Known to many as a hidden gem within the Adirondacks and the ever growing hiker community the Northville-Placid Trail (NPT) will test you. Mentally and physically. It will also teach you a lot about yourself along the way. 133 miles of beautiful vistas, remote towns, and memories that will be cherished forever. Word of advice, go hike the NPT.
It was time to get off the trail. We both agreed. It was a decision that was realistically made a few days prior, but our egos drove us to want to keep going. Agreeing that although we had yet to finish, we both got exactly what we had gone for. Each our own reasons, but perfectly fulfilled nonetheless. The end was never our purpose, it was just the point we used to determine where we should stop and get back to real life. We also agreed that although for now our purpose is served, we will be back and will absolutely finish this trail, just in warmer weather.
This trail just had something about it. Something that you just can't shake when you get home. One of those "something's" that draws you back in like your favorite hometown hike might. The quiet is so loud, it will give you shivers. The peace will bring tears to your eyes when you least expect them. The candid nature of the trail will remind you what a small piece to a big world we truly are. It is hard to put into words the serenity that the NPT provides, although I believe it's best chronicled in a late night experience that brought literal shivers to both of our bodies.
Lying there the last evening of our trip, I was reading the trail log and Hot Socks was reading a book from Hermann Hesse. I noticed the silence. One in which I could not hear anything but both of our breaths. I asked Hot Socks, "Wouldn't you think there would be that one rogue bird... the rebel bird that just chirps now and again because none of the rest of them are?" He laughed and said, "Like the one outside of our tents last night?". I laughed in reply, "Yes, exactly like that one." He just kind of shrugged his shoulders, "Yeah, you would think there would be." I noted that hours had passed before we heard a single thing. Without fear, I cupped my hands over my mouth and I let out my best bird whistle. What happened next was surreal. It was something from the movies and although I can tell you about it, I assure you that I don't have adequate words to explain the feelings that came with it. Seconds after I whistled, the woods absolutely erupted. There is no doubt that 50 birds chimed in at the same time, creating almost a rumble of tweets, chirps and whistles flowing from every hill, valley and tree top in a 5-mile radius. For the next hour, birds would interrupt birds. I would interrupt birds and the birds would undoubtedly interrupt me. All of us interrupting the silence that once lay still before us. I looked at Hot Socks, still shivering in amazement. "I just brought the forest to life" I stuttered. He just looked back with a lack of words. At that moment however, we both knew he didn't need them.
Now I have no idea if your bird call is as good as mine, and I am confident it cannot be much worse, but I highly encourage you to go find out. It was undoubtedly one of the most powerful moments of our trip and maybe even one of the most powerful moments of my life. It also came at a time where two hikers would end their story in defeat, disgust, and sadness.
Upon returning home I would spend a few days removing bits of dead skin from frostbite. Limping around in an attempt to be proactive about not completely blowing my achilles, speaking with numerous podiatrists and soaking my feet in lukewarm water to ease the pain. The bright side is I get to keep my toes, albeit they are numb for an indefinite amount of time.
Ultimately, the Northville-Placid Trail taught me more than any other trail I have hiked, spite thousands of miles of experience. Mostly, the Adirondacks are a world of their own. Relentless, unpredictable, unforgiving, and so powerful beyond all measure. That, regardless of experience, Mother Nature has the final say. I was humbled in the retrospect of my abilities. Leaving with the utmost confidence and coming home with the drive to be better physically conditioned for environments that I might not even expect myself to be in during the near future. I learned a lot about myself on the NPT. I learned what cold toes REALLY feel like, spoiler alert, it's not the feeling you get when you've been outside a few hours and think you need to go back in because they feel numb. I learned to leave my ego at home. I learned to learn...not to be the teacher. To be open to adapting and overcoming issues as a man of little knowledge looking for more. I learned that friendships can be built through war stories, long trying days, and that without them, we are not emotionally equipped to tackle lives in our own solitude and by ourselves.
So I say to you... get out and go hike. DEFINITELY make this trail a priority. While you are there, capitalize on its perfectly pristine character. Greet its generous views with a mutual respect and most importantly, be in the moment as it's one that will never be the same twice. With my advice or without, go. My advice, if you so choose to take it... DON'T hike it in April. Happy Trails yall! -Cheers