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.