August 19, 2008

bagging dix, macomb, east dix, south dix and hough

The plan was to do another three night backpacking trip, this time in the Dix Mountain Wilderness. However, threat of rain in the Adirondacks deterred me from leaving as planned on Friday. Instead, I spent a well deserved day off with my daughter (school shopping) and was then able to leisurely pack for the trip. My father and I headed for I-87 at 6:00am and made it to the Elk Lake Trailhead at 7:30am. The lot was already full, so required me to creatively park my vehicle within the public trailhead parking. I nervously left my car there hoping that the people of the Elk Lake Lodge are not as overzealous as the members of the Ausable Club. Getting on the trail by 8:00am, we packed in the 2.3 miles to a designated site at slide brook, arriving at our destination by 9:30am. The sky was blue and it was a comfortable 75 degrees. Of the three sites in this area, only one was ideal and it just so happened that a group was packing up to leave it as we arrived. They quickly shared their experiences of hiking the range and pointed out the best level spot for the tent. We were most surprised that they had built a fire in what appeared to be a well used pit. Soon, we discovered that fires were being enjoyed at all of the sites and the lean to areas. Have they changed the rule?

We left our packs, eager to get on the trail to Dix. At 10:00am we left the campsite aiming for the beckhorn route. The first clap of thunder occurred at 11:30 and soon the sprinkling rain turned to a full blown thunder shower. My father the "minimalist" had chosen not to bring his rain jacket and so was soaked in minutes. We ventured on (I had my rain jacket) until more thunder and harder rain came. We decided to sit for a while under my space blanket. This thing has traveled unopened with me for almost a year in case of emergency and I determined my soaking wet father was an emergency at this point. We opened the cellophane like material and attempted to use it as shelter. One hiker heading down said "nothing you can do but keep going". Umm OK but we were on our way up... Soon another hiker came along, also on his way up, so I thought we should push on close to this guy. I was praying that lightening was not going to accompany the thunder as we hiked on. At around 12:45 the rain stopped and it began to clear. We passed people who said they were on top just as it started to hail and lightening. I was glad we stayed below tree line unaware of that electricity. By the time we arrived at the Beckhorn, the final push to the summit, we were dry and again hiking under blue sky. The beckhorn is VERY tricky bare rock. It is very steep and pretty much a cliff. I know enough about physics to know that if my body weight did not get propeled in the right direction I would end up somewhere in the col between dix and hough. Many times during this hike I was reminded that I am not a thrill seeker and do not thrive on adrenaline rushes caused by putting myself in dangerous situations. Maybe because I am an overall play it safe kind of person this seemed worse than it really was...maybe you could judge for yourself. If I ever planned to climb Dix again, I think I would try it from the route 73 approach. We chose to descend back over the beckhorn because it is a shorter route and arrived at camp after completing 10.9 miles of hiking. We set up the tent, ate an "add boiling water" meal, drank some coffee and went to sleep under a clear sky with a full moon.

Day two:

We got up at 6:45am, had coffee and pop tarts and were on the Macomb herdpath by 8:00am. This was easy as the cairn for the path was about 40 feet from where we sat drinking our coffee. The trail to Macomb was easy grade, soft walking and through pretty forest. Glimpses of the slide got my heart pumping. Soon we were at the bottom of the slide and trying to figure the easiest (I was thinking safest) route up. By the middle of the slide, I realized that I could easily become anxiety ridden and decided to focus on each step, not how much further I had to go. Of course when it was complete, I felt a sense of accomplishment but it was not without several panicky moments. Macomb brought our 46er count to 12. After a brief rest it was on to South Dix. This was a relatively easy "walk", the herdpaths between all of these somewhat connected mountains were very well defined and as long as you know the basic direction you are heading the start of the paths are easy to find on each summit. On top of South Dix we ate our wrap sandwiches. We got the idea to pack wraps and pepperoni from a group that visited us in the lean to on that rainy day at Uphill brook last month. We even had honey mustard for the sandwich. Macomb was now in a dark cloud. We began thinking that it may rain on us again and were quick to get on the trail to East Dix- or Grace as some prefer to call it though it is not officially renamed. The rain holds off and after a short rest we retrace back to South Dix to pick up the herdpath to Hough. First we must cross the side of Pough which takes only minutes. We arrived at the designated campsite that is nestled between Pough and Hough and from here the summit of Hough is reached in 30 minutes. Once again we are forced to scramble up difficult bare rock and being that this is the last of four mountains in one day, we are tired and touchy. We curse whoever put the summit sign at the tip top of a tree and wonder why if they are trying to make it also discernible in winter, they don't at least put one at eye level for the weary summer traveler. It is 5:30pm and we had decided long ago that we did not care how much blowdown is on the bailout route down lillian brook...we were not retracing our steps and NOT going down the slide of Macomb. The Lillian Brook path starts at the designated site back at the col of hough and pough. We started down it at 6:00pm. It is very easy to detect the path and as we were told by other groups the day before, trailwork has been done and it is in good shape. The trail seemed to go on forever though and it was 8:00pm before we reached the marked Dix trail. We were finally back at the campsite by 8:20 and ate by headlamp. We skipped the evening coffee and went straight to sleep.

Day 3:

We awoke at 6:45am and made coffee. My father was excited to make his backpaker omelette meal in his grandfather's world war 1 mess kit pan. It was actually pretty tasty and we decided it was a good breakfast option for a day you dont have to rush to get on the trail. We packed up and were headed out by 8:45am. We reached the parking area at 9:15am and I was relieved that my vehicle was right where I left it. I missed my son Greg being with us on this trip, but the climbs would have only furthered his belief that hiking is not his thing. It was a very strenuous two days.
I learned shortly after arriving back in town that my husband's mother had passed away the night before. I hugged my father a little tighter as I dropped him off and told him I loved him....hiking for two days with your father- priceless.


renee said...

i'm so sorry about your m-i-l.

fires are legal in the dix range. we just recently asked a ranger about this during our last high peaks b-pack trip.

sounds like you had a great trip though!

sheri said...

Dad's getting in some good cardio!!:-) Now, what do we need to do to get Cindy in on the fun? :-) LOL