~Friday, August 27, 2021~
There’s just something so lovely about waking up and seeing nothing but the canopy of a beautiful forest. I actually prefer not having the blinds closed at night so that I get to witness this amazing view from the moment I open my eyes.
What a beautiful day for a hike. We must have chosen right, since the parking lot is full and there is a good number of overflow cars on the road. From the parking lot side there appeared to be a trail as well, and one we almost took. But while we were parking the car, I noticed a few hikers exiting another trailhead, just across the highway. The 5.4 mile Ampersand Mountain Trail immediately puts you into a beautiful, dense forest
with the path well marked, surrounded by ferns and moss. We were treated to a few streams as well. The easiness of the trail caused me to think I had read the difficulty level (hard) incorrectly. It was pretty level, with only tree roots as our obstacles the first mile. But as soon as we were done with mile one, it didn’t take long to realize we were in for a tough one. We were climbing a mountain after all, not a hill; and the climb….relentlessly steep. And it appears they weren’t interested in switchbacks either as the trail ascends 1800 feet in 2.7 miles. There were quite a few families with their four-legged friends whom we passed along the way. Sadie even met her twin. Thank goodness we had shade the entire way, but the tree root obstacles grew more apparent and then came the large rocks and the boulder climbing. At one point, near the top, we were afraid that we wouldn’t be able to make it all the way with Sadie’s reluctance to climb a very rocky, steep section. With a lot of coaxing and some tugging, she did it. Of course this made us then ponder just how we were going to get down. After all that, came one of the most incredible views we have seen of our trip. We even got an agreeable response from our children once we Face-timed them from the top. We were not only treated to one lake view at the top, but fifteen. As we say, “you have to pay your dues, to see the views”. The open summit provided beautiful 360-degree
views at the 3,353 foot summit. We were so grateful for a clear day, though there was a bit of haze. From recent rain, enough water had collected in a few sections of granite for Sadie to cool off or lap a few sips (though we always bring plenty of water for all of us). It was nice to celebrate with a few other like-minded individuals at the top and fuel up with a few granola bars, nuts and crackers while taking in the scenery. About 30 minutes later, we began our descent. There were so many tripping hazards, you really couldn’t risk looking up, unless you completely stopped. It’s just one of those trails that demands concentration as you plan your footing so you either don’t slip, roll an ankle, etc. But these are the kind of challenges we like, believe it or not. I did need a little assistance from hubby in a couple of sections, unfortunately, at the cost of Jeff injuring his hand. Evidently, he had grabbed a thick branch as he was helping me, poking the palm of his hand pretty badly in the process. No heavy bleeding, but he said it really stung. Poor guy. Sadie was doing great with the energy to likely do another 5 miles. Once we got down the first ¼ mile, we ran into a young couple heading to the top. Wow, pretty late in the day and thought WE were the last hikers of the day. They said they were coming up to see the sunset which would be quite the breathtaking view, but kind of crazy, if you ask me, to be coming down that late. Though sunset isn’t until 8:00 or so, you also have to factor in the canopy of the forest which makes it much darker than if you were out in the open (headlamp or not), not to mention all those tripping hazards. And we didn’t want to be kill-joys telling them that the hardest part of the hike was coming up. Instead, we wished them well and continued on. We made it to the car about 6:30 with about a 25-minute drive ahead of us. We keep passing this ice-cream shop called Donnelly’s Soft Ice Cream along the highway, which always manages to have a parking lot full of cars and a line out the door. Intriguing. We’ll definitely be paying them a visit another day, though I think we’re deserving of a few scoops today, right?!!