I haven’t gone on a hike since 1961 when President Kennedy asked all Americans to take a 50-mile hike for physical fitness. I did it then. With a large group of my schoolmates and friends. We walked from Sidney to Oneonta and back.
It was the last hike I ever went on.
Until last weekend.
Last Sunday just seemed like a “Hey, gang, let’s do something as a family!” kind of a day. Somehow, though nobody really knows why, a hike was suggested. Somehow, although nobody really knows why, I agreed.
We chose Vroman’s Nose in Schoharie County as our target. I’ve always marveled at this 25,000-year-old natural oddity that juts up and out of the fertile farmlands just like a, well, a nose. The Vroman name is long associated with the founding families of the county. Whether they had prominent honkers or not is left up to speculation.
We arrived at our base camp just outside of Middleburgh at about noon. Now, when I say base camp I don’t mean the tent-filled, multi-national, Tibetan-flag flying base camp you’d see at the foot of the Himalayas. No, this base camp was a little more subtle.
It was a gravel parking lot with room for six cars.
Before we started up the mountain, my wife and our 16-year old checked our supplies for the trek. Water, granola bars, fresh fruit, first aid kit. Check. What, no meatball subs?
Both Joey and Trish are experienced hikers, having enjoyed many a sojourn up and down the peaks of the Adirondacks over the years. Our dog, the intrepid Stella, accompanied us on the hike, ever pulling, ever sniffing, ever on the lookout for woodland dangers lurking in the forests surrounding us.
And up we began. The bottom passage on Vroman’s Nose is a wide, even, cleared and gently sloping path that really is not exerting in the least. A piece of cake, I thought.
About 10 minutes into the hike the exerting began. In earnest. Right below my buttocks. I thought, “Uh, oh. What did I get myself into?” The clear, wide path narrowed precipitously and jagged rocks began to spike out at us. The path was slippery with wet leaves and I noticed my breathing became heavier and a little more desperate. Maybe we are on the wrong path? Maybe we veered off-course. Maybe I should share my fears with Joey and Trish, and Stella, now far ahead of me?
All of a sudden, we saw a walking party approach us coming down from the top. They cheerily tipped their hiking caps to us and waved their walking sticks in a gesture of wilderness fellowship. “Toodle-oo, fellow hikers,” the leader chirped. It was a couple in their 80s and a set of new parents with babies sleeping in their strollers.
I decided to keep my fears to myself. My buttocks were on fire now.
Eventually I learned to appreciate my surroundings up on Vroman’s Nose. The beautiful trees were still laden with golden leaves, the path became more manageable and little benches started to appear for the weary hiker to sit and reflect on. The wind was biting and the temperature near the top was a good 10 degrees colder than it was down at our base camp, uh, I mean down at the parking lot. But finally we reached the summit.
And it was worth it.
The panoramic sweep of Vroman’s vista is breathtaking. It must be a 30-mile, clear, unobstructed view of the gorgeous Schoharie Valley. I was told that the legendary Tim Murphy once fell over the top of the mountain while holding two pitchers of milk. They say ol’ Tim didn’t spill a single drop. Being a storyteller, I, of course, take that as Bible.
The summit of Vroman’s Nose features a large flat natural stone area known as the “Dance Floor.” It offers one of the most unique viewing platforms to marvel at upstate’s natural wonders as you can find. Trish and Joey sat down to take in the view. Stella flitted about, obviously on a doggie high from the mountain’s thin air. I settled my substantial and fatigued buttocks into one of the little benches that someone thoughtfully placed for hikers to sit on.
“Want a granola bar, Chuck,” Trish shouted over to me.
“No, honey, I’m good. Just enjoying this magnificent spectacle,” I shouted back. What I really wanted to say was, “Are you sure we didn’t bring any meatball subs with us?”
I’ll catch you in two ...
“Big Chuck” D’IMPERIO can be heard on weekdays beginning at 6 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Oneonta, and also on Thursday nights from 7 to 9 p.m. on WSRK-FM 103.9 for his “Oldies Jukebox Show.” You can find him on Facebook by searching “Big Chuck.” He invites you to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/bigchuck.