Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Hiking with MudRat & Rob

Last Saturday, my brother-in-law, Rob, and I accepted an invitation to go hiking with our friend, Kevin McKenzie. (Rob had never met Kevin before the day of the hike.) We all three go to church together at LPBC. Kevin wanted to hike Wright Peak, one of the 46 High Peaks in the Adirondack Mountains. Since Rob and I had never climbed Wright Peak, we were excited to go.

One of the things you've got to know about Kevin is that he loves to hike off-the-trail. Bushwhacking is the term used to describe the kind of hiking he enjoys. (I'll describe it below.) Kevin's nickname is "MudRat," and after the hike up Wright Peak and back down, I understand why. [For more on MudRat's hiking adventures - and there are a lot - go to his website www.mackenziefamily.com/46/46r.html. Also go there to see Kevin's perspective and write-up about this hike, along with more photos. For a direct link to Kevin's post, go to http://www.summitpost.org/view_object.php?object_id=428920. You can also see the photo's on Rob's Facebook page -- Rob Lipop.]
A quick summary of the trip. We started at the Adk Loj at about 6:00 AM, and hiked to Marcy Dam. Then we went off the trail, following the river a short distance along a path. Then we crossed the river, and started up the mountain through the brush. The pine trees were a little sticky, but not too bad. When we got tired, we would stop to rest. MudRat was following a deer path, which was evident from time-to-time by the deer tracks and deer droppings. We eventually made our way to a stream that would be our main way up the mountain for a while. We climbed up and over rocks, in and out of the water, around waterfalls, under fallen logs, over fallen logs... it was cool. My wife & kids would have loved this part of the hike.

Then MudRat found our path up to the slide, which is a large slab of exposed rocks that would be the final part of our ascent to the summit. This path up to the slide was tough. Literally. This was the major bushwhacking. No machetes were used, just our shoulders and hands moving the trees out of our way through the thickest-pine-forest-you've-ever-seen. Sometimes the trees were so thick we could not see each other. We would have to call out to see which direction to hike. You couldn't even see your shoes sometimes. One time Rob said, "I am sure we are walking IN the trees." I think he was right. After making it finally through the bushwhack portion, we had a lot of fun climbing the slide. For most of it, we had to be very careful with each step and each handhold. No climbing gear was used, so we had to be extra careful with each step. After ascending the slide, we made it through one more short thicket via bushwhacking then we were at the summit. A good, 4 1/2 hour hike up.

The great things about hiking off trail include: getting to see some parts of God's creation that only a few people get to see; a good variety in the hike (up rivers, up rock slides, through thick forests, not just a normal trail); some great experiences to share with the guys you are hiking with, especially the blood you donate to the mountain.

Anyway, at the summit we ate lunch, then decided to try to find the debris from a WWII plane that crashed on the peak in 1962. After the war, the plane was flown out of Plattsburgh Air Force Base for training missions. Three people had been killed in the crash, and we found some of the debris. My kids and my wife would have loved to see that too.

Kevin had promised us "360 degree panoramic views of the High Peaks" in his email to us inviting us on the hike. Well, that is, those views exist unless the storm clouds begin rolling in. And did they roll in. Quickly. We were still looking at the debris when it started raining. Hard. We scampered back up to the summit, grabbed our backpacks, and put on our rain gear. I had made a crucial decision before I left the house to NOT bring my raincoat, but I had thrown in a trashbag to make an emergency poncho. Well, I needed it. I poked holes for my head and my arms and put on my backpack, then pulled the Glad trashbag over me. That led to a lot of jokes (mostly at my expense), but that was OK. It was pretty funny. And it was keeping my core dry.

We descended down the "people trail," the regular trail for Wright Peak. Lightning flashed and thunder cracked right beside us. MudRat wasn't sure it was a good idea to be above the tree line, so close to lightning that could electricute us. Kevin joked, "It would be bad for tomorrow's headlines to read: 'Three people struck by lightning at the summit of Wright Peak, and one of them was the Baptist minister!'" We knew God would protect us, and we knew He wanted us to descend as quickly as possible. We saw a lot of people coming up the mountain, who kept asking us, "How much farther to the peak?" and "Is it going to rain all day?" [They also kept laughing at my trash bag.] The descent was 3 hours, and it poured the entire hike down. Every time the rain let up a little, a couple of minutes later it was pouring. We were soaked from head to toe. Except for my core, which was covered by a trashbag. MudRat sloshed through every mud puddle he could find (hence his nickname), and we finally made it back to his car. What a great day.
So, we give thanks to God for the amazing mountains He has created. We thank God for the rain He sends to water the earth. We thank God for the strength to make hikes. We thank God for His protection. We thank God for friends to hike with. We give thanks for all things.