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no room for hipsters

the occupation of Ashley and Levon

Resupplied and irritated, we headed back into the park.  The other route to climb Mt Marcy is to hike into Marcy Dam.  Here there are shelters and even a forest ranger’s quarters, though it is accessible only by hiking.  I saw him as we clipped our bear bag to a provided cable on the dam.  He had the look of Walden in his eyes and I was self conscious of the Twizzler in my hand.  We ate ramen for dinner, cursing the bear for the night before, and going to sleep extremely early.

We were up at 4.  We ate poptarts, the breakfast of Webelos Scouts, and left the shelter into the darkness and drizzling rain.  The trail bent steeply toward our noses and we were in good spirits after our blueberry speckled frosting.  When it was light enough to see, the oranges and reds of fall were spectacular as they faded into cloud cover.  Invisible then was some 3000 feet we would gain in the next few hours.  Mt Marcy is the highest peak in the Adirondacks and would eventually clear the tree line, precisely what we had driven from Kentucky to do.  The drizzle never let up and the higher we climbed, the more it became sleet.  My sugar buzz was wearing out and I sustained myself with cigarettes.

We weren’t saying much, the grade was like a staircase and the weather made us hunker into our nylon raincoats for all the shelter we could get.  The trees had dwarfed into small shrubs and the trail was nearly a face of rock.  The sleet became snow and the wind grew rigid with gusts that caught our packs like sails.  Still we climbed, until there was only rock and grey swirling moisture to all sides.  The rattle of nylon was deafening and my clothes fit me like we were submerged in water.  There was no longer a trail, only pyramids of piled stones to connect the route.  We had visibility of maybe ten yards, so if I could Scott and he could see the next pyramid of stones, well then we weren’t lost in a whiteout.

This went on and on, alternating advances of running and diving.  Noise and chaos reached a point where there was only adrenalized silence.  At some point we would be on top, although how would we ever know?  We bunkered behind a pyramid to talk, digging our fingers in icicles growing from its sides.  If we headed off to the right we could reach shelter in the rim of the tree line and eventually find the trail on the other side of the summit.  But how big could that perimeter be?  That would also mean not climbing Mt. Marcy.

In a brief hesitation of hostilities, a glimpse of scenery appeared through the curtains of white and we stood up in its spectacle.  A gust slammed us to the ground and ripped Scott’s pack cover off.  I watched it fly over the valley and I clenched the rocks with all fours so that I wouldn’t follow it.  We were swallowed again by whiteness and I clenched the icicles.

At some point our accent was completed, and then I suppose we began returning to earth.  We knew that only when shrubs reappeared at our knees. Marcy was being merciful.  Running and sliding as if being chased by lightning, we wanted to reach tree cover to stop the evil wind just as one wants water to stop the burning.  Once there, I did the only thing I could think to do: pull the tab off a frozen can of beenie weenies and give thanks to the Lord.  Weary and beaten, drenched and speechless.  There was only an eight mile descent back to the car until we were out of this.

The snow turned back to sleet, and afterwards to rain.  My hair was wet with sweat and steam poured from my neck and wrists.  Deep inside my shoulders was the cold but I was excitedly burning.  My heavy feet were gallons of water that pummeled under me and my pack drove me forward into a near run.  I looked off in the woods and thought for a moment I saw a row of storefronts just through the trees.  Another time there was a polar bear at the bottom of a snowdrift.  Scott had landed on the lens of his Nikon and was sure it was broken.  He wasn’t wearing a hat anymore and his pack was an undistinguishable ball of snow.  It was now quiet again except for our bursts of screaming about victory and what we’d brought from Kentucky to whip the mountain.  Scott is doctor now, and he was well on his way then.  He said it first, “I think we have hypothermia.”

We spent hours hiking those eight miles.  Stumbling and staggering, lucky that straight ahead was all we had to comprehend.  I fell and busted my elbow and Scott treated it like a scene from the ER.  The bandage made it look broken and maybe he broke it.  My the end we were making funny moaning sounds to resemble the word “car.”

We did reach the car eventually.  The main trailhead had a ranger station, and despite our sorry state we decided to report the missing pack cover and a pocket knife that had come loose during our scrambles.  The ranger asked our names and questioned where we had lost them.  When we told her, she acted surprised.  The peaks had been closed all day; the ranger back at the dam had awakened all the hikers at daybreak to alert them.  We saw her mark our names off the trail sign-in registry from the day prior.   She could have said nothing to make us more proud.

Thank you for letting me indulge.

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