The many reasons to hike in the Adirondacks

In order to be recognized as one of the high peaks, an Adirondack mountain must stand above 4,000 feet. There’s 46 of them. Hikers come from all over the world to reach the summits of these coveted peaks. Stop two different hikers on the trail, and chances are they will give two different sets of reasons why they’re out in the wilderness.

Drive between Saranac Lake and Keene Valley in the morning, and you’ll see cars lining the highways near the trailheads.

Shannon Pinkowski and her hiking partner Rich Holt unpacked at the crowded Garden parking lot. They came from Albany to hike the Great Range, seven of the 46 high peaks in the Adirondack. These two are members of the Adirondack 46ers. The club was organized in the 1920s in order to promote conservation. Since then, over 7,000 people have become 46ers.

Every hike is different for Pinkowski. She has a hard time seeing each peak as just another number, and her favorite part of each hike isn’t necessarily the summit itself. “I think it’s the treasures I find along the way,” she said. “Every trail is so different, and they tell a different story. And I find different things as we go all the time.”

Other hikers place much less emphasis on this kind of checklist. Take Gretchen O’Leary. She grew up in Tupper Lake, and she’s been hiking for as long as she can remember. O’Leary works as a mountaineering guide for the Saint Lawrence University Outing Club. When it comes to choosing which peak to tackle, she’s all about the experience of the hike.

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