Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dix times 5

Another fabulous day in the Adirondacks and a pretty ambitious one too. Today's target is the Dix range. Once you are on the ridge, well, why not do all of them. More efficient that way, although it does make for a tiring day. We got one of the few spots left at the Elk Lake trail head. Crazy it was almost full and only 6:30 in the morning.
One of my favorite parts of this hike is climbing the Macomb slide. However, we were totally shocked by the scene. The Macomb slide had been typically comprised of some rock rubble interspersed with rock slabs. As soon as we started climbing the slide we noticed something was different. There were three huge gullies at least 15  feet deep down the slide. It would have been impossible to actually cross the slide towards the bottom. Instead, the route was marked to follow the edge by the trees until after the washouts. I have a before and after photo of the slide. Huge boulders that existed before are gone. The consistency of the slide is totally different - more dirt and rubble than before. Nature is constantly changing the complexion and character of the Adirondacks. Sometimes in subtle ways, sometimes in earth moving, spectacular ways. See the before and after photos below.


The rest of the slide hike was fun (okay, maybe a big calf burner). We met a pleasant group of hikers on top of Macomb and crossed their paths a few more times during the day. After a rest and some food we headed off to South Dix and East Dix. South Dix is a great little scramble of the rocks. I love the ridge walk between S. Dix and E. Dix. Smooth path, fragrant smell of balsam in the air. Right before we started the climb up S. Dix, we ran into Claudia leading a hike for the Albany Chapter of ADK. I heard her before I saw her. She had spotted my hiking partner, and bellowed out a joyous "Hey Tim!" The group had come up the East Dix slide and were on there way to South Dix and Macomb. We chatted for a few minutes and then bid our farewells and sashayed up to East Dix.

Climbing South Dix

Ridge walk from S Dix to E Dix
East Dix summit
Dix summit from Hough
A lingering stop and then time to move on. We still had a few more peaks left for today! Almost back to the top of South Dix, and then we cut off and aimed for Pough and Hough. (I really think they should have been called Huff and Puff, because that's what you do when climbing.) This time I readily recognized the summit of Hough (unlike last time...). We picked up a hiker on Hough who wanted to continue on to Dix after she heard that's where we were headed. So the three of us sweated, huffed, and puffed our way over to Dix. After 4 peaks, the legs are getting tired, and the ridge line up to Dix looks long and imposing.
View from Dix
But the effort is so worth it! Dix has impressive
Elk Lake from Dix
views in all directions. The mountain sandwort was in full bloom carpeting areas of the summit with it's pretty white flowers. We lingered on the summit, basking in the sunshine and drinking in the vistas. This is what hiking is all about for me!

Carpet of flowers

Largest shelf fungus I've ever seen!

One of the few flat spots going down Dix

But reality always seems to encroach on summit fantasies. Time to leave. Down we went, then up and over the Beckhorn, and dropped quickly down the mountain. My legs were hurting and my pace slowed down, but in due time we were back at the parking lot. A very tired, but very happy hiker. Great day!

Next: Wading our way to Allen

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Gothic Cathedrals, Pyramids, and Teeth

July 10, 2011 -- St. Huberts, NY -- Fantastic day for hiking! Today it was all about one of my most favorite mountains - Gothics. Add in a trip over Pyramid and Sawteeth, and it really doesn't get much better than this! It's a rugged loop, but worth the effort.
Beaver Meadow Falls

I had to work on Saturday, and as it turned out, Sunday was the better weather day anyway. The air was crisp as we sauntered up the Lake Road.  My hiking partner, looking tan and trim from his Switzerland adventure, led the way up the road. Something tells me I'll be lucky if I can even keep him in sight! We turned off the road and made way for Beaver Meadow Falls. The bridge at the base was wiped out by the spring runoff. I tried to picture the falls the day the bridge got knocked out. Must have been an impressive site! Today the falls gently cascaded down the rocks. We climbed up the ladder and began our ascent up the mountain.

On the trail I heard the welcoming call of the white throated sparrow – “Po-or Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody". However, it was not always so welcoming. For a number of years I had no idea what bird this was, and all I heard was the mocking cry of “You don’t know my name, you don’t know my name!”  Honestly, I’m not paranoid, but I'm sure it was taunting me. Finally on a hike (funny, it was actually a hike to Gothics), a person in our group identified the bird. It took a few years, but on a hike to Pitchoff, I finally spotted one. Now I look forward to its warm hello.

A cool green carpet up high
The trails were much drier than the previous week, making for better footing and allowing more opportunities for viewing my surroundings. I was on the hunt for new wildflowers, but only saw blue bead lilies and bunchberries on the climb. Rounding the shoulder of Armstrong, the impressive slides on Gothics came into view. Reaching the junction with the Range Trail, I spied a lush green meadow to our right. Maybe an alpine bog? The brilliant color contrasted starkly with the dead, gray tree branches.

Views from Gothics

Shortly after, we topped out on Gothics. No matter how many times I’ve hiked this peak, I will never tire of the views. They are all encompassing. I believe the ADK guidebook notes that 30 high peaks are discernible from the top. One can also see Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains of Vermont. Only a few wildflowers still in bloom, but the mountain sandwort was sprinkled liberally around the summit. I’ve seen Labrador tea here before, but it appears it was past its prime today.

Mountain sandwort
On the way to Pyramid

After a nice rest (I could have stayed there for hours soaking in the sun), we headed over to Pyramid, which has spectacular views of the slides on Gothics and Basin. We spotted 2 climbers on the slides on Gothics. I love scrambling up rocks and I've done a few slides and the Trap Dike, but I'm not sure I could do this (let's rephrase this - NO WAY!). I want to try rock climbing, but just for a weekend and on a very, very short rock wall.

2 very tiny climbers on the slides

View from Pyramid
On Pyramid, we chatted with some friendly young hikers. It's always a pleasure to see younger people enjoying the mountains, especially since they are our next stewards of the wilderness.

Next up was Sawteeth. The trail down to the Pyramid/Sawteeth col has seen some much needed maintenance, but it still needs help (more on that shortly). The summit of Sawteeth was empty when we arrived. It's a cool view looking back over to Gothics, Saddleback, Basin, and Haystack, with Marcy peeking out (or is that peaking out, haha) in the distance. I didn't want to leave this mountain either. But another couple arrived, and not wanting to be summit hogs, we packed up and let them enjoy the views in our place.

Improved section of trail
A note about trails: There are many wonderful volunteers and trail crews (both paid and unpaid) dedicated to improving the trails in the Adirondacks, Catskills, and other areas around the state. But if you hike, you know there is always lots more to do. On the way down Pyramid, I took photos of two very different looking sections of the trail. One section was in need of help, the other had been improved, with steps added to ease travel and prevent erosion. There are so many ways to help out: You can volunteer through one of the many trail projects run out of ADK's Heart Lake Program Center, ADK chapters also perform trail maintenance, or you can adopt a trail. Other organizations such as the Catskill Club and the Adirondack Forty-Sixers also do trails work. Check out ADK's Web site for more information regarding its trails programs at ADK is also in the middle of its annual trails appeal right now. Even $5 can make a difference. Go to to help out. Thank you!

Next hike: Back to the Dixes, but this time in the sunshine!