Serenity on Baxter
The topics we feature for this project tend toward the extremes or the extraordinary. The tallest, the shortest, the biggest, the smallest, the first, the last, the youngest, the oldest. The dramatic, the bizarre, the inspirational, the important.
All these superlatives and adjectives make fantastic articles.
Of course, most things visible and invisible exist between the extremes. Only one Everest tops the planet; only one Dead Sea dips the farthest below sea level. Incredibly, more than 1,000 crags on our world reach higher than 7,000 meters, which is just shy of 23,000 feet. Though the definition of a mountain differs from spot to spot, some estimates place the number of mountains over 1,000 meters high (3,280 feet) at over one million. If we lower the threshold to 1,000 feet, that figure could balloon into the tens of millions.
That’s a lot of rocky goodness, each with a geological tale to tell you.
Many non-Everest mountains receive plaudits for their size, remoteness, silhouette, or difficulty to climb. People attempt to ascend the highest peaks on all the continents or in all 50 states in America.
Yet, most mountains sit in relative obscurity. Thousands and millions of peaks dot our Pale Blue Marble that you’ll never see or know. They may not be notable to the public at large, but many of these places (they don’t have to be mountains!) can provide an immeasurable dose of resplendence to the intrepid adventurer.
Some of my greatest memories involve the natural world in spots that will never garner a spot in the Encyclopedia of Extremes. Scattering some of my grandmother’s ashes on the 855th-highest crag in Maine, called Ragged Mountain, which is, at best, the third-most famous Ragged Mountain in the state. Watching my daughter rush into the ocean for the first time at a non-descript point on a Texas beach. Watching my wife climb trees in Ohio forests. Reveling in neon skies during roaring thunderstorms, searching for tornados.
The ordinary can produce sublime, transcendent experiences if we search for them. Of course, many of these memories jump into places of meaning for me thanks to the people with whom I shared the time and space. Giving part of your finite time to another, in order to explore our wonderful world, is a tremendous gift.
I enjoy pushing myself physically and suffering to achieve difficult obstacles. But, the therapeutic value of the outdoors is probably far more valuable than athletic achievement. Stress can take a real toll on one’s body. Studies show that just being outside can be fantastic medicine. Going to gorgeous locations with people you love can be transformative.
Last fall, my family climbed Mt. Marcy, New York’s High Point, in our ongoing project to visit the tops of all the states. I walked 15 miles up and down steep, rocky terrain with a toddler on my back. Winds hit 55 miles per hour on the summit. The descent was filled with pouring rain. I loved every moment of it, but it was strenuous and anything but carefree.
Through a glorious turn of fate, our good friend Alan R. happened to be in the region at the same time. Alan is a patron of the newsletter and has written multiple pieces for the project. He grew up in upstate New York, becoming an ADK 46er, which means he climbed the 46 highest peaks in the Adirondacks. Quite an accomplishment. This familiarity with the area made him a wonderful tour guide.
After our grueling slog up and down Marcy, we wanted to enjoy something a bit less taxing. Alan chose Baxter Mountain as a target, a place he had not ascended in his years of exploration. Baxter also happens to be the name of one of my favorite places on Earth, the summit of Katahdin, so we gladly accepted the invitation to hike there.
Baxter is not a world-beater in any atlas. It rises 2,440 feet above sea level. Despite this modest total, the 1.2-mile one-way trail manages to climb 770 feet, giving it a nice feeling of lift. We were in the Adirondacks in the middle of October, nearly the peak for fall foliage. The views at Baxter’s outcroppings were expansive, colorful, and striking. I never would have known about this place if I only searched for extremes, but I experienced a treasured memory with my family and a dear friend.
Very few people will ever search YouTube for a video of the Baxter Mountain ascent, but, if they stumble upon one from 15 October 2022, they might get a peek into a hike that filled a few people with serenity.
Further Reading and Exploration
Baxter Mountain – Lake Placid