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.

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