The spirit of the 19th century Philosopher's Camp on Follensby Pond was alive and well in Keene this past weekend under the auspices and hospitality of Fred Cook. Instead of lounging by the shore and smoking our pipes while the guides fished for our dinner and we waxed poetic about the meaning of life, we trudged up a high peak on snowshoes during our discourse.
One of the most hiked trails in the Adirondacks is the climb up Cascade from state Route 73. Spectacular and rarely walked, certainly at this time of year, is to cut over to Porter and, instead of turning around and returning to Route 73, continuing on down to Keene Valley, either to the airport at Marcy Field or over to Little Porter and on to the Garden high peaks trailhead.
On Saturday, I joined Fred Cook and six others on just that journey as part of an annual men's hike that ends at his home with a hot tub, sauna and traditional feast of roast beef with, as they say, all the trimmings. The weather reports leading up to the hike were not auspicious as warm temperatures, rain, and heavy winds were forecast. Still we are a hearty group and coming out of the woods in a rainstorm has been done in the past as has wading through snow up to our shoulders. Thus we were not deterred even by people we met on their way down saying they had not attempted the summit for fear of being blown off.
David Osborn, Brian Houseal, Tim Weaver, Fred Cook, Ranger Platt, DanRyterband, Rod McLean and Naj Wikoff on Porter
The last message I got from Fred the night before was an email containing an article titled A National Strategic Narrative by Mr. Y. This may seem to be an odd missive prior to a potential wet, icy and windblown slog up a mountain, but that's Fred, he likes to stimulate the gray cells.
Mr. Y is a play on Mr. X, the pseudonym used by the U.S. Foreign Service Officer George Kennean who, in 1947, proposed the intellectual framework for a national strategy to promote the downfall of the Soviet Union, which became the foundation for waging the Cold War. The basic pitch was that the United States would become "the leader of the free world against the communist world; that we would invest in containing the Soviet Union and limiting its expansion while building a dynamic economy and as a just, and prosperous a society as possible."
As Anne-Marie Slaughter, Princeton professor of Politics and International Affairs, wrote in the preface, more and more Americans are asking, "Where is the United States going in the world? How can we get there? What are the guiding stars that will illuminate the path along the way? We need a story, and a projected happy ending that will transcend our political divisions, orient us as a nation, and give us both a common direction and the confidence and commitment to get to our destination."
Clearly Fred did not have in mind while strolling up the 38th tallest peak in the Adirondacks discussing the exploits of the Nicks new superstar Jeremy Lin, Harvard grad though he is, Romney's carpet bombing of Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul with Superpack negative ads, The Artist sweeping the Academy Awards, or, speaking of bullying, Lady Gaga's efforts to suppress such mean behavior.
I have to say that not all talk was devoted to repositioning our international policy. With Brian Houseal, head of the Adirondack Council along, you can be sure that the Adirondack Club and Resort Project of Tupper Lake was touched on along with the budgetary beating sustained by the DEC, the impact of Irene and other environmental concerns. Meanwhile DEC Ranger Tim Platt filled us in on the challenges of the recent back-to-back High Peaks rescues.
Our weatherman was Tim Weaver, who gave us iphone updates. While lashed by snow pellets as we neared the summit he told us not worry as it would soon move through and true enough the winds dropped, sun came out and the panorama unfolded as if on cue. We, by the way, did not experience any rain to speak of though on return it was clear that Keene was got a drenching while we were on the trail.
Lovely as the views at the summit were, the section from Porter to Little Porter was truly magnificent. For much of this section our snowplow was Dan Ryterband, who broke trail for at least half the distance enraptured by the experience. Who could blame him? The path was slightly downhill, the sun was out full blast and, with no leaves on the trees, the view was an ever unfolding carpet of dramatic new slides, rugged cliffs, and mountains beyond with Keene nestled far below.
Our designated leader for the trip was Fred's brother-in-law Rod McLean who said his best decision in life was to marry Fred's sister Darryl, a move augmented by getting Fred tossed into the bargain as one of those unexpected values that has made his connection with the Cook family all the more sweeter. Rod's main challenge was keeping Dan, David Osborne and me from getting too far ahead, which turned out to be less of a problem on the downward slope as the snow impeded rapid progress.
Meanwhile, the new national strategic narrative, proposed by Captain Wayne Porter, USN, and Colonel Mark Mykleby USMC (aka Y), was touched on from time to time and most ardently during a delicious dinner prepared by Dan Plumley ably assisted by our base camp operators Steve Christiansen and Bob Haw.
The authors said to describe our president as the leader of the free world no longer fits the facts and that anyone under 30, the majority of the world's population, has no idea what it means. Instead, they felt that we should seek to become the strongest competitor and most influential player in a deeply inter-connected global system, which requires that we invest less in defense and more in sustainable prosperity and the tools of effective global engagement, something far more nuanced that attempting to bomb into compliance others whose actions we do not like.
Our take home bedtime readings were printouts of their Woodrow Wilson Center monograph. Meanwhile we agreed that more adventures had to be in the offering so we agreed on at least three, preferably five, future hikes to continue the conversation and fellowship.
"J'accord," said Fred.