Backpacking the Dix Range (Macomb, South Dix, East Dix, Hough and Dix)

Jenna and I were planning a backpacking trip to hike the Dix Range for months. Thankfully, the stars aligned and the weather was perfect the entire weekend. Friday afternoon I met Jenna and our friend Margaret at the Exit 9 Park and Ride at around 5pm (was supposed to be earlier but there was so much traffic!) and drove up to the Elk Lake Trailhead near Exit 29 off the Northway. Brendan was planning on hiking with us also, but couldn’t leave work early so he was planning on meeting us at the camp site in the morning.

The drive up was fast (1.5 hours!) and before we knew it we were on our way down the trail from Elk Lake to the Slide Brook Lean-to. Since it was so late (around 8pm) we knew the lean-to wouldn’t be empty on this perfect weekend, so we all brought tents. The sites across the trail from it had tents set up so we decided to join the party and set up our two tents on the large site. A group had been camping there since Thursday and they kept to themselves mostly.

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I brought our friend’s dog Zahra along

We cooked our dinner at a clearing next to the Slide Brook bridge and talked to a few other hikers who were camping there as well. Both groups were planning on hiking the entire range on Saturday also. Bear cans aren’t required in the Dix Wilderness, but we brought one to be on the safe side. We also had a stuff sack full of dishes and extra food that Margaret hung on a tree (she has amazing backcountry skillz!) and then went to bed.

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We got up around 6:30 on Saturday, cooked breakfast, and got ready for the hike! We were going to hike a loop beginning with Macomb, via the slide, to South Dix, then to East Dix, Hough, over the Beckhorn to Dix and descend Hunter’s pass (instead of the steep Beckhorn trail), back down to Lillian Brook and back to our camp site at Slide Brook.

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Our loop, in green

At around 8:00 Brendan came strolling down the trail. He had to park at the overflow lot since the lot at Elk Lake was full when he got there around 6:30. Yikes! It was a busy day in the Adirondacks! Once we met with him we assessed our water situation. We each brought about 4 Liters and our filter. There is a brook at the base of the Macomb slide but after that NO water at all until you get down to Lillian Brook (the end of the hike if you do the loop) so we made sure to have enough for the entire trip since it was a warm day.

We got to the base of the Macomb slide at around 9, after just about 55 minutes of hiking. Now, the hardest part of the entire day (for me), hiking up the slide. It is very rocky and loose. Quite terrifying. I took it slow and made it up in about 40 minutes (everyone else was much faster), but once I got up I felt quite accomplished. It was scary.

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A view looking down at what I just hiked

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Shortly after we were at the summit of Macomb! We got there at about 10:10am.

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Now that the hard part was over, we continued along the trail to South Dix, which included a nice open rock scramble with amazing views.

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Looking back at Macomb

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Summit marker on South Dix
Summit marker on South Dix

Arrived at the true summit at 11:06am. Onward.

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Got to the summit of East Dix (or Grace Peak) at around 12:20Pm. We stopped for a lunch break and to soak in the gorgeous views.

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Next up: the fourth peak, Hough! It was a little further away from the others and took a bit longer to get there. We got to the summit at 2:30.

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Pointing to our next destination: Dix!
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A view of the entire Dix Range

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Eventually we came to the Beckhorn, a small hump right before Dix’ summit. There is another steep trail going left once you get on the Beckhorn that will take you directly down to the Lillian Brook lean to and camp sites. This was an shorter option to descend after hitting Dix’ summit. But we chose the other option, Hunter’s pass, which didn’t really add on THAT much distance.

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There was a big boulder right before the Beckhorn that was a bit sketchy. The dog got up no problem, but I needed Brendan to hold my foot in place so I could pull myself up! The dog hiked great. She only needed help in a few spots. There was one big crack I had to squeeze myself into for her to climb up over me, but other than that, she was fantastic! She’s a great hiker!

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Looking back at the Beckhorn

Soon we were at the fifth and final summit of the day, Dix! It was the big one. At 4,857 feet of elevation, Dix is the 6th highest peak in NY! We got there at around 4:15pm after eight hours of hiking. Five peaks competed in one day is the most I’ve ever hiked! It also brought me to 37/46!

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Dix provides a nice view of the Great Range

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We stayed on Dix for a little bit to recharge. We had a long descent awaiting us on Hunter’s Pass. And we were almost out of water. I didn’t take any photos on the descent since I was focused on getting down and to water. There were some awesome views though. I was thirsty almost all day and drank the entire 4 liters of water. I carried a 3L platypus bladder and a 1 liter bottle. We didn’t get down to the Lillian Brook to refill until 6:15PM. We stopped for a few minutes to rest (again). Even Zahra was pooped!

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The remainder of the hike was easy, but long. It felt like it was taking FOREVER to get back to the campsite, even though it was about 2.7 miles away. Finally we arrived at our camp site at around 8pm. We changed and made dinner. There were still a few other hikers staying at our site and they had made a large campfire. It was temping, but I was too tired to enjoy it! Brendan had planned on hiking the additional four miles back to his car, but decided to stay since he was beat. Thankfully there was room in my tent, even with the dog. And it wasn’t too cold so we used my sleeping bag as a blanket. It was my first overnight AFTER a huge hike. Usually we drive home and I can shower and sleep in my own bed. I have to say it was nice to have my tent and bed set up, ready for me to climb in and pass out!

What a day! The Dix Range was so awesome. It was an amazing day.

Dix Range
Macomb, South Dix, East Dix (Grace Peak), Hough and Dix
5250′ total elevation gain
10.5 mi loop from Slide Brook camp
15.1 mi total from Elk Lake trailhead

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Backpacking Mount Redfield

I have my first official backpacking trip behind me and it was awesome. On Friday, my best hiking friends Brendan, Jenna, her boyfriend and their friend Greg headed to the Upper Works IMG_2098trail head in Tahawus. Our plan: hike in our gear to a lean-to in the Flowed Lands, get up the next morning and hike high peaks Cliff and Redfield.

 

With heavy packs we started down the Calamity Trail. We hiked for a little over an hour. We passed a good looking tent site on the right of the trail next to the Calamity Brook and decided to set up camp there versus setting up our camp in the dark since it was another 2.5 miles to the lean to. It was a really good decision!

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My little Kelty Grand Mesa 2 tent worked perfectly!

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We could hear the rushing stream all night–relaxing! However, despite being comfy and cozy in my tent, I had trouble sleeping. I thought I was hearing voices all night (probably from the camp sites a few miles away) and wanted to bad to sleep. Eventually around 3 or 4 I think I finally dozed off.

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We got up around 7, made breakfast, packed up and hiked the 2 miles to Calamity lean-to, dropped our overnight gear off, and headed left toward Lake Colden. On our way we stopped briefly at the Henderson Memorial, the spot I missed when I was last here to hike Mount Marshall.

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Calamity Pond
Henderson Memorial

I didn’t do that great of a job keeping track of time/distances on this trip. It was long.

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I think it was only about a mile or so from Flowed Lands to Lake Colden. We crossed the suspension bridge to start the trail to Uphill lean-to, where the herdpaths to Cliff and Redfield begin.

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Lake Colden and Mount Colden

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The trail to the Uphill lean to was amazing. All along the left were amazing waterfalls, cascades and swimming holes. It was getting hot and the water was tempting.

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We reached the Uphill lean-to at around 12:00, ate lunch, and headed up to Redfield. It was rocky and muddy, but didn’t have too many crazy steep sections. It was just long and felt like forever.

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We reached the summit at around 2:00pm.

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At least there are some great views!

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We only stayed up top briefly–it was crowded, a large group of kids and their parents were up there as well. I didn’t feel the usual sense of awe and accomplishment on top of this mountain-I just wanted to get down, which was rare for me. I was dreading the descent. I like to relax and enjoy mountain summits, but for some high peaks it’s just checking them off a list–that’s how I felt for Redfield.

 

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Some views on the descent

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We arrived at the junction for Cliff at 4:00PM, a little too late since we were not camping out a second night. We evaluated and decided to orphan Cliff, unfortunately. It was a tough decision but knew it was the right one. We were tired and didn’t want to risk hiking out for too long in the dark. On the hike down we stopped at the bank of the Uphill Brook to soak our tired feet. We left there at 5:30 and still had about 6 miles left of hiking to the car.

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Back at the Flowed Lands

We stopped briefly at Calamity lean-to to grab our gear and chatted with the family that was staying there. Then on we went.

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The sun started to go down, but thankfully we got back to the car without having to take out the head lamps. The sky was looking magnificent! Despite feeling like death, after hiking about 18 miles, this trail is still one of my favorites. The tree peepers were out, one of my favorite sounds!

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We arrived back at the car at 8:40PM–phew. I couldn’t wait to change out of muddy clothes and take my boots off. Cliff, I’ll be back for you.

Mount Redfield
Total Distance: ~16-17 mi RT from Upper Works
Total time (Saturday): 12 hours
Elevation: 4606′

Gear used: Kelty Grand Mesa 2 backpacking tent (sleeps 2), Coleman sleeping pad (amazing), Kelty Tuck 22 degree sleeping bag, Gregory Amber 34 pack, Kelty treking poles, White Sierra hiking shorts, Oiselle tank, Smartwook hiking socks, Keen Durand hiking boots

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Phelps Mountain in the Spring

Yesterday I hiked Phelps, the 32nd highest peak in NY, for the second time. The first time I hiked this mountain was back in January 2014 with Jona. It was cold. Yesterday’s weather was much better! The temps were perfect. There was very little ice on the trail (only at higher elevations). It was a beautiful day.

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Brendan is my good friend and one of my hiking buddies. He’s working on the 46 also and we both wanted to hike this weekend. I need to get my legs in shape for summer high peaks hiking. Phelps is a short hike compared to the rest of the 46. It is about 9.5 miles round trip from the Adirondack Loj. I didn’t mind hiking it again because it has some great views. We started hiking at 10:45 am. We arrived at the junction at Marcy Dam at about 11:40. From there it was only 2.1 miles to the summit of Phelps.

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The Phelps junction is about a mile from Marcy Dam.

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It’s only about a mile, but it’s an “Adirondack mile”, or a mile that takes forever to hike since it is incredibly steep.

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Brendan with Mount Colden in the background.

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Oh hey, it’s Mount Marcy. Haystack to the left?

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All together now.
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It was great to sit on the summit and enjoy the sunshine. The last time I was up here, it was 40 below and my mittens froze. We arrived at the summit around 1:30.

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Phelps was Brendan’s 20th peak. Almost halfway!

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A man from Vermont was on the summit also. He’d just recently started hiking in the Adirondacks. “Have you been on all of these mountains?” he asked me. I could say yes! All but a few. We could see Saddleback and Basin–I’ve yet to tackle those! But all of the other surrounding peaks I’ve been on. Below is one of my favorite views. Mount Colden is on the left with Algonquin and Wright across from it on the right side. The first time I was on the summit of Phelps, I couldn’t name the peaks. Now I know them pretty well.

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We started heading down around 2:00.

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Spring has sprung in the High Peaks. I cannot wait for summer hiking!

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We got back to Marcy Dam at 4:20.

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Back at the parking lot around 5:30.

Phelps Mountain
Distance: 9.5 mi RT
Elevation: 4,161 ft
Ascent: 2,149 ft
Total time: 6 hrs, 37 minutes (including stops)

Gear used
Kelty trekking poles, Osprey Sirrus day pack, Keen Durand hiking boots, Smartwool hiking socks, tasc performance bamboo district pant, Icebreaker merino baselayer top

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Hiking Mount Marshall

I can officially check off my first high peak of 2016 off the list, Mount Marshall! And this is the year. I’m planning on finishing hiking the 46 high peaks this summer.

I met Jenna and one of her friends at Exit 9 Park and Ride at 5:30am on Saturday. The weather was going to be mild. It was supposed to be in the 50s up in Lake Placid. We arrived at the Upper Works trailhead in Newcomb at about 7:30 and were on the trail at about 7:45.

We took the trail to Calamity lean-to. It’s about a 5.5 mile hike in. There are signs on the way in, we had to follow the signs for Lake Colden. We weren’t actually going that far, but that was our general direction.

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The trail follows Calamity Brook and crosses it at a certain point. There is a new-ish looking high water bridge that felt a bit wobbly. I wasn’t a huge fan of that bridge!

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The lean-to is located near the Flowed Lands, a spot I had never been to before. The hike in wasn’t too bad and served as a nice 2.5 hour warm up. We stopped at the lean-to and had a snack before picking up another trail on the left that takes you to the herd path to Marshall. Thankfully a helpful guy on his way to Iroquois helped us find the herd path. There is small cairn on the left that is kind of falling over that would have been easy to miss. The herd path follows along Herbert Brook, so it’s easy to stay on. In the winter it meanders back and forth over the brook a few times. It didn’t get too steep at all until we got closer to the summit. The summit is only 1.5 miles from the main trail.

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Finally, after a really steep section, and five hours after we left the car, we arrived at the summit of Marshall! Since it is an unmarked trail, there is a sign indicating the highest point of the peak. It’s pretty wooded, but just beyond the summit sign there are a few great lookout spots.

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15 high peaks left!

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The views from the lookout were incredible!

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Jenna and I wore our microspikes for the entire trip up, but switched into crampons for the descent, since there were some really icy spots. The herd path down didn’t take too long, but the trek out to the car was deemed the death march.

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We stopped quickly to see the Flowed Lands, since we didn’t stop on the way in. So pretty! Apparently last week hikers could cross over to take a shortcut to the herd path. Not the case on Saturday. It was melting.

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Time to start the loooong hike back to the car…

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Somehow we missed the Henderson Memorial. It stands near Calamity Pond. It was erected by Henderson’s family in the 1800s after he accidentally shot himself, hence the names Calamity Pond and the nearby Calamity Brook and Calamity Mountain. It’s pretty creepy if you ask me!

We finally got back to the car a little before 6pm. The cars were a welcome sight! The hike to and from Mount Marshall took nearly 10 hours.

Mount Marshall
Elevation 4360′
Ascent 3185′
Total distance: ~16 mi
Hike time, including stops: ~10 hours

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Gear used: EMS backpack, EMS Waterproof gaiters, EMS hiking pants, Vasque snowblime hiking boots, Katoohla microspikes (ascent), CAMP crampons (descent), Leki hiking poles, Icebreaker merino wool baselayer top, EMS Freescape 3-in-1 jacket, 2.5L water in 3L platypus bladder. Snowshoes never left my pack.

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Hiking Gray Peak and Mount Skylight

Happy fall! I celebrated the first weekend of fall by hiking, of course! My friend Jenna and I drove up to the ADK Loj to hike Gray Peak and Mount Skylight. We got an early start because it is a long hike! We left the Exit 9 Park and Ride at 4:35AM and got to the Loj around 7, and were on the trail by 7:15. We were at Marcy Dam by 8:05AM.

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We got the the Phelps/Marcy and Avalanche Lake junction and went right to take the Avalanche Lake trail. At 8:40 we got to the junction for Lake Arnold and took a left. We were going to go past Lake Arnold and up to Lake Tear of the Clouds to get to Gray Peak.

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The trail through here was really pretty! There were some bogs we crossed between Mt. Colden and Gray which were interesting. Thankfully there were planks to cross! Eventually we came to the junction for Lake Tear of the Clouds, the highest point of the Hudson River and also where the herd path for Gray Peak picks up. We arrived there at 10:53 AM.

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We got there around 11:45  and saw the cairn that marked the herd path to Gray. We realized that it crossed over the stream and started up again on the other side, it’s unmarked but pretty obvious.

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We started climbing Gray at about 11:45AM. The first part of the herd path was a bit tricky. There was a huge cliff with a pretty big drop off–if you were tall and had long legs it would be easy. But neither one of us has those-so we skirted around to the left of the cliff and found our way down pretty easily. Anyone who says Gray has no views is lying!

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We could see Skylight–our next destination!

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We stopped at a lookout a little bit from the summit to have a snack.

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Can’t forget about the summit pic. Got there around 12:20.

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A great view of Marcy and Skylight from our snack spot. After about 10 minutes we headed back down the herd path to Lake Tear of the Clouds.

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We got back down to the lake at around 1:00 and started heading left at the cairn to get back on the marked trail to Skylight. At 1:12 we hit “Four Corners”, where there was a sign marking a trail to Marcy and a trail to Skylight.

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We followed the trail to the summit of Skylight, which was steep and rocky, and after hiking almost 10 miles already, I was tired. But, once we got up top at 1:37, I knew it was all worth it.

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I could have stayed up here all day! Skylight was amazing. And it was also my 30th high peak! I can’t believe I’m at 30 peaks!

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Jenna and I stayed on the summit for maybe 10 minutes and had the entire thing to ourselves. I could have stayed forever, but we had a loooong way to go back to the car. Eight miles of hiking, back the way we came. And we wanted to get out before dark! We knew that there was a strong possibility that we would be hiking out with headlamps. Thankfully, we were back at the trail register by 6:30PM and it was still daylight.

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What a long, long, day. Skylight was one of my favorite summits so far, but it just takes so long to get there. I would highly recommend this as an overnight. Most of the people we saw were staying at lean-tos and I must admit I was a bit jealous. But, I guess that makes us more badass for completing this hike in day trip.

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Gray Peak and Mount Skylight 
Distance 17.7 mi RT
Time: 11.5 hours
Total Elevation Gain: 4,343′

Gear used Osprey Sirrus Daypack, Kelty trekking poles, Smartwool socks, Under Armor Crops, Icebreaker merino wool base layer top, Keen Durand hiking boots, 3L Platypus bladder, 1L Nalgene

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