Running Through Adirondack Park
In an extremely rustic town near a couple of peaceful lakes, an 8-mile loop persuades me to bundle up and start running at sunrise. I am within the Adirondack Park for the holiday weekend, and everyone is just starting to rise after a late night of long overdue family interaction. I manage to convince my spouse to watch the kids for an hour while I sneak out the door alone. I am very fortunate to have family that lives in such a beautiful setting and, more notably, tolerates my compulsion to run.
After 1 mile and a right turn, I find a comfortable pace and solitude. On my journey up this frozen path of lake cabins and vacation houses, the entire hamlet of Caroga Lake remains bundled up inside their warm homes. It is the dawn of another Thanksgiving and unusually cold beyond the woodstoves that fill the air with gentle smoke. I take ownership of the entire Adirondack Park and run down the middle of a silent road.
The sun begins to shine over the woods to the far side of the lake on my left, leaving everything shaded except for a row of waterfront homes in the distance. The contrast is comical as I wish for the warmth of the sun to hit my face. I continue running with my hat pressed against my nose and mouth in an attempt to warm the air before it hits my lungs.
Although not many people would understand the devotion it takes for someone to run 8 miles in their street clothes, I run through this frozen oasis in my jeans and hooded sweatshirt. I was far less keen on missing an opportunity to exercise in such a seasonal paradise…and I was already wearing running shoes.
I pass an empty campground and ghostly-looking swamp before heading back under the trees on a separate dirt road. The scent of blueberries growing in the fields has long since left since I was last here; but, aside from the seasonal differences, it is the same beautiful place I have frequented on warmer weekends. In a month, it should all be covered in deep snow, leaving the scenery just a bit more magnificent. The thought brings a smile to my nearly frozen face.
After 5 chilly miles, I begin to wonder how many people are cooking breakfast in their warm kitchens. Eggs and melted cheese enter my mind as my body processes the three oranges I ate before heading out the door. I send clairvoyant signals to my family to start cooking pancakes. Breakfast might be waiting for me when I return.
The old schoolhouse in the distance marks the end of my run and the beginning of another family holiday gathering. As history often repeats, the previous miles will compensate for some of the anticipated excess involved in a traditional Thanksgiving. My stomach started rumbling 3 miles ago.
I return to the house to find children playing and pancakes on the griddle. High on endorphins and depleted of carbohydrates, I find a place at the table between a mountain of bacon strips and a bottle of maple syrup. My younger son finds his way into my lap, and we demolish our morning feasts. My oldest son takes a seat near his cousins. The crowded room goes quiet for a moment and the pancakes vanish.
The day has just begun, but I can tell it will be a good one. In this extremely rustic town, near a couple of peaceful lakes, my extended family facilitates the day at hand with good food, bad movies and great company. These are the moments that make me aware of how lucky I am to be here at all.
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us here in the Adirondack Park. I hope to share another family adventure run with you all in December. I might even remember to pack running clothes for that one.
John Pinder is a freelance writer and health educator living in the scenic Hudson Valley of upstate New York. He teaches emotionally troubled youth at a residential facility in Rhinebeck and coaches collegiate athletics for SUNY Columbia-Greene in Hudson. He is also regionally known for his successes as a musician and singer-songwriter.