Dix Range, An Idyllic Traverse

posted in: 46er, Adirondacks, Landscape | 1

This range is one of my favorites, and with the easiest access from Elk Lake closing for hunting season next week I had planned to loop hike all five peaks. Luckily, the Mayor and Sheriff of Scooterville (note: not elected positions) agreed to join so Kathy decided to come too, and we were able to spot a car for a traverse. Instead of Elk Lake, we planned the reverse route from my winter traverse with the mighty Joe Cedar, this time starting at the South Boquet River and ending at Round Pond.

The route through the South Boquet (strangely, pronounced boo-ket) River takes a meandering path, making four river crossings before leading to the base of a slide and up the north slope of Grace Peak. Luckily, the water levels were extraordinarily low and easy to rock-hop. The valley was still full of autumnal yellows and reds, yielding an ethereal glow to the morning sunlight. Most, but not all, of the trail was obvious, yet I was happy to linger back and get photos of the fall flora.

South Dix panorama
South Dix panorama

Once on the ridge we ran into quite a few hikers, obviously taking advantage of the last Elk Lake weekend. We summited Grace to sunshine and a cool breeze, with vast views of the southern Adirondacks and over to Vermont.

Making our way over to South Dix and up to Macomb, high clouds rolled overhead and the exposed summits were outright cold. It did, however, make the remaining color in the valleys more photogenic than in the bright sunshine.

Elk Lake vista from Macomb
Elk Lake vista from Macomb

We backtracked to South Dix again, where the ladies split and retraced their steps back to the Boquet while we gentlemen made our traverse to Round Pond. The ladies had paced us so far, so our challenge was to not overdo it, which the both of us are historically bad at doing. We jokingly told the ladies that we could now hurry and make Pough (a sub-peak) by 2:00PM. The joke was on us when we actually made it the third of a mile farther to Hough by then.

One of the things I love about Dix Mountain is how intimidating it is. Standing on Hough, the Beckhorn looms seemingly like an approaching iceberg. It’s impressive.

We actually paced ourselves ascending yet still crested the Beckhorn well before our initial time estimate. The clouds had lifted and the breeze was warming once again, and we enjoyed the summit to ourselves. As always, it’s a marvelous view down to Elk Lake and over to Mt. Marcy and the Great Range.

Vista from Dix; foreground Elk Lake, Nippletop; Marcy & Great Range behind; Whiteface & Esther distant at right.
Vista from Dix; foreground Elk Lake, Nippletop; Marcy & Great Range behind; Whiteface & Esther distant at right.

From here we put on the afterburners and descended the “steepest approach in the Adirondacks” in great time. It was snow covered when I ascended it prior, but it felt every bit as steep going down as up. The pitch finally relents at the base of a slide, where we took our final brief break.

I’m notorious for speeding up my exits; for some reason, no matter how tired I get the thought of completing a hike pushes me. Luckily, we were both in the same mindset and flew (sometimes literally) to the lean-to and down to Round Pond. The fading daylight caught the tip of Noonmark Mountain, basking its rocky summit in an orange glow. Likewise the still water on Round Pond perfectly reflected the autumnal treeline just as the sun was setting. There would be no time to stop and take a photo, as we were then on a mission to get back to the car before dark. We made it with likely no more than 10 minutes to spare.

The ladies, who had hiked almost as far as we had, also finished in daylight. We enjoyed a laugh and a drink before parting ways. The weather was perfect, the day was a success, and the Dixes again confirmed why they’re a favorite.

  1. Bill Joplin

    Hi, Sean, Thank you so much for all the stunningly beautiful pictures that you post. But I have to admit that I’ve chosen to write you only now because of the slight issue of how to pronounce and spell “Boquet.” First the spelling: You will often see it written as “Bouquet,” because, I guess, many people can’t wrap their heads around the fact that it’s supposed to be spelled “Boquet” (and is so on maps), which is precisely why many others of us pronounce it “Bo KET´” instead of “Boo KET´.” Since 1948, I have spent time at a family camp across Rt. 73 from the Ausable Club, and, when I was little, all the old folks there pronounced it “Bo KET´.” Any idea as to how the river got its name? I’ve never notice anything written about that, but I do like this fact, which maybe you know: “It’s the steepest river in NY State.”

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