46er Reflection: The Summit is Near

11 Jan, 2024

My quest to complete the Adirondack 46er Challenge began as a way to raise awareness for nursing education while creating lasting life lessons, memories, and experiences. During my 2-year long journey of climbing the high peaks, I have gained a newfound appreciation for the great outdoors, wildlife, and nature. Although this experience has been both challenging and unpredictable, like the journey of life, the view from the top was worth it, every time.

The last leg of the 46er journey was a quagmire of unmarked trails, deep mud, rocks, steep inclines, and sheer ruggedness. Mount Marshall was one of the five remaining peaks needed to check off the list this spring. Mt. Marshall was also the one that my son Michael and his girlfriend Cassie couldn’t complete in January 2022 due to weather and lack of daylight.

Mount Marshall has an elevation of 4,360 feet, making it the 25th highest peak in the Adirondack Park. I was accompanied by two team members from Davin Healthcare, Rico, and Dylan, along with my son, Mathieson’s 1.5-year-old rescue dog Rocky, to join the adventure. My youngest son Michael, who started the 46er journey with me, was offered an amazing summer internship opportunity on a horse ranch in Moab, Utah. He knew I was going for the last five peaks without him, and he gave me the thumbs up to complete the challenge in his absence with the pledge to re- hike the remaining five peaks again with him so he can achieve his 46er goal.

My team members, Dylan and Rico, are both experienced hikers and outdoor enthusiasts who made the trip with me on May 24th. The weather was a perfect 52 degrees in the AM with a high of 68 and sunny in the afternoon. The route we all decided on was the 14.6-mile loop (more like 18 plus) going up Indian pass and down Avalanche pass. We started the hike from the LOJ in Lake Placid at 8:10 am, a bit later than initially anticipated. All in all, it was a smooth start with very little wind and clear skies. As we headed up the trails, we encountered streams and abundant wildlife signs all around us. The crisp mountain air, great conversations, and entertainment of the young pup Rocky eagerly following us along the trail kept us going at a good clip. As we continued to hike and converse, we quickly made our way up Indian Pass before I noticed an error that we had missed the Cold Brook turn-off. This miss-step took us off trail for about .5 mile before I realized we were heading towards Summit rock. Thankfully, my hiking app alerted me that we were off-trail. This error added another mile to the trek, but we didn’t mind much at this point due to the beautiful scenery.

Once back on the trail, we carefully managed our way through some very cumbersome trail mazes, rock scrambles, and shin-deep mud to summit Marshal at around 1:30 pm. Mount Marshall is typically one of the hikes 46ers put off until the end due to the sheer grind. However, I found the experience and views from Mount Marshall to be breathtaking. After a 20-minute rest period and snack, we decided to head back down with the mindset of driving over to Lake Placid for a bite to eat. On the way back down from Marshall, we experienced another hiccup with a wrong turn. This created a 40-minute bushwhacking experience with thick underbrush and a slew of bugs that came out in droves. After taking a moment to rest up and gather our wits, Rico pulled up his maps, and we slowly but surely made it back over the ridge and onto the Avalanche pass trail. Once back on the trail, we felt a sense of relief and picked up our pace with the prize of getting a cold beer and good food.

The rest of the hike out on Avalanche pass was picturesque, with huge rock cliffs facing lake Colden, along with a maze of ladders and footbridges winding through the lake valley. In the end, the 14.4-mile hike ended up clocking in at 18.6 on my GPS. Although we experienced a few unanticipated challenges and mishaps, we all made it out safely and before the sunset. The hike took nearly 12 hours; however, the weather and company couldn’t have been better. Rocky, the rescue pup, had completed his very first high peak with ease. He, along with Dylan, Rico, and I, celebrated our long hike with a trip to Big Slide Brewery for some amazing cheeseburgers, fries, and cold beer. Rocky was especially happy with any table scraps that fell his way! All in all, the lessons learned, beautiful views, and the strong bond between our group was worth the long hike to accomplish my 42nd peak on the 46er journey.

Follow David’s progress with his goal to climb all 46 Adirondack High Peaks on the 46er Challenge Page.

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