Dix Range Traverse – Dix, Hough, S. Dix, E. Dix, & Macomb

Wanting to finish my summer off in style, I made one last 800-mile drive to climb more mountains. Wanting to satiate my inner masochist, I chose a day hike of the 5-peak Dix Range.

My planned route was to start off at Elk Lake, following the Dix Trail to the Beckhorn Trail. From the summit of Dix, I planned to hike herd paths to Hough, South Dix (Carson)*, East Dix (Grace)*, Macomb, and down via Slide Brook. Unfortunately neither Kathy nor Ben could join me, so this would be my first solo hike.

The weather was forecast to be crisp and cool, and leaving the hotel at 4:40 AM the thermometer read 34 degrees. Arriving at the Elk Lake trailhead at 6:25 AM, the flat and wide start of the Dix Trail felt a bit like a superhighway compared to most trails in the Adirondacks. Making pretty good time passing the Slide Brook, I made a couple brief photo stops at Lillian Brook and Dix Pond, and turned to go up the Beckhorn Trail at 8:30 AM.

Dix Pond

The trail was nicer than I expected, with some welcomed flat spots and mostly soft underfoot, and 90 minutes later I was enjoying the breathtaking panoramas from atop the Beckhorn. Even though Dix is the 6th highest peak, and the Beckhorn a few feet shorter, from atop the rocks it feels like the top of the Adirondacks.

The short walk along the ridge to Dix’s summit was sheltered from the whipping wind, which battled the sun all day long to keep the summits chilly. I lingered a bit on the summit, my 22nd, and made my way back to the Beckhorn for the herd path to Hough.

The way down from Dix is steep with rocky pitches. Unfortunately I took a unique way down when, mistaking a vista side trail as the herd path, I stepped down onto a false bottom just deep enough to prevent a backtrack. Looking at the ridge to Hough to my left, I had to bushwhack along the contour line back to the herd path.

The rest of the way to Hough along the ridge was uneventful, but as I found with this range, they have some steep pitches leading to the summits. My 23rd peak, Hough offered nice westward views as well as looks back towards the Beckhorn – which in retrospect I was glad to be going ‘from’ and not ‘to’.

The herd path to South Dix (my 24th) was similar, with a short steep pitch at the very end. I noted the cairn marking the path to Macomb on my way up, and briefly enjoyed the view from a rocky outcropping just next to the actual summit.

Pressing on towards East Dix was a nice, comfortable herd path which took me a speedy 30 minutes. I hadn’t read too many descriptions of these peaks, so I was pleasantly surprised by the vistas offered from my 25th summit. I hadn’t planned to linger but couldn’t resist.

Back to South Dix, I was preparing myself for one more peak, which followed the side trail at a cairn just off the summit. The side trail drops quickly onto open rock ledges, with wide views and – importantly for someone 8 hours into a hike with aching knees – a clear view of Macomb hovering ~500 feet above.

I quickly came to the cairn marking the Lillian Brook path, which is the last path back down to the Dix Trail until the other side of the summit. This was one of those ‘Adirondacks’ moments for me, where my mind pushed past where my body wanted to stop, and I pressed upward. It was steeper than I expected or wanted at the beginning, but the slope mercifully leveled off, and even my knees were happy as I summited my 26th peak – Macomb Mountain.

View of Colvin and Great Ranges
View of the Colvin and Great Ranges from Macomb

Just like the rest in this range, there were great views from the summit. I drank the rest of my water, lingered over some photos, and headed down.

Doing the range clockwise like I was meant descending via the Slide Brook – and the Macomb slide. As I was crisscrossing the rock and rubble, each step a mini-avalanche, I marveled at how entire swaths of mountainside can wash off, but there is still rubble on the Macomb slide.

The rest of the path followed the Slide Brook and was a nice, soft, easy trail. By the bottom (which I’ll admit seemed to take forever) my knees felt fine, and I booked my way back to the car at 5:42 PM. It wasn’t as long as my trip to Skylight & Gray, but had the same sunrise-to-sunset satisfaction of a perfect day climbing Adirondack mountains.

2012: 22 high peaks (+2 repeats) As of 9/20/12: 26 (out of 46) high peaks completed.

Our 2012 high peaks: Big Slide; the Wolfjaws & Armstrong; Marcy; Gothics & Sawteeth; Street & Nye; Phelps; Rocky Peak Ridge & Giant; Skylight & Gray; Wright, Algonquin, & Iroquois; Dial & Nippletop; Dix, Hough, S. Dix, E. Dix & Macomb

*Efforts are underway to rename East Dix to Grace and South Dix to Carson.

Edit: See: Our Path to 46.