Sometimes our best intentions backfire on us. As I wrote in an earlier article, One Mistake Led to Another on Sleeping Beauty Mountain, “That’s the way it is when you’re seriously ill, and operating with only half a deck, and don’t realize it yet.”
It was Father’s Day Weekend, but my wife and I had separated last summer, and my kids seemed to blame the break-up on me.
In fact, none of my three children had contacted me about getting together on Father’s Day. No phone calls, no emails, no texts, no Father’s day cards, nothing.
Since and I didn’t want to sit around the house and mope, I decided to turn a negative into a positive and go to the Adirondack Mountains for a weekend f mountain climbing.
I planned to drive to Lake George on Friday, June 13th, climb Cascade Mountain on Saturday, the 14th, and then climb one of the High Peaks on Sunday, the 15th, as a Father’s Day treat to myself. Then, I drive back on Monday, the 16th.
It didn’t quite work out like that.
To start with, the desk clerk at the Quality in in Lake George convinced me that Cascade was outside the Lake George area and that I might want to consider climbing one of the mountains near Lake George that I’d never climber before, such as Sleeping Beauty Mountain.
I thought that was a really good idea, I read the material she gave me about Sleeping Beauty Mountain and set off in the middle of the next morning. It wasn’t supposed to be an all-day expedition, so I didn’t need to jump out of bed at the crack of dawn. I actually had time to eat a bacon and eggs breakfast.
For some reason, when I got to the trailhead for Sleeping Beauty Mountain, I was convinced that I had to take the yellow trail straight back to the other side of Sleeping Beauty Mountain and then double back up the trail to the summit.
So when I reached the sign for the blue Trail to the summit, I kept going straight back on the yellow trail.
Shortly after that, I saw the pond and realized that I had missed the trail to the summit. Then I saw another sign for the blue trail up the mountain to the summit and realized that it must be the trail that loops around Bumps Pond and come up to the summit from the other direction.
I think the sign said 1.8 miles. By that time, I was getting tired so I kept going rather than doubling back, thinking that the trail straight ahead would be shorter in the long run than doubling back.
When two fishermen told me the trail led to the top, it bolstered my resolve and I kept going. But not for long; I was quickly running out of gas.
The trail was much steeper than I thought it would be and there was nobody else on the trail. Each step was tougher and tougher to take then than the last one, and I found myself counting steps.
I’d climb 100 steps; then rest on a rock for 40 breaths. Then climb for another 100 steps and rest for another 40 breaths. Meanwhile, time was passing and I started to worry about whether there’d be enough daylight for me to make it to the summit and then back down again before dark.
And still, nobody came up the trail behind me. I was alone on the mountain and the shadows were getting longer and longer as the afternoon wore on, and the temperature kept dropping, so I started to become really concerned about hypothermia if I couldn’t get off the mountain before dark.
The trail was constantly covered with rivulets of water, from the recent heavy rains, so my boots were wet, my wool socks were wet and my jeans were wet.
The boots and the socks would still keep me warm, but because I’d worn jeans, I was not properly dressed for hypothermia.
The mistakes were building up; I’d started late, I’d missed the turn for the trail to the summit, I was climbing alone, I was wet, and I was exhausted. I’d bitten off more than I could chew and I felt I had to find someone to help get me down the mountain or I’d be stuck there all night.
I could see more sky above the trees, so I thought I must be getting close to the top, when suddenly two young women bonded past me on the trail and disappeared into the trees ahead.
Then I broke out on top of the mountain, and saw several groups of people relaxing on the rocks and looking out at the scenery.
I approached two of the groups, who were sitting close together: the two young women who had bounded past me, and a mixed group of teenage boys and adults.
I told them I was sick and asked if they could help me. The two young women sat there as if nothing had happened, but a middle-aged woman stepped out of the other group and told me she was a nurse.
As I filled her in on my food poisoning and my struggles up the mountain, she said that I looked very pale. She also said that they were members of Boy Scout Troop 55 from Northville, New York and that they would help me down the mountain.
They had taken a day hike up the mountain as part of their training for a trip to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico that they had planned later in the summer.
The woman’s name was Sue Froatz, and she was an Assistant Scoutmaster with the troop.
Sue Froatz led me down the mountain, and her husband, Charlie Froatz, the Committee Chairman, stayed with us the whole way, as did Eagle Scout Tyler Monacchio.
I literally watched where Sue Froatz put her feet, and then I put my feet where Sue Froatz put her feet, all the way down the mountain. Without their help, I don’t know if I would have made it down the mountain.
Charlie and Tyler were right there to steady me if I stumbled, and they offered words of encouragement all the way down the mountain.
Eagle Scouts Keegan Enders and Adam Pudry walked down the mountain in front of us and waited for us at the bottom, as did First Class Scouts Spencer Davis and Zack Payne.
When we reached the bottom of the mountain, Scoutmaster Todd Payne went ahead and brought his truck all the way back to the Dacy Clearing parking lot, and then gave me a ride to my car in the Hog Town Trailhead parking lot.
Sue Froatz wanted me to immediately go to a hospital, but I told her that my wife and I had just separated and the my health insurance situation was up in the air so I thought I better get back to Rochester as soon as I could, rather than getting stuck in a hospital in the Adirondacks without any health insurance.
Sue didn’t like that, but she understood that I was caught between a rock and a hard place, because of my health insurance. But she did make me promise to go to a hospital once I got back to Rochester.
Because the upper end of Route 8 had been so rough on the trip up, I decided to take Route 28 through Indian Lake, Blue Mountain Lake, Racquette Lake, The Chain of Lakes, and Old Forge back to the Thruway.
I was familiar with Route 28, since it was the road I had travelled up to Sabattis Scout Camp, so many times when Chuck was a Boy Scout and I was an Adirondack Voyageur guiding Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops on wilderness trips in the area near Lows Lake.
Taking Route 28 was a good choice. Not only because I knew the road, but because the road was so much smoother than Route 8. It was such a good choice that even though I took the time to stop in every town from Blue Mountain Lake to Old Forge to stretch my legs and walk around the car, I still made great time getting back to the Thruway.
That perked my spirits up, and then to keep myself alert, I stopped at every rest area between Syracuse and Rochester, parked the car, walked inside to use the men’s room, and then bought a cup of coffee and something to eat if the food looked edible.
The first rest area was the Chittenango Rest Stop between Exit 34A by I-481in Syracuse and Exit 34 at Canastota. There was a Sunoco statin there so I got some gas, and then I bought a cup of coffee and a bagel at theTravel Mart.
I also sent Chuck and Sarah a text telling them where I was, and I was s out of it that it took me forever to spell Chittenango on my cell phone.
There’s a Mobil station at the Warner’s Rest Area, between Exit 39 (Syracuse West) and Exit 40 (Weedsport), but I didn’t need to fill my gas tank so I just got was a cup of coffee from the McDonalds and sent another text to Chuck and Sarah.
I did better at the Junius Ponds between Exit 41 (Waterloo) and Exit 42 (Geneva) because they had a Dunkin Donuts so I got coffee and a bun. Then and sent yet another text to Chuck and Sarah
My spirits perked up again when I reached the Seneca Rest area between Canandaigua the I-490 for Rochester. I was almost h0me and things were There was a Mobil station, where I filled up with gas, and a Tim Horton's where I got a good cup of coffee and a bagel. Then and sent off my last text to Chuck and Sarah. In the back of my mind I was hoping that one or both of them would stop over for Father’s Day.
The rest of the way home was a breeze, and after I unloaded the car and started a load of wash, I sat down in a lawn chair to let Chuck and Sarah know that I was home.
And that’s when I realized that I hadn’t managed to send any of the text messages I’d written to Chuck and Sarah. I must have deleted each one instead of sending it because I had no record on my cell phone of sending any text messages during my trip home.
That was a crushing blow. My last hope for some kind of Father’s Day was smashed. I was so sick I couldn’t even send a simple text message, and my three children were so messed up that they didn't even bother to contact their father on Father's Day. It made me wonder how Saint Peter would deal with that when they arrive at the Pearly Gates.
And then, as I sat there in the back yard, I suddenly felt a crushing pain in my chest. It was a burning, searing pain similar to the pain I’d felt when my Pacemaker had shorted out shortly after I’d gotten it implanted after the traffic accident on August 5, 2008 when I passed out, crossed three lanes of traffic, ridden up a guardrail, gone airborne and wrapped my car around an apple tree at 55 miles per hour.
It was so painful I could barely breathe, so I called 911. It took me a long time to make the call, but I finally succeeded. Then I went and sat on the front porch to wait for the ambulance.
The ambulance was there in a heartbeat, and the ambulance crew immediately gathered around me as I sat on the porch swing. They were very concerned because I was so pale, and they quickly made it clear that I needed to go to the emergency room immediately.
Brockport Police Sgt. Steve Mesiti was also there and, since I know Steve pretty well, I gave him my cell phone and asked him to call my son, Chuck, and my daughter, Sarah, to let them know.
As I sat there while the ambulance crew worked around me, I notice my neighbor, Karen LoBracco walking on the sidewalk in front of the house. She was so concerned when she saw the ambulance that she came over to see if she could help in any way.
In no time, I was in the ambulance on my way to the hospital. When the ambulance crew asked me which hospital I wanted to go to, I said the closest one. So they took me to Unity Hospital on Long Pond Road in Greece.
Its fifteen miles from Brockport to Unity Hospital in Greece, but the trip seemed to take no time at all. I just lay back and let myself relax.
Then I felt the ambulance backing up, the rear doors opened, and men outside pulled the gurney out of the ambulance and then asked me if I could move over to the hospital gurney, which was next to the ambulance gurney.
But I was so weak I couldn’t even lift myself up off the gurney. So three guys picked up the sheet and lifted my body onto the hospital gurney. I couldn’t remember ever being that weak before.
To Be Continued in One Mistake Led to Another (Part III).