Getting to Know the Adirondacks

I only had a quick trip to the Adirondacks, so I had to make the most of my time. To see the forests, I did a turbo hike up Ampersand Mountain in the afternoon. The hike started out easy, with the flat trail cutting through northern hardwood forest. It was fairly familiar forest—mostly maple, hemlock, and birch growing on shallow, sandy soils—but not exactly what we have back home. There was also hobblebush (a viburnum) and American beech, two plants we don’t have in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

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The trail was nice and mellow for about a mile, but it was also gradually getting a steeper as I went. Eventually the trail became much steeper until it was eventually a staircase made of stones. 

 

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I was huffing and puffing. I was dripping sweat, even though it was reasonably cool out. I felt like I finally understood the disadvantage of being a flatlander. I couldn’t think of anything similarly difficult back home; there are definitely some steep pitches on a few hikes, but they are much shorter. I realized that I hadn’t been on a hike this difficult since hiking at the terrifically named Mount Horrid and the Great Cliff nearly two years ago. And this was harder. At least the future view was starting to take shape.

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At somepoint, the trail turned and started winding back downhill. I went back a few paces to retrace where I had come from and, yup, the trail was going downhill. I went for a ways thinking that maybe it would make a jog and turn back uphill, but it didn’t. Eventually, I was convinced that I was heading in the wrong direction—back down the mountain; how did that happen?—so I turned around and re-ascended the hardest stretch. Fortunately, I found a new stretch of trail and resumed the path upward.

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The top was a bald rock peak that allowed a view in all directions. A great view. This is the part where my photos don’t even begin to give a sense of what it was like.

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Afterward, I looked it up and the ascent to the top (at 3,352 feet) involves about 1800 feet of elevation change. For comparison, that’s 25% more elevation change than is possible in all of Michigan, from lake level to the highest point. And that’s in less than 3 miles. No wonder it seemed so hard!

(But really it wasn’t that hard—if you get the chance, you should totally go!)

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