Learning to Relax in the Adirondacks

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn. - John Muir, Our National Parks



Sit back, relax, chill, these are all things I struggle with. One of the down sides about being ever exploring is that I want to do it all. I want to see everything, go on every trip, and never want to miss out on anything. While I love this about myself I also acknowledge I tend to stress myself out by keeping a strict schedule so I can fit as many activities in my day as possible. This trip is not about that. This trip is to relax and spend time with the loves of my life: nature, yoga, Pepper (my dog), and my husband.  I gave the reins of planning this trip over to my husband, he planned our hiking route and all the equipment we needed. The main reason I give up planning is to have a truly new experience.  It is my personal opinion, that in this day of technology we are robbing ourselves of having truly new experience and seeing things for the first time thru virgin eyes. We all want to go on the best hikes and see the best views so we scour the internet to find the best location with the tallest waterfall, the most epic routes and the tastiest food. This trip that did not happen. This trip I will sit back, relax, chill.

The morning we left I spent going to yoga and making my power food muffins, oh sweet Sunday this is what you are made for. Also packed us dinner of a salad and a sandwich. Then finish packing the tank and enjoyed a Sculpin Grapefruit IPA (what I was on vacation and getting out of driving ;) these tasks are left for me while the other half went into work to finish up a project. My control freak/scheduling side was going a bit nuts. Not leaving before 8:00 am for vacation? But you will miss a whole half-day of vacation in the ADK if you wait until 2:00 to go. Sit back, relax, chill, it will all be ok. We had a nice leisure drive, which took us about 4 and a half to 5 hours, which didn’t seem like long at all. This is probably due to 2 hours of the drive are thru the beautiful Adirondacks with bridges over wide streams with huge rocks that reminded me of Montana.  

We entertained ourselves by learn something new. Hamlet? Anyone know the meaning of Hamlet when seen on road sign? I didn't but I do now. According to wikipedia is a type of settlement. The definition of hamlet varies by country. It is usually refers to a small settlement, with a small population that is usually under 100, in a rural area, or a component of a larger settlement or municipality. In New York specifically, hamlets are unincorporated settlements within towns. Hamlets are not usually legal entities and have no local government or official boundaries. Now that we all know what a hamlet is, time to get back to the trip. 

Upon arrive in Keene Valley, NY we drive to the Garden parking lot which is the trail head we planned on taking in the morning just to get our bearings a bit. Also to see if there was a camp site near by because we also didn’t have a place to sleep the first night. Nothing I was concerned about we have a tent and an SUV. Didn't see a camp site near by so we called up the Rooster Comb Inn and got a room. Lucky for us they allow pets! A struggle we had the whole trip. The room we got was a suite, which means it had a bathroom in the room; apparently not all of the rooms at the inn have this.  The innkeeper was a burly bearded gentleman that welcomed us in like we were old friends. After chatting for a bit we find out he is semi-retired takes care of the Inn and also makes high-end furniture in a shop next door. Now this man is living the dream, small town, makes furniture, doesn’t have to answer to anyone. All the furniture at the inn looked to be made by him with a beautiful rustic touch on everything from the camo printed bedspread to the picnic table on the deck. I almost wish we had more time to stay at the inn. It had a communal kitchen that we would have utilized if staying longer.  Dinner was eaten on the deck while watched the sun set over the mountains and finishing part of a growler brought from home. 

The sunlight started to peek through the curtains and I rise to what I know will be a wonderful day. I couldn’t find the coffee at the Rooster Comb Inn so we headed down the road to the ADK Café in Keene. This is a cute little café, restaurant, bakery, I believe just about everything.  I entered a bit dazes and confused since it was 7:30 and I had not had any coffee yet. A lovely man in a bakers hat greets me “What can I do for you?” my only response is coffee, which he points to some carafes along the wall or to my delight and surprise offers to make cappuccinos or lattes. I refrain from getting too excited and wait for the response of non-dairy milk choices. WHAT?!?! Almond milk?!? Almond milk cappuccino please and with that I am ecstatic.

Now that I am fully caffeinated and functioning we can start our hike. Within the first 3 miles from the start at the Garden Parking we got re-routed due to an unmaintained trail. We proceeded on and become rerouted again after talking to a park ranger that said one area was a bit tricky to navigate with a dog. With these glitches in our route I accept the realization our ‘best views’ hike will not be happening. Technically it could have still happened if we picked up the pace but I had been previously warned ‘This will not be one of your death marches, I have been on those before” so I sit back, relax, and chill.


The procession on the trail was a good deal slower than I had anticipated due to some rocky conditions and hauling a pack. Also a few excursions off trail not on purpose.  Being a trial runner I had a difficult time understanding the slower pace, I think what 7 miles? I do that before work on Tuesday and/or Thursday why is it takes us sooooo long. But I had been warned: no death march, sit back, relax, chill.

We stop to have lunch at a waterfall that is a short hike down a stream bed. I use this break in the action to take my shoes off, listen to the river and practice yoga. Hip flexors get stiff hiking and my 2 week break from running was apparent. Even though my calf injury wasn't currently a problem I still wanted to make sure I take care of my body. This is the first time during the trip I don't have to remind myself to relax, it came naturally. I dip my toes into the cool river while Pepper naps in the sun beside us,  I know this is what vacation is. 


Our first night is spent at Bushnell Falls 2 lean to; this is the most wonderful place on earth. Maybe I had very low expectations about what a lean to was because I was expecting a shack in the woods that a killer lives in. Wow, was I in for a surprise! These lean tos are super pimp and clean!  Maybe the most wonderful place on earth is an overstatement but at that moment it was not.  If the hike was all about covering distance we would have continued onto the next lean to at Slant Rock but after chatting with some fellow hikes we knew Slant Rock would be shared with them so we stayed.   Since we had some extra time (not hiking to the next lean to) we filled it with some yoga.

This yoga practice has never been more serene, relaxing, or needed. I became a tree among my fellow trees, I was connected with nature around me, and as I lay in savasana listening to the waterfall nearby I am truly relaxed. After yoga we had a nice meal down by the waterfall and life was blissful. We are forced to engage with each other and forget about all the noise of modern day. During dinner I notice we rarely completely focus on one task at a time and not thinking about the future, filling each and every moment with checking Facebook, or instagram, or changing to the next better song. The river was our music, the trees are our friends, and the future didn’t matter.

After taking more time then it should have to hang our bear canister and lot of dents added to my hydroflask we are ready for bed. The lean to is ours and ours alone, we are extremely lucky.  Pepper was a bit unsettled about sleeping outside but after she understood we are staying put I had a protector throughout the night.  With sweet Pepper watching out for me I slept like a baby only to awake in the cool air of the morning.  As usual I am the first to arise. I breathe in the sweet taste of a wilderness let it nutritious my soul and savor the stillness.  Eventually I must start the day, we make some coffee eat the last of my homemade power muffins while filtering some water for our packs before starting the day.

We had planned to hike to Slant Rock to drop our packs and then summit Mount Marcy. Upon arrival at Slant Rock we became very aware that a storm would be arriving that day. We take a few moments to ponder our plans, finally decide we didn’t feel like getting wet and summiting Marcy in the rain. We chose to save the view for our virgin eyes on a clear day. This also gives us an excuse to return ASAP and a reason to make it a priority. If I said I wasn’t disappointed and my inner control freak wasn’t starting to whisper in my ear I would be lying. I was however able to keep my inner peace I found waking up in nature and ignore my control freak. 


As we head back down the trail I became very fatigued with the slop and the shoe eating mud of the stream bed (trail) we had been hiking up. About an hour into our descend it started to rain and I became happy with our decision. The rain was not heavy but more was looming. Part way down we have to cross a river, it was apparent that the stream has risen a bit since we last crossed and it was going to be a bit difficult for Pepper to navigate in the water as she did before. We take a break before crossing to finally drink some coffee that was given enough time to cool down. Damn hydroflask keeps it too hot to drink for like 3 hours! Now caffeinated it is time to figure out a way across the stream for the dog, I start across then have Pepper handed over to me on a large rock where we can start our slow progress across. Rock hopping with a backpack and a dog gives me flashbacks to falling in the river the first day of trout season as a child. Luckily I have more balance now then I did as a child fishing with my dad and we made it across without getting wet! Success!

Since the hard part was over and we only had a few more miles to go now it was time to pick up the pace. I was feeling great, not even fatigued at all. I start to appreciate my body for what it is capable of. I know the 5:00 am weight training before work, the 6:15 trails runs and all my other trainings are worth it. If I can carry this pack and hike for 2 days without being tired or sore I am capable of this a much more. I feel strong, free, and wild like I am built for this. I am made to be in the wilderness. I am made to live a life of freedom with nature, not only is my body built for it but craves the nurture of the forest. Instead of feeling drained, I feel energized and recharged After of few miles of my ‘death march’ I start to realize I may be the only one feeling strong, free, and wild so I slow it down a bit. I begin scheming about using backpacking as training for my future running plans and how I can incorporate more into the little amount of free time I have.  We finally arrive back at the tank to the delight of my rather tired and a bit ragged husband.


Time for some grub! We travel down the road to the Ausable Inn for a bit to eat and some beers. I order the asparagus soup and a salad. The salad was a bit drab but the soup was positively delish! We watch the peak we contemplated summiting this morning disappear in the consumption of a storm cloud. I know we made the right decision to be drinking a beer and watching the storm rather than being in the storm.


Final words on this hiking trip:

Making the transition from trail running to backpacking is very difficult. I typically just want to bring water, spare socks and a some chia seed bars. Not a bear canister, camp stove, coffee, food, sleeping bag, and all the other junk needed (or thought needed) for backpacking.  Next time I have a few suggestions for myself.

1.     Water proof shoes!

2.     You are correct with the minimal attitude, don’t be swayed different

3.     Trekking poles are useful.


Watch for part 2 of this trip coming soon….

Being a tourist in Lake Placid and Saranac Lake