Sunday, August 18, 2013

ADK 46: The Dix Range (Macomb, S.Dix, E.Dix, Hough, Dix)

Fair warning, this post will get rather long as it includes 3 days and five mountains. 

I was an avid backcountry camper/hiker during my teen years, then backpacking went from being about the wilderness to hostels and passports (a different sort of wilderness).  I still own a lot of the gear (while it is wildly outdated, it is in excellent condition and I'm not one to replace things until they're completely destroyed. Note:my rainbow sandals.)  While I have quite a bit of gear, I don't have the confidence to go camping alone (which is a relief to my parents) but an old high school friend has recently taken an interest in backpacking and was up for a trip.

We had decided to do the Dix Range since it would allow for us (mainly me) to get 5 peaks in one go. The Dix range can be and often is completed in one hell of a haul ass day. I am very thankful that we made it into a 3 day trip.

We got to the trail head (Elk Lake Lodge) after 3 and it was completely packed.  There was no place to park legally and leave the car for the weekend.  We just sat there for a few moments trying to figure out what to do.  A maintenance driver came by and let us know that there was more public space 2 miles down the road. (Elk Lake Lodge is privately owned with small pockets for hikers)  We were a bit bummed that this would add 2 miles to our hike in, but headed down. As we were adjusting our gear another utility vehicle drove by- we flagged him down just to make sure we were at the right parking area ( I really didn't want to come out on Sunday with my car missing)  It was and then he offered us a ride to the trail head.  About a mile in, I realized that in my rush to hop onto the truck, I failed to bring 2 out of my 3 water bottles.  I REALLY didn't want to turn back, so I mentally calculated how much water I brought (40oz) and how much water we would have collectively (about 180oz) so I made the decision to not turn back.  It weighed heavy on my mind the entire hike in, but ultimately there was an extra 32oz bottle that I was able to use and it worked out  
riding in style to the trailhead
peaceful day in the ADK
The 2 mile hike in is very easy.  Mostly flat and we made it within an hour.  Which is speedy for me. There were at least 12 tents set up by the time we made our way in, but we found a space just up the hill from the Slide Brook Lean-to.  We spent the rest of the evening hanging out.  I had forgotten my book so I began working on my 30 before 30 list (note: any suggestions I have 20 on the list so far)
Bear Canisters are not technically required for this park of the ADK park BUT really, why risk it.

A father & his two sons were sleeping in the lean-to with the fire pit, so after dinner, we brought some firewood and hung around.  Naturally I did most of the talking.  If I were ever given a trail name, I'm sure it would include my chatty nature. 

We got started by 7:30 and were immediately on the Macomb trail.  The herd path is very obvious and I had no trouble following it.  Just before we reached the rock slide/scramble, we passed what we knew to be the last reliable water source, because I was still concerned about how much water I had (72 oz instead of the 104oz I was planning on having for myself)  I decided to top off at the stream before heading up. The scramble was fun, something different than the usual climbing and not nearly as challenging as it seems looking from the ground up. 

up we go

Once we made it through the scramble, we cruised through non rock scrambles and before we knew it (roughly 9:15) we were on the summit of the first peak of the day and my 21st High Peak.
ADK Morning view off of MaComb

After a few obligatory photos, it was time to venture to South Dix. There was some elevation loss, but it wasn't steep and within an hour we were on the next summit.  We ran into the same people we had seen on the previous mountain, shared a few words, took a few photos and continued on.

High Peak # 22 - South Dix

View of Macomb from S. Dix
South Dix Marker
Without much of a view, we continued on towards East Dix.  This was another quick hour before we were on open rock finding our way up to the top.  East Dix marked the halfway point on my journey towards becoming a 46er so we celebrated with swigs of whiskey (jim beam honey for me) 

I got confused and it looks like 32 when really it should be 23. whoops!

We stayed for quite a bit on East Dix enjoying the view and some well deserved snacks.  Once refreshed we went back to South Dix (4th ascent for the day) to meet up with the trail to Hough.  Now, my momma always told me that if I don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.  SO I won't say much.  I had read several trip reports all that indicated that Hough was a p.i.t.a. to climb.  A lot of it is mental after knocking off 3 peaks so quickly and Hough is longer. Regardless, this was my least favorite summit for the day.
I honestly have no idea where this is, but it's somewhere between E.Dix and Hough according to the order of photos on my phone.
My new friend, yeti trying to photo-bomb.
While we sat on Hough, we were able to count 3 fake summits for Dix.  It felt good to know that that ahead of time, to avoid disappointment.  However, when we went to actually climb Dix, we discovered there are more like 5 false summits.  Sadly we didn't discover the 5th one until we thought we were there, only to discover that we had finally found the yellow trail and the Beckhorn.  Thankfully it was only another 7 minutes before we reached the real summit.
5th peak of the day and 25th peak overall 

After our longest break being on Dix we ultimately decided to take Hunters Pass down.  Everything I had read said that the yellow trail was very steep and after my time on Elks Pass I was open to the idea of longer but less steep.  However, don't let the books fool ya, Hunters Pass is no walk in the park, it was quite steep.  It seemed like hours before it the easy grade trail I was expecting.  Since I haven't done the other trail I can't compare, but Hunters pass is still a haul.
On the top of Dix there are blue Trail Markers - everything else we had heard said red, we were a bit concerned until we finally made our way down and saw that it switched to red.

Hunters Pass, while easy (once we were down), was long.  The most disheartening was when we finally reconnected with the yellow trail - the sign read 3.8 to Elk Lake Road.  By simple math, knowing that Slide Brook was 2.2 in from the road, I figured there was only 1.6 left.  But there wasn't that sign is in correct.  After we finally reached the other lean to was it 1.3  That last 1.3 was very very very long.
Dix Pond

Then, out of seemingly no where, the Slide Brook Lean-to appeared.  It was just about 7pm, so we had been out & about for nearly 11.5 hours. Those boots came off, a quick river shower occurred and then food.  Lots of food.  Followed by an evening at the camp fire with 3 guys from Long Island.  Overall a successful and rewarding day.

After a solid nights rest, we broke down camp and headed out.  We got lucky again and were offered yet another ride back down to my car.  The folks at the Elks Lodge are a whole lot nicer/ accommodating than the ones at the Ausable Club.

Peaks Climbed:
Macomb: 21st highest in NY Elevation of 4,405.
South Dix: 37th elevation of 4060.
East Dix: 42nd. Elevation of 4012.
Hough: 23rd. Elevation 4400.
Dix 6th NY with an elevation of 4,857.  


  1. Don't do em' all without me! I wanna do at least one with ya - JoeSam

    1. Don't you worry JoeSam I'm saving a reasonable hike (that includes waterfalls) as my last hike so I can invite some friends to join. You just have to be back in the US by then (hopefully before next labor day!)

  2. How'd you like that giant boulder in between Hough and Dix?

    1. I honestly don't know how you did it alone! I thankfully had a hand to grab. It looked like there was a trail to the side, but we didn't bother exploring it.

  3. What was the mileage like for all 5 hikes combined?

  4. There was some elevation loss, but it wasn't steep and within an hour we were on the next summit. tdhuu

  5. nice trip :) I love your blog!