Although 2020 is remembered by many as a year lost to quarantine and social distancing, PROACTIVE were able to remain active and healthy throughout the year as we operated primarily outdoors. We were actually so active and adventurous in 2020 that it seemed like it would be hard to match in 2021.
Nevertheless, despite major changes in the group, work schedules returning to near normal, and nameless other reasons that might make it difficult to get out on good hikes and keep things interesting, I can confidently say that 2021 wound up full of significant, memorable moments.
This is a list of my favorite 15 hikes of the year. The list isn't taking into account the difficulty, uniqueness, or other stats of any particular hike, but simply it contains the 15 hikes that left the biggest impression on me for any reason.
Big Slide - January 4, 2021
The 24-hour period prior to this hike turned out to be unexpectedly tumultuous. I had been up for over 30 hours straight and my nerves were rattled. Everybody else had their own reasons for this to be a rough day. Hiking for miles under an austere white sky, we expected no more than a melancholy march into the fog. To our surprise, and delight, we emerged above the ceiling to catch the Adirondack High Peaks poking through an ocean of clouds in an appropriate, climatic fashion. This was our first proper Airbnb trip, but would certainly not be our last. It's nice to enjoy the entire process - from the strenuous exercise to the post-hike relaxation/celebration.
Beacon Bully - January 17, 2021
A good turnout, a strong crew, and high energy made Beacon Bully II - a 15-miler that covered the entirety of the Beacon Range hitting Scofield & Fishkill Ridge, North & South Beacon, and coming to an end by descending Breakneck. The whole group pushed hard and we finished as a group shortly after the sun went down. It was during this hike that we found the Breakneck flag pole missing; it evidently fell down the cliffs and wouldn't be recovered and replaced for months. However, the pole that stands on Breakneck today is indeed the same one that fell - the PROACTIVE sticker that we put on there in December 2020 is still there. This hike left the group feeling strong and patches were given to all of those who completed the route with us.
Western Wind Gate - January 24, 2021
This was one of the best turnouts PROACTIVE had all year. Several members who hadn't been together on a hike for a long time were reunited for a cold day to head over to North Point, all around Storm King, and down Butter Hill. The day prior we had went to Twin Mountain in the Catskills and it had been one of the coldest hikes I had ever experienced. There was also inexplicably far less snow on every other peak in the area. A perfectly dry, far warmer hike the following day was much less brutal and we were able to take some time to enjoy the views and catch-up with each other. The hike also turned out to be a great way to knock some rust off for the group as we turned out moving at a faster pace and it being more strenuous than expected.
Phelps & Lake George - February 27-28, 2021
Our trips to the Adirondacks all have their own unique identifier. It could be the one where we hiked in the massive, powerful clouds (Algonquin) or the one where the undercast clouds were like an ocean (Big Slide). Phelps turned out to be the one where we were pelted by ice shards and whipping winds as we made it to the peak. Walking through waist deep drifts at the top, we took what looks we could at the wall of ice and snow and made a prompt retreat. This was our second Airbnb trip - Todd's place - where despite hiking winter high peaks, the parking at our house was the most dangerous act of the weekend. On the way home we stopped in Lake George and hit Buck Mountain before we returned to reality.
30-Mile Day - March 22, 2021
I had decided that it was time to refresh, wanted time to think, and needed a challenge. After completing the Devil's Path in a day for the second time in October 2020, I hadn't done anything over 15 miles for months. Determined to finish something longer than my previous record of 24 miles (Devil's Path), I set out to complete Beacon Bully twice - back and forth, solo - and was shooting to hit 30 miles. I wound up moving 32 miles and climbing nearly 10,000 feet over 14 hours as I made my way past Sugarloaf to come down Breakneck only to climb back up and make the long trek back. With many people following along on social media, I did my best to document the day's events. I wound up struggling plenty, but the payoff was worth the effort.
Gothics II - April 5, 2021
This was the one where we had proper snow and ice and weren't getting pelted. The weather was perfect and the views were clear. Early on, I gave one my spikes to Mel - her spike having broke, and completed most of the hike with one spike. I found it an additional challenge and required figuring out different approaches to certain ascents, some which were icier and more dangerous than others. Nevertheless, being able to sit atop Gothics, surrounded by snow, and not freezing our asses off was a nice thing. Additionally, when you travel to the Adirondacks with somebody completing these peaks as a goal, knocking off several peaks in a day feels like a group victory and makes a hike like this even more satisfying.
GOTH - May 23, 2021
I began working again in April and my job required me to stay in Hartford, CT during the week. I found myself hiking in Connecticut after days of work to keep myself conditioned, but I was in dire need of a long hike in my home region. By the time Guardians of the Highlands rolled around, I had been chomping at the bit for 15 miles. We got exactly that by beginning and ending a 15+ mile trek at Perkins Memorial Tower atop Bear Mountain. Everybody who completed this hike this day - Brittany, Spence, and Luis - had previously completed Guardians of the Highlands in July 2020, which had to be rescheduled from its original May date due to the pandemic. It felt good to be home, like a return to form.
Street & Nye - July 17, 2021
This was the one where there was a downpour on the drive up and a downpour the following morning. The downpour caused us to cancel our ascent of Whiteface the following morning, but after driving for hours through some serious rain, we managed to sneak in a trip to Street & Nye Mountains before retreating to a small cabin - another Airbnb. Expecting no views at all, as these mountains are said to have, I was surprised to find some impressive views on the way up that made this struggle worth it. We were glad to complete some peaks and get a worthwhile hike in despite the less-than-ideal conditions. This was a good lesson in "making the best of it" and instead of hiking Whiteface the next morning, we sat around and watched some TV as rain pelted the cabin - good times.
Mt. Washington - August 25, 2021
In 2020 we decided we wanted to go to New Hampshire in 2021. Therefore, we planned a trip to hike Mount Washington back in April. The long-awaited trip turned out better than we could have ever expected. The warnings of unpredictable, dangerous weather atop the highest peak in the NE were not applicable to our trip whatsoever. Not only did we ascend Mount Washington on an unusually calm and comfortable day, we were able to stop to see a moose family at close range along the trail and I enjoyed a hot cup of coffee at the peak (I had wanted hot chocolate, but the machine was out of order). Not only was the hike perfect, this was one of our favorite Airbnb stays - turning off the lights and stargazing in the yard was worth the trip in itself.
Dix Range - September 19, 2021
This is the one where we took a wrong turn. The day kicked off with clear views, comfortable temperatures, and the group full of energy. As we moved along at a quick pace, adding additional peaks along the way (eh, only a mile here and there), our late start began to catch up with us. Eventually, Dix peak appeared as a an insurmountable beast ahead, but it turned out to be the least of our problems. We continued onto a the wrong trail and wound up extending our hike by hours, in the dark. Instead of arriving at home around 10PM, we didn't get back home until near 5AM. I had to be at work in Brooklyn the next morning at 6AM. Despite the rough Monday ahead, it was great to make it to back to the car and fold back into society after so much unexpected time in the woods. After the fact, this was a great day.
Cascade - October 13, 2021
A quick Airbnb trip to the Adirondacks as we chased some late in the game foliage. The day before we had hiked to Hunter fire tower in the Catskills to take in the foliage there. Cascade is one of the best bang for the buck hikes you can do! The views and the weather were both great, the colors were there, and we'd make it home at a decent hour. This may have been one of our easiest trips up North with nice accommodations, conditions, and location. For all intents and purposes, this felt like the end of Foliage Chase 2021 and we all prepared our eyes for the Dead Season - the time in between fall foliage and snow scenes where most things turn brown.
Gertrude's Nose - October 25, 2021
Even though Cascade felt like the end of the foliage chasing, we wound up walking right into some of the best fall colors at Gertrude's Nose - something Mel had been wanting to do for a long time, which made this more satisfying. The weather was ideal, the foliage was some of the most vibrant I've seen, and Mel and I were also witness to and documenters of a friend's engagement surprise which made this day even more special. We had come here around the same time of the year in 2019, but the cliffs were shrouded in clouds and it was drizzling. The colorful trees were only tips protruding through the mist. It was nice to get back here for some proper fall color - finally...
Maine - October 27-28, 2021
A short trip to Maine in October, right before the whole place shuts down for the season, was heavy on creepy Halloween vibes and I remember my stay mostly for the persistent whistling wind. We hiked Gorham Mountain on our last morning there as it rained for much of the two previous days. I will admit that I drove up to Cadillac Mountain and didn't hike, just to see what it looked like from the top. Seeing the ocean from a mountain had been on my list for a while, so even though I can check that one off, I need to get back to Maine for some more serious hiking and what I can expect are even more impressive views.
Escarpment Trail - November 6, 2021
This route had been on my to-do list for over a year. After the Devil's Path, it felt like the Escarpment Trail would naturally be the next challenge to tackle. With Vanessa and Daniel - a focused group - we spent the night at one of the most bizarre Airbnb properties that we've experienced. With strange characters around, unwelcoming design choices, and even supernatural occurrences, this will be a story for another time. Nevertheless, the day started with a beautiful sunrise and we moved along deliberately to finish the 24 miles before sunset. This hike, although far less challenging, is more entertaining than Devil's Path with the countless views and welcoming cliffs.
Noonmark Mountain - November 27, 2021
This is the one where we drove through a snowstorm to get to the Adirondacks. With plans to hike 15 miles to Mount Marcy the following day, the snow began to accumulate halfway into our 5 hour trip and the driving became more and more difficult (even with a sufficient vehicle). As long as we survived the drive up, than we'd have some good snow views up there! And we did, we survived, and got some good, fresh snow views. However, we backed off of our ambitious plans to summit Marcy as the day turned out to be one of the coldest of the year and we had lost some of our people who couldn't make the trip through the rough weather. We'll be back for Marcy, but for now, Noonmark did the trick...
Happy New Year!