By Brent Frazee
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Some hikers would have been a bit intimidated by the rocky trail that led almost straight up to the peak of one of the mountains in the Adirondacks.
Not Barb Ryan. As she headed out on the rocky path, she was approaching this hike as more of a stroll in the park than a challenge.
“This has a pretty vertical climb to it,” she said as she wove her way through boulders. “But it’s not a very long trail.
“And once you get to the top, the view is breathtaking.”
Once she had hiked to the summit of Mount Jo 2,876 feet up, Ryan paused to catch her breath and take in her idea of paradise. The vast Adirondack mountain range rolled across the landscape for as far as the eye could see. Heart Lake glistened in the late-summer sun. And the trees below were dotted with color, the start of autumn’s annual show.
“You should see this view when we’re in the middle of the fall color season,” she said. “In another couple of weeks, the view from this overlook is absolutely stunning.”
Ryan, 60, a resident of Lake Placid, relishes those moments.
Like many people who live in the Adirondacks, hiking the many trails in upstate New York is almost a way of life. She hikes three to four times a week for most of the year. And even the winter season doesn’t hold her back. When the area is covered in snow, she straps on her cross-country skis and heads out.
“Hiking is my passion,” she said. “I was born and raised here, and I’ve been hiking almost from the time I could walk.
“I’m very fortunate to live in the middle of all this. Within a half mile of my house, I can be on a hiking trail.”
Ryan grew up in an outdoors lifestyle. She remembers how her dad built a ski jump hill in their backyard so that he and one of his sons could practice their specialty. Ryan’s brother became so adept at it that once he qualified for the Olympics.
Indeed, the quaint village of Lake Placid, best known for being the host of the 1980 and 1932 Olympics, is surrounded by some of nature’s best work. Not far out of town, a hiker’s paradise awaits.
In the shadows of past Olympic venues such as the ski-jump slopes, there are myriad trails to be explored, all offering unique qualities.
Ryan had climbed to the summit of Whiteface Mountain the day before, a grueling hike to the 4,876-foot summit with few switchbacks in the trail to allow walkers to catch their breath.
Maybe that’s why the path to the top of Mount Jo came as somewhat of a relief.
Later, she followed a trail that led around shimmering Clear Lake, with a mountain face in the background. Then she hiked up to a waterfall cascading through the rocks of that mountain.
Ryan figures that she probably would qualify for the “Adirondack 46ers,” a club that recognizes hikers who have climbed each of the Adirondacks 46 High Peaks. But such designations matter little to her, she said.
“I don’t really keep track of my accomplishments,” she said. “I’m not doing this for the recognition.
“I’m doing this to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors, the solitude and the exercise. To think that we have all this and we’re not that far from the big cities (abut 300 miles from New York City) is really something.”