Thursday, August 14, 2008

Hiking Pitchoff Mountain

It's hard to believe it's been a month since I've blogged. Even harder to believe is that today is exactly SIX MONTHS since our moving truck pulled away from the little cottage in New Cumberland, PA. It's been a wild, wonderful ride - unpacking, getting settled, renovating and juggling a new job, new business, new school and family life!

But . . . lest you think that it's all work and no play, I wanted to share a hiking experience of which I am very proud!

It all began when our friend, Jane, was visiting from Pennsylvania. Wayne headed off to work leaving us and the girls to our own devices. We decided to go for a hike since that's what you do in Keene Valley! Of course, being new and having spent most of the last six months with my nose in a paint bucket, I wasn't sure where to suggest we hike.

Enter: the handy "Kids on the Trail" guidebook that describes 62 Adirondack trails that are appropriate for children. (My ulterior motive for buying this book was the thought: If a kid can do it, I probably can.)

We leafed through the book looking for the perfect trail for our timeframe and skill level. One description promised "a short and mostly gentle hike to a good picnic spot." We agreed we wanted something a bit more challenging. Several others sounded somewhat ordinary. Then one caught our eye. The description read, "Ease of access, a short trail, fine views and interesting balanced rocks all contribute to its popularity."

We had found our mountain - Pitchoff! (Perhaps the name should have served as a warning?!)

After packing a picnic lunch, we set off, driving up scenic Route 73 and parking at the upper end of the Cascade Lakes. Our hiking destination? The mountain top that you see in the background - right at the tippy top where two large rocks are balanced.

A close-up of the balanced rocks. If you look closely you'll see them at the top left of the mountain. And all the rocks below them? More about that in a minute!

The trailhead is located right on Route 73 and the trail begins with a series of steep steps that literally disappear up into the woods.

The trail was steep right from the beginning. Apparently painting and changing bed linens doesn't do a lot for the cardiovascular system. I couldn't let Jane and the girls down, so I squared my shoulders and plunged ahead up - trying to keep up a pleasant chatter between huffs and puffs.

I quickly learned that the people who write trail guide books have completely different meanings for the words they use - like the words "easy" and "trail" for example!

This was the first glimpse we had of the views that awaited us.

Now we were high enough to look down on Cascade Lakes where we had parked our car. We realized that we had climbed quite a bit!

Looking across to Cascade Mountain (one of the 46 High Peaks), we saw a beautiful waterfall cascading down the mountain. The woods were quiet enough that we could hear the water gushing clear over on our mountain.

Remember how this trail was chosen from the book for kids? Well - even the kids got a little tired climbing over the rocks.

No - we weren't lost in the woods. This is actually the trail!

The guidebook had mentioned "several steep pitches." I think I would have described it differently. Our last half hour was spent climbing one rock after another - sometimes pulling ourselves up by tree roots and will power!

By this point, Jane and I had given up on conversation. We had come far enough that we couldn't quit. But sometimes looking up the trail was quite daunting.

We did share a good laugh remembering that we had passed on the "short and mostly gentle hike to a good picnic spot" hike.

Now you may think I'm whining a bit (I'm just reliving it as I'm typing this) but those of you who know me know that this was quite a feat for this unathletic lady. More than once I thought, "I wish Wayne could see this!"

Along the way were stunning views (otherwise known as great excuses to stop hiking and take pictures).

. . . and tiny treasures - low growing bushes laden with wild blueberries (otherwise known as great excuses to stop hiking and snack).

At last we reached our destination - a large flat lookout spot. The clouds had begun to move in, but we still enjoyed an almost 180 degree view of the High Peaks region.

Remember the two balanced rocks? This is what they look like up top! It looks like a good push would send them plunging off the cliff. Of course, Sodie had to try her muscles against them!

This was the view toward Lake Placid. As usual, there is no way a camera can do it justice. You just have to climb up and see it for yourself.

A turkey and cheese sandwich never tasted so good! We spent about 45 minutes up top - eating and recovering. We tried not to think about the fact that we now had to go DOWN over all those rocks!

Our happy smiles are due to the comradery and sense of accomplishment that come from conquering a mountain together!

While Jane and I relaxed, Sodie and CorrieAnne were busy making money. A nice couple from Boston spotted our blueberries and "hired" the girls to pick some for them. Their happy smiles are due to the $3 they each earned for their efforts.

We did make it down the mountain before it rained.
And the morning after?

In addition to sore muscles, we had . . . wild blueberry muffins!

Milestones and Memories

Today is exactly two months since our first paying guests arrived. In these last eight weeks, we've seen 44 guests and 17 friends and family pass through our doors! We have welcomed each one as "royalty" and have enjoyed preparing their rooms and creating an atmosphere where they could relax and reconnect with the people and things they love. In addition, we have experienced some wonderful moments learning to know and to love our small town and its people.

Here are some of our favorite memories from the past two months:

* The first time I pulled in the driveway and saw strangers sitting on the porch - exciting but weird!

* Our first "walk-ins" - only a half hour after we put up our new sign

* Getting the first reservation check in the mail!!!

* Cotton candy that the girls can eat! No artificial colors in this candy. . . it's pure spun maple sugar!

* The first time we had to tell someone "Sorry, we're full."

* Our first kitchen crisis - we ran out of maple syrup!!

* Getting to know our summer neighbors The girls have loved playing with Jake and Annie on their "homemade" see saw.

* Meeting guests from all over the world - we've now hosted people from Switzerland, Canada and Holland as well as Americans who were born in Russia, Germany, Belize and Puerto Rico. Just yesterday, our website had hits from Mongolia, Canada, France, Israel, Australia, Switzerland and Spain!

* Critters and creatures of the woods. These little salamanders appear after it rains . . . which has been just about every day.

* The first "they-didn't-cover-this-in-the-B&B-book" moment - guests got into a 45 minute fight at the breakfast table!

* Saturday night campfires - we got to introduce a family from Holland to their first S'mores

* Simple pleasures like a line full fresh-smelling laundry

* Hearing our guests' stories of their adventures from climbing Mt Marcy to a four-day canoe trip

* Family adventures like hiking to Roaring Brook Falls

* The first "Mama-said-there'd-be-days-like-this" day - a toilet broke while Wayne was at work, we found pen marks on one of our $200 comforters, a guest tried to open their window and the air conditioner fell out and we learned that our van needs $1000 of repairs. Ugh!

* The "secret" swimming hole. There's nothing as exhiliarating as a jump into an ice-cold mountain river!!

* The cool summer temperatures - we haven't hit 90 degrees yet!!

* Sharing the beauty of our new world with people we love . . . this is our friend, Josh, having a "mountain top" experience!

Thank you to all of you who have encouraged and prayed for us on this journey. Our adventure is still in the infant stages, but we are blessed and grateful.