Ampersand Mountain, June 22, 2019

This was the first time I’ve managed to hike Ampersand and it not be totally socked in with clouds, rain, fog and soup. On a gloriously sunny, cool, breezy and not-humid Saturday, the trailhead parking lot was a mob scene even early in the morning. We drove over from our campsite at Cranberry. Not wanting to park on road or get a ticket, we drove back another 1+ miles east on Route 3 and parked at the Middle Saranac Lake boat launch parking area where there was plenty of space, and managed to convince the kids to walk back up the road to the trailhead. This turned the day from a short–ish 5.7 mile hike to something closer to an 8+ mile hike. Well worth it either way. The issue with trail access, erosion, crowding, etc. is one we are all going to have to think hard about.

In any case, the trail was in great condition. It’s an easy stroll the first half, and then you earn it for the second half, and the totally treeless and expansive summit offers some of the finest views in the entire ADKs. Again, there are plenty of guidebooks describing the views from the top, so no need for me to recount that here. My son loved naming the peaks as we moved our eyes south from Blue Mountain and rank them counter-clockwise through the Sewards, Nye, Dix Range and up to Whiteface with numerous peaks and lakes in between. It was very cool, very breezy, and just glorious up there on this day. We lingered and lunched on cheese and apples for an hour, not wanting it to end.  Even with lots and lots of hikers, you are able to find some peace of mind here, and there are plenty of nooks and shelves up top for you to enjoy the views. If you have not yet made the trek to Ampersand, I’d highly recommend it.

Trip Lowlights: There is a really neat cave to be found on the right side of the trail just before you get to the summit. As we waited to explore it, we encountered a group of about 8 young men (late teens / early 20s) who were celebrating their friend taking a dump in the cave.

A second lowlight – there was a group of over 20 people in one of the cavalcades coming up the mountain.

Tongue Mountain Range, June 27, 2019

Definitely a high reward to effort ratio, and plenty of solitude to boot. Probably best to avoid this in bug season, I was practically carried up and down the range by a blizzard of bugs, but that could not put a damper on the day. I’d advice you to set aside 90 mins or more for lingering on overlooks and peaks, and to take a dip down in Lake George when you get to the tip of the Tongue, if not more.

On this day the conditions were a bit muddy in spots, which slows you down quite a bit. On a dry day this is 6 hours of walking. I’d recommend planning 8-9 hours or more and really enjoying it.

There are plenty of trip descriptions elsewhere on line. All I will add is that when you first get to the top of Fifth Peak, you get some much needed silence. You are a bit far away to hear the boat motors in front or the traffic on Route 9N behind – one of the decreasingly few places remaining where you hear little but your own breaths and the buzz of a menagerie of insects, and the breeze through the shrubs and trees and grasses. As you walk south down the Range, you get closer to both water and highway, and the physical solitude you are very likely to enjoy the entire time has regular interruptions by the sounds of Lake George revelry. By the time you get down from Frenchmens then First then down to Northwest Bay, you are in a veritable boating manic playground – with enormous Harley Davidson engine sounding powerboats blasting through the choppy lake, radios blasting and engine exhaust belching.

The returning 5 miles from the end of the Tongue mostly follows the lakeshore, in many spots just a few yards away. The trail is really muddy for about 30% of it, but it’s a pretty quick walk out.

It would be great to do this hike earlier in year when more wildflowers are on display and before the bugs and boaters descend on your peace of mind.  Covered about 12.6 miles with detours in 7 hours.