If it doesn’t exist, James Appleton of The 46 of 46 Podcast will make it! In 2018, he realized that Lake Placid, New York, was without a hiking challenge like its neighboring Adirondack towns Saranac Lake (the Saranac 6er) and Tupper Lake (Tupper Lake Triad). His solution was to create the Lake Placid 9er (LP9), as a way to fill the void and “to get people a little more capable before venturing into the High Peaks.”

That same year, Appleton thought it would be cool to listen to someone hike a 46er on their drive to the mountains. Once again, he saw a need for a podcast on the topic and set out to fill it. After completing the 46 High Peaks, Appleton used his background in sound to make what he calls “little audio movies” that make people feel like they’re on the trail.

goEast sat down with Appleton to chat about the growth in popularity of the Lake Placid 9er, his podcast, and how they align with his love for the Adirondacks.

Giant Mountain ADK 46er

Q&A with James Appleton of The 46 of 46 Podcast

goEast: Tell us about your love for the Adirondacks. Where did it come from and how has it grown?

JA: Love for the Adirondacks, it didn’t start that way. I grew up in Lake Placid and anybody who grows up in a small town is usually like, “I have to get out of here.” You’re always looking out your window at the mountains, at the most amazing view of the High Peaks, and it just doesn’t faze you. So I got out like most people and was touring in a band for a long time. Anytime we were in the Northwest, like Oregon, northern California, or Washington, I thought about how much I loved it.

It eventually dawned on me. Of course, I like it. It feels like home. Fast forward, my wife and I moved up to Saranac Lake, and eventually I started hiking for physical activity. Hiking is what really took off for me in terms of my love for the Adirondacks and the outdoors. Since then, this is a totally brand new place for me than it was growing up.

James Appleton of The 46 of 46 Podcast
James Appleton in his happy place, the Adirondacks

goEast: How did that new perspective manifest itself into the hiking challenge?

JA: It was obvious to me that Lake Placid should have its own thing. I was looking at maps and towns, and talking to people much more savvy about hiking. We started coming up with a list, and I originally wanted it to stay on mountains just in Lake Placid. Then I thought to myself, there are only a few that aren’t private or in areas that wouldn’t do well with an influx of hikers. The list wasn’t big, so I opened it up to one town over but didn’t repeat mountains with the other challenges. That’s why there are some Keene mountains and some Wilmington mountains.

My wife and I made the website (lakeplacid9er.com) and I made the logo in Photoshop. I promoted it, and it was exciting when we started getting registrations. Now it’s an established thing, and it’s wild that people travel from all over to hike this group of mountains and get this patch with a logo I made in a basement office. At the end of the day, it’s a fun thing to do and it’s fun to see the good that it does.

The LP9 was designed to get people into the mountains in the High Peaks region that aren’t the High Peaks. I’m a linear person by nature and an advocate for starting small and working your way up little by little. If you hike the Lake Placid 9er and start the list the way I recommend, you go from the couch to ready for the High Peaks because you start small and get a little bigger, a little more remote, a little more trail-finding, and bigger mountains as you progress.

goEast: You mention people traveling from all over to hike the challenge. Did you expect it to become this popular?

JA: This place feels like a totally untapped wilderness because in my mind it is. This is a tourist town and people need to come here—my podcast and the LP9 can help usher people here and help them recreate in a responsible manner. Everybody wins. Businesses flourish and, hopefully, the more people who come responsibly, the more advocates we’ll have for the Adirondack park.

goEast: Was part of your goal with the 46 of 46 podcast to promote good outdoor ethics?

JA: Not intentionally, but it comes up naturally. I did a winter hiking 101 series this past winter that was a huge hit. That opened the podcast up to more listeners in other areas which was cool. I have plenty of people out west in California, Washington, and Colorado, listening to that winter hiking series. That’s why I later did a hiking etiquette episode—if you’re a new hiker and listen to the podcast on Giant Peak and Rocky Ridge, you’ll scroll through and, hopefully, a hiking 101 will catch your attention if you’re new.

 46 of 46 Podcast creator James Appleton
Creator of the 46 of 46 Podcast, James Appleton

goEast: What were you hoping to get out of the podcast when you started?

JA: If it doesn’t exist, I make it. I thought to myself about all these people driving up to the Adirondacks to hike. I work in New York City and am a big podcast listener, I have lots of windshield time. So I thought, wouldn’t it be awesome if you could listen to someone’s story on each mountain? Coming up to hike HaBaSa? There’s an episode for it.

I’d never seen a full 46er journey in podcast form, and I’m a professional audio guy, so I already had microphones and recorders. If you’re commuting to work in the morning, I want you to pop an episode on and feel like you’re actually in the woods. So I embarked on this five-month-long journey—which is funny because it only took me four months to hike the 46 High Peaks. I had no intention of starting a podcast. It was just a fun thing to do.

goEast: For the record, your podcast wasn’t what initiated your 46er journey, correct?

JA: Yes. I travel for work, and summers are usually very busy for me. In the summer of 2018, I knew I was going to have the whole month of July off. My goal was to hike all 46 of the High Peaks in one summer. When you just go do it, it’s not that hard of a task, broken down into about 17 hikes, if you can be up here. Typically I was out twice a week, and when you set your mind to it you can really do it. I did most of them by myself because most people can’t go hiking on a Tuesday. I would always give myself at least two days to rest before getting back out there hiking again.

goEast: Did you think The 46 of 46 Podcast would get this far?

JA: I thought the first season was what I was going to do and had no intention of continuing it. But I got a lot of great feedback and am always still outside. So where did my brain go? It went to winter. I chronicled the winter Lake Placid 9er, which became season two. I released it Netflix-style all at once. Have at it!

I came to the realization that my purpose with all of this is to bring the Adirondacks to you. Most people aren’t here, they don’t live here, or they don’t get to come here all the time. What can I do? Bring it to them in audio form.

goEast: In the fashion of how you end your Summit Session episodes, what’s coming up next for you?

JA: I’ve written an e-book on hiking the High Peaks. A publisher approached me to publish it and write more about the Adirondacks. Adirondack Campfire Stories will be coming out in spring 2024. I’m putting together my second book for them right now, which is centered around the 46 High Peaks.

The parting message I have for people is to get outdoors and don’t limit yourself to one outdoor activity. Most have the same thing in common: being outside and getting your heart pumping. There’s so much to experience and I think that’s an important thing to remember.