You know you start to feel old when in a month your 40th birthday arrives and then in the past week you climb a great peak, Ampersand Mountain, and go back to your archives and realize it has been over 17-years since you climbed it last. First off, what took me so long to go back, it’s such an amazing peak and where did the time go, heck, I wasn’t even a dad yet at that point. But, you know you only as old as you feel and I still feel 38 or so, nothing a little Blue Line Brewery can’t help.
Saturday was the first day of summer here in the Adirondacks so Corenne decided we should go up Ampersand as a change of pace, since she hadn’t been up there in 10-years or so, it would kind of be a fresh insight on the peak. I was actually looking forward to seeing the staircases that the trail crew has built over the years.
With one eye on the sky and the other on the trail we set out. It was a bit gloomy and cool, but it wasn’t raining and the forecast was positive for us and negative for precipitation. We had all day for this little wander in the woods and decided it would be a slow pace to look at all the wildflowers, mushrooms and trees. We tested each other along the way with scientific names of trees, as we used to do when we were in Ranger School in Wanakena.
It wasn’t long as we passed along the well-trodden trail that we came across a tree we hadn’t seen before. After much debate we decided it best to take a picture and research it at home. It ended up being an eastern elderberry, much more infrequent than the common elderberry. Not that we discovered a new species, but to us it was.
We continued to push on at slightly faster than a crawl, as the mushrooms started to catch our eye. Not being experts in mushroom identity we just looked and took pictures, I did recognize a grouping as carbon antlers, but that is about it, and I could be mistaken about that. Mushrooms are very tough to identify in my opinion, which is one reason I don’t eat them.
We soon came to a long boardwalk over a marshy area where we got our first taste of nature that day; no really, we actually ate something from the marsh. Corenne noticed a small red berry about 2-feet out from the boardwalk and it ended up being a cloudberry. These are very good! They taste a bit like an apple but look like a raspberry and grow in marshy, boggy areas. Aside from some common wood sorrel that would be the extent of our brunch. We did eye a few Indian cucumbers, but they were not in abundance so we left those to be.
It wasn’t much time at all, after our two course meal, that we reached the start of the stairs. The climb was very nice, the stair are well-constructed and well-spaced. Elevation flowed rather quickly as did the sweat from our brow. We were quite surprised by the immense erosion on the upper portion of this trail. Once we removed ourselves from most of the stairs, the pathway opened up with massive erosion and then to a rock slab scramble. Many people apparently don’t want to scramble the open rocks so they widen the trail by making a dirt path along the side. The trail was literally 20-feet wide in some areas and then near the top, it split. The actual trail finished by topping out along beautiful and fun open rock as a side herd-path went left into the woods and essentially becoming eroded as well, with muck and steep steps.
I had totally forgotten about the boulder jumble near the top, until I was there. These boulders, the size of small buildings, rest next to and against one another making for very interesting passageways and natural shelters - the temperatures we at least 10-degrees cooler in there. The final push brought us up to a deep mud pit that we started to hop across on stepping stones and logs. A concerned hiker on a widen path in the woods suggested we not try it. We did and believe it or not, we were fine.
The summit was as amazing as I had remembered it. The High Peaks and other mountains from this vantage point looked a bit misplaced - I was not used to seeing them from this angle. The major ones I recognized by their shape, others I really had to think about. Now I have a question for everyone. Is graffiti something attractive to the eye? Does anyone else not really care that Marsha Thompson was there in 1982? Maybe someone was sending up a warning that John and the gang were hanging out in ’97 and that they needed more beer? I don’t know I just don’t get it. So we sat around and snacked a bit, away from the busy summit that was occupied by four proud hikers that just couldn’t believe that they had made it. Our exit from the forest was a bit more naturalist explorations and took us just about as long to get out, it was a nice day in the woods - I think, I won’t wait 17 more years to go back.