Four of the “trailless” Dixes, 12.5 miles, 4400 feet of elevation gain in eleven hours. I’ve now hiked 22 of the 46 Adirondack High Peaks.
Stayed in the clean, but basic, Blue Ridge Motel, the night before. Located on Route 9, just south of Exit 29 on the Northway (I-87), this motel is just 12 miles from the Elk Lake trailhead. (It’s also 20 miles from the start of Tahawus Road, leading to Upper Works and other trailheads. I don’t know of any motels closer to these trailheads.)
Not only is this motel convenient to these trailheads, it also offers a light breakfast at 4:30 AM in the lobby. Even though I like backpacking, it’s easier for me to get an early start at a place like the Blue Ridge Motel. Set my alarm for 4AM, roll out of bed into a warm, well-lit room, take a hot shower, pack a day pack, and be sitting down to coffee, cereal, and donuts at 4:45. That’s a little easier than fussing with a bear canister in the pre-dawn dark and cold.
By 5:15 of Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013, I was on the road; arrived at Elk Lake parking lot by 5:45; and signed in at the register by 6:00. Within a few minutes it was light enough to dispense with my headlamp.
Following the herd paths to Macomb, South Dix (Carson), East Dix (Grace), and Hough was not difficult. The National Geographic Adirondack Park map #742 and various trip reports on the internet show them very well. The only spot where I got off the track was just before the Macomb slide. With various pieces of advice about “staying left” (my misinterpretation), I followed a faint herd path going up a little watercourse. It petered out in 100-200 yards. Returning to the split at the cairn, I turned right, and it led directly to the base of the Macomb Slide.
The lesson for me was to scout uncertain herd paths for shorter distances. When you are following one main herd path (not a true junction of two paths) and you arrive at an uncertain split, just go 10-20 yards in both directions. The real herd path will be immediately evident, being much more well-traveled.
The full hike took me eleven hours, roughly:
3 hours to Macomb
1 hour to S. Dix
1 hour each way to E. Dix
1 hour to Hough
3.5 to return via Lillian Brook Herd Path (LBHP)
1 hour on peaks (15 minutes each)
Except for back-and-forth to E. Dix, each leg was a few minutes longer than the approximate times noted.
More detailed times from camera:
From Elk Lake parking lot to cairn for Macomb herd path: 1:06
to Macomb peak: 2:03
to South Dix (Carson): 1:07
to East Dix (Grace): 0:49
return to South Dix: 1:15
to illegal campsite: 0:40
to Hough peak: 0:32
back to illegal campsite: 0:36
down LBHP to junction with red trail: 1:29
back to cairn for Macomb: 0:30
back to parking lot: 0:57
Note that the detailed times necessarily include time spent on the the peaks.