Trip East: Blueberry Mountain

After a good nights sleep, I awoke fairly early, maybe 7:30 or 8AM, and heard the loud pitter patter of rain on the metal window AC unit. But it was early, and I relished another hour of sleep after the long drive the day before. So I flopped over and fell back into the dream stream.

Awake again at 9:30, I still heard the rain, but decided to get up and do something with the day, if not hike. At ten I checked in, since I had not the night before. The proprietor, a rotund, bearded, quietly gruff man, seemed seasoned in the business and life of the area. He was glad to see I had arrived safely and had found the key he left. He had kindly set aside a guide to hiking in the area, something I had asked of him on the phone a few days before. I thanked him, but lamented the rain on my only day for hiking. He confidently assured me the weather would clear as it had late every morning the past week. The clouds dispersed as I walked back to my room, almost at his command.

Just up the street at the only intersection of the town, I breakfasted at Mel’s Diner, a squeaky clean, new replica of a 50’s diner, complete with bubbling jukebox playing "Blue Suede Shoes". For $6 I stuffed my face with French toast, eggs and sausage, while I planned my hiking strategy.

I was starting late, and I wasn’t in top shape, so I couldn’t tackle the 10 mile round trip up Whiteface, the main attraction of the area. Besides, there’s a tourist parking lot to look forward to at the top. Yum, not. After comparing printout descriptions of several hikes with the map he gave me, I settled on Blueberry Mt., accessible from the next valley over, about 15 miles away. This hike would challenge me with a stiff 2000 ft ascent over 2 miles, but which was only 5 miles round trip, so I could enjoy the afternoon without hurry. Plus the view was considered spectacular at the summit.

Most trails have a sign in sheet at the head, in case you get stranded. This trail didn’t. I left my number with the lodge proprietor and left a note on the car. I had a little trouble finding the trail head, which is not unusual. There are no big tourist signs for these trails. I got the final directions from some locals who ran a general hardware store in Keene Valley. It was pleasant to meet folks who grew up and lived in and know the town where they work. One find this less and less these days

The parking lot was empty, except for a lone truck with a lone luncher munching at the end. I was the only one hiking that trail. I set off with the slightest trepidation: what if I had a fall, a broken ankle? This was a tricky trail. I had to be prudent. I was as prepared as I could be, equipped with food, water, flashlight, rain poncho, a first aid kit, a compass, a whistle, and a cell phone. As soon as I stepped through the trail opening, I felt a wave of pleasure and confidence. The weather was warm, but sunny and clear. I was psyched to hike. I bounded up the first small incline into the woods.
The first thing I noticed was the bugs. I was immediately surround and hassled by gnats and flies, which love to hover and fizzle by your eyes, ears, nose and mouth, where the annoyance factor is greatest. My initial "bounding" into the woods soon turned into leaping and bounding through the forest as fast as I could to escape the little "buggers". Trying to out run them quickly ran me out of steam, and I resolved to add them to the repertoire of things acceptable to a good day. This took some doing, since they enjoyed kamikaze trips into my eyes. But eventually, thank goodness, as I left the open fields far behind, the number of bugs declined. They seemed less vigorous in the dry shade of the woods.

A few woodland plants caught my eye, some I knew and others I didn’t. Here is one of my favorites, the Bunchberry, Cornus Canadensis, which is eye catching at this time of year, with bright red berries amid soft green clover like leaves all along the ground.

Another, which I didn’t know, and have yet to look up, is this beautiful silver flowered and leaved plant, which resembles the famous Edelweiss of Austria (which I have seen).

By now the incline had increased dramatically. I was basically climbing uneven stairs, with large patches of smooth rock boulders, up which I scrambled. Here is where my hiking sticks, which I got in Austria, came in very handy. They are like adjustable ski poles, with rubber ends which can be removed to reveal sharper points. So they are versatile on either rock or gravel or soil. I would say they helped my now overworked legs by at least 10%, perhaps as much as 20%. Meaning I used my arms to take that much weight off my legs. I was a four legged spider crawling up the mountain. Up and up I went, huffing and puffing, sweating, and in heaven. I love this stuff. I love being alone in nature, pushing against it, breaking down my resistance to it, becoming part of it.
steep climb_rock scramble"/

I guess I’ll tell the rest of this hike tomorrow. I need to get to bed now.