Hiking at Seven Degrees
The wind rattled ominously against my window as my alarm rang at the ungodly hour of 6:30 am on a Sunday morning. I almost burrowed back to sleep. Even in a state of near slumber I realized that this might not be a great day to go hiking. Temperatures on the teens in New York City, a weather warning, and the promise of worse conditions up north. But curiosity and a bad case of cabin fever got the best of me. Somehow I pulled myself out of bed and pulled on every non-cotton layer of clothing that I owned. Trying to suck in my stomach to squeeze my waterproof jacket over a mass of fleece, I made it out the door.
Just an hour and a half later, I found myself staring at a semi-invisible trailhead at Tuxedo Park. The snow the night before had covered the trail knee deep in snow. One of my hiking companions, who had traipsed the eight mile loop in a few hours last summer shook her head, “I can’t recognize this place.”
With such an auspicious start and minus my extra pair of wool socks (which I had gallantly donated to a fellow hiker, cockily assuming that my six-year-old boots were still waterproof) we started out. When I got used to the wind kicking snow into my face and wading through this winter wonderland, I started to enjoy myself. The trees cast long blue shadows and creaked atmospherically as we plodded along. I took my first bite of snow all winter (I had doubted the edibility of New York City sludge) and luxuriated in the quiet. Pushing through the pristine snow, I felt that we were carving out a bit of the world for ourselves.
The seven degree Fahrenheit weather proved to be an incentive to keep up a brisk pace. No one wanted to stop long to drink iced-over water and gnaw on frozen Cliff bars. We made good time until one of the members started to complain about pain in her knee. After improvising a makeshift compress and getting lost multiple times trying to find the shortest way back, we ended up chasing the sun back to our van. Trying to beat a path in the snow, playing two hours of the animal game (more effective even than Advil for taking someone’s mind off of pain) we ended up tired, ruddy cheeked, and three hours behind schedule.
We piled into the van with numb toes, shortness of breath, and wind-chapped skin. But we had gone on a real adventure, complete with dramatic shouts that the right trail had been found, collapses into snowbanks, injury (luckily nothing grave) and faces doused in winter sunshine. As soon as the heater was jacked up and I could wiggle my hands again, I felt ready for another round of winter hiking.
-Audrey Larkin lives in NYC and is an aspiring raft guide, poet, and paddler.