This is Giant

I packed light, aside from the dog, and pitched a tent near the trail as the sun went down. Thunder and lightning kept me awake most of the night, but I suppose luck kept me dry since it never rained. By 5:30am I was up and too excited to lay around in a tent, so I cleaned up camp and went to my favorite pre-hike fuel stop: Noon Mark Diner.

This all started in the fall of 2010 with my first trip up a high peak. Back then, in typical, over-confident, “I’m in my 20s” fashion I arrived at a trailhead at noon with plans to hike Mount Marcy. After one of the park rangers laughed at me for a few minutes I changed my destination to Algonquin. But as I made it up the mountain, with the sun going down and reports of ice on the summit, I settled for Wright Peak. It was pitch black by the time I returned to the car. Lesson(s) learned. So this trip, I made sure I had plenty of time.

It turns out there are a few ways up the mountain but beforehand I had decided on the shortest, most direct route (because I had a dog and 200+ mile drive after the hike). It was only 3 miles to the top via the Ridge Trail, but that translates to 1000 vertical feet each mile. Immediately upon entering the woods it was up up up.

I moved at a pretty steady pace. Jasmine (my furry companion) would lag behind at times but always caught up when I stopped to take a photo, which was pretty often. But she had a smile on her face and a tail that wouldn’t stop wagging. So I hiked on!

This was my fifth high peak, the shortest hike of them all (distance, not elevation) and it had the best views. I was not prepared for so many clearings. I was also not prepared for what looked like an ominous storm. The clouds moved quickly, so I decided to pick up our already intense speed. It seemed like every third of a mile there was an opening with stunning views and plenty of water for the dog.

I was very lucky, to have come as far as I had without rain. It looked like I might be swallowed by a cloud at any minute. It was extremely humid and I was soaked in sweat before the halfway point. My legs are used to flatter terrain, and the mountain, although not terribly difficult, was more challenging than I had anticipated. In retrospect: I was out of shape, it wasn’t that hard. I kept reminding myself that at this time last year I was training for a marathon. Funny.

Aside from my phone I brought the only other camera I own (which most of these were taken with): a Pentax K-01 (APS-C sensor, mirrorless). Almost all of these photos were shot with the 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens.

I made it to the summit in just over two hours. There were plenty of clear pools of water for the dog (although I did bring enough for us both) and a very strong wind, which felt great for the first 5 minutes. I changed into some dry clothes and I enjoyed the top of Giant Mountain in solitude, then again, it was only 9am.

Not a bad view to the west! I ate our weight in yummy things. After about 45 minutes a trio of Canadian climbers showed up, equally impressed by the scenery. I remember that most people on top of Mount Marcy last summer were Canadian, too. It was a holiday weekend for them, as well, and I acknowledged that they live two hours closer to here than I do.

iphone panorama

10:11 and we’re done at the top and about to start our descent. There was no rush (not worried about the weather at that point) and hiking down is usually harder for me than going up, but Jasmine saw that I were moving again and practically ran down the trail for half a mile.

Despite the fact that I was stopping every few minutes to take pictures I was cruising down the mountain. I kept jogging in bursts, when possible, but there were clearings that I had to spend a little time with, like this one.

And like that I was done. It took just over an hour to get back down the mountain. I met five people during the last mile of our hike. And despite the fact that I had just driven 440 miles from Maine back to Ithaca and almost another 300 miles to Keene, NY I grabbed coffee and blasted mix CDs for the five hours it took to get home.

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This is Giant