When Professor Cliff Reiter reached out to me about leading a summer trip to the Adirondacks, I was thrilled. I have been to his New Russia home (which he calls “camp”) once each semester since my sophomore year. This would be my fourth time in the Dacks (I missed one semester because I was studying abroad), but my first time experiencing this region in the summer. Before I had hiked through breathtaking fall foliage and, in the spring, fought my way up peaks using crampons (shoe spikes for snow) and an ice axe. Each of these previous times I had made the trip north with my LOSt (Lafayette Outdoors Society) companions. Each trip was filled with incredible moments and accomplishments. Each trip bore deeper friendships with my fellow hikers.
Cliff proposed this summer trip as a hiking trip for LaFarm workers. LaFarm is Lafayette College’s farm and community garden. The farm portion of LaFarm grows food for Lafayette’s dining halls while the community garden portion of the land includes plots which members of the Lafayette community can rent. Cliff is one of LaFarm’s community gardeners and his plot is certainly impressive. He is also the faculty advisor of LOSt. I have been working on the farm this summer alongside seven other students. Four of my co-workers were able to embark on this weekend journey.
It was nearly bedtime when we arrived at Cliff’s camp after a six-hour drive from campus. Cliff welcomed us with freshly baked bread, homemade jams, and grapes. After snacking and chatting with our wonderful host, each of us chose a bedroom to rest our heads. Before we slept, we discussed our plans for a full day hike (approximately 15 miles). We would tackle the Bennie’s Brook slide, Lower and Upper Wolf Jaw, and Armstrong. Day two, we would head tot Balanced Rocks and a nearby swimming hole.
We started the day at 7 AM, trekking up Bennie’s Brook Slide. The slide is a steep slope of bare rock. Erosion and hurricane forces cleared vegetation in this area. The slide would lead us to Lower Wolf Jaw, a knob in the high peaks as you looked up at the skyline of peaks. The slide required a great deal of scrambling (quickly using hands and feet to make your way up steep sections) and a tolerance for direct exposure to the sun. On such a steep portion of trail, I constantly have to remind myself to look up and take in my surrounding. Due to my uncoordinated nature, I often find myself closely watching my steps.
The first-time Dacks hikers were amazed by the difficulty of this route. It was not what they were expecting. They were also not expecting to need so much water (over 4 liters). Of course, they were also shocked by breathtaking viewpoints throughout the day. The whole hike was closer to 20 miles than to 15 miles. We were exhausted by the end, but we had such an incredible feeling of accomplishment.
Each time I go to the Adirondacks with Cliff, I am able to experience new trails and peaks. I am so thankful for each of these opportunities that Cliff has made possible. It was with Cliff and the LOSt crew that I experienced my first full day, long distance hike, let alone a hike on such rigorous terrain. I have become a stronger, more experienced hiker because of these trips.
This experience I gained has allowed me to embark on many new and exciting adventures that I otherwise would not have been confident enough to try. These Dacks trips are some of the most thrilling and memorable experiences as a student at Lafayette. I remember so vividly the first time I entered an alpine zone at the top of a peak. Such an overwhelming sense of solitude, history, and beauty washed over me. These are feelings that I crave to find in the mountains. I am constantly thankful for LOSt and for Cliff.
(All photos in this post were taken by Prof. Cliff Reiter)