Balanced Rocks at Pitchoff Mountain

Happy New Year! Yesterday my friend Margaret and I hiked our first hike of 2017, Balanced Rocks at Pitchoff Mountain in the Adirondacks. Located right across from the most popular high peak, Cascade Mountain, Pitchoff is an easy hike with rewarding views. We left Exit 9 at about 7:40 and headed up to Keene. We started hiking around 10am.

 

Jordan and I are dogsitting Zahra, so I brought her along for the hike.

The trail starts to climb right away, but flattens out for some time, then climbs pretty steeply until hitting the Pitchoff Ridge. We brought enough gear for a high peak (always good to be prepared) and over-dressed since we thought it was colder out than it was. Thankfully we could remove layers!  We only went as far as the Balanced Rocks, but we had the option to continue on along the ridge to the summit of Pitchoff.

A great view of Cascade and Cascade Falls

Algonquin in the middle, with Colden to its left, Marcy on the far left

Another view of Marcy, Colden and Algonquin

It was an unusually warm day yesterday, so it was nice to sit for a while and enjoy our snacks with a view.

 

We could see the hikers on top of Cascade. It was probably a bit colder up there.

 

The trail was interesting. The wind had completely blown off the snow on some sections, while some were almost knee deep. Since it changed back and forth between ice, frozen ground, slush and powdery snow, we left our Kahtoolas on while our snowshoes stayed attached to our packs.

 

 

The hike to the Balanced Rocks was only about 1.5 miles. Since we took our time and wanted to get home at a decent hour, we decided to head back, arriving back at the car at about 1:30.

Balanced Rocks at Pitchoff Mountain
Distance ~4mi RT
Time 3 hrs, 30 min (including stops)
Ascent 740′
Gear 
Kahtoola microspikes, EMS Gore Tex Gaiters, Vasque Snowblime hiking boots, Smartwool socks w/liners, CAMP crampons (used only for 1 small icy section), Tubbs Mountaineer Snowshoes (not used), 1 L Hydroflask, 1 L Nalgene, Osprey Sirrus daypack, LL Bean sweater fleece down jacket, LL Bean Merino baselayer tights, EMS hiking pants, EMS Excel Thermo Hoodie, Marmot Snowqueen Jacket (removed after 5 min of hiking), Target gloves, Kelty trekking poles

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Owls Head Mountain Fire Tower

It is finally winter conditions in the Adirondacks! Saturday my friend Skyler and I drove up north to hike a fire tower. Our first choice was Vanderwhacker Mountain, but the road to the trailhead hadn’t been plowed and his car didn’t have enough clearance to get down the road so we abandoned that idea. After sitting on the side of Route 28 for 5 minutes checking over our maps, we decided on Owl’s Head Mountain in Long Lake.

We arrived at the trailhead at about 11:00am (late for us!) and then proceeded down the trail with just microspikes. It was below freezing, so we were both bundled up pretty good and managed to stay warm during the hike. At about 1.5 miles in, the previously broken out trail disappeared, so I put on my snowshoes and began climbing, following the sparse red trail markers. Some of them were fixed to actual wood poles (something I’ve never seen on a hiking trail in the Adirondacks?) so it was easy to spot them. I broke trail for the next 1.5 miles, arriving at the false summit, a winter wonderland.

Even though there were no tracks, the opening in the snow made it a bit easier to find the trail

We climbed to about 2600′ and it started getting pretty steep. The trail markers were nowhere to be found. We stopped for about 5 minutes to assess (we were extremely close to the summit) and try to figure out where the trail went. We found an opening that we thought was the trail and climbed up a bit, spotting a red marker in the distance! We continued on, finally reaching the tower. Thankfully it wasn’t windy at all, so we both climbed up. The top was still open.

I imagine the views are spectacular on a clear day! I’ll have to return to this one. We made it down in about an hour and a half, and we were back at the car before 3pm. There was nobody else on the trail all day.

Owls Head Mountain Fire Tower (12/18 ADK completed)
Distance 6.5 mi RT
Total time 4 hours, including stops
Elevation 2,812′
Ascent 1,300′
Gear used Sugoi Subzero Tights, Nike long sleeve base layer, EMS Excel Thermo Hoodie, Marmot Snowqueen Jacket, Kahtoola Microspikes, Vasque Snowblime Hiking Boots, Tubbs Mountaineer Snowshoes, Osprey Sirrus Day Pack, Hydroflask insulated water bottle, Scott mittens, Smartwool hiking socks, Kelty trekking poles

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Fall in the ADK and Hiking Cliff Mountain

This past weekend was prime for leaf peeping in the Adirondacks! Sunday morning I drove up to Keene Valley to hike one of my favorites, Indian Head! Last summer Christine and I hiked it and I couldn’t wait to come back.  Just look at this view.

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Monday was my first day off since Labor Day! Brendan and I drove up to the Upper Works trailhead in Newcomb to go back for Cliff, a peak we orphaned back in May when we hiked Redfield. It was going to be a long day.

It was in the mid 30s when we got to the trailhead. Brrr! We got there around 7 and were on the trail by 7:15. The parking lot was crowded, but we were wondering where they all were since we didn’t see many people on the trail. The 4.5 mile hike in to the Flowed Lands was uneventful. We passed the time chatting. When we got there, we signed in and headed to the Uphill Lean-to. We got to the Lake Colden bridge at 9:40am.
Looks like winter here
Looks like winter here
Then it was up, up, up to the Uphill Lean-to. We got there at around 11:45 and stopped for a brief snack before taking the herdpack on the right to Cliff/Redfield, marked with a cairn. I forgot the herdpath splits and Cliff’s goes to the right, and Redfield’s continues along the Opalescent. At 11:15 we were climbing Cliff.
We got some nice views while climbing. There was ice on the neighboring peaks!  Winter is coming!
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The bog was a sloppy mess, but the “cliffy” sections of cliff weren’t as bad as I was expecting. There were lots of hand holds and tree roots to hold onto. There was only one small section where I needed a boost.
We arrived at the summit at 12:30, which was 8.8 miles from Upper Works. We made pretty good time!
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Descending was a lot easier. It included a lot of butt sliding. I had to take my pack off and throw it down first before going down some sections.
After descending the final cliff, our friend took off to hike Redfield, while Brendan and I made our way back to the Uphill Lean-to for lunch. We got back there at 1:40. We shared some lentil soup and cookies. Perfect for a chilly fall day! We also had a visitor, a little Pine Marten! So cute!
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We started heading back at around 2. Again, the hike out was uneventful. We got back to the bridge over Lake Colden at 3:00, stopping for a snack for about 5 minutes. It turned out to be a gorgeous fall day.
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Our speedy friend caught back up with us with a few miles left so we all hiked out together.
We arrived back at the car at 5:45. It was a long, but enjoyable day in the mountains. I’ve got three high peaks left. It’s a bittersweet feeling.
 
Cliff Mountain
17.5 mi RT from Upper Works
10.5 hours, including stops
Elevation 3,944′
Ascent 2,691′
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Gear Used: EMS Gore-Tex gaiters, EMS hiking pants, ExOfficio long sleeve, Reebok puffy vest, LL Bean fleece gloves, Osprey Sirrus day pack, Kelty trekking poles, Keene Durand hiking boots, Smartwool socks, 3L Platypus hydration bladder
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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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