September 3, 2016

Mount Van Hoevenberg

Everyone seemed game for a third day of hiking (hurray!), so we headed for another little peak I'd been keeping on deck.  When hiked from the trailhead on South Meadows Road, Mount Van Hoevenberg is 4.4 miles roundtrip with 740 feet elevation gain.  The first mile or so is pancake flat, passing through pine and spruce plantations with gorgeous sunlight streaming through the boughs.  The trail then skirts a lovely beaver pond before starting to climb.  The open water of the beaver pond offers views up to the rocky summit ledges of Mount Van Hoevenburg -- nice to see our destination before re-entering the woods. 

In what may have been a symptom of needing a rest day, Frankie had a moment of sheer despondency on the way up.  We were playing a space-themed word game, where we had to think of a space word starting with the last letter of the previous word (e.g., Saturn Nebula Andromeda).  We were working together, not competitively, giving clues when one person thought of something and everyone else was stumped.  But it's still a pretty challenging game, and can only go on for so long: at some point, everyone runs out of words.  We've played this same game before and Frankie has never had any trouble stopping when we collectively stalled out, so I didn't expect any trouble.  Unfortunately, he got really upset today when we couldn't think of any more words, near tears.  Poor guy!

I asked Frankie if he wanted to turn back, and he emphatically answered no.  I actually think it would have triggered a massive meltdown if we'd forced him to go back then.  I'm always prepared and willing to turn around without reaching the summit, should circumstances warrant such a decision.  However, I fear that Frankie may not have that same mentality.  I think it's something we'll have to talk about more, when we're not hiking and there is no pressure/emotion.  In this case, he pulled himself together, and had no trouble completing the hike.  And I'm so glad we stuck with it!

The views from those ledges are spectacular, looking south right into the heart of the High Peaks.  The direction of the view is similar to those from the summit of Mount Jo, but from Mount Van Hoevenberg the view seems more expansive.  Of course, Mount Jo is visible in the foreground along with South Meadow.  I really enjoyed this perspective: South Meadow is really stunning, and it's such a unusual element to have in the view.  I don't remember seeing it so clearly from any other peak.

Several hiking parties who were heading down as we were ascending had warned us about a nest of ground bees on the second of the four summit ledges, saying people were getting stung.  This worried Frankie a little, so we told him we didn't need to go by them.  We sat and had lunch on the first ledge, then asked some folks who'd come from that direction, and they told us the second ledge was much bigger than the first, and that the bees were at the far end, so when we finished eating, we packed up and headed that way.  Erwin and Frankie got comfortable, and I skirted the bees and explored ahead.  I checked out the third and fourth ledges.  The views were similar from all, but each successive ledge allowed views further east, with more of the Great Range popping into view and even a bit of Cascade.  Then I poked around in the woods a bit, looking for the true summit.  As with Mount Gilligan, I followed the trail until it went down, and saw no markers of any kind.  I returned to the second ledge and hung out with Frankie while Erwin went to check out the third and fourth ledges.  By the time Erwin returned, Frankie had decided the bees were not a big concern after all, and wanted to go see the other ledges, too, so all three of us went together.  

When we started back, we had to pause at the first ledge for a group of hikers to emerge before we could enter the narrow trail in the woods.  It was a party we had passed on the way up, and someone announced that the older gentleman was 90 years young!  There was a spontaneous round of applause from all the hikers on the summit, people offering to take photos, thronging round.   We offered our stunned congratulations, with me declaring we all want to be like you in a wavery voice, then headed down.  I wasn't sure if he'd appreciate a crowd of strangers pressing in; perhaps he'd want to rest and enjoy the views in peace.  But I was so moved; it was all I could do not to cry on the spot.  I'm getting choked up now just thinking about it.  What an inspiration!  We should all be so lucky! 

dissected grapefern (Botrychium dissectum)


photo by Erwin

photo by Erwin

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