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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Spruce Mountain Firetower

When attending the last metabolism class of the semester (or ever) became optional yesterday, my good friend from school Krista and I decided to hike Spruce Mountain. Located just outside Saratoga in Corinth, it was a quick one hour drive from Troy.

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The trail itself was great-not too rocky and not too steep. It would be great for beginners!

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In about 36 minutes we were at the summit. Unfortunately there are no views unless you climb the tower.

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I think the tower itself is fairly new. There are windows inside that provide protection from the wind.

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It was a great little hike!

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Spruce Mountain Fire Tower
Distance 2.8 mi RT
Time 1 hr, 11 minutes
Elevation 2,009ft
Ascent 1,012ft

Gear used Gregory Pace 5 hydration pack, Salomon Pro Sense trail running shoes

The trailhead is located on the dead end of Spruce Mountain Road.

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Kane Mountain Firetower

I recently hiked Kane Mountain in Fulton County, about an hour and 15 minutes outside of Albany. It’s a nice little hike if you are looking to get outside and hit the trails. It has a decent view for minimal effort!

Jenna, Steve and I opted for the shortest route up and then took the longer trail back to make a nice loop.

There is a nice view from the top of the fire tower. I’d love to come up here for a sunset hike sometime. There is no real view from the summit unless you climb the tower.

There is a little cabin at the top that has been boarded up, but it seems people still go inside (and leave their trash behind!–which is sad).

Near the trail head there is a little pond and a creek.

Kane Mountain Fire Tower
Total Distance: 1.8 mi loop
Elevation: 2180′
Ascent: 600′

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The trailhead is on the left.

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Winter Hike: Cat and Thomas Mountain Preserve

If you are looking for a nice hike not too far from the Albany area, check out Cat and Thomas Mountains in Bolton Landing, near Lake George. It’s about an hour from Albany and the hike itself is pretty easy!

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The trail follows an old road for a while, and eventually re-routes into the woods for a little bit. It is a gentle incline. There wasn’t much snow on the ground, but the trail was covered in ice! Thank goodness for microspikes!

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We took the yellow trail to the summit of Cat Mountain first.

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The summit is expansive and has great views of Lake George! We ate a snack and then headed back down and followed the blue trail to Thomas Mountain.

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There is a cabin situated near Thomas’ summit, with a loft and couch inside! Apparently it is first-come-first-serve if you want to stay here over night. It has an amazing view of Lake George.

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{thanks to Greg for these photos from his GoPro!}

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We decided not to go over to Thomas, but to instead head back down to the car and check out the Outdoor Sports and Fitness Expo in Saratoga, followed by dinner at Druthers.

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Cat Mountain Loop
Distance: 8.04 mi
Total elapsed time, including stops: 4 hours, 34 minutes

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Gear used: Katoohla microspikes, tasc performance district pants, tasc performance northstar fleece, osprey sirrus daypack, EMS freescape jacket, vasque snowblime winter hiking boots

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