Speaking of firsts, about a month after C and I were married, we decided to go on our first overnight hiking trip together. There are a few things in life that are guaranteed to provoke relational gunfire: long periods in small spaces (planes, automobiles, family gatherings), tandem kayaks, bicycles built-for-two and bad weather. We were about to experience two of those four. And it wasn't the bike or the kayak.
We drove to Adirondack Park and parked at the trailhead to Snowy Mountain. We laced up our boots, strapped on our packs, and took one of those “before” photos that is still a clear reminder of how naïve we were. First, we had no idea the adventure about to be had, and second, those self-taken pictures are never as good as you think. Soon we were ambling up the rocky trail toward our doom.
The hike up was pretty enough. It was October, and the trees were lit in rusty orange and yellow – peak foliage was behind us. We stopped to have sandwiches on boulders in the middle of the trail, a fact that should have surprised us. When a trail is heavily used, one would rarely break for lunch in the midst of a thoroughfare. We were alone.
We came to a rockslide near the peak, and as we were about to amble up it, C decided (wisely) that we should find some firewood before we got too much further. While I was gathering twigs, he was strapping a tree limb to his pack with nylon string. The thing could have held a tire swing it was so big, but it seemed to satisfy his need, so we pressed on, crawling up the rocks to our final destination.
Upon reaching the ledge on which we would camp, we dropped most of our gear and ran to climb the fire tower on Snowy, which was rapidly becoming engulfed in thick fog and a light mist. We got there just in time to see a gorgeous view of the surrounding hills and mountains, and got back to our ledge just in time to see that the clouds had moved in and feel the air misty with rain. We quickly built a fire (this wet wood fire was my first proud achievement as a married woman). Luckily the small tree that C dragged up the mountainside was breaking apart, so we boiled water and finished setting up our tent on a patch of grass nearby.
And then it began to pour.
We ate our soggy dinner and climbed into our tent. It was about 5:30, and we didn’t realize we wouldn’t leave its walls until the next morning. We spent the evening reading aloud (Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye), and hoping that the rain would mercifully cease, which it didn’t. Finally we fell asleep, probably at around 8pm, and we awoke to another world. We were both sleeping in at least two inches of water. Our Thermarest pads were practically floating. This makes for nasty cleanup. Muttering under our breath, and wondering why on earth we hadn’t checked the weather before leaving home, we struggled to cram our sopping wet gear into our packs before eating cold oatmeal and stumbling down the mountain.
At one point, I, with my now-heavy pack took a step down the trail only to find myself hip-deep in rushing water. I stood there a moment in the icy river and laughed out loud, because really, how much more awesome could this trip get? We soon emerged at the trailhead and slopped our way to our car that sat alone in the downpour. I couldn’t believe no one else was out hiking – I mean, come on, the trail is all yours.
I’m pretty sure we made the drive back to the cabin in our underwear for the sake of being less drenched, and had to empty all of our gear before setting foot inside the building. I took a bath that could have boiled pasta, wrapped up in the remaining clothes I packed, and fell asleep on the couch. I don’t know what C did. I’m not sure I cared.
If you’re looking to for a good time, take a hike. But if you’re looking to enrich your relationships, take a rainy hike. You could always rent a tandem bicycle, but that seems like a shortcut to me.