intimate wedding

Wilmington Weekend

A wedding on Whiteface Mountain brought us to the Adirondack High Peaks region this weekend, and the weather was perfect for spending every minute outside. We drove over from Vermont Friday afternoon and set up camp at Wilmington Notch Campground. If you haven’t stayed there, make a reservation, and be sure to check out its gorgeous waterfall!

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Since we didn’t have to be anywhere until lunchtime, we got up early and caught the sunrise from Cobble Lookout before going into Lake Placid for breakfast. It’s a short, fairly easy hike with an up-close view of Whiteface Mountain, so it’s worth the effort and great for beginners and kids.

I’ll save our Whiteface adventure for a post of its own, but I’ll say it was so beautiful that we were in no rush to head right home after. We spent the evening debating what to do on Sunday, realizing the weather could range from perfect to socked-in summits. After scrolling Instagram and seeing a video of the insane number of cars parked along Adirondack Loj Road, we debated if it was even worth trying to head down that way. With the increasing number of hikers in the high peaks, we hate to contribute to the crowding, but I also realize it’s difficult to provide information and guidance as an Adirondack 46er correspondent if I don’t get out there and maintain some knowledge of the state of things. We haven’t visited the MacIntyre Range in a few years, so we decided to set out early and check out the alpine plants on Algonquin. We met a New Hampshire hiker along the trail and chatted our way up to the junction, where he and Ted started up Wright while I headed to Algonquin.  As views started opening up behind me, I stopped frequently and turned around to take it in, realizing how much I’ve missed hiking regularly in the Adirondacks. We’ve spent a lot of time in the Whites lately, but there’s really no place like home. I continued up slowly, trying to maximize the amount of time I had all to myself in the silence and stillness of the morning. I fully expected to find others on the summit, perhaps those seeking the sunrise, or at the very least, the summit steward.

I walked up to the summit marker and looked around, and to my surprise, I was completely alone. The summit of New York State’s second tallest peak, all to myself, with an undercast in one direction and thin clouds dancing around me, obscuring the view and opening up again. Mount Marcy rose up out of the clouds and made her appearance before the next wave of clouds blew in again. I sat beside a cluster of closed gentians and waited for Ted to join me on the summit. Behind Ted came the summit steward for the day and then Adam, the hiker he had gone to Wright with, and then a couple solo hikers who sat quietly, appreciating nature with the rest of us. In that moment, it seemed hard to believe there are so many overuse, littering, and crowding issues, because this felt just as it did a decade or more ago.

It gave me some hope, that even though social media sometimes makes it sound and look like conditions are pretty bad out there, perhaps things aren’t degrading as quickly as it seems, and there are plenty of hikers out there doing their part to leave no trace and preserve these special places.

wilderness wedding

The best part about moving back to the northeast is being closer to the people we love and reconnecting with old friends. In late August, I received a message from a college outdoor club friend who asked for my assistance in planning her wedding. Now I am definitely a planner, but don’t know much about wedding planning, and her hope was to get married barely over three weeks later. I've never been a huge fan of big, fancy, expensive weddings, so thankfully, rather than doing the traditional and expected thing, she wanted to do something crazy, different, unique, and memorable. It had been years since she had been in hiking in the Adirondack Mountains, and she wanted to reacquaint herself by bringing her wedding guests on a hike for a super small, mountaintop ceremony.  She believes it is important to challenge yourself in order to grow as a person, and by pushing yourself outside your comfort zone to accomplish a goal with others can bring a group closer together. I absolutely agree and was honored to have the opportunity to help make their special day perfect. Not only did she trust me to help choose the mountain, plan the logistics of the day, and decorate.. she also asked me to be her PHOTOGRAPHER!

I made her a list of possible shorter hikes to choose from, though short in mileage doesn’t necessarily mean easy when her criteria requires making it to the top of a mountain, as her family quickly found out. The ceremony took place at a semi-private overlook on top of Crane Mountain in the late afternoon, which while being only 2.8 miles round trip, it has sections of steep terrain and even ladders up rock faces. Fall color was near peak and the day was sunny and warm. The morning of the ceremony, Ted and I hiked up early to shuttle a few things to the top, including a bear can of muddy buddies and popcorn halfway to encourage people to take a break and have a snack. I also hoped it would be a morale boost since by that point, I knew the non-hiker guests would probably not be thrilled. Ted then hiked back to the trailhead, where he greeted the group to ensure everyone had arrived and was prepared, while I waited just below the top to take pictures as people approached the big ladder. Once everyone had arrived on top and after a quick change into the wedding attire carried up, a dear friend of the groom married them in front of a breath-taking view of Crane Mountain Pond and endless little mountains. We took pictures before the setting sun, and witnessed teamwork on the hike down in the dark. 

While some were unhappy at times during the strenuous physical activity and described the hike as one of the hardest things they’d ever done, I don’t believe a single person regretted attending when they saw the view from the top. Perhaps the real happiness came when they saw their cars waiting for them in the moonlight and they knew they were going to live (haha). I believe Allison’s goal was accomplished; this adventure challenged people, brought them closer together, and everyone was proud of themselves and each other for what they overcame together. I think it may have even inspired new appreciation for nature and for hiking, which they now know is not as easy a sport as one might think. This was by far the most beautiful wedding I’ve been to, and I didn’t even have to buy a dress or do my hair to go. 

And now.. compiling the countless images to help the happy couple remember their special day, and having them ready before the big reception in a few weeks..