Thursday, May 29, 2014

Dix Range Traverse 2014-05-29

Tom (Boghollow) and I toured the five peaks of the Dix Range via the "Boquet to Round" route (a.k.a. "73-to-73"; route 73 at North Fork Boquet river to route 73 at Round Pond trail-head; ~6200 feet ascent and 16 miles). We, as well as a handful of other hikers we met, were treated to a beautiful, sunny, bug-free day in the mountains.

We parked Tom's vehicle at Round Pond (where we saw Neil's car; he and Jean-Luc were climbing the Beckhorn Slide) and left my car parked north of the stone bridge spanning the North Fork Boquet river.

It was my fourth traverse and on the previous three trips I had started on the southern side of the river. The trail follows the river and then, within a mile, crosses over to the northern side. To avoid this river-crossing, we started on the northern side of the river. If you go this way, within 200 yards you reach a clearing overlooking the river. To continue westward, follow the faint path leading up the hill. We headed down to the river and within short-order the path petered out. Guessing the path was high above us, we headed up along a very steep incline, covered in loose rocks and sand, and intersected it. The remainder of the path was easy to follow but less worn than the south-side path.

Tom at Shoebox Falls.
Eventually the northern approach joins the "regular" path. The intersection lies several hundred yards north-west of the river-crossing. It was Tom's first time in the area so we backtracked to the river so he could see the site of the water-crossing. I pointed out the curved cedar tree and its very faint paint-blaze. It is understandable why hikers following the south-side path can easily miss the location of the river-crossing.

At the next major water-crossing we met two backpackers and their dog. They were exiting after having spent a dew days exploring the area. Shortly before the large camp-site, we met three DEC Rangers who were heading to East Dix and Spotted. Two of the rangers were new to the Boquet river valley and the third was giving them a tour. Each ranger was responsible for a different region in the High Peaks area and we spent a good while there talking to them. I took the opportunity to receive confirmation that the camp-site at Lake Marie-Louise is a legal site. We bid them good bye and continued on our way but would meet them again at least two more times.

Upon reaching the Great Slide, we discovered its surface was very wet. We walked out onto the wet rock and concluded the slippery conditions weren't ideal for an easy and fun ascent. We turned back into the woods and followed the herd-path to the col. The summit of East Dix (Grace) offered excellent views of the Dix Wilderness and its many interesting peaks.

Tom admiring the view from East Dix (Grace).
The hike to South Dix (Carson) always seems longer to me than the stated mileage. We didn't spend any time on its summit and continued on to Macomb. We descended South Dix's three areas of open-rock and began the ascent of Macomb. Macomb's summit provided a great view of the Elk Lake region awash in fresh, spring-green. We paused for a snack and then began the return-trip to South Dix.

Elk Lake and spring-green.
Lost in conversation, Pough went by quickly. A steep ascent signaled we were approaching the summit of Hough. We clambered over its south-eastern "lookout rocks" and emerged on its summit. Hough's summit-disk is missing and someone used the tree as a shrine. We paused for a snack and prepared ourselves for the final ascent of the day.

New marker on Hough.
The drop into the col was quick. As we began the ascent, pausing at each of the lookouts along the way we met a group of hikers descending Dix and returning to their camp in the valley. They mentioned meeting two hikers, about an hour earlier, who had climbed the Beckhorn Slide. We indicated we knew them; maybe we'd even see them. The final section of trail leading to the Beckhorn is steep and features a few chest-high steps. The last obstacle is a ten-foot long, V-shaped incline I call the "rock trough". Someone left a knotted rope to serve as a handrail but I opted to ignore it and accept the trough's challenge on its own terms. A few foot-jams are all that's needed to ascend the trough. We arrived on the Beckhorn forty-five minutes after leaving the summit of Hough.

We paused on the Beckhorn to look back at the peaks we had climbed; East Dix seemed far away. We sauntered over to Dix's summit and sat down for a break. The summit was deserted and we spent about forty minutes enjoying the fine weather and excellent views. The descent was rough and made me pine for winter when one can effortlessly glissade down this steep stretch of trail.

Time for a break on Dix.
We rock-hopped across the Boquet river and met a group of young hikers, and their group-leader, at the lean-to. We paused to chat with the leader who recounted how he had submerged his waterproof camera in Phelps brook and recorded the movement of inquisitive trout. The posted video was seen and pruchased by Orvis. The group was planning to hike to Dix the following day and we suggested they get an early start to avoid the predicted thunder-showers.

From the lean-to to the parking lot I talked Tom's ears off about the situation in Ukraine. Along the way we paused to talk with a young couple heading in to camp at the lean-to. We explained it was full but if they walked about two hundred yards south of the lean-to they would find camp-sites. We bid them goodbye and the monologue returned to the subject of all things Ukrainian.

Round Pond came and went and then we were back at Tom's truck. A quick trip back to my car was followed by refreshments and a discussion of what was left on our respective itineraries to complete a Spring round. We made tentative plans to reconvene in three days, to tackle the Seward Range and Seymour, and then bid one another goodbye. Another enjoyable Dix Range Traverse had come to a close and it was time to clean up and make tracks for home.

See all photos.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Street, Nye, Porter, and Cascade. 2014-05-25

On Sunday, I hiked the last three peaks to complete my fourth round of the ADK 46. My log indicates I need to visit nine more peaks to complete my fifth round but I'm currently focused on finishing my first Spring round. Anyway, record-keeping aside, it was a lovely day to be in the mountains and Street, Nye, Porter, and Cascade made for a great day of hiking.

I arrived around 7:40 AM and managed to secure a parking spot at the Loj. I signed in at 8:00 AM and noticed there were four groups ahead of me. I caught up with the first group, a father and his two sons, at Indian Pass Brook. They were busy donning waders. I put on sport sandals and forded the knee deep waters of the brook. On the opposite bank I dried my feet, put my trail-runners back on and hung my wet sandals in a tree for the return trip. Others who followed did the same.

Fording spot on Indian Pass Brook.

Shoe tree.
The herd-path to Street and Nye was in good shape and easy to follow. I passed the second and third groups before reaching the muddier sections around 3000' elevation. Upon reaching the junction, I turned left for Street. The messiest bit of trail was found a short distance past the junction.

I arrived on Street at 10:00 AM. The lookout offered a limited view so I climbed a tree to get a better view of the surroundings, namely the McIntyre range, Lost Pond Peak, and MacNaughton.

View from Street (if you climb a tree).
On Nye I met the fourth group. Nye's summit is wooded but a nearby boulder, "Nye's Rock", provides a decent view of the McIntyres. In fact, it's better than what you can see from Street (unless you climb a tree).

The re-crossing of Indian Pass Brook was greatly appreciated. On the brook's opposite shore, I soaked my feet in its cold waters until they were numb. Refreshed, I ambled along the well-defined path, taking pictures of flowers, amphibians, and anything else that caught my eye.

Painted Trillium.

I signed out at 12:40 PM and found the parking lot was now full. I topped up my hydration bladder at the HPIC (exterior faucet is located on the building's south side) in preparation for my next hike. I told the attendant that I would not be returning and one extra parking space was now available. As I drove past South Meadows Road I estimated at least two hundred cars lined both sides of the road! I passed a half-dozen more cars heading in the direction of the Loj.

The four parking areas at the Cascade trail-head were full and cars were parked on the shoulders. By sheer luck, I found one empty space right next to the staircase leading to the trail! I dumped a few items out of my pack and departed at 1:10 PM. The trail looked like this:

Trail to Cascade and Porter.

Among the dozens of hikers ascending and descending I recognized a familiar face and greeted Cory_D. I don't know what he was up to but I'm sure Cascade was just a small part of his day's itinerary.

I arrived on Porter's summit at 2:30 PM. I chatted with a few folks and then made my way back to the junction and on to Cascade. Judging by the number of hikers on its summit, you'd think someone had lured them there with an offer of "Free beer!" It wasn't free booze but a warm, sunny holiday weekend and spectacular views of the High Peaks that drew the crowds. I spent a few minutes talking with aspiring 46ers then began my descent.

Busy day on Porter.

Approaching Cascade's summit.

I was back at my car at 4:05 PM, pleased to have completed my fourth round. I was about to descend to the creek to wash off the day's mud and sweat when I was greeted by Veggielasagna. She had just completed a challenging hike over Cascade, Porter and Big Slide followed by a bushwhack; she's one tough hiker! Whereas I was a sodden mess, she looked neat as a pin! We were approached by a couple who were looking for a ride back to their car and Veggielasagna agreed to take them. We said our goodbyes and I made a beeline to the creek to wash away the souvenirs of the Cascade trail.

See all photos.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Colvin Blake and Sawteeth 2014-05-21

It was a beautiful spring morning in the High Peaks; cool, windless, cloudless, and, as a bonus, no pesky insects. The clouds would roll in but not the bugs so the DEET stayed in its bottle all day.

A fine spring day.
Generally speaking, the trails were far drier than I had expected. The paths leading to Colvin and Blake, lying on the north side of their respective peaks, featured a few very short stretches of ice but nothing that demanded microspikes (and I didn't bring any). All stream crossings were easily rock-hopped. I ended the day with just a few muddy streaks on my shoes. I'd call that "dry" for the High Peaks.

A few short icy sections on the way to Blake.
I've often walked by the "side attractions" but this time I paused to check them out. I took the short detour to the "The Flume" and inspected the three campsites along Gill Brook.

The Flume.

The "ice wall" on Colvin is mostly melted and the "bypass" now appears to be the main route up this obstacle. The "Colvin Step" seemed extra tall and had me using my arms to haul myself up. Upon my return from Blake, I met a trail crew and discovered they had piled several logs at the base of the Step and made it a little less "sporting". They also removed all the fallen trees that I had encountered along the trail.

The "Ice Wall". December/May

There's nothing new to report about the trail between Colvin and Blake. The ladders are intact and the steep sections are heavily eroded. Whatever dead-fall I had encountered has been eliminated by the trail crew.

Upon returning to the col from Blake's summit, I decided to change my route and head down the Elevator Shaft to the Warden's Camp. I dropped about a hundred feet and then a little voice said to turn back. My shoes weren't very "grippy" and the steep descent wasn't enjoyable. Besides, there's more "elly gain" if you go back over Colvin.

To get to the Lake Road, I headed over Fish Hawk Cliffs and Indianhead. A few hikers were resting on the rocks and admiring the impressive view of Lower Ausable Lake flanked by Colvin and Sawteeth.

View from Indianhead.
By the time I began my ascent of Sawteeth via the Weld trail, I had nearly finished my 1.5 liters of water. I stopped twice to guzzle about a liter of untreated water (I left my Steripen at home). I selected the smallest trickles emerging from the earth in the hope it would minimize sources of contamination. Time will tell if I chose correctly.

Before reaching the Sawteeth-Pyramid col, I met another trail crew. They had cleared the trail of fallen obstacles and were returning home. The Weld trail is in fine shape from the dam to the col. I found a few more icy spots along the route to Sawteeth but nothing that made me regret leaving my microspikes at home. Frost heave has loosed several large rocks and it behooves one to avoid stepping on them and causing them to roll away.

My feet, unaccustomed to hiking in lightweight shoes, were achy during the descent. In addition, the shoes seemed to lose traction at the most inopportune moments so I decided this would be their last hike.

Shortly before reaching the dam, I saw three-quarters of a garter snake protruding from a hole in a stump. I watched as it emerged from stump, did some "snake yoga" and then slid back into the stump. 

3/4 of a garter snake.
Upon reaching the dam, I stowed my poles, removed my gaiters, and headed to the Lake Road. I was looking forward to the road-walk; it's a gentle, downhill walk that's a refreshing change from rock-hopping on steep trails. Along the way I saw an interesting sculpture hewn by beavers, several curious deer, fresh spring flowers and just a handful of other hikers enjoying the fine day.

Beaver sculpture.

Hike distance and ascent: 18 miles and approximately 6300 feet.


See all photos.


Snake yoga.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Ha-Ma-Ta 2014-05-06

Haystack, Marcy, and Tabletop
Tuesday, May 6, 2014

On Tuesday, Neil and I spent ten hours roaming around the High Peaks. I visited Haystack, Marcy and Tabletop whereas Neil tagged Marcy and explored Panther Gorge.

Spring is evident in the valleys (< 3000') which are now free of snow and ice. The trail to Marcy Dam is wet and muddy but not unduly so. The Van Hoevenberg trail becomes icy upon crossing Phelps Brook (2800') and snowy around Indian Falls (3500'). The trails were hard-packed and spikes were adequate for Haystack, Marcy, and Tabletop.

In the Haystack-Marcy col, I stashed my snowshoes and headed to Haystack. Neil wore snowshoes for the bushwhack into the Gorge. The initial steep section of trail up Horse Hill still has good snow coverage but a few yawning holes, and the sound of rushing water, indicate its days are numbered.

Marcy has impressive snow coverage and it is mostly hard-packed. I was able to descend its north-east side (next to the huge "snow-bowl") in microspikes. 

Tabletop provided the trickiest bit of trail owing to a high and narrow snow-spine. Combined with late-afternoon softening of the snow, it was challenging to remain atop the narrow spine.

See all photos.

Van Hoevenberg-Phelp trail junction.

The Haystacks.

Marcy's snowy northern face.

Snow-spine on Tabletop: 1 foot wide and 3 feet high.

Haystack, Marcy, and Tabletop from Adk Loj: 18.7 miles and ~6700 feet.