A crowd of hikers assemble in the shadow of the old firetower, atop Hurricane Mountain near Elizabethtown.
A few weeks back, I had the good fortune of joining a group of young men for a hike up Hurricane Mountain, near Elizabethtown. I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but my return to the local peak was long overdue.
Although I had climbed it often, while working for a DEC Trail Crew in the 1970’s; it had been nearly thirty years since I feasted on the view from the summit. Hurricane, which is located miles to the east of the High Peaks, and miles to the west of Lake Champlain, offers one of the finest summit vistas available in the park.
Enjoying a lunch on the summit, in the shadow of the remaining firetower, was like dining in the home of an old friend. It was a beautiful summer day, and the fluffy clouds and a brilliant sun masked any potential danger of foul weather.
Despite the required preparations, and the leisure of our journey; nothing had prepared us for the short, silent, yet sharp weather that soon battered us that afternoon.
In the distance, it appeared at first to be just a low, dark cloud, which was shadowed by the slight shimmer of a summer rain. However, as it blew over the summit, the cold driving rain was aided in it’s fury by pelting hail, and a cold hard wind. In an instant, our shorts and t-shirts were soaked, and the visibility was gone. We were being battered by the elements in a dark, cold cloud, under a previously sunny sky.
The foul weather passed, as quickly as it had arrived. The sun returned, and with it, the vast view. The heat of the day quickly seared away the chill, but a lesson had been learned.
There is no denying it, the Adirondacks are a land of extremes. Although the park encompasses rare natural beauty, rugged topography, unrivaled waters and a variety of unique natural, and manmade communities; it also features incredible extremes of weather, extremes of economy and extremes of patience. Fortunately, the region also happens to be inhabited by some extremely tough and hardy folks, whose character has been shaped by the lands that surround them. It is the environment that builds this character, and creates these unique characters.
In this land of extremes, snow comes earlier, and remains far longer than in any other region of the state. Ice can be found hidden in caves, all year round, and some streams never warm up enough to beckon swimmers. It is a rough place, that breeds tough souls.
It is a vast land, filled with soaring peaks, massive forests and impossible swamps. It is a place where a person can become undeniably lost, and yet they can discover an unrealized, inner strength in the process. Fortunately, it remains largely a kind and friendly place, where neighbors still know one another. And yet they also keep an eye out for strangers, especially in difficult times. Foul weather events always prove this, and the worst of weather will often bring out the best of people. It is during such events, that we have learned to trust in our communities.
When the weather brings deep snow or bone chilling cold, slick ice or torrential rains, local communities and their citizens are always up to the task. Last weekend’s events proved this point, time and again!
Whether it’s a bridge that has washed out, a road that hasn’t been plowed or a fallen tree that blocks the way, help is usually near at hand. It may arrive via four-wheel drive, toting a tow strap or a chain saw, or it may come floating down the stream, in a V-Bottom boat. Despite the method of delivery, when you’re in trouble ‘Up North,’ help is usually on the way.
Help may arrive with something as simple as a set of jumper cables, or a bottle of dry gas; rather than via an awe inspiring rescue. However, come hell, high water or the worst that weather can bring, it is comforting to know, that help is most assuredly on the way.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org