Dix Mountain

View from Dix
View from Dix

It seemed like a long time since our last hike but I finally made it back to New York after a few long weeks of work.  The plan for the day was to get into the Dix range and try and climb Dix & Hough.  In my mind I thought it may be a stretch considering the forecast called for 90+ degree temperatures but we were still going into the day with the game plan of doing two mountains.  We got up bright and early once again scarfing down a quick homemade breakfast before hitting the road right around 530 a.m.  It was a little bit before 8 a.m. when we arrived at the St. Huberts parking area. Fortunately it wasn’t all that hot yet so we tried to take advantage and get going as fast as we could.  We headed up the road for only .3 miles before making a left for the trailhead typically used to hike Noonmark.  We signed in noticing only a few other people checked in for the day, mostly ones who were heading to Round Mountain or Noonmark so we anticipated a lonely day.

We started off down a gravel road which weaved its way through various cabins likely owned by individuals more financially significant than myself and to the turnoff for the trail towards Dix.  Almost immediately we started to ascend at a steady clip.  We continued on like this for a good quarter of a mile before coming across a couple signs marking the trail.  After this point we would go for almost a mile and a half before seeing any more signs.  The whole way up until now had been pretty steep, at the clip the elevation was increasing I figured without looking at the map we would need to hit a flat section sooner or later otherwise we’d be over 7000 feet by the end of the day.  We took a quick breather at a trail junction marking the ascent for Round Mountain.

Trail Junction, stay on the yellow trail markers for Dix
Trail Junction, stay on the yellow trail markers for Dix

We caught our breath and hydrated for a few minutes before heading off for Dix.  I couldn’t help but feel the temperature slowly rising so chugging water regularly was a necessity.  Fortunately the trail gives you a break after the first couple miles and flattens out for quite a long distance.  We tried to use the flat terrain to our advantage and cover as much ground as we could in the shortest time possible.  We went non stop until we reached our next major trail junction at which point we stopped again to hydrate and catch our breath.

From this point stay on the blue's
From this point stay on the blue’s

Knowing we only had 4.5 miles to reach Dix Mountain and given the time of day we were still pretty confident we would come away with 2 mountains.  With this in mind we wanted to keep the pace quick while the trail was flat.  We pushed on without stopping for another 45 minutes through relatively easy terrain.  The ground was mostly dirt with some boulders along side the trail.  We seemed to be following a small brook for the majority of this approximately 2 mile stretch until we reached a lean-to containing gear from some people likely staying the night.  Once again we took a break as the heat of the day was now becoming quite the factor.

We set the bag down and got a snack in the 90 degree weather
We set the bag down and got a snack in the 90 degree weather

After our break we hopped over a decent sized brook that was directly passed the lean-to.  The goal was to keep following the trail until we made it to an enormous slide essentially marking the start of the last ascent towards Dix.  We kept going on the relatively flat easy stretch of trail for what was about 45 minutes.  There were no real obstacles other than the heat standing in our way and then we made it to this…

yay...
yay…

Alas the big-ass slide we were looking for.  My initial impression was that we were going to follow this slide for quite some way.  That was not the case at all, when you approach this section the trail is a few hundred feet up on the right of the slide.  Seeing that the sun was out in full force I had no problem with getting back in the shade as even Andrews SPF 100 was going to be challenged.  Immediately the trail got steep, and steeper….and steeper until I literally started to laugh at how badly this mountain was kicking our ass.

This steep section of trail kept on going for what seemed like forever, in reality it was a little bit over a mile.  Finally after spending about 50 minutes slowly making our way towards the summit we got to a trail junction telling us we were only .4 miles away from the summit.  The heat was getting tough and I can think of few times where I had struggled so much climbing a mountain, and it was not for being out of shape.

Trail junction near the summit of Dix
Trail junction near the summit of Dix
About sums up the day
About sums up the day

We took a rest at the junction (Andrew almost took a nap) and then slowly made our way to the summit of Dix Mountain.  Even though we were so close our pace did not hasten much.  We did not stop however until we found the summit marker on a large rock making this high peak number 32 for me and 31 for Andrew.  The views from Dix were phenomenal despite being very hazy at the time.

High peak #32!
High peak #32!
Andrew made it to 31 despite a tough day
Andrew made it to 31 despite a tough day
View towards the Beckhorn
View towards the Beckhorn
Views towards Elk Lake
Views towards Elk Lake
Peering down the side of the mountain
Peering down the side of the mountain

We spent a good 20-30 minutes on the summit and talked to someone coming from Elk Lake, he had already done the rest of the range on the day but had also started about 3 hours sooner than us and was camping out.  We drank a ton of water and downed a few clif bars before making our way off of the beautiful summit.  Andrew and I knew that we were going to be in for a very slow descent initially due to the very steep section of trail.  Once we were going down we moved at a snails pace especially given all of the loose rocks and gravel that were making this a bit treacherous.  It took just under an hour to get back to the base of the enormous slide.  We decided to take a rest and give our knees a break, I decided to throw a huge rock and watch it shatter (which was sadly entertaining).  After our break we went pretty much non-stop until we made it back to the lean-to that we had rested at before.

Once again we rested as the heat was still a factor considering it was only about 3:00 p.m.  I ate the last of my food in preparation for the last part of our day which was fortunately going to be a pretty flat straight forward trip out of the woods.  We took off towards the massive trail junction we arrived at earlier in the day, and in about a half hour we managed to get there.  We knew we were heading at a decent clip so we just kept on going until we reached another junction.  From here I started to count the mileage we had left in my head by counting steps (yes I do these things don’t ask why).  I am pleased to say I was very accurate with my counting as just as I figured we would be done we made it back to the gravel road.  Andrew signed us out and we made the walk down Ausable Road to the car.  We were done a bit earlier than we had grown accustomed to so we went for a nice dinner at the ADK Café before heading back.

 

Recommendation to Hikers:  Dix was a tough one for sure, I think it was certainly compounded by the heat we were experiencing that day.  Aspiring 46ers will probably want to hike Dix along with Hough, or if you are very ambitious try out the whole Dix Range (Dix, Hough, South Dix, Grace, Macomb).  The average hiker would really love the views from the top as I rank it as one of the best in the Adirondacks, however the un-relenting final section may be a bit of a drawback if you are not in shape.

 

Dix:  Difficulty – 10  Views – 10

 

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Mt Donaldson & Mt Emmons

View from Mt Donaldson
View from Mt Donaldson

A few weeks after our New Hampshire excursion Andrew and I decided it was time to get into the Sewards.  The days before we planned to hike Donaldson, Emmons, and Seward and we figured to go get Seymour some other time. We knew we were going to be in for one heck of a day so we got up early and hit the road around 530.  The goal was to get started at about 8 a.m. as the drive to Coreys Road was going to be longer than what we would typically drive.  We had stopped a couple times along the way so we were running a little later than I had hoped for.  Just as we were within 2 miles of Coreys Road we ran into construction which set us back another 20 minutes so the day was getting very frustrating and it was yet to begin.  Finally we were able to make it down Coreys Road and to the trailhead.  By now it was 9 oclock so getting out before dark was going to be challenging.  Nonetheless we got the gear on, signed in and took off on a torrid pace for Calkins Brook.  I couldn’t help but think that the trail was in fantastic shape for something that is not supposed to be all that well traveled.  We used this to our advantage as we made our way very quickly to our first trail junction.  From here we veered to the right and kept making our way down what was a very gradually descending trail.

It was only another quarter of a mile or so before we made it to our next trail junction and much like the previous one we made a right.  It was from here we would go until we intersected Calkins Brook.  We walked for a solid 40 minutes until we came across a cairn with a bucket lodged into it.  Andrew did not seem to think this was our turnoff so we kept going down the incredibly well maintained foot path to the right.  At this point we kept going over a few bridges and down this trail for what seemed like another mile until I got that feeling we went the wrong way.  I went with my gut and had Andrew check the map.  We weren’t too sure of where we were exactly but something told me we needed to go back to that cairn.  In about 15 minutes we made it to the cairn.

When you get to this cairn take a left to Calkins Brook
When you get to this cairn take a left to Calkins Brook

Our mistake was realized and saw that the trail did in fact go left at the cairn to Calkins Brook.  Annoyed that we wasted a half hour of daylight we made our way down a relatively flat stretch of trail until we reached Calkins Brook at which point we took our first real break of the day to refuel.

Look for another cairn at Calkins Brook marking the trail
Look for another cairn at Calkins Brook marking the trail

After getting some food and water back into our systems we took off Mt Donaldson.  The trail spends most of its time paralleling Calkins Brook until you get to higher elevation.  It started off with a pretty manageable gradient although the trail did zig and zag all over the place.  Despite this fact the trail was always very easy to follow thanks to the high volume of 46ers that have previously made this climb.  We stayed at this pretty steady but not crazy uphill climb for about 1.5 miles non stop until we noticed the trail was getting steeper.  We figured that this was a good point to take a quick breather in order to get ready for this inevitably steeper climb ahead of us.  A couple minutes passed and we started making the steep climb up to Donaldson.  The trail did narrow in some spots but just as before it was very easy to follow.  We kept up a slower but steady pace until we made it to another cairn marking the turnoff to get to Seward.

Cairn marking start of trail toward Seward Mountain
Cairn marking start of trail toward Seward Mountain

From here we knew it would only be a short distance to get to Mt Donaldson’s summit, but it certainly did not come without its challenges.  The hike to make it to the summit we figured would be between .3-.4 miles based off of our interpretation of the map which was admittedly suspect considering events occurring a couple hours ago.  The trail got very muddy and steep for quite some time making it challenging to keep decent footing.

Trail near the summit got pretty steep
Trail near the summit got pretty steep

After about 10 minutes of going through mud and rock the terrain started to flatten out and we knew we were nearing the summit.  Before long we saw a couple hikers sitting on a rock outcrop which happened to be the summit of Mt Donaldson, marking my 30th high peak and Andrews 29th.

Andrew posing at the summit disk for Donaldson
Andrew posing at the summit disk for Donaldson
High peak number 30!
High peak number 30!
Checking out the surprisingly good view from Mt Donaldson
Checking out the surprisingly good view from Mt Donaldson
Andrew on Donaldson
Andrew on Donaldson

After taking 10 minutes to enjoy the views and get some nutrition back into our systems it was time to go for Emmons.  By our estimates it was going to be just about a mile until we got to Emmons summit.  The trail to Emmons was very muddy and at times very narrow.  About .25 miles from Donaldson’s summit was a great lookout of Lower, Middle, and Upper Saranac Lakes which was essentially the only highlight of heading to Emmons.

Hazy day made the views a little obscured but a spectacular perspective nonetheless
Hazy day made the views a little obscured but a spectacular perspective nonetheless
Get ready for plenty of this crap when hiking Emmons
Get ready for plenty of this crap when hiking Emmons

We kept going up and down as the trail was at no point very flat from what I can recall.  Eventually we could see the summit of Emmons poking its head through the thick forest.

Emmons in the distance
Emmons in the distance

We made our way through some rock scrambles until finally the trail began to get a little more consistently uphill signaling that we were getting pretty close to the summit.  Before long we saw a large rock scramble and at the top of this was the summit marker for Mt Emmons.  This underwhelming peak was number 31 out of 46 for me and number 30 for Andrew.

Me myself and I on Mt Emmons
Me myself and I on Mt Emmons
Andrew getting number 30
Andrew getting number 30
The only
The only “view” from Emmons

We spent a few minutes at the summit just to catch our breath and eat before we decided it was time to start heading back.  Even though we wanted to try and push it to Seward we both knew in the back of our minds it was out of the cards at this point given how much daylight we had left and all the delays from earlier in the day.  I couldn’t help but want to go for it the entire way back to Donaldson but after sitting down at Donaldson’s summit for a second time I knew we needed to head back.  We took 5 and made our way back down to the cairn marking the turnoff for Seward.  We took a look at Seward knowing we would have to come back for it some other time.

The way down was pretty uneventful as we kept a steady pace and kept ourselves entertained until we made our way all the way back to Calkins Brook.  It took us just under 2 hrs to make it from Donaldson back to the brook.  From here we knew it was going to be a pretty easy trek out so we picked up the pace to try and get out as quick as possible.  It was a little over and hour of putting our heads down and moving before we finally saw the parking lot and trail register.  The hike took us 10 hours total and had we got an earlier start we would have likely gone after Seward.  All in all we had a good day and got 2 closer to being a 46er.

Recommendation to Hikers:  For the average hiker just trying to get outside and enjoy some view I would not suggest getting into the Sewards, too remote and you don’t get the reward of a breath taking view.  For the aspiring 46er its best to do these two together and then go for Seward if you have more daylight and get an earlier start than we were able to.  The hike was not as challenging as expected but make sure you’re ready for some muddy trails.

Donaldson:  Difficulty: 6  Views: 5

Emmons:  Difficulty: 6  Views:  1