Today, the club has well over 5,000 members. I climbed my first Adirondack summit, Algonquin, at the age of 16 on Aug. 24, 1965. I finished the 46 on Esther, on July 22, 1973, and I am 46r number 895.
Some of my fondest memories are from the many hundreds of days and nights that I spent living out of a backpack in a lean-to in the Adirondack woods. In weather fair and foul, sweltering hot and sub-zero cold, the tonic of wilderness solitude has filtered through my body and soul and enriched my life.
Often times, standing on the wind-swept rocks of a mountain summit with the world at my feet, I am reminded of this poem by John Magee, Jr. It captures the spirit of freedom and adventure and communion with the Creator that one feels in the wilderness...
High FlightOh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds -- and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of -- wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew --
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.
John Gillespie Magee, Jr. 1922 - 1941
Many years ago, I wrote the following account after an autumn hike when the colors of fall, the golden sun and deep blue sky where dancing in the joy of nature to a tune that only God could play...
The morning had dawned clear and cold, and I was on the road by 6 a.m. As the miles rolled away, the sky changed from an intense blue to a tumultuous gray.
Turning off route 73, and driving down the Loj road, I saw that Algonquin was in the clouds and Tahawas was proving its name. By now the sky was threatening. In spite of the overcast the fall colours were vivid, especially during brief periods of sunlight. By the time I reached the summit of Phelps the clouds had begun to break up, and the ceiling had risen well above the principle peaks.
Standing on the rocky wind swept shoulder of Phelps I could look out over the wilds and see a creation rejoicing in its reflection of the majesty of the Creator. By singling out a patch of trees in the valley, I could see them tossing and swaying in the gusty winds. The lands below were literally seething in motion as were the pale and charcoal clouds in the heavens above. At intervals large patches of blue sky forming among the clouds gave sunshine space to bathe the landscape in light. As the sunlight swept across the countryside the fall colours exploded in a mixture of brilliant reds, yellows and greens, as well as every hue and shade of orange and brown.
That was a hard summit to depart, and my eyes clung to the far horizons as the green scrub spruce slowly encompassed my view. The forest provided a gentle transition as my attention was moved from the vast reaches of the Adirondack wilderness to the brown earth beneath my boots. While I lost elevation the evergreens gave way to the brilliant colours of the maple, birch and aspen. Whenever the trail before me allowed, my gaze rose to be cheered by a forest ablaze in sunlight. By now the clouds had broken enough to allow the sun to rule the landscape, and it ruled with a majesty that could be endowed only by the grace of a God who wished to reveal some aspect of his splendour. My spirit rose to heights within me and I praised and thanked the God that had composed such a magnificent symphony of sound and sight.
Along the majority of the return trail I found myself constantly amazed at the world of colour around me. Never had my awareness of the trees and leaves been so keen. In a calm way they seemed to compete for my attention, and at the next moment would blend together with perfect harmony of form and colour. I found myself singing hymns that gave form to the feeing of fellowship I sensed with God and His creation. How fine it is for such a pinnacle of beauty to be attained by the hills, a serene beauty born of natures peace.
My forest communion service drew to a close as I neared my companions who had already arrived at the parking lot. With a renewed and contented spirit, and with the completion of a never to be forgotten episode in the wilderness chapter of my life, I approached the task of making camp.
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