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Trip Recap: Russian Bear

Thursday, March 14, 2013
Erin went on her first Discover Outdoors hike last weekend. Afterwards she wrote the below review on her blog. We liked it so much we wanted to cross post it. If you've ever wondered what it's like to hike Russian Bear here it is..."

After a snow storm Thursday into Friday, the weekend warmed up to the fifties, which was enough to help us shed some layers and get out there to enjoy the weather. Sunday was the perfect day for a hike, and Jeff and I were all scheduled to head out on an eight and a half hour hike with Discover Outdoors, a company whose goal is to get New Yorkers out of the city and back in touch with the outdoors.

We were up early, and headed straight to Reeves Meadow Visitors Center at Harriman State Park, where we would meet Elise and Neale, our guides, along with the rest of our group. When we arrived, it was a bit colder than both of us anticipated, and there was still plenty of snow on the ground. We layered up a bit more, and met up with our group in front of the visitors center.

Having never hiked with a group, I had no idea what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised. We all went around, said our names, where we were from, and our best experience outdoors. Everyone had something unique to share, whether it was about hiking the Inca Trail in Peru or Grand Teton National Park. I could tell right away that I'd be spending the day with like-minded people, and this excited me.

After introductions, we looked over the map together, and Elise briefed us on the day, showing us the trails and routes we would be taking. While I was ready for the hike, it was hard to believe we would be spending eight and a half hours on the trail. It was by far the longest hike in my brief hiking history, and I was worried about making it. But, Elise and Neale were beyond encouraging and we set out on the white trail to begin.

We climbed uphill for a bit before stopping for our first water and bathroom break. To my surprise, even with snow on the ground, we were all working up a sweat and had to adjust our layers. Then Elise and Neale checked with all of us to see if we liked the pace and we all did, so we continued on.

We hiked on and on through ever-changing scenery. Sometimes snowy and icy, other times muddy. Uphill and downhill. Through streams and over rocks. Until after a while of hiking, we finally made it up to the top where our first beautiful outlook was waiting for us. Here, we also had the chance to stop and have our snacks. After an hour or so of hiking, there was barely any talking, and lots of eating.

It was here, that Elise and Neale informed us that Discover Outdoors follows the Leave No Trace Policy, which is the idea that we need to leave nature exactly the way we found it, so anything we bring in, biodegradable or not, should come back out with us. This also included sticking to the trails and not disrupting the natural habitat.

After our snack, we continued along the trail. Elise and Neale switched places from the front to the back after each break, making sure everyone was doing well and keeping pace. They knew the trail very well, and I was comforted by the fact that we were with experienced guides, ones who were also certified as wilderness first responders.

Some parts along the trail were very icy, but they were always there to give us a hand if we needed it. They also stopped along the trail to inform us about the rock formations and trees we were seeing, which enhanced the experience.

At one point, Neale even pointed out a tree with holes in it, and informed us that they had been made by a woodpecker. It was clear that he and Elise were passionate about the nature surrounding us, which in turn made us all more interested exploring.

We continued on, talking with our guides throughout the hike and getting to know them, and the other group members. Eventually, we reached Pine Meadow Lake where we would set up shop for lunch. Elise and Neale told us to put on our layers, and they were right, as soon as we sat down it got chilly.

But, even all bundled up, lunch was great. We unpacked what we brought and sat on the rocks discussing past and future travels, as well as books we loved to read or sharing adventures we had experienced outdoors. It was a great way to bond with everyone on the hike and soak up the beauty of Harriman State Park.

Then we picked up all of our belongings, took a little walk around the lake, and headed back on our way to a few more beautiful outlooks before heading back to the visitor's center.

The hike back was probably the most difficult. After one final scenic outlook, the trees surrounded us again as far as the eye could see. Jeff and I were exhausted, and the path out was a bit icy, making it difficult to make our way out. But, I thought back on the day and realized that my longest hike ever, didn't actually feel so long. This was probably because we were in great company.

As the sun set, we said our good-byes and posed for a picture or two. It was strange coming together for one day, and then parting because these were the people who made the day so special. Elise and Neale especially made the experience worth-while, and I have to admit that this was probably one of the best hikes I have ever been on, and most of that is because of them.

Erin fell in love with the world at an early age and has vowed to see as much of it as she can, no matter what sacrifices she may have to make. When she's not off exploring the world, she's at home finding adventures in her own backyard. You can follow her on her blog, The World Wanderer, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.