underwear and the dressing covering my catheter got wet though the dressing didn't come off. I explained this to Ally and Dr. Castro-Malaspina when I saw them again on the 23rd, but they weren't concerned though Ally said she would not have advised whitewater rafting had she known that was what we were going to do.

The views of the Hudson from the raft were spectacular. Really wonderful. At certain spots along the route, there are specified sites where rowers or kayakers can camp for the night. I imagine it must be wonderful to listen to the tide at a camp site along the Hudson and then, to sleep there beneath the stars at night.

We capped the evening with a hot air balloon ride over the Glenn Falls-Queensbury area, which is located just south of Lake George. This was a fun experience. We flew at a height of about 400 feet for ten miles with Phil Jackson of the Adirondack Balloon Flights at which height we could see the Adirondack Mountains and the Green Mountains of Vermont. Su, I and the other passengers watched the crew as they prepared the balloon for flight. As I watched them setting up, I snapped dozens of pictures. The balloon basket was divided into compartments into which a family of three, another couple, and Su and me were placed. The balloon operator stood in the middle of the three compartments where he had access to the balloon's controls. At first glance, one wouldn't think that that many people could fit inside such a modest-sized basket but indeed, we did and easily. Without a doubt, one of the most fun parts of our experience was the take off and landing. The basket rocked back and forth repeatedly causing Su and me to tumble over each other in our compartment before the crew was able to stabilize it well enough for take off. This was so much fun. And during the landing, a similar amount of bumping and rocking occurred which we both found to be hilarious.

That night we drove back to Saratoga Springs, where we spent the night at her parent's home. I returned via Amtrak to NYC Sunday afternoon but Su stayed because of a dentist appointment on Tuesday.

Su's dad, Tom, Eileen, Clare, and my mom all contributed funds to help make our trip easier.


Comment Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Duane,
Beautiful pictures Duane. What an amazing trip.


2:46 AM  
Comment Anonymous Anonymous said...

The photos are terrific. I have been waiting to see them. My favorite is the one of you in the GIANT Adirondack chair.

So glad you had a great vacation!!!
no one deserves it more.


7:43 AM  
Comment Blogger Duane said...

Thanks! It was great.

12:59 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home