Jeanette, Mike, Crystal and I got to the Dix/ Round Pond trail head mid-morning Saturday. The group put on their boots, made final pack and snack adjustments, and began heading down the trail. Up and over a small ridge, we were immediately immersed in the Dix Mountain Wilderness and paused to soak it up overlooking Round Pond.
Along the lake it became apparent that spring was in full swing with birds, wildflowers and all other kinds of green growth engaging all of our senses. we saw painted trillium everywhere on this hike, in greater numbers than I've ever seen before. We attempted to find wild dill (Mike and I smelled it everywhere) but struck out once I again. I will find and eat this plant! We did gather some fiddle-heads but were not sure if it was too late in the season or what the brown fuzzy stuff on them was all about.
The next phase involved a fairly grueling (with full pack) ascent through a notch to the shore of the Bouquet River. The hike was level from here to the lean-to, which we reached after passing the intersection with the trails to Round and Noonmark Mountains. The hike in was quite lovely and as we got closer, views of Dix Mountain began to emerge behind the river to the south.
We decided to push on to Dix after setting up camp and eating lunch (empty lean-too!). The trail began to climb gradually along several Bouquet River tributaries. After maybe 1.5 miles we reached the base of the slide and began to appreciate how truly massive this mountain is. Immediately after this moment of awe and wonder the trail began to get serious. Ascending along the edge of the slide, the trail had a severely steep pitch with some mud, skeletal exposed tree roots and fist-sized loose gravel. We climbed up on all fours for the most part until reaching the col where it leveled out. Now on top of this 4300 ft and rising ridge, the winds starts buffeting us with reminders of how small and mortal we are. After making a left at the intersection, we entered the alpine zone and soon the trees were only chest high and stunning views of the Dix range to our south and the great range and beyond to our north were unavoidably stellar.
Summit: (JC-13, CS-15, MF-3, CM-3) some of my favorite views of the high peaks on a perfect spring day. I'm now pretty exited to hike down in Elk lake and do the rest of the Dix range. Exposed and rocky summit with 360 degree view.
Inched our way down the steep inclines and made it back to the base of the slide before dark which was our goal and made our way using headlamps for the last half mile. The clear night and bright moon helped keep us on trail but this trail could use some of the newer type DEC trail blazes/ nails which seem to blaze out in the night when your headlamp hits em. Only real critique for my first experience in this particular section of the high peaks. We had a great clean lean-too, clean fire pit and a good supply of wood ready to go. Cooked dinner and poked some coals while enjoying some wild turkey. Slept hard and comfortably, greatly enjoying the recent addition of a ground pad to the sleep rig. Can't believe we ever didn't have them!
Food musings: Solid breakfast of oatmeal (with craisins, awwwww yeaah!), turkey bacon and home fries. The home fries came together like this: I threw a whole clove of garlic, wrapped in tin foil with a little bit of olive oil into the coals before bed. Crystal cut up a bunch of fingerling (easy to transport) potatoes and garlic the night before which we didn't get around to eating after awesome Zatarain's , broccoli and Kielbasa. I had brought a small frying pan for the first time camping after an unfortunate boiled breakfast sausage incident. Cooked it all up with some olive oil in this funky, handle-less three section frying pan which was procured in Booneville. After fussing too much over it a while and sat back and chilled, getting the feel of the pan and cooked up some rockin' potatoes! Good call on Mike bringing an Italian spice blend grinder.
Frying pan: win! Fingerlings: win! Coal-roasted garlic:win!spice grinder: win!jeanette's Chocolate choice (Hanaford brand belgian massive 7 ouncer: win!olive oil in small plastic containers: win!
Headed out of camp way early than we thought (met someone with a watch and our estimates were 2 hours off!) we reached the intersection with Noonmark and a decision was reached: if we climbed Noonmark, we'd have to eat lunch at the Noonmark Dinner. Jeanette stayed at the creekside intersection, to enjoy basking in the sun on her ground pad, reading Pygmy and lurking on french-Canadians. The noonmark ascent (1100 ft in a mile roughly) was fun and demanding with some really nice up close and personal looks at the southern faces of the great range. Bounded down and met up with Jeanette (and our packs) and gathered our strength for the trip out. While we did two yellow-bellied sapsuckers performed some serious stunts, flying right between us, trees and the creek, appearing to do figure 8's. From here on out, not too bad or too long and we were soon out in the parking lot, tired and joyful from our 15 mile weekend.