My journey of climbing all 46 peaks in the Adirondacks started on March 2020 during the height of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The quest and call for adventure all started when my son, Michael, was remote learning for his last few months as a senior in high school. As for many people, this pandemic put an immediate halt on life as it did not discriminate nor respect boundaries as it spread like wildfire around the globe. As the impact of this disease continued to spiral out of control, we took to hiking as a safe and positive outlet for uncertainty. I knew that finding an active hobby would help us both redirect negative news into meaningful and hard work. Today, November 14, 2021, we reached another milestone and checked a box on a new peak. This peak was actually one that my son and I had attempted while in the Adirondack Great Range. We ran out of daylight prior to seeing the sign for Sawteeth, and knowing our limits was a wise choice that day.
We often spread out our hikes, given my son’s college schedule (he plays on a few different sports teams and is taking 18 credits), along with my own busy schedule. This weekend our schedules happened to line up, and we decided to get back to the mountains. While reviewing our route options the evening prior, we had a few choices to get to Sawteeth. The first was Sawteeth and Gothics from Phelps Trail. This would be an 8.8-mile hike out and back. The second was doing Sawteeth via the scenic route on a 14.2-mile loop trail. We picked the loop as we had previously climbed the Gothics and liked the idea of different scenery on this trek out.
We have been to this parking area before and we were very familiar with the long hike through the Ausable Club Lands to get to the trailhead. The morning was a chilly 32 degrees on the bottom with an expected high of 36 degrees. We planned accordingly with the proper gear, water, and food. We parked our car and started at 6:50 am with the morning sunrise. The weather looked like it would cooperate until the afternoon, so we needed to keep a steady pace to be out before dark or wet weather. Each of the five outlooks on the trail offered an absolutely breathtaking view. It was a clear and partly cloudy day with about 2 inches of light snow covering the trail and trees. The views of the Ausable River below and Mt. Colvin and the Dix Range in the distance were something out of Lord of The Rings.
As we reached the Sawteeth southeast peak, we were met by passing hikers. They mentioned they were brothers doing the hike from the A.W. Weld Trail. “This is number 26,” said the young man. We conversed briefly, and they politely offered to snap a picture of my son and me. We said our goodbyes and set off to keep the pace and get out before dark. On the way down, we found the Weld Trail less challenging and steep but still quite slick with snow and ice covered with rocks and leaves. To stay grounded and sure-footed, we always bring our MICRO Spike brand boot wear. This makes sure our weary feet didn’t fly out from under us as we quickly descended the trail. Heading down the mountain requires one to keep a nose to the ground and eyes peeled for rocks, roots, and other dangers that will ruin one’s day in a hurry.
While focused on the trail, I happened to notice a blue lanyard on the side of the trail. I stopped quickly and brushed away the snow and leaves. To my surprise, there was a set of car keys! The key lanyard didn’t have a phone number or identification and looked like it was for a Toyota. My first thought was, “man this would ruin someone’s day, especially after a long and cold hike.” Mike and I decided that we needed to head down and try to find the owners or leave the keys by the vehicle. After exiting the trailhead at about 2:30 pm, we reached the Ausable Club Road. From that point, we knew it was an easy 4-mile walk down to the parking lot. As we hastily walked, we encountered three groups of various hikers heading back to the lot from other trailheads that intersect.
We asked each group if they lost a set of keys on the Weld Trail, but nobody came forward. As we continued to head out to the sign-in area, we looked to see if someone left a note (there was none). As we reached the parking lot, I hit the lock button and sure enough, a red Toyota Corolla with Vermont plates that beeped and the lights flashed. Mike said, “we will just get in our truck and wait for the hikers to come back to the parking lot.” I said, “I have lost my keys on a ski mountain once and remember how horrible that felt.” We had a jug of apple cider and a thermos of coffee from the morning, along with some power bars to help satisfy the hunger and thirst while we waited.
About an hour and a half went by with no hikers approaching the car. Then, about 10 minutes later, we noticed the two brothers we meet on top of Sawtooth hike into the parking lot. They looked tired, wet, and panicked as they rushed over to the red Corolla. I knew then, at that moment, that we had made someone’s day a little brighter. We quickly jumped out of the truck and excitingly called over to the brothers. “Hey there, we found some keys on the way down and figured they might yours?!” Well, they both let out a huge sigh of relief as smiles filled their faces from ear to ear. They were from Vermont and knew getting a ride for a spare, or someone bringing them a key on a Sunday evening, would have been a challenge at best!
In our goodbyes, they continued to thank us for our acts of kindness. We said, it’s nothing, and it was the right thing to do. We just asked that you pay it forward as we shook hands and wished each other happy holidays and safe travels back home in a warm car! In my reflection of the Sawteeth journey, my thoughts and feelings confirm this epic and rewarding day inspired us physically, mentally, and spiritually. “It is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of love and kindness.” - Gandalf (J. R. R. Tolkien)
To follow along with David’s progress, head over to the 46er Challenge page, where you can read about all of his climbs and see a gallery of his travels.