From the Depths to the Heights

By Jim Kennard 66

Fifty two years ago near the end of our senior year at Clarkson my roommate, Brian Cole (66’), and I took a break from studying for final exams to hike Azure Mountain located seven miles south of Santa Clara, NY and east of Potsdam.  This was my first hike up a mountain in the Adirondacks.  It would not be for another 50 years, almost to the day, that I’d return to Azure Mountain in 2016 and then again in 2018.

My passion since the 1970’s has been the discovery and exploration of sunken ships in the waters of the northeast.  Over the past years our shipwreck discovery team has made a number of significant historic shipwreck discoveries in Lake Ontario and Lake Champlain.  After retirement from Eastman Kodak in 2007 I focused much of my time researching possible shipwrecks to discover in Lake Ontario.  This was great fun but not an activity that provided any physical exercise. In August 2009 my son, Jamie, invited me to hike up to the Overlook Mountain fire tower in the Catskill Mountains.  It was not a long hike but I was not in good shape and had to stop frequently as his little Boston Terrier ran back and forth and must have climbed that mountain 3 times over on the way up.  Two months later in the fall we hiked Westkill Mountain in the Catskills.  At age 66, I thought I’d have a heart attack!  However I made it and the view of the fall colors was spectacular.  I was hooked on hiking and signed up for a gym membership at our local recreation center.   One year later with sons Jamie and Doug I completed hiking the 35 highest mountains in the Catskills and began hiking a few easier mountains in the Adirondacks. The next year I completed hiking all the Catskill 35’s in the winter.  In the next few years I followed that up by being the 33rd person to hike all the 100 highest mountains in the Catskills. Those mountains were good training for more Adirondacks mountain hikes which are higher and take longer to summit.  Mount Marcy the highest mountain in New York State is 5343 feet in elevation and a round trip hike is 15 miles.  There are a number of mountains in the Catskills and Adirondacks where the fire towers still exist. However, the last remaining fire observer left after the summer of 1990.  I’ve visited 26 of those towers in the past few years.   This year In August at age 75, after an eight year journey, I completed hiking the 46 highest mountains over 4000 feet in elevation in the Adirondacks. I am now what they call a 46’er.

A hiking companion, Nick, summed up the Adirondack 46 High Peaks experience, “The personal commitment required to accomplish the goal of climbing all 46 peaks and the challenges each of those peaks represents requires a special person. One who is dedicated not only to the idea, but is willing to make a commitment of fitness, both physical and mental, is willing to sacrifice and has the endurance and desire to keep going. It’s not only the hike up, but the planning required to get there, the long drives to and from the Adirondack Park, the rain, the snow, the black ooze, the black flies and the mosquitoes all present challenges to overcome.”

While I agree with Nick, I might add that it has all been worth it.