At 1:30 this morning, awake, I heard a ping on my cell phone beside my bed. I knew. No one would be sending me a text at that time of day unless it was Robert. "Nancy passed away at 1:25 am. Very peaceful." Nancy was diagnosed with cancer in 2014. In the beginning, it looked like she might beat this awful disease. To be honest, until just a couple of months ago, I refused to believe she wasn't going to survive. I am an expert at denial.
Nancy and Robert have been good friends of mine for 43 years. Soon after I arrived in Rochester, I met them. We watched each other's children grow up. A few years back, I was visiting my son and daughter-in-law in Virginia for Thanksgiving. During my stay, they decorated their Christmas tree. John held up a handmade Christmas ornament that I had seen on our tree for years as the boys were growing up. "Mom! Do you know where this came from?" It was an ornament he had made in Nancy's Sunday School class decades ago.
Not long after we met, Nancy and I decided we wanted to get into backpacking and wilderness canoe camping. What we lacked in skill and experience, we more than made up for in spirit and enthusiasm for the great outdoors. Over the years, we spent many fun days in the Adirondacks of New York State, local day hiking and canoeing in the Western New York area, and even up in Algonquin Provincial Park in Canada. We hiked, over several years time, the 130 mile long Northville-Lake Placid Trail in the Adirondacks. This was done, sometimes in weekend jaunts and in some sections, on week long trips. At times it was just us. Other times we were with a group of friends. We had experiences that I will treasure forever.
There was the time three of us, Nancy, me, and another woman backpacked into Wanika Falls. The leanto journal had an entry that there was a resident mouse that made his presence known during the night. Sure enough, during the night, that rascal mouse ran non stop around the back of the lean to, through a hole, and around the back of the inside of the leanto and right over my face, multiple times. I was in the middle between Nancy and the other woman, can't recall her name now. When I complained, Nancy insisted I was dreaming. "Go back to sleep," she groaned. Unbelievably, the mouse only chose my face to run across, not the other two. And NO, I was not dreaming!!!
One winter, we spent a long weekend in the Keene Valley area of the Adirondacks, staying at a bed and breakfast, and cross country skiing and snowshoeing in several locations there. We skied the Jack Rabbit Trail, a lovely ski touring trail that runs from Tupper Lake, through Saranac Lake and Lake Placid and south toward Keene Valley. The B&B innkeeper drove us to the Lake Placid section of the trail, after we dropped our car off at our ending point for the day. It was an absolutely beautiful day and the snow conditions were just perfect for a wonderful day long ski through the woods. At about the mid point, there was a small restaurant where we stopped for a welcome bowl of chili before continuing on our way.
Another day on that same trip, we decided to snowshoe up Cascade Mountain, one of the 46 High Peaks in NYS. The trail conditions that day were not good at all, but turning back was not in our vocabulary. We should have had crampons on our boots. Crampons go over the bottom of your boot and are covered in spikes from toe to heel to make it a snap to walk or climb on ice. Instead we had our snowshoes, which only had one inverted V-shaped "claw."
We weren't doing too badly, until we reached a steep pitch of solid ice. It was probably close to being a 45 degree angle uphill and maybe 30 feet from start to finish. "I'm not going up THAT!" Nancy proclaimed.
"Just give me a minute, I'll figure this out," I responded.
"NO WAY!" Nancy wasn't going to have any of this insanity.
This sheet of ice was surrounded on three sides, bottom and two sides going up, with small evergreen trees. "I got it!" I yelled. "We can hold onto these evergreens and pull ourselves up!"
She wouldn't budge in her determination. . . and neither would I.
I started up, slowly, but determined. In maybe ten or fifteen minutes, I made it to the top. Nancy was still at the bottom, not giving an inch! I finally convinced her to try it and all the way up, she was calling me every bad word she could think of, even though she was doing just fine making her way up.
"Just HOW do you suggest we get back down?" She was really angry!
"I don't know, we'll figure something out," I replied.
The summit was just minutes away from that spot and an easy walk, almost flat, to get there. The view was spectacular.
Miraculously, out of no where, we came upon a young man. I asked him if he had suggestions on how we could get back down "that icy spot!"
"Oh, that is the fun part!" he promised us with a big smile. He pulled an ice pick out of his pack that ice climbers use. "All you do is sit down, hold the point of the pick in the ice on your side and slide down, fast or slow, depending on how hard you push on the pick."
Nancy's face lit up in an instant and she forgot about being angry! I let her go first. She was laughing hysterically, even climbing back up to do it a second time before giving me my turn!
Now I am sure this young man told all his friends about these two crazy women he ran into that day on Cascade Mountain.
As Nancy's illness and strength gained the upper hand on her, we found different ways to spend time together. On two occasions in the last few months, we took outdoor chairs to Mendon Ponds Park and just sat there talking and taking in the beauty of this delightful park.
This doesn't even scratch the surface of the many good times we had over the years. My life has been truly blessed by having Nancy as my friend.
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