The Adirondack Forty-Sixers and the Town of North Hudson are sponsoring a day-long festival on June 20, 2015 at the Town of North Hudson Park, off State Route 9, to celebrate the official renaming of Grace Peak.
The 46ers led a 12-year campaign to rename East Dix in the Dix Mountain Wilderness “Grace Peak” in honor of Grace Hudowalski, the first woman to climb the 46 High Peaks, and long-time promoter of the recreational opportunities in the Adirondacks. The United States Board of Geographic Names approved the 46ers’ petition for the naming of Grace Peak in June, 2014. » Continue Reading.
The trail to Dix Mountain from Round Pond is named one the steepest in the Adirondack High Peaks. I worry about early winter slush but on Saturday we had good conditions. Temperatures stayed well below freezing all day. Just before the infamous climb up the mountain you reach a slide. The view is incredible and one of my favorites in the park. It’s about 13.5 miles round trip from the Round Pond trailhead off Route 73. Give yourself plenty of time because there is a lot to explore.
Shortly after moving to the Adirondacks in 1996, I climbed Giant Mountain. Not only was it my first High Peak, it was the first time I’d climbed anything higher than the hill in the back yard where I grew up.
While incredibly rewarding, the hike was harder than I had imagined even though I was a fit, thirty-year-old marathon runner. It was humbling. Nevertheless, like many others before me, I was hooked on the Adirondack Mountains, and I wanted more.
That same year Grace Leach Hudowalski celebrated her ninetieth birthday, an occasion covered in the local papers. I’d never heard of Grace or the Adirondack Forty-Sixers, but I was smitten by the photo of her beaming with her birthday cake, proudly sporting her Forty-Sixer patch. » Continue Reading.
On Friday I hiked Grace Peak (formerly East Dix) from Route 73 in Keene Valley. Look for the stone bridge that crosses the Boquet River, there is small parking area right after the bridge. The herd path starts along the South side of the river and continues along the North and South Fork. The path is unmarked but very easy to follow. This part of the Dix Mountain wilderness is beautiful open forest with mostly flat terrain. To reach the summit you can take the slide or continue along the herd path to the col between Grace and Carson (South Dix).
Less than two months after hikers placed a commemorative sign on top of Grace Peak, state officials have decided it must come down.
On June 21, a large group of hikers gathered on the summit to celebrate—with champagne and cake—the renaming of the 4,012-foot mountain from East Dix to Grace Peak in honor of the late Grace Hudowalski, the longtime historian of the Adirondack Forty-Sixers.
The northern cirque of Dix Mountain hosts one of the region’s best slide climbing destinations with numerous tracks of quality rock. Even if you’re not an adventurer, it’s difficult not to appreciate the artistry and power of nature while driving from Keene to Keene Valley on Route 73.
Collectively known as the Finger slides, the array is arranged from southwest to northeast spanning ½ mile beginning with the Thumb slide and ending with the Pinky (Per Drew Haas’ Slide Guide). Multiple slides sometimes make up one finger.
Though several slides existed prior to the cloudburst, they were recreated in their current incarnation during the second week of August in 1993; Adirondacks Alive by Olaf Sööt and Don Mellor shows an excellent photo of the fresh slides. Not surprisingly, climbers began exploring soon thereafter. A few years later the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) reported that a scrambler was injured by a falling rock; a reminder of the inherent danger of slide climbing. While the approach is fairly long, it’s via a scenic trail that passes Round Pond and traverses along the North Fork Boquet River. » Continue Reading.
The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) have reopened access to several High Peaks wilderness areas and facilities. The Eastern Zone of the High Peaks Wilderness and the Giant Mountain Wilderness have reopened, although the Dix Mountain Wilderness and several area trails remain closed. ADK has reopened the Adirondak Loj and Wilderness Campground at Heart Lake and the Johns Brook Lodge in the Johns Brook Valley.
Roads to those facilities were among several that were washed out when the remnants of Tropical Storm Irene slammed into the eastern slopes of the Adirondacks causing widespread damage and destruction, especially along the Ausable and Bouquet Rivers, into the Keene Valley, and the High Peaks. State Route 73 is now open between Lake Placid and Keene Valley, and may be accessed by taking Route 9N from Elizabethtown. Route 73 remains closed between the Hamlet of Keene Valley and the Route 9 intersection, but is expected to open by next weekend. » Continue Reading.
Before Tropical Storm Irene hit, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) closed campgrounds in the Adirondacks and urged people to stay out of the wilderness. In so doing, the department no doubt disappointed hikers and campers as well as the businesses that cater to them, but a spokesman contends that it was the right call. “Based on the damage we’re seeing, we’re confident we saved lives by doing that,” David Winchell said.
Winchell also defended the closure of the eastern High Peaks, Dix Mountain Wilderness, and Giant Mountain Wilderness—perhaps the most popular hiking regions in Adirondack Park. He said the trails are unsafe for hiking. Many trails have been deeply eroded, and some have been partially buried by landslides. Raging floodwaters washed away bridges, boardwalks, and ladders. There also is a lot of blowdown.
The good news is that the damage appears to have been concentrated in the three Wilderness Areas. “There’s still plenty of opportunities for hiking.” Winchell said.
Just about any place in the central or western Adirondacks probably is safe, Winchell said, but he cautioned that hikers should be prepared to encounter some blowdown and wet sections of trail. He said hikers may experience more difficulties in the eastern Adirondacks, such as in the Lake George Wild Forest and Pharaoh Lake Wilderness, but those regions remain open.
Even Forest Preserve tracts near the closed Wilderness Areas seem to have weathered the storm well, Winchell said. As a matter of fact, I hiked seven miles to Duck Hole in the western High Peaks yesterday and encountered only occasional blowdown, easily skirted or stepped over. I went there to take photos of Duck Hole, which is now largely muck, thanks to a breach in its dam. If you want to see the desolation of Duck Hole, you can start, as I did, at the Upper Works trailhead in Newcomb.
But given the closure of the three Wilderness Areas, many people may be wondering where they can hike near Lake Placid or Keene regions. Here are ten suggestions:
Haystack Mountain: 3.3-mile hike, with 1,240 feet of ascent. Start on Route 86 between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake.
Scarface Mountain: 3.2 miles, 1,480 feet of ascent. Start on Ray Brook Road in Ray Brook.
McKenzie Mountain: 3.6 miles, 1,940 feet of ascent. Start on Whiteface Inn Road in Lake Placid.
Whiteface Landing/Whiteface Mountain: 3.0 miles to landing, 7.4 to Whiteface summit, with 3,232 feet of ascent. Start on Route 86 east of Lake Placid.
Copperas Pond: 0.5 miles. Start on Route 86 east of Lake Placid.
Hurricane Mountain: 2.6 miles, 2,000 feet of ascent. Start on Route 9N between Keene and Elizabethtown. (The road to Crow Clearing, the start of another Hurricane trail, is washed out.)
Pitchoff Mountain: 1.6 miles to Balanced Rock or 5.2 miles for one-way traverse of Pitchoff summits, with 1,400 feet of ascent to main summit. Both trailheads on Route 73 between Keene and Lake Placid.
Baker Mountain: 0.9 miles, 900 feet of ascent. Start next to Moody Pond in village of Saranac Lake.
McKenzie Pond: 2.0 miles. Start on McKenzie Pond Road between Saranac Lake and Ray Brook.
Ampersand Mountain: 2.7 miles, 1,775 feet of ascent. Start on Route 3 west of Saranac Lake.
Photo: A closed trailhead in Keene. Courtesy Phil Brown.
Dozens of new landslides have been reported in the High Peaks following heavy rains and winds from the remnants of Hurricane Irene which reached the Eastern Adirondacks as a Tropical Storm on Sunday.
Regular Alamanack contributor and Adirondack Explorer editor Phil Brown snapped a photo of a new slide on Wright Peak, near Angel Slide. Formally two adjoining scars, Angel Slide is a well-known destination for expert backcountry skiers named in honor of Toma Vracarich who was killed in an avalanche there in 2000. The slide now includes a third route, longer than the rest. » Continue Reading.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued a warning Wednesday afternoon that unsafe conditions will remain in much of the backcountry of the Adirondacks through Labor Day Weekend and beyond following the devastating impacts of the remnants of Hurricane Irene. The most seriously affected areas include of some most popular areas in the Eastern Adirondacks. Several trail areas are closed or inaccessible due to Hurricane Irene storm damage include flooding, bridge wash outs, trail wash outs and blow down of trees and other debris.
Citing the extent of the damage and ensuring public safety, DEC has closed the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness, Giant Mountain Wilderness and Dix Mountain Wilderness through Labor Day Weekend and beyond. Areas in the Western Adirondacks are reported in fairly good condition though some flooding and blowdown can be expected. Most DEC campgrounds in the Adirondacks are expected to be open for Labor Day Weekend with many available sites.
According to long-time Adirondack guide and outdoors writer Joe Hackett this is the first time since the Great Ice Storm of ’98 that the DEC has closed large areas of Forest Preserve lands due to a natural disaster. In 1995 some areas of of DEC Regions 5 and 6 were closed after a major blowdown in 1995, Hackett said. Some sixty years ago The Big Blowdown of 1950 caused a complete shutdown of the roads and trails across large swaths of the park, a historic suspension of the State Constitution, a temporary glut in the spruce market, and a political impact that continues to this day.
Many eastern High Peaks mountain areas have been impacted by landslides. Mt. Colden, Trap Dike, Wright Peak, Skylight, Basin, Armstrong, Upper and Lower Wolf Jaws, Dix, Macomb, Giant and Cascade Mountains and many existing slides widened and/or lengthened. The threat of additional slides exists on these and other mountains remains in effect. Adirondack Almanack will have a report on the new slides this evening.
Although a full assessment of the recreational infrastructure in all areas of the Adirondacks has not been completed, DEC has confirmed the following:
* The footbridge over Marcy Dam has washed away and the flush boards have been damaged;
* Marcy Dam Truck Trail has 4 major washouts;
* The first bridge on the western end of the Klondike Notch Trail washed downstream to South Meadows Trail;
* Washouts on the Van Hoevenberg (Mt. Marcy) trail are 1 to 3 ft deep;
* Along the Avalanche Pass Trail from Marcy Dam, Marcy Brook jumped its banks and caused widespread damage to the trail;
* One side of the Duck Hole Dam has washed away and the pond has dewatered;
* Calamity Trail from Lake Colden is impassible south of McMartin Lean-to.
Lesser amounts of damage can be found on Adirondack Forest Preserve lands south and north of these areas. However, hikers and campers should expect to encounter flooding, bridge wash outs, trail wash outs and blow down when entering the backcountry. Plan accordingly and be prepared to turn back when conditions warrant. Updated information on trail closures and trail conditions in the Eastern Adirondacks can be found at the DEC website and at Adirondack Almanack‘s weekly Conditions Report which will be updated Thursday afternoon:
Over the next several weeks DEC is expecting to evaluate the conditions of all trails in the closed areas, prioritize work to rehabilitate trails and determine what trails may be reopened for public use.
Many DEC Campgrounds in the Adirondacks and the Catskills experienced significant damage from the storm including flooded areas, road destruction, and loss of electric and water service. Despite progress in restoring services, a number of campgrounds may be closed or have limited availability of campsites over Labor Day Weekend.
The following temporary Adirondack campground closures are in effect: Little Sand Point, Poplar Point, Point Comfort, Lake Durant, Ausable Point, Paradox Lake, and Putnam Pond. All other campgrounds are open and operating. A complete, updated list of closed campgrounds can be found on the DEC website.
The public should be aware that many state and local roads may be inaccessible to travel and access to campground areas could be limited. Those planning to visit the Adirondacks this weekend should call ahead or check for road closure information at the Department of Transportation’s webpage.
Listen for the weekly Adirondack Outdoor Recreation Report Friday mornings on WNBZ (AM 920 & 1240, FM 105 & 102.1), WSLP (93.3) and the stations of North Country Public Radio.
What follows is the January and February Forest Ranger Activity Report for DEC Region 5, which includes most of the Adirondack region. Although not a comprehensive detailing of all back-country incidents, these reports are issued periodically by the DEC and printed here at the Almanack in their entirety. They are organized by county, and date. You can read previous Forest Ranger Reports here.
These incident reports are a stern reminder that wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Hikers and campers should check up-to-date forecasts before entering the backcountry and always carry a flashlight, first aid kit, map and compass, extra food, plenty of water and clothing. Be prepared to spend an unplanned night in the woods and always inform others of your itinerary.
Many years ago, after two attempts (and subsequent failures) to climb Dix Mountain via the southwest slide, I turned to my friend and said, “I’ve got an idea. Let’s come up with a new type of 46er challenge.”
The 46ers, of course, are those hikers who climb all 46 of the High Peaks in the Adirondacks more than 4,000 feet high. There’s more than 6,000 officially in this club, plus hundreds more who have done them all in winter.
So my new idea? To fail on every peak more than 4,000 feet high. To qualify for this challenge, you have to try to climb every peak and not get to the top for one reason or another. These must be organic reasons — blisters, encroaching night, exhaustion, getting lost, an ailing partner. You can’t just up and turn around — you’ve got to plan to climb the peak, but fail. Thus far I’ve climbed every 46 peak, but I’ve only failed to climb a handful. That means I’ve got a lot more failing to go, so if there’s any weak-kneed or blister-prone hikers who think they can’t make it to the top of a High Peak, let me know and I’d love to join you for an attempt.
But the real reason I’m writing today is my other idea for a High Peak challenge — The Black Fly 46. To qualify for this covered prize, you’ve got to climb every High Peak during black fly season, mid-May to early July.
Now, my standards are more than what the calendar can provide. After all, if it’s early June — the heart of black fly season — but temperatures are low so they’re not biting, that doesn’t count. To qualify for a Black Fly 46, you’ve got to come back with at least four bug bites for each peak climbed. That means if you’re ascending four peaks in one day and you want credit, you need at least 16 bites. My idea, my rules.
I think this challenge will help bring people to the mountains at a time that many hikers tend to stay away, and perhaps ease the crowds on busy weekends in summer and fall. After all, why bother climbing a peak if you’re not going to get enough bites to qualify?
Anyway, that’s my idea. If anyone wants to vie for the award, show me a picture of your bites on various summits and I’ll send you the prize (a bottle of Calamine Lotion).
Watch for an upcoming post for my next idea for a hiking challenge: the Frostbite 46. Winners of this prize may be bedridden for a while, but think how good the certificate will look on your hospital wall.
For those who are trying to climb the 46 High Peaks of the Adirondacks — that is, the peaks originally surveyed at 4,000 feet or higher — there’s nothing better than getting four for the price of one.
There are many peaks where you can do two in a day, mainly when they share the same ridge-line. Cascade and Porter, for instance, are so close to each other you barely break a sweat walking between them. Likewise Esther and Whiteface, or Wright and Algonquin.
There are other cases where you’re traveling so far to climb two, you would be better off doing all three, such as the classic triad of Seward, Donaldson and Emmons in the western High Peaks. You have to climb over Seward to get to Donaldson and Emmons, and back over Donaldson and Seward again to get out. Or there’s Panther, Santanoni and Couchsachraga, accessed via the road to Upper Works near Newcomb. The last of those mountains is notable not only for being the hardest to spell and pronounce of all High Peaks (most folks call it “Couchie” for short), but also for being the lowest. At 3,820 feet it’s obviously under the 4,000-f00t benchmark, but the original surveyors were off by a bit.
The Forty-sixers defer to history in this regard — there are several other peaks in the group under 4,000 feet. That also explains why MacNaughton Mountain, at 4,000 feet on the nose, is considered a “bonus” peak and not one of the 46 — the first surveyors thought it a bit shorter.
The point is, it’s nice to get a bunch of peaks in on a single day’s hike. That’s why one of my favorite trips into the mountains is the route I did last week: walking the Dix ridge from the south and hitting Macomb, South Dix, East Dix and Hough mountains in one go.
For this trip, I joined a group from Albany that drove to Elk Lake off of Blue Ridge Road (the gate, closed all winter, was fortunately open, saving us 2 miles of road walking to the trail-head). The route leaves the main hiking trail after a few miles to follow a “herd” path up a steep, rubbly slide to the summit of Macomb (4,405 feet — see photo above).
From there, it’s a short walk down and up to South Dix, an hour side-trail to East Dix, an hour back to South Dix, and another hour down and up to Hough. The views get better with each mountain, with Hough affording the best: the nearby, pointy top of Dix itself.
The descents and ascents between peaks is minimal — that’s us leaving Hough to the left. The total hike distance is about 15 miles walking and 4,000 feet of elevation gain overall. We took 12 hours for the trip, with lots of stopping. A fast group could do it in eight or nine hours.
Speaking of fast, on our hike we were quickly passed by a group from Syracuse. As we were staggering our way to the summit of Hough (pronounced “huff”), fellow hiker George took out a pair of binoculars. He pointed them north toward Dix (the highest peak in the range, at 4,857 feet) and said, “Hey, there’s the Syracuse group.”
Sure enough, they had bridged five peaks in the time it took us to climb four. Surely the best hiking deal of the High Peaks.
But for us, it was time to turn around. It was nearing 5 p.m., it was a long walk back to the car and we were all nearly out of food and energy. Still, four in a day isn’t too shabby either.
To see more photographs of this hike by the author, click here. New users will have to sign in. Note that the slide viewing time can be adjusted by the timer at lower right.
The Dix range follows herd paths, not official trails. Hikers attempting this route should be in excellent shape, carry a guidebook, map and compass and be comfortable with travel along unsigned paths.
My first backpacking trip was on an abandoned trail.
It was around 1981 or so, and my uncle Evan Bergen of Grafton was keen to take his girlfriend and me on a two-day trip in late November to Cliff Mountain, one of the trail-less high peaks. And he wanted to do it on a trail that had been closed – a route that was originally called the East River Trail.
At the time, I hadn’t realized that my first attempt at backpacking would involve a wet snowstorm, a low of zero degrees, crossing bridge-less rivers on boulders glazed in ice or a snow-covered fallen log, bushwhacking skills and no actual view. Hey, what did I know of backpacking? Included in my external-frame backpack were a full box of raisins and a pair of binoculars – I had not yet realized how heavy a backpack gets after a half-day of walking. It was an Experience. Traveling along part of that route several weeks ago – as reported here – got me thinking about that old trail. Why was it closed? Did anybody miss it?
So I called Tony Goodwin, executive director of the Adirondack Trail Improvement Society, to see what he knew about it.
Turns out the trail was once the primary southern route into the High Peaks. It followed an old road, made of logs, built to accommodate winter logging sleds. The road was built around the 1920s, about the time that the state acquired much of the land from the Adirondack Mountain Reserve (which once owned 40,000 acres and some of the state’s highest peaks).
When hiking became popular, this was the main hiking trail in. Later, the ghost town of Upper Works became the main southern route in via the Calamity Brook Trail, and the longer East River Trail fell into disuse. Goodwin says the trail was closed around 1980, not long before I hiked it.
“There were long stretches of sidehill bridging and corduroy,” he said. “And those were finally collapsing. The DEC didn’t feel there was any reason to restore those bridges or cut lengthy reroutes around them.”
I can certainly speak to the corduroy. On the second day of our hike to Cliff – we made it far as the height of land before the short day forced us to turn around – I was constantly slipping on the trail. Not because I was becoming hypothermic, as my uncle suspected, but because my rubber “Micky Mouse” Army surplus boots kept slipping over the snow-covered logs of the old roadbed.
My 1962 copy of the ADK’s Guide to Adirondack Trails: High Peak Region, describes this trail in the dry prose of the day. The trail at the time departed from Sanford Lake, closer to the Tahawus Mine, and not at the present-day parking lot near the old blast furnace. “The footing is quite treacherous, especially in wet weather, due to slanting, slippery corduroys,” the book even warns (a warning that, apparently, my uncle chose to ignore).
Reading about it today, I’m amazed to see that what took us a day and a half of walking was only eight miles (but there was those slippery rocks and logs, and Lynn did fall into a stream at one point, and then there were those damn raisins, which I didn’t even eat, and those binoculars, which I didn’t even use …).
It also got me wondering about other lost trails. Goodwin spoke of a few in the High Peaks, including some ski trails around Whiteface built for the 1932 Olympics, and a now-defunct route to Dix near the current trail from Route 73. There’s also the trail from Mt. Van Hoevenberg to South Meadow, now closed due to blowdown and a bridge that was washed away, but Goodwin says efforts may soon be underway to reopen it.
Elsewhere in the park there are other ghosts of trails. A 1930s-era map from the North Creek area shows dozens of miles of ski trails used by those who took the Ski Train up from Schenectady, now either part of Gore Mountain Ski Area or lost to roads or overgrowth (several routes still exist that follow the historic routes — one even goes by a 1930s shed for a rescue toboggan).
Further to the south, a route to the top of tiny Cathead Mountain near Northville was lost due to a dispute over private land access.
Do readers know of other abandoned trails? Should the state bring some of them back?
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