The Dix Range and the Kindness of Strangers

Order in ranking: Macomb 21, South Dix 37, Grace Peak 42, Hough 23, Dix 6

Not three weeks after getting back from the ‘Dacks, Steph and I were back to climb as many of the High Peaks in the Dix Range as we could.  We were aiming for 5 (Macomb, South Dix, Grace Peak*, Hough and Dix itself) but would settle for four (all but Dix) if the weather, our legs, our stamina or the bugs didn’t cooperate.


The Dix range can be hiked from several points – You can access Dix from Round Pond (and originally we wanted to do a traverse starting from here), Grace from Route 73 (I want to find that trailhead, I’d love to do Grace Peak again), or from Elk Lake.  We decided on Elk Lake, and do a loop – up Macomb, to South Dix, and quick jaunt to Grace Peak and back, over to Hough, up Dix, and then down Hunter’s Pass.


We car camped at Elk Lake, and started off early in the morning – it wasn’t quite six when we signed in to the trail register.  We quickly hit the Slide brook lean-to – it only took us an hour to go the 2.3 miles.  We did briefly get lost once at the lean-to, so let me give you some helpful advice – when you see the first campsite sign, just prior to Slide brook, turn right, into the campsite.  That’s where the trail to Macomb is.  (For better instructions:  You will go over a wooden bridge, and soon after see the yellow campsite sign.  If you hit another bridge, you’ve gone too far- turn back!)  The Macomb trail is marked by a cairn.

View from the base of Macomb Slide
The trail to the Macomb slide is quite nice, although there were at least two sections of blowdown that you have to hike through.  You will see the slide off to your right through the trees as you approach it.  (Don’t worry about the gushing water of the brook – it slows to a trickle the closer you get – or at least it did when we went) 


Side view of Macomb Slide

We hit the Macomb slide at 8:10, an hour after starting out on the herd perth.   Wetook a quick break to have some trail mix, and so I could put on my GoPro to film our ascent.  The slide was a lot of fun – steep, but not too steep, and enough rocks that you can step firmly and not get bogged down by the scree.  It was a little eerie to hear rocks skittering down the slide as you stepped, and once I did dislodge a bigger rock that nearly landed on my foot, but all in all it was a lot of fun.  It only took us 45 minutes to get to the top – not bad! 


Shortly after the slide climb, we hit the summit at 9:05, where we paused to enjoy the view.  Then at 9:20 it was up and over to South Dix. We descended down Macomb, and hit a cairn, where we turned right towards South Dix.  From there we climbed up, and hit the rock face, where I put on the GoPro again, and we began our scramble up – again, lots of fun!  Just enough of a scramble to make it interesting, not so much that it was terrifying (Cliffs of Saddleback, I’m looking at you.)


Near the summit of South Dix we hit another cairn.  The trail to the right takes you to the (treed) summit, marked with a yellow disk on the far side of a tree, as well as an X and S. Dix.  (I should note that just passed (like 4 steps) the summit is a rock lookout with great views.)  Here we paused to put on sunscreen……and lose the GoPro.  (Not that we knew that at the time.  We found this out later.)  It had only taken us an hour to get to South Dix from Macomb – we hit the summit at 10:05.


Carin marking the path to Grace Peak

We hurried over to the Grace Peak, continuing on the path past South Dix’s summit.  We finally started meeting people – there were 3 guys on their way back from Grace Peak.  Until this point, we had been along, other than meeting people in the campsites near Slide Brook.  

The trail was clear, although the tree branches were overgrown, causing our poles, arms and legs to get caught.  Mostly flat, although with several small down and then up portions, you eventually come to cairn that marks where the trail from Rte 73 joins up with the herd path from South Dix.  Turn right to stay on the trail.   There was a very short rock “scramble” and several rocky outcroppings that I kept thinking were the summit, before we hit the actual summit of Grace at 10:50, with the summit marker being a yellow disk attached to the back of a large rock. Here we took a short break, refuelled, and enjoyed the view, the sun and the breeze.  Be careful on the way down – I missed the cairn and started down the trail towards Rte 73.  If it hadn’t been for Steph, I wouldn’t have noticed until it was too late!  Besides the cairn, and the E (for the former name, East Dix) carved into the tree, there were branches laid across the trail to indicate it was the wrong way.

Nap on Grace Peak
We headed back to South Dix at 11:10, meeting a few hikers along the way.  One man asked us if we had a GoPro, which confused us.  Why would he want to know if we had a GoPro?  Turns out….he had found a GoPro on South Dix.  He had originally left it there, hoping whoever had lost it would be back for it, then made the decision to pick it up, only to find that it was gone.  


Which is when I realized that my GoPro was not in my bag.  At some point between the rock scramble and the summit, I had lost my GoPro.  I ran screaming after the other hikers to see if any of them had it – shouting out (and I have a really loud voice) – “HAS ANYONE SEEN A GOPRO?”  One man shouted back that he had left it on South Dix, so I ran all the way back, only to find…..no GoPro.


Summit of South Dix

Steph met up with me on South Dix (as I said, I ran) at 12:10, and we headed back to the cairn a short distance away, and turned right to head to Hough.  We thought we’d take a break there and see if whoever had found (and picked up) the GoPro, would meet up with us. 


Summit marker on Hough

The way to Hough was also a little tree branchy, and at one point we tried to decide if we had to go up a rock face or around.  There is a little used trail around the rock face, for those who don’t want to climb it, which is what Steph and I did.  From there, you continue along past a few false summits, and eventually hit a rocky outcropping that is the summit of Hough (marked by a cross that says “Hough” hanging from a tree) at 1:11.  Here we took a break, took a nap, and listening to the buzzing insects – none of which bothered us, thankfully. 

Hough is the second rocky outcropping you’ll see as you hike over from South Dix.  We missed the first one (by using the trail that goes around it) but if you climb up it – don’t be misled!  You’re not at Hough yet.


Alas, no one met up with us on Hough.  So at 1:36 we headed off to Dix, descending to the hogback, where we took a quick break and had some food, then up, up, and up some more – climbing rocks, getting caught on trees, and sweating profusely.  At one point we came to an open, rocky area (not the Beckhorn, although at the time we thought it might be), and just stood there enjoying the breeze.  At 3:12, we finally hit Dix, and sat down to enjoy some food, and talk with the two guys already there. 
Our fifth and final peak of the day!
At 3:36 we began our descent, and let me tell you – Hunter’s Pass may be “less steep” than the Lillian Brook or Beckhorn paths, but it is still steep.  Very steep.  Our knees were screaming after only an hour.  And we just kept waiting for it to level out.  Waiting and waiting.  We hit the boulder field, and noticed snow, protected from the heat and the sun under the boulders.  Then….we ran out of water.  We had had 3 litres of water, each, with us, but it was a hot day, and a long hike.  Thankfully we always carry Aquatabs with us, so when we hit a clear stream, we filled  up our water bottles, threw a tablet in, and continued on.


We slowed down a lot for the hike out – my knee was hurting, and Steph’s ankle was hurting, so it took us 5 hours to descend Dix – we hit the parking lot at 8:24.  (And alas again, no GoPro was waiting at the trail register.)  We left a note about the GoPro, quickly got changed into non-sweaty clothing, and drove to the Adirondack Loj where we had a room booked.  A quick shower, a glass of wine, and we were out.  We barely had any dinner either – we had the remnants of our trail lunches – bagels, cheese, and some veggies.


You may be wondering what happened to the GoPro, and where the “Kindness of Strangers” comes in.  After getting back home, and telling the BF that I had lost the GoPro, I logged in to one of the ADK High Peaks forums.  And there I found a post about a “treasure in the Dix Range” – someone had found “a treasure” and if whoever owned it could identify it, they’d return it.  And yes, it was my GoPro, and yes the person returned it.  The GoPro is safe, and will never be allowed to go hiking again because it just isn’t trustworthy.

*Originally named East Dix, the name was changed to Grace Peak on June 12, 2014, to honour Grace Leach Hudowalski, the first woman to climb the 46 High Peaks.

 

Total climbing time: 14 hours 30 minutes
Left trailhead at: 5:54, returned at 8:24
Summitted Macomb at 9:05, South Dix 10:05, Grace Peak 10:50, Hough 1:11, Dix 3:12
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