While lots of people hike the Dix Range in a day, my hiking partner and I decided we’d rather split it up into a few different hikes. Grace Peak was one of our last hikes of 2015 – and one of our toughest when it came to following a herd path covered in leaves and a bit of fresh show. Last year, we climbed Macomb, South Dix, and Hough from the Elk Lake trailhead, but we left the tallest of the range, Dix, for another day. So last Monday, we set out from the Round Pond trailhead off Route 73 to tackle our final climb in the Dix Mountain Wilderness.
The first part of the hike was an uphill but fairly gentle hike to Round Pond, which was stunning in the morning light.
After Round Pond, things leveled out for a long time, and while it was really nice to be hiking on soft, level ground for miles, it was tough not to think about how much we’d pay for that when we finally started the part of the hike with real elevation gain. Most of it happens in the last mile and a half, right after this slide.
After ascending the slide just a bit – maybe a couple hundred feet – you’ll spot a cairn that shows the trail back into the woods.
And this is where the real climbing begins.
The last mile and a half of this hike is steep, but it was comparable to other tough miles we’ve done – the col between Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge, the col between Colvin and Blake, the last miles of Allen and Colden, from Avalanche Lake. Also, there are two kinds of steep in the Adirondacks. There’s “Holy Moses, how are we going to climb up that cliff without dying” steep and “Wow, this is making me super tired” steep. This last mile of Dix was the latter, so it wasn’t all that bad, and about an hour later, we arrived huffing and puffing at the summit, where we were greeted by a circling raven and spectacular 360-degree views.
Elk Lake from the summit of Dix…
Hiking the ridge line on our way down felt like climbing along the edge of the world.
On the hike down, there were more lovely views – a view from the slide, a look back at the mountain in the afternoon sun, and a friendly frog in a pool not far from the slide.
By the time we made it back to our car in the parking area near the trailhead, we’d put in 14.4 miles in just about nine hours, including an hour-long lunch and photography break on the summit. This is for sure a hike I’d do again once my 46 are complete, if not before. I’ll bet that view from the summit is even more spectacular in autumn.
* The Grace of “Dear Grace” is Grace Hudowalski, the first woman to climb all 46 high peaks. She was a founding member of the Adirondack 46ers, the group’s 1st president, and later on, its secretary and historian, roles she filled until she died in 2004. It used to be that if you wanted to be a 46er, you had to log each climb by writing a handwritten letter to Grace. And Grace would write back. She answered thousands and thousands of letters, with encouraging words and sometimes, her own reflections on a climb, too. Today, the 46er application process is simplified; one only needs to keep simple climb records on a club form that can be downloaded. There’s an online correspondent program now, too, and while I like my correspondent a whole lot, I still wish I’d had the chance to climb these mountains and write paper letters about them when Grace was around to read them. I love her story and her strength and the way she urged others to get outside and explore and tell their stories. So I’ve decided to write the letters anyway. I think Grace would have liked that.