It’s around 10:30pm, somewhere on NY-73 between Keene Valley and Lake Placid. We’re chatting about the weather and how winters were tougher in the olden days. We sort of exhaust the subject and get silent. Then:
-“I guess you were expecting to make it back home tonight?” That’s the tow truck driver.
-“Yeah… Not gonna happen?” That’s me, still naïvely thinking the guy will fix my car at 11pm.
-“Nope,” he laconically answers, killing any hope I had left.
What started as a simple dayhike was turning into an overnight that would likely end with a hefty bill from the car surgeon.
Part 1: The Hike
It was a beautiful morning. The snow was crusty down low and crossing one of the brooks required a detour on a fallen tree, but we were still moving forward, albeit slower than anticipated. At Elk Pass, we ruled out hiking Colvin and instead headed straight for Nippletop. As we gained altitude, the crusty snow turned into granular powder, loads of it. Someone had come this way already, so we could focus on the views rather than on breaking trail.
I used to say Nippletop was an overrated summit, but I understand now it was made to be hiked in winter. The accumulation of snow lifts visitors above most of the trees and shrubs, thus allowing great views all around. We stayed for a while, but the wind wasn’t exactly calm and warm, so we dove in the forest towards Dial.
Our slower pace in the morning meant we were on Noonmark’s shoulder around sunset. This area is probably my favourite of the trail. See for yourself.
After snapping those few pics, we hoofed it down to the car, discussing where we’d stop to eat on the drive back. I was kind of in a hurry, so I wanted something fast. Plus, it was already past sunset and we still had a 2-hour drive.
Part 2: My trusted metal steed lets me down
We’re now at the trailhead, getting changed, but I’ve forgotten my dry clothes, so I figure I’ll just start the car to warm it up as the temperature is dropping fast. Nothing. Maybe I didn’t turn the antitheft off right. Still nothing. After of few minutes of repeating this, I’m starting to have a bad feeling. Other hikers return from their day and try to jump start the car. I’m positive the battery’s not the issue, and as expected, the car still won’t start.
Out of options, we get a lift to Noonmark Diner, from where we call a tow truck from the only garage still open in the area. We have the warm meal we were dreaming of on the trail while waiting for the truck, which picks us up 1 hour later. The mechanic takes us to the trailhead and tries hard to resuscitate the car. No luck. It’ll have to be towed to Lake Placid.
-“That’s the closest motel to the garage,” says the driver, pointing at Art Devlin’s Motor Inn, just as we roll onto Main Street. “Come back tomorrow at 9:30.”
It’ll do. I guess. It’s not like I’m swimming in options.
Part 3: The waiting game
After a few nightmares, we head to the garage at 9:30am, smelling as fresh as hikers wearing the same sweaty clothes they wore the day before.
-“Your car’ll be ready at 11am.”
At 11am, my car’s in the lot! Finally ready, I tell myself.
-“We don’t have the right part, we’ve had to order it from Plattsburgh. It’s gonna be here at 2:30pm, so come back at 3:30pm.”
At this point, we’ve already walked around the village, so what option do we have but to hit the bar? We’re through the door just as it opens. A local guy on a lunch break and a couple from Staten Island will keep us company while we watch the extended highlights of the Rangers-Blue Jackets game. At 3:30pm, we’re back in the garage.
-“We can’t get your car to start.”
You gotta be kidding me. It’s too late to take a bus back home at this point. The waiting game continues, but they say they’re close.
They finally manage to start it around 5pm. I’ve never been happier to smell the exhaust of a starting car and pay a bill with two zeros. We’re back at the carpool parking 24 hours later than planned with my wallet $800 leaner. Most expensive dayhike ever!