Sara and I have been longing to get some long trail runs in for quite some time. My ankle was certainly holding me back for a while, but now seems to be back in a great place. We had debated between going to Algonquin Park or the Adirondacks, but with the draw of the mountains always so great, we decided to head south to the ‘dacks.
Our plan was to do this quick, cheap and hassle free. We’re fortunate that it’s only a short drive of under 3h30m from our house.
We arrived in Keene Valley late in the afternoon Friday after picking up a few grocs in Lake Placid. We hadn’t booked a campsite, but just planned to find a primitive site and pitch our tent. It’s wonderful that there are so many places where you can camp for free there, but of course are on a first come basis. Fortunately, well sort of, the weather was less than ideal so we found a great spot near the mountains we were planning to run the next day.
We’d gotten some great tips on routes and mountains from ultra/mountain runner Jan Welford, who probably knows the ADKs better than anyone, and has many records to his name in the High Peaks.
Our plan for Saturday was a loop and series of Peaks that would give us a decent amount of running in our approach, and then some good climbs. It seemed a bit strange to run through a posh Golf Course on our way to the trailhead, but that’s exactly what we did. I kept expecting to see Carl (Bill Murray) from Caddyshack out hunting Gopher/Golfers.
The run in before climbing towards Wolf Jaw was a pleasant way to warm up our bodies before it starting getting tough. Unfortunately the weather was very overcast with rain intermitting, so we were expecting to not have much in the way of views up high, but the leaves down low were at their peak.
Our route had us going up Upper Wolf Jaw Mt, Armstrong Mt, Gothics Mt, Pyramid Peak, then back Weld Trail to Lake Road. There was some pretty steep climbing in places, and with the wet rocks we had to be careful, but it wasn’t too bad. It was fun having to use a ladder at one point to get up a steep rock section. We had really wanted to do Gothics for a while, so was great to finally get it in. Unfortunately, we were totally socked in and had no views from up high though.
Again, the views were much more beautiful from lower, and this was the case when we got back to the Lower Ausable River as well. From there back to the trailhead, it was a nice gentle downhill on a dirt road that is for foot traffic only. It felt good to be able to open up and run a little quicker to finish.
The food at the Ausable Inn is always amazing. Black Bean burger, Natchos and Soup went down very well. And the beer on tap always features some great local brews. I wish I could remember the dark ale I had now, as it was excellent.
After an early dinner, and checking the weather forecast, we decided since we were there anyhow, we might as well stay and see if we could run Dix Mt the next morning. Fortunately, our camping spot from Friday night was still vacant when we returned. Following checking out the maps, getting in a few more calories and sipping on a great Oatmeal Stout, we called it an early night to get some extra sleep.
Dix is another mountain that has been on our list for a long time. The weather was decent when we started, but still looked like there wouldn’t be many views from up high. We would just be doing it as an out and back run, so if the weather was poor or we were feeling too beat up, we could turn early.
Again today, we had a fairly runnable section for the first 80mins, before starting to climb. We had been warned that Dix featured some of the steepest climbing in the ADKs, and we were treated to a large open rock slide that the trail followed up for maybe 100 meters. After that, the trail got steep, and long. The last mile to the top of Dix was very challenging with the grade as well as length. Much of the way was hands and feet in contact with the ‘trail.’
It was now raining and the rocks were quite wet and slippery. We hadn’t seen anyone all day so had to be careful. We were getting close to the top, so after a few sketchy sections, we decided to keep going as long as we were comfortable and careful.
We reached the top and of course had no view because of the weather. We stayed for only a few minutes but with the conditions not the greatest, and getting worse, were keen to start going back down.
As much as the wet rocks made going up Dix very challenging, we had to be that much more careful on the way down. We were in a very isolated and rugged place, so one slip and fall could have been pretty scary. Coming down Dix probably took us almost as long as going up, certainly in the steepest sections anyhow.
Once we arrived back at a Leanto along a stream, we took a short break to fuel up further for the final run back to Round Pond and the trailhead. The gentle downhill felt great again today and was a nice way to finish the run…even with it raining hard and getting colder.
A quick change of clothes back at the car, a trip to a bakery to refuel further, and we were on our way home.
While we certainly didn’t get the views that we were craving at the summits of the mountains we ran, Sara and I enjoyed the ‘process’ of living in the moment and being out in this wonderful playground.
The funny thing too is that when I checked my Movescount data from my Suunto Ambit, we realized that we actually missed the true summit of Dix Mt (it dropped back down a few feet, leveled off and then went up a few feet higher). I guess the only answer is to return back to Keene Valley soon and get to the actual summit. And, hopefully next time we’ll get a view!