So, we are back in the Adirondacks, still atop Cascade Mountain on the second day of our three day trip. That’s me below with the vista looking south behind me. Rachel calls this my superman pose. I don’t know but I like the idea of being above the clouds.
Atop Cascade, Wade, the Summit Steward, took the time to answer all my questions. He pointed out the different summits in view, suggested Big Slide as our next Adirondack hike, told us all about what he does as a summit steward, how he got there etc. When I asked about the prevalence of beards amongst hikers he was quick to respond that beards are very big with hikers and campers, confirming emphatically a correlation between outdoorsman and beards. That was what Rachel and I suspected and it was nice to get confirmation from a real mountain man.
Rachel: Why are you making it sound like we don’t know what’s going on?
Barry: Is that what I’m doing?
Rachel: You’re not?
Barry: Look, let me write. That’s my job. Anyway, I think it’s consistent. I’m not a mountain man. We only started hiking about 6 weeks ago. How are we supposed to really know? Wade is an up there everyday. He knows.
Barry: OK, but I lost my train of thought...
Rachel: You were saying that Wade confirmed that mountain men tend to be bearded.
Barry: RIght, OK, Wade confirmed the beard/mountain man thing and we can move on.
Rachel: Good idea. Why don’t you tell everyone about the picture below of us on Cascade?
Barry: OK, yeah. I really like that pic. Wade took it. I look so much bigger and stronger than you. Did you notice?
Rachel: I noticed that your sucking in you gut. That’s what I noticed.
Barry: I don’t think so. I can’t believe how much bigger and stronger I am. This pic really brings that out.
Rachel: Meanwhile, who was faster on the trail?
Barry: I was pacing myself.
Rachel: Right. Pacing yourself. Huffing and puffing like that.
Barry: It’s the altitude, 4,000 feet is the highest peak we’ve hiked to yet.
Rachel: So how come I wasn’t huffing and puffing?
Barry: I think I saw you huffing, definitely.
Rachel: I did not huff.
Barry: Ok, maybe it was a puff.
Rachel: How about leaving me alone and getting back on subject?
Wade told us a lot of interesting things including why the vistas from Cascade’s bald summit are so amazing, allowing for a clear view in all directions. At some point there was a fire there that destroyed all the trees at the summit, creating clear views and making Cascade one of the most popular and highly trafficked mountains in the Adirondacks. Who would have guessed? Wade also described his work week. Generally he is atop Mount Marcy and camps on the mountain for four or five days at a time, at a campground just below 3,500 feet, making the rest of the climb each morning to the summit at about 5,000 feet. Wade told us how glad he was to have left his desk job and tie far behind. No surprise there. When queried, he gladly told us where we could swim nearby and gave us directions to Upper Cascade Lake, just below the mountain. There’s a picture of the lake just below. The water was clean and cold and the bottom was soft and covered with many large branches that were softened by the water and easy on your feet. It was amazing. Thanks for the tip, Wade! What a great way to end the day.
When planning the trip I really wasn’t expecting to to hike three days in a row. I thought we would be tired and sore but we were feeling pretty good. And so, while exploring Saranac Lake as the sun was going down, we met a local and asked him to recommend a quick easy hike for day 3. He suggested a couple of hikes that sounded interesting and then said if we really wanted a treat we should try his favorite hike, that is if we were willing to hike a mountain just a little easier than Cascade but with views that he promised were just as spectacular or more at the top. By the time we got back to the van we were really excited about day 3 and our new plan to hike Ampersand Mountain.
We were feeling really fine in the morning after spending the evening taking hot baths, stretching, eating good food and enjoying more than a few shots of bourbon. We tried to watch a movie but passed out around 10:00, slept late, and hit the trail about noon.
As soon as we started down the trail we knew we had been given a gift of great advice. The trail was quieter than Cascade and incredibly beautiful all the way to the top, although it was a bit harder than I expected, with quite a long stretch of “stairs” at one point. But it wasn’t too much by any means and the view was spectacular. The summit is also bald, like Cascade. I learned later in an email from Wade that it was also from fire but this time, intentional fire.
Wade wrote about Ampersand: “That was my first mountain that I hiked here in the Adirondacks. The summit up there is pretty open because Verplanck Colvin, the man who first measured the Adirondack peaks, got to the summit and said "This would be a great vantage point!" so he burned down all of the trees on the summit to get a good view. A bit of a different time back then, but still a neat little fact.”
Thanks again Wade for sharing that!
We met some nice folks on the Ampersand summit. A fellow named Doug from Manhattan who has been coming up for years and a Kansan who is now a Floridian who is called Crocodile Dundee by his friends. They call him that because he is always exploring the inner rivers and lakes of Florida that are loaded with alligators. He told us about some of the places he had visited with his wife on the their 5 month RV trip and said that the Adirondacks are better than anything he’s seen in the east. We joked around a lot and he was kind enough to take this picture of us on the summit.
We went down the mountain and headed home, making sure to stop at the Upper Cascade Lake before hitting the highway back to the Brooklyn, already talking about where we should take our next hike. What an amazing trip!