Mirage in the Adirondack Mountains
I woke up and it was the Friday morning before Labor Day weekend. I was in my third year at Cornell. It was hardly more than a week into classes and my friends and I had already been living for our first break – and now it was finally here. Of course I didn’t spend any time packing during the week because I was too busy studying for my Thursday exam. Thursday night didn’t make for a productive time either, considering all of the post-exam stress/relief, plus the pre-long weekend excitement. So now I was hungover, and still half asleep, Friday morning was for packing. After essentially throwing as many bandana’s, Nalgene bottles, and pairs of wool socks into my backpack as I could possibly find, I grabbed my hiking boots and went to scoop my friends up from their last class of the day.
Following a stand-off in Wegmans pertaining to frivolous and expensive snack choices for the weekend, I found myself in the middle seat in the back of a minivan at max capacity going full speed ahead towards the Adirondack Mountains. I spent the entirety of the ride trying to smuggle Cosmic Brownies and Saltwater Taffy out of grocery bags and into my mouth without the rest of the car knowing. Might I add that I also argued staunchly against said purchases for this exact reason; knowing myself better than to hope I could resist the chocolate-y temptation. After a long drive and probably an entire box of wine, we set up a tent at our reserved spot on Lake Harris in the dark and contently roasted our hot dogs over the fire before heading to bed.
The next morning was crisp and colder than we were used to for early September. The lake sparkled and glimmered under deep blue sky, but we all pulled on our wool socks and sweats, avoiding the water’s edge. From outside the tent as I brushed my teeth, I heard my sister’s boyfriend roll over in his sleeping bag and say to her, “Taina, you know we can just stay here in the tent today, right? We don’t have to climb any mountains.” It was an understandable suggestion considering he had only packed skinny jeans for the weekend and she had yet to complete a full work out since the last time we summited Mount Marcy a year ago. Yet in 30 minutes, we were all in the car ready to go, equipped with peanut butter sandwiches, our least ridiculous clothing options, and high morale.
After a few miles of driving in the wrong direction and struggling to decide on where to venture to next, we turned to Google. Despite our reluctance to get near the water at our campsite previously, we decided the mission today would be swimming and as the die-hard, gorge-loving Ithacans we are, we Googled “swimming holes in the Adirondacks.” Never was there a more fruitful Google search. We were immediately presented with an option only 10 miles away.
The cars parked on the side of the road gave it away, and after an aggressive minivan parallel park on the highway, we were scurrying through the pines towards the sound of running water. The trees opened up into a mountainside paradise. A river flowed down from the steep hills and spilled over great big mountain boulders, coming eventually to a waterfall that cascaded down into a crystal clear pool in what could only be described as a blue-green mountain lagoon. As we were taking in the beauty, a boy of no more than ten years old leapt from an adjacent cliff into the water below and a small crowd further down the river cheered.
As it turns out it was a magical and truly lucky find, considering we probably would have missed it if it wasn’t for the cars out on the road and the sound of the locals cliff-jumping. The water was bone-chillingly cold and the leap was a lot scarier than the 10 year old made it look (or so I heard, I was too scared to try). These things made it even more memorable though. This particular trip to the Adirondacks was unforgettable in its entirety. We had many more crazy times and wild finds along the way. However, the memory of all of us jumping together off of boulders under the September sun into the chilly, invigorating mountain waters, is one that will stick with me for a while, hopefully forever. I always like to remind myself in moments where I get bogged down by planning and little details of trips, or even life, that the best kind of adventures are the ones you can’t plan – the kind you simply stumble upon.