Happy belated July 4th. I hope you all enjoyed yourselves. I’m up in Saratoga, playing the Lake George Opera Festival. For my day off, I went up to Lake George for an excellent hike. I repeated the hike I did last July 4th, going over the Tongue Mountain and down to the shore of Lake George at 5-Mile Point. It’s a beautiful hike, but not easy. It’s 3.7 miles each way, with around 1200′ elevation gain, loss, gain, and loss.
This is me, after 3.7 miles, 1200′ up, 1200′ down, stripping down for a much needed dip in the cool waters of Lake George. OK, I know it’s not a very flattering picture, but all I cared about was cooling off!
(note: I was wearing my compression sleeve/glove. I try to wear it, just as a precaution on a long hike when it’s hot because I tend to puff up. Better safe than sorry!)
On the way down to the shore, we met a family coming up: parents and their teenage daughter. This was on the first really steep section on their way back up. They all looked pretty tired, but the dad was definitely suffering. I asked how he was doing, made sure he had plenty of water, and offered what encouragement I could – he was at least a little more than halfway done. Of course, I knew he had a long, hard climb ahead of him, but all I could do was wish him well and head on my way.
Down at the bottom, we enjoyed some swimming and a little snack – and lots of water. A little while later, we saw two police boats coming in hard and fast to shore, just down from us. The family had come back down and called for a rescue. They couldn’t make it back up and out. Their rescuers were happy to help: it’s easier to pluck exhausted hikers from the shore rather than rescue an injured hiker or someone having a heart attack from the middle of a mountain.
I trust the story had a good ending, that they got back home safe and sound. They were in good hands so we went on with our hike. We still had a long, steep trail to get up and back down on the other side.
Pacing yourself (and judging your abilities honestly) is essential to a good hike, bike, run, or kayak. All too often, people underestimate the challenge, or overestimate their fitness or abilities. I applaud that family for getting out together and doing something healthy. But it’s really important to make a good plan. Look at the map; read the trail description. Decide if it’s really the best hike for you, for all of your group. And if you get into something that turns out to be too much for you, you can always change plans.
It’s tough sometimes, if you’re out of shape for whatever reason (injury, surgery, chemotherapy, anything), to really judge what you are capable of. The best advice I can give people, which I’ve had to remind myself of from time to time, is to remember that you always have to get home. Getting to the top of the mountain, the turnaround of the trail, or the end of your driveway is only halfway. You still have to have enough energy to get back.
So, even if you turn around before your destination, it’s better than getting stuck without the strength to get home. Go ahead, get out and get moving, push yourself a little, but be realistic. It should be fun. It should be a positive experience. And most of all, it should be safe. I hope your 4th was all of those!