ADK's July 4th, 2016: Dix wilderness, Blake and Colvin

Posted by Andrew L. on

DC UL made a visit to the Dix range in the Adirondacks over the Fourth of July weekend. A total of six of us ended up going, which is a good turnout considering that the ADKís have a hard limit of eight for overnight camping.

Four of us carpooled from Greenbelt metro while two were in a second car coming from Odenton, MD. Despite the 4th of July outbound traffic, we still made OK time up to Kylieís parents in Queensbury, NY. We left at 3pm and arrived between 11 and 11:30, so we figure it added on about two hours to the drive for doing it on the holiday weekend.

Kylieís parents were friendly and it made for easy logistics to stay there. Her parents even supplied coffee, bagels and muffins for breakfast. The remaining drive to the trailhead was just over an hour. Even though we hit the trailhead at St Huberts at 7:30, we still ended up with some of the last spaces in the lot. Talking with folks who parked in other lots, it sounds like the Elk Lake parking lot filled up at 6 am.

The climb up Dix gave us a view of how the 46ers would be in summer. Some scrambling was involved. Often, when it wasnít scrambling, it was steep. As expected, the climb up Dix took a while. The view from the top was great, but the winds were cold, so we popped up to take some pictures then back down behind a rock.

After Dix, we tried to get on the herd path to head to Hough then South Dix. Initially, everyone other than Tully kept following the blazes and went down a somewhat tricky rock scramble. We started waiting for Tully, but then Karan checked his GPS and Kylie checked her map and the conclusion was that we had overshot. So we climbed back through the scramble and rejoined Tully at the intersection for the herd path. The trick for finding this herd path was to read the map carefully with respect to where the path starts.

We did see a number of other people out on the trails and even on the herd paths. We saw a number of people when we were sitting on the summit of Hough. We saw other backpackers, day hikers and even some dogs.

After doing Hough, South Dix and the out-and-back to Grace Peak, we debated about going down the big rock slide at Macomb vs backtracking and going down Lillian Brook. One of the group opted for the hike around so as to not put more stress on his knees and wound up at camp only about 15 minutes after the bulk of us. The bulk of the group went down the big rock slide. The initial part of the slide going down was the steepest and involved solid rock, loose rock, dirt and mud. One of our group knocked a small rock loose which tumbled for 45 feet down the slide stopping a foot from Kylie. Overall, the slide was an adventure, but I donít recommend it if itís wet.

Andrew L. posted on

A number of other groups were camping at Slide Brook. We managed to still secure a decent campsite. Initially, we had intended to pack us all in right around the fire ring, but there were some large dead trees, so we spread out a bit to avoid camping under widowmakers. To our surprise, we had a thundershower and other rain that night, which we had discounted when we last checked the weather forecast.

The next day, the trail going around the Elk Lake was moderate, so we made good time until our first major climb of the day. Passing over a bridge, we saw a solo female hiker who we ran into the day before. She later passed some of us while we were climbing Pinnacle, which is unusual as itís usually DC UL doing the passing. We chatted with her some at the top of Pinnacle. She had already hiked the long trail, so she was in great shape.

Initially, we stopped short of the summit of Blake Peak at a high point on the ridge. After hanging out there some, we moved on and eventually got to the true summit of Blake Peak. The descent off of Blake had some of the trickiest scrambling that we did on the trip due to two sections of 30-40í of rock. We finally made it to the summit of Mt Colvin and stayed for a while to admire the nice view across to the Great Range. We got out our maps to compare what we saw with the map. After hanging out for a bit, Max and Brian went ahead to find us a campsite while the remainder hung back until we had fully regrouped. After waiting no more than another five minutes, all of us had made it to the summit and we started on the descent toward camp.

We took the first campsite that we came too. It was about an eight minute walk to get water and there was another campsite right by the water that was surprisingly still empty when we saw it. None-the-less, the first campsite that we came too worked out great as it didnít involve backtracking as much the next day. There were some chipmunks there that didnít seem to be scared off by humans, so we hung our food mainly to avoid the chipmunks.

In the morning, the Noonmark diner awaited us, so we checked out Indian Head and Fish Hawk cliffs, then Beaver Falls before getting on the dirt road that lead us back to our cars. The view from the bridge near Rainbow Brook Falls was neat as the water level on the lake was at about eye level, so it looked like an infinity swimming pool.

At the Noonmark diner afterwards, we were joined by the seventh hiker: the DC UL Food Phantom. Heís a cousin of the Cookie Monster and sometimes crashes on the Cookie Monsterís couch. While the Cookie Monster has a weight control problem due to his cookie based gluttony, the Food Phantom does DC UL VMO trips and eats like an AT through hiker...

Michael Martin posted on

Nice write up!

You tended to go up things that I have gone down (and vice versa) with this routing.

Jen and I down climbed a fairly scary slide in Maine this past weekend.

I think it's a badge of honor to do the entire Dix range in a day.

Karan posted on

Thanks for summarizing the trip well, Andrew.

And I agree Michael - the entire Dix range (especially with packs on) is quite an impressive feat.

I am thankful that the weather stayed great. It was very windy and drizzling Saturday morning, but luckily it warmed up over the day. The next 2 days were pretty much perfect weather wise. As for the views, the Dix range has some of the best views I've seen. Especially Dix mountain - whatta place! The Colvin/Blake ridge had limited views - we were sad to learn that there was no view at Blake, but the views at Colvin were beautiful. My favorite views were Fish Hawk Cliffs and Indian Head (hard to decide which one's better) - its like suddenly you've landed in heaven.

On Saturday, a bunch of day hikers went up the Macomb slide and told us that it'd dangerous to go down it (funnily, it made me want to do the slide more). As Andrew note, with careful footing, it really wasn't too bad.

It is worth mentioning that the lady mentioned above was planning to add Nippletop and Dial to the Colvin-Blake range the same day : that is hardcore!

It astounds me how steep the terrain is out there.. As I am looking at the GPS route I recorded (≠, I see that the final 1500 ft climb to Dix was covered over 0.8 miles and the first 0.4 miles down from Macomb peak (half of which was steep trail thru woods, the other half was the slide) was a 1,000 ft descent (see the elevation profile for yourself). That is crazzy!!

Something that was a complete surprise was the traffic on the way back : we hit a couple of nasty places on I-87 early on, but apart from that it was moving along really well. Even on 95. We got home at 9 PM - pretty good compared to 2 AM 2 years ago.

Lastly, if anyone is curious to know how Maple Walnut pie from Noonmark Diner tastes like, let me know :)


Michael Martin posted on

Yeah, I did Dial-Nippletop-Colvin-Blake in a single day, with pack, but I camped right there. It wasn't too bad.

When we did the Dix range in a day, we started from Slide Brook (no packs), did Macomb, South Dix, Grace, South Dix, Hough, Dix, down the Beckhorn, picked up our packs at Slide Brook, and walked out ... This was all so that we could set up Allen for the next day.

I went up the Macomb Slide, but I didn't find it too bad.

Colvin and those views of the Ausable are very nice.