Submitted by RobbMLewis on Sun, 09/06/2020 - 11:58

Friday, I went up to the Upper Elk Lake parking area and found that it was full, and a half dozen cars were already parked on the shoulder.... It's a holiday weekend, so I wasn't really surprised that the lot was full, just didn't like coming to the realization that I may have to search for a camp site and crowded trails.  Needless to say, I got the pack on and hiked the 2.5 miles down the road to where one would normally park and where the trail head actually is.  This year, the gate is closed and they've been doing a lot of culvert work on the road, so hiking in was the only way to get there.  The trail from the trail head to Slide Brook was rather good.  It's partly forested trail, partly old forestry road.  I was able to do the 4.7 miles in in a couple hours.  I also found a tent site on my first check... a site that wasn't on my map and obviously relatively new.  This was the first time I saw a raised dirt/stone platform that was level and obviously there for tents to go on where they wouldn't flood in a rain.  Downfall of this, the platforms were made of dirt and *rocks*.  Getting the tent stakes in was a little challenging.  Needless to say, I got everything set up ate some dinner, and was in bed early only to be woken up by rain around 10 and new campers about 1.  Yeah, I didn't get much sleep.

Saturday I was up early and on the trail by 630.  The hike up Slide Brook was pretty good until you get to the slide.  The slide has to be one of the more challenging hikes I've done.  It's all scree.  In other words, it was all loose rock, pebbles, sand, dirt... think of trying to walk up a sand pile.  It's not an easy thing to do.  I passed the challenge though and got to the top where I had 2 choices on how to go, the slide went up a little bit more to the left, and there was what looked like a herd path to the right.  I went right, but the real herd path was to the left.  I'm not the only one to have done this as I saw plenty of boot prints, a lost straw hat, and some plastic ribbons on some trees.  I eventually got back on the proper herd path and made it to the summit of Macomb.

From there it was a relatively easy hike down and up to South Dix, which the peak didn't have a great view, but just before you hit it, there is.  Going over I then went to Grace (East Dix) where the bald peak had some great views.  That alone would have made the trip.  Apart from the slide up Slide Brook, the hiking was really reasonable.  Then I went to Hough (pronounced Huff).  I've heard this one called "Huff and Puff", and rightly so.  The way up from South Dix and the way down to Dix was steep.  There again was a great view on top though, including some really good views of the Beckhorn of Dix.  From here the trail to Dix was nothing but steep climbing.  Nothing as bad as going up Seward was, but it was a rather constant up, with a few small boulders to climb over or around.  The views along the trail were breath taking though.  The way it's situated, you get great views of the great range from Saddleback to Haystack, and the other mountains just west of there.

At last I hit the summit of the Beckhorn of Dix, and was only 0.2 miles or so from my goal.  Climbing down the bare rock, heading north, I came to what I at first thought was the summit, but I heard voices a little further on.  I checked my GPS, and yep, I wasn't on the peak.  I go a little bit further and a guy greeted me and said the marker was just above where he was sitting.  At 1:02 PM I reached the summit of Dix, saw the Colvin Spike in the rock and completed my 46th peak of the 46'ers.  To celebrate I took my first selfies on a peak, took some pictures of the mountains, and then sat down just below the peak and had a bottle (1 glass sized) of cheep and blah Cab Sav with a lunch of tuna salad and crackers.  Big mistake as I had an upset stomach about a mile down the mountain.

The hike out was nothing remarkable.  I went over the Beckhorn again and then down to the elk lake trail.  There were a few steep rock faces to go down, but nothing unusual for the 'Daks.  I'm glad I went down instead of going up as going up would have been much more difficult, and I think coming in from Hough was the better choice on summiting Dix.  I got back to my campsite a little past 4, packed everything up, got some more water, and backpacked the last 4.7 miles out.  I was happy to finally get home about 8:30, get showered, and in bed.

Today, the day after, I surely still hurt.  I have found a big bruise on my left shin (explains that pain), my arm scratched up from an encounter with a tree coming down Macomb, my hip scratched and bruised from another encounter with a tree going to Grace, and just overall muscle fatigue.  I also had a weird thing show up where it looked like I bruised one of my toes under the toenail.  I pressed on it to see if it really was a bruise by checking for pain, and instead it appears to have been a blood blister that popped when I squeezed... I'm going to have to watch that nail.

In the end, this was an adventure I am happy to have had.  I've hiked 257 miles and climbed almost 85K feet of elevation, and of course descended the same.  It has been a challenge.  Most people take years to do this.  When I started planning this in March, I was planning to take years.  As I looked more and more at it though I realized it would be possible to do in a year if all my summer engagements were cancelled, and they were.  Doing it in a single season, 3.5 months in my case, is a difficult thing to do.  Everyone I've encountered where this was brought up were both impressed and probably though I was crazy.  I know one 46er I met that expressed this to me.  If it wasn't for Covid-19, this would never have happened as a single season. 

Now that I've done this, the paperwork filled out and the dues sent, I'm going to look at what kind of volunteer activities I can get involved with through the 46ers.  I'm not sure I am cut out for trail crews, I do tire easily.  They also had started a trail head steward program though, where they educate hikers on their way in/out of the park's most used trails.  This is basically the compliment of what the summit stewards do on top of the higest peaks.  If this is still going on (it only started in 2017 or 2018), I will do what I can.  The trails, especially the popular trails, are showing signs of heavy use and bad practices by the hikers.  Erosion is one issue that trail crews can work on.  The trash though, finding food wrappers, water bottles, articles of clothing (hats, shirts, towels!) are all common, and this year, the number of lost masks made it even worse.  I have a feeling since everything was closed this year, the number of first time hikers seems to be high this year, and they don't take time to read the signs, or don't care.  It is both a good thing and sad as we are at the point of ruining these trails and peaks from over use.  The more back country peaks are better as they attract more serious hikers, but the easier and more popular peaks and trails need help.

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