After a couple long weeks on the job it’s inevitable that we would get out and enjoy nature, the best prescription for whatever ails you. On this ridiculously hot and humid day in May, Corenne and I set out for a most attractive hike, one which we'd wandered on before. Rattlesnake Mountain was where we ended up with the post-hike plan of visiting a new brewery in Keeseville called Ausable Brewing Co. Needless to say, we were excited about both.
The drive to the Lake Champlain Region is a bit of a haul for us, but its unique offering helped us look past that and make the most of our travels. We arrived at the trailhead off Route 22, which is just north of Willsboro and south of Keeseville. The trailhead parking had only three other cars in it, most likely due to the thunderstorms in the forecast.
The trail stretched out before us and the forest grove passed us by, offering us glances at spring wildflowers and the sweet smell of a new season. We felt like spectators in Mother Nature’s garden, which I suppose we essentially were, and we were OK with that. Our muscles were a bit taxed from a lack of hiking over the previous two weeks but we were sure to remedy that impairment today, and hopefully more often from here on out.
Decaying pine needles coated the wide trail, which at one time must have been an old carriage route. After the initial slight descent, we started the steady climb as the trail swung us around a bit more to the north and through a shallow pass. The pass was littered with rocks. Some of those rocks were loose and scattered over rocks that were driven further into the earth by the masses of hikers. A nice, hardened path was developing around much of it.
We quickly came to the foot trail that branches off the old carriage road near the top of the pass. Atop the pass there were a couple of hikers who missed the turn and questioned their location. We got them started in the right direction, and we all began the much more aggressive climb to the summit.
The trail, now narrow, brought us in and out of rock outcroppings, beneath and through narrow shoots through the rock ledges, and over roots and rocks that seemed to sweat from the humidity. Soon the views started to present themselves, taking our minds off of our underutilized calf muscles.
The summit ridge didn’t sooth our clammy bodies — it was as still as night. We found a small spot to claim for ourselves and spent the next 45 minutes basking in the sun and watching the family of turkey vultures circle around us. I didn’t think we looked that bad — tired, yes — but on death’s doorstep?
A thunderclap in the distance off to the west got us moving again. It looked as if some kind of rain event was coming in over Whiteface Mountain and right down through the Ausable River Valley. We didn’t rush the descent as we were not afraid of a bit of rain, and as long as we were off the open summit area the light show wouldn’t harm us either.
We felt a drop of rain almost immediately off the ridge and a bit more fell as we continued down and out, and by the time we reached the flat section of trail the rain kicked into high gear and coated the forest canopy. We hardly felt a drop as we passed beneath the hardwoods, but as soon as we broke free back into the open at the trailhead the rain found us. It was cooling and refreshing, not all that dissimilar to out adventure and break from the mental muddle we call the daily routine.