The mountains have been calling for some time and I finally ventured out for the perfect inaugural ADK46 hike of the season. The ADK weather gods were in full force. A bit of a chill (yes I was the only one in shorts) so there were no bugs in sight but warm enough that I wasn’t cold and a full day of sun to boot. The wind at the summit dropped the temperature a good notch but I always pack a vest and hat.
Being Memorial Day weekend I was sure there would be crowds particularly at the more trafficked trailheads so I decided to go the trail less traveled and come from Dix via Round Pound (vs. approaching via Hunters Pass). It paid off in spades. Enough peeps to not worry that if I broke my leg that I’d have to crawl out but not a highway. Just the way I like it.
Dix is no joke of a hike and being the sixth tallest I wouldn’t expect it to be. Going up via Round Pound adds an additional 300 feet of elevation gain compared to the Hunters Pass route and my legs sure felt it by the end of day.
The first 4.5 miles fly by and are easy as pie. Decent footing, little mud, views along Round Pond, rivers, beaming light through the trees, singing birds… But be wary of taking in the scenery too much because while you might be making distance on the trail you’ve hardly climbed yet. In the previous two miles you only climbed 100 feet in elevation gain which you will come to think of fondly as you ascend more than 2,000 feet in the last 1.5 miles.
Once you cross the Boquet River you get some moderate grades that get your heart rate up but for the ADKs still pretty easy. Then you reach the base of the slide and shit gets real. I had partially picked this route to climb up via the slide but after seeing all the water trickling down and two (more advanced) hikers coming down from a failed attempt due to slippery conditions I went up via the woods.
As my trail book describes this final section as: “unrelenting steep climb, with rough footing.” Yep. That sounds right. Less than two miles to the summit and it gets steep and steeper and steeper yet. The usual mud, scrambling, loose footing, outcropped roots that anyone who has spent time in the High Peaks comes to recognize and develop a love hate relationship with. Per usual when it “levels” off for the last .4miles you keep saying after this section I’ll see the summit. Nope.
When I was doing research, here is how a fellow hiker described it: “I walked for 2 hours, on a severely steep and rugged trail. There was essentially no foot path, just a long vertical succession of rocks the size of couches, miry mud, flowing water, and a tangle of trees on either side.” Welcome to the Adirondacks.
But of course it was all worth it. A clear day gave 360 degree views, a large summit so even with a few groups wasn’t the least bit crowded and windy enough to cool down from the vertical climb. I sure soaked it up and took a nice stretched out break in the sun. With that view in all directions how can you not?
I give huge kudos to the crazy dudes that while I arrived at my first summit it was their 5th – doing all in in the range in 7 hours with full packs. Note to self: never go hiking with them.
Going back down was easier on the lungs and muscles but my knees were screaming by the time I reached the base of the slide. Luckily all the water streaming down created some nice (freezing cold) pools. Nothing feels better than a quick soak and change into fresh socks.
I also met a couple of 30-somethings who I played leap frog through the day. Dix was the woman’s 23rd 46er and told me of some great resources (p.s. there is an aspiring 46er Facebook Page. Oh social media). Her hiking partner also had one of those snazzy GPS systems that you could see your path, elevation and how far you are on the trail. Always fun to meet cool peeps and compare stories and hikes.
All and all it was a great first hike of the season. I hope the sunshine continues and after the cloud cover last summer I hope the ADK karma gods agree. Dix is one I’ll want to do again. I’ll do it later in the season with a drier slide and hotter day to take a dip in Round Pond afterward. With that view at the top it sure needs to be one I enjoy again!
Dix Mountain: completed 05/23/2015, total distance ~14.7 miles, hike time: 11 hrs, elevation 4,867, order of height 6