Adirondack Mountains; What They Mean To Me.
I stepped foot on the grounds of the Adirondack Park at a young age, but didn’t return for many years. Part of me wonders how that could possibly be, while in the same breath I’m grateful for the turn of events– grateful that I rediscovered the mountains when I truly needed them.
The Adirondack Mountains lifted my spirits, rejuvenated my soul and in turn created a whole new me; a stronger me.
Go Solo–You’ll Be Happy You Did.
“Don’t hike solo.”, “What if you get hurt?”, “I don’t like that you’re out in the wilderness by yourself.”
These were constant themes (from friends and family) when I first started hiking on my own. I totally get the hesitation, the worry, the fear. However, if you live your life like this, then you will never be moving forward. Life comes with risks, but you know the saying..something yada yada no risk, no reward and trust me, the rewards of hiking solo truly dominate over the risks.
You can never fully prepare for everything that you may encounter in the woods, but you can mentally prepare and always carry the Hiking Essentials with you as a great first step.
You may ask why I enjoy hiking alone and the answer is simple, yet so deep and unqiuely complicated at the same time.
Let me share some more with you.
How the Mountains Saved Me.
I really want this blog to be an extension of me; a direct representation of who I am, where I have been and the continuous growth, both mentally and physically. So we should start at the beginning….well, at least a few years back.
I graduated college in 2012 with a veterinary technology degree (animal nurse) with no real aim as to what I wanted to do…still. One month later on my 21st birthday my dad was diagnosed with stage four Glioblastoma..aka brain cancer. It was a real doozy as my dad had never been seriously ill and he was only 46! My heart pounds just typing those words because they are words that I hated hearing. The word cancer nauseated me and I would be easily put off if friends were mad at their parents or distant with them– thinking to myself, “Do you realize how dang lucky you are to have healthy parents?”.
The next year and a half was a blur and I honestly cannot say if I made all of the right decisions during that time. I am the type of person that bottles their emotions within (I know, still working on this daily). I bought a house and settled into my job (which I did very much enjoy at the time) and in turn settled in life. But– I was 22, deeply saddened by the loss of my father and unable to find my path.
After 3 years of trying to fill that “void”, I realized that having a house and owning “things” weren’t giving me any happiness.
In the past I had relied on people to go out and adventure with me, and I know this is common as most people like company, like having that side-kick. However, I am an outgoing introvert and spending time alone is actually very therapeutic. Now, combine spending time alone with the woods, nature, the mountain summits…it is actual bliss. You will learn to release– actually, releasing your emotions will just become so natural. I cannot count how many times I have sat down in the middle of no where and just let myself be, let myself feel and the tears and emotions just come flooding. When they say nature is therapy, for me it could not be any truer.
So simply put: Hiking alone has been my outlet for hardship. It has been my thinking ground. It has been my journal. It has been my meditation, yet it has still been so much more.
So where/how do I begin…
I Set a Goal– 50 Different Moutains in 1 year.
Soon after realizing my love of hiking, and the energy I would receive from hiking alone, I set a goal. I would like to clarify one thing: I am never truly alone in the woods as I do have two of the furriest little beasts running around with me. Those two would my dogs Boone and Crockett. They don’t mind my emotional release, and in fact they constantly remind me to live in the moment– they also remind me that I will never have the same desire to roll in poo.
I thought setting a goal would help me get out there, to experience it all. My initial goal of exploring 50 different mountains quickly resulted in hiking 60 different mountains and over 75 mountains total in 2016. This felt like a major accomplishment for me (us- except B & C are insane and would easily double my mileage), but I didn’t want to stop there.
The Adirondack Mountains encompass the area where I grew up and they will always hold a special place in my heart. I still have a few mountains that I need to experience before I say I’ve been on top of all of them, but they are the mountains that brought a smile to my face, filled me with joy, strength and persistence. I cannot thank the land and the mountains enough for that.
Accomplishing that goal only made me crave more.
A good friend of mine recommended the book, The Power of Now by Eckhard Tolle. This book supported my dream, my dream of traveling. As I read the book and took my own personal notes, I realized one important thing…you literally have now. You have the moment you are in and that is all (on a side note– thank you for sharing your now with me by reading this). This thought may be scary, but don’t let it be. Let it be what drives you to do that one thing, or many things you have always wanted to do. Don’t wait to retire to fulfill those desires because who is to say that those desires will still be there in 30 years?
My cross country road trip will be a whole other blog on its own, but the reality of living your dreams is so possible…you just need to say “yes”.
So the complicated answer is: the mountains continue to save me. They have pushed me to my limits, showed me the possibilities that I never thought I would enjoy (such as running a half marathon and soon to be ultra marathon).They introduced me to my best friend and partner, reaquainted me with past friends and introduced me to new ones. Each relationship so very special to me.
Within every accomplishment, I owe the mountains a load of gratitude. They keep me sane, to say the least.
The land have given me so much, so how can I reciprocate?
Giving Back to the Mountains
Our lands are sacred but can be often treated like a giant trash bin. It is very unsightly to be hiking along and come across plastic waterbottles, graffiti, defecations covered improperly, etc. There is much disrespect in regards to the mountains, and there are numerous people trying to turn that around through education and action.
One very simple thing you can do if you venture into the woods is carry a bag with you and pick up the trash you encounter. You will be amazed (with disgust) as to how fast you will fill that bag, but know how great of a deed you are doing.
Also, look into your nearest Mountain Club and help them with trail clean up days. This can involve fixing water bridges, lean-tos, so much more. There is always something we can do for our lands, and every little thing will help.
Into the Forest I..We Go…
Everyone has a way of viewing wilderness, nature, the mountains. Some people view hiking as a way to workout. Others view the act of hiking as a challenge, working from lists and accomplishing different goals. While some just like to meander.
All of these reasons of loving the mountains is perfectly acceptable, as long as you always appreciate. Appreciate your body for getting you up and over those PUDs (pointless up and downs), and especially appreciate the mountains for all they are, and all they give.
“Into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul” .. -John Muir. Please feel free to extend this to your beliefs as well because walking with no place to go..well, there really isn’t much that feels better than that.
Join me in the ‘Hiking Solo’ group (tiny bit of irony), I hope you get as much enjoyment out of it as I do.
Happy tails and Happy trails,
Ciara, Boone & Crockett