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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Meunier

Happy 100th NPT!

Updated: Mar 12

NPT 100 Year Anniversary Story Submission

The Northville-Placid Trail turns 100 this year. As part of the celebration, the Adirondack Mountain Club is collecting stories about this trail. This is the one I shared about my 2020 hike on the NPT.

My memories of hiking the Northville-Placid Trail are intertwined with my early experience of the Covid-19 pandemic. When the school I teach at shuttered in the spring of 2020, my world shrunk from a rambunctious cavalcade of human interaction to a desk at home with only occasional human contact. When that school year mercifully ended, I looked to a long hike as a safe way to spend part of the summer break. I hatched a plan to thru hike the NPT in early July.

I made a classic mistake my first day on the trail, exuberantly speed-walking the road walk out of Northville. The hot pavement turned my boots into sweaty incubators of blisters that gradually sprouted on my little toes. I surveyed the destruction in my tent the first evening at camp and felt real despair. I had a sinking feeling that my journey to Lake Placid was over before it had really begun.

However, there are few things as cheering to me as an early morning in the woods– this spot had the advantage of a rollicking stream with a series of small waterfalls– and I gamely dressed up my feet, laced my boots, and lurched onto the trail. This routine was repeated for the next five days, in which I managed to keep my feet from getting much worse but finally tired of the raw pain that was beginning to crowd out my enjoyment of the hike. I ended up limping into Long Lake and returning to finish the rest of the trail a few weeks later.

It’s a rare journey that doesn’t come with a ration of discomfort. On this one, my troublesome feet and the startling lack of other humans (something I thought I would be more accustomed to at that stage of the pandemic) were challenges to my psyche. I also met frequently with a vigorous delegation of deer flies who banged against my head net for miles, convincing me to commit to another visit in a different season, ideally after a killing frost.

Difficulties aside, the NPT also delighted me. My Adirondack hikes usually involve mountains. This one was instead crowded with lakes and ponds– a succession of vibrant habitats for frogs, snakes, and insects. I walked through open beaver meadows with just the trace of a trail threading through them. I visited lush colonies of ferns and plundered a secret cache of raspberries. I dodged blowdown, followed moose tracks, and waded through a flooded section of trail, the cool silty water soothing my mangled feet. The hike felt less like a peak-bagging mission and more like tromping around the woods near my home as a kid, far enough away from the nearest house to feel really alone.

When I first stepped onto the NPT, the world felt chaotic, menacing, and disconnected. My experience trying to teach remotely had been as solitary as my NPT hike but oppressively stationary and relatively fruitless. A week moving through the forest was a balm for my nerves and helped me reset myself after a tumultuous spring. As uncomfortable as my steps sometimes were, they reminded me that forward motion was still possible.


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