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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Yellow Paint

In the vast wilderness of the Adirondacks, I have never failed to find my two great loves of the outdoors- Cairns that mark the trail above the treeline which stand as pyramids of rock built by generations of hikers, and the rocks themselves. Rather, the veins of minerals and variance that run through them like roots of the towering peaks.

When last I ascended into the peaks earlier this month, I was not disappointed. However, I found something else that day. When the terrain becomes difficult or treacherous to navigate, the guides paint a single stripe of yellow paint upon the rock guiding the right direction. It is something I have always seen and followed without ever taking a moment to appreciate what it represented.

Hundreds upon countless hundreds of feet have followed that trail, subtly engrained within the character of the mountain itself. It becomes like the cracks and the trees, the boulders and the gentle weathering of time. That yellow paint, faded and worn, seems to challenge the weary foot to take one more step, the exhausted lung to draw another breath, the downcast eye to carry on and rest upon the brilliant views of the summit. It is the soul of the mountains, an echo of everyone who has come and gone and, while the forests' memory of those hikers is long gone, the trail reminds the world that they will ever be a part of it. For in their memory these spectacular lands will ever remain.

This day's adventure led to the summit of Big Slide Mountain by way of the Three Brothers. Numbering at #27 in height of the 46, Big Slide stands at 4,239 feet. The trail up was one graced with so many false summits that the Three Brothers could have been three dozen. But the views they provided made the deception a welcome gift.

Unlike the other treks I have made into the Adirondacks, this was unique in the way the other mountains showed themselves. Higher and higher along the ridgeline brought us sight of more distant peaks than the previous overlook. The giants Marcy and Algonquin, the Pyramids, Haystack, Gothics, Colven, Wright, Upper and Lower Wolfjaw, so many cresting the horizon that it seemed by the summit all of the 46 save the one beneath us would appear before us.

But the distant peaks were not all that the hike had to offer. When the trail dipped beneath the tops of trees, another world existed there. One of tranquillity and timeless endurance that I have come to welcome. Mossy rivers and sprawling pine forests, great boulders with secret alcoves trapped beneath, all without the signs of humanity's wear upon them.

With the third Brother behind us, the summit seemed so close, peaking through the clouds above us. Each time we took a bend in the trail, it seemed to disappear into the ridgeline and afford a view of another, new peak in the distance.

Off beyond the neighbouring 46, the White Mountains of New Hampshire, others to the north in Canada, to the south and the west, nested there around the Adirondack wilderness. As the morning clouds burned away in the afternoon sun, the distant horizon kept racing back into the pale blue abyss.

Finally, the trail split and the last jog to the summit appeared in the form of a weathered sign pointing us up the rocky steps. Rickety wooden ladders and yellow paint took us the remainder of the way, and suddenly the forests disappeared below.

Capturing a mere third of the distant peaks, the above tries to capture the sight at the summit. Although there were no USGS markers for the summit, we knew we had come to the end of the trail. It is sights like these that you can watch for a lifetime and never grow tired of.

This marks my 8th of the 46 High Peaks.

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