As some of us try to eat healthier and exercise more in this New Year, here is a tale for inspiration. Thank you Tim Kinsella for providing it!
As some of you know I am in the process of working to become a “46er”. To qualify for this title you have to hike the 46 High Peaks in New York State’s Adirondack Park. Back in the 1920’s these 46 peaks were all surveyed at greater than 4000 feet above sea level (it turns out that 4 of them are actually a bit short of that mark but the tradition of hiking all 46 still stands). I have been working away at this quest for over 8 years. Many of the peaks require hikes of > 15 miles round trip and all require climbing over 2000 feet of elevation from your starting point. Many friends and relatives have gone with me on my various hikes (ask Glenn Herdeg – he keeps volunteering to do the toughest ones with me!); I expect to become a 46er during next year’s hiking season.
On September 26 I had planned to hike 3 mountains (#s 40 – 42 – Haystack, Basin, and Saddleback) with a friend (Joe) from work. The plan was to start from the “Garden” Parking lot in Keane, NY and do all 3 in a 19 mile loop. We knew the parking lot was very small and often filled up early in the morning so planned to be there by 5:30 AM. We stayed at a cute Inn about 1.5 miles from the parking lot. As we headed out to our car early on Saturday morning we passed another car parked on the road with two people sitting in it. The passenger said in a heavy French Canadian accent “are you guys going hiking today from the Garden parking lot? It’s already full”. We replied that was our plan but since it was full we would follow our back up plan which was to drive 15 miles to another parking lot and only do the highest of these 3 mountains, since we could no longer do the loop to get all 3. We’d then come back in the spring during a less busy time to pick up the other two.
As soon as we got this out the passenger said “we’ll give you $20 bucks to take us to the parking lot and drop us off. We’ve come all the way from Quebec and my hiking buddy here will be at 45 peaks when he gets these 3. We don’t have a backup plan like you”. We said “sure, we’ll take you” and they hopped in our car and the 4 of us headed up to the Garden Parking lot. As we dropped them off at the trail head the one guy tried to pay us $20. I told him “keep you money, we’re all friends when we hike. This is our pleasure”. They thanked us profusely for going out of our way and as they got out of the car I said “keep your eye out for us on Haystack”, the one peak we were both going to do. We all laughed at the thought of how improbable that would be since we each be taking different trails and we wouldn’t get on our trail for at least ½ hour due to the back country roads that we had to navigate.
Joe and I headed to the Adirondack Lodge parking lot and left for our hike at 6:00 AM. The weather was beautiful and there were a fair amount of hikers on the trail as it was such a nice weekend (BTW Glenn – it was perfectly dry!). We hiked for several hours and were nearing the intersection of the trail from the Garden parking lot that would join our trail and lead to Haystack Mountain. Joe was slightly ahead of me and as I came around the corner I heard him talking to two people with French Canadian accents. As highly unlikely as it was we had come to this trail junction at the exact moment our two passengers arrived there. We were all startled and we quickly introduced ourselves (they were Francoise and David). David (or “Da-veed” as he called himself) said “it must be fate”. Francoise quickly added “we were talking about how kind you were. We decided that if we saw you we would ask you to hike the other two mountains with us and we’ll then drive you back to your car”. We said that would be very kind but instead of driving 1.5 miles out of their way like we did they would be driving 30 miles round trip out of their way. Francoise said “I insist” and so it was decided.
We spent the next 10+ hours of the hike (total hike was 13 hours, 15 minutes), talking, enjoying the views, and exchanging hiking stories. It was an absolute pleasure and when we finished the hike we were the best of friends. We exchanged emails and promised to try and hike again together in the spring (even though Francoise would be getting his 46th peak the following week).
A memorable hike all started with one small act of kindness.