I'd been hearing about the beautiful Boquet valley approach to the Dixes for a few years now: Meandering brooks and rivers and a beautiful open forest. I'd also heard that one of the slides on East Dix was an excellent climb. Last year, I wanted to try this route in the winter as a different and interesting way to do my winter climbs of the peaks in the Dix Range, but I was always concerned about finding the right way in up the herdpath in the winter - so we never went.
Note: there is now a newer report of a succesful ascent we did of this route. Click here
if you want to go directly to that report.
Before winter came this year, I wanted to do the route without snow (there is no official trail in the Boquet River valleys - it is all unmarked herd paths). Winter was approaching, so we picked this last Saturday, October 21 as our day to attempt this. The weather looked nice, albeit cool. As a bonus, Graham and friends Alana and Dave came along for the hike.
During the drive down, we were a bit dismayed to see that a blanket of early fall snow had covered the higher elevations of the Adirondacks. Were we going to be even able to climb the slide? It would be tricky and potentially dangerous in these sort of conditions.
We drove down in two separate cars, and agreed to meet at the Noonmark Diner. Jenn and I had a simple but very good breakfast at the diner, as we awaited Graham, Alana and Dave, who arrived shortly after 9am, about 40 minutes after we arrived. We agreed that even though our attempt to climb the slide might be scuttled (it was a bit of a late start and due to the snow), we'd still hike up the valley to the base of the slide, enjoying the fall day and figuring out the approach route. A reconnaissance day, of sorts. And perhaps the beautiful sunny day might melt the snow away, if we were lucky....
After breakfast, we drove south for about ten minutes to the spot where the North Fork of the Boquet River is crossed by Route 73. There is a small area for parking about two or three cars at the side of the road. There is also a short old road track leading up a couple of hundred feet to a small parking area (which is where the herdpath starts).
North Fork starting point
Leaving the little upper parking area at the end of the old road track, the herdpath starts off strongly, on a nice, well-defined path. Very shortly, though, it comes to a spot where it cross the North Fork of the Boquet River. The problem was, there was a lot of water in the river today! A very rainy week before today had apparently resulted in a lot of extra flow, and crossing the river at this point would have been a dicey affair. We decided that we should stay on the bank we were on (the left bank) for the time being. Fortunately, there was a good herdpath that continued on the left-hand bank (at least for now, anyway).
The herdpath on the left-hand bank headed up a very steep bank and meandered around for a while, eventually descending and returning to the North Fork of the Boquet River at Shoebox Falls (a very pretty spot, especially so with the heavy water flow).
We continued along the herdpath leading southwest (still on the 'wrong' side of the river), following a path that was suprisingly good. However, it soon became apparent that this path seemed to lead to Rhododendron Pond and not along in the direction we wished to travel, which was along the North Fork. After a bit of scouting, we decided that we should strike out north, parallelling the North Fork until we re-intersected the herdpath. (the herdpath had to cross back over at some point, so that it could head west, out of the drainage of the North fork and into the drainage of the South fork - see the interactive trackmap at the end of this presentation if you are still confused!).
The walk through the forest was beautiful. It was indeed a pleasure to hike through this area, even through the bushwacking portions, because the forest was mostly deciduous and very open. In this section, the North fork of the Boquet River is very placid and straight, with open banks, and I got a few good shots looking along the river, with high, snow-dusted peaks in the background.
Beautiful Riverbank Scenery
After less than 1km of bushwacking, we re-intersected the herdpath where it crossed a tributary of the North Fork for the last time. The going was quite good now, with a fairly easy-to-follow path (even with all of the fallen leaves covering everything) leading over gently rolling terrain. In due course, we arrived at the South Fork of the Boquet River, and the herdpath started to follow that, up-drainage. At a crossing of a tributary of the south fork, we stopped and had some lunch.
From here, the herdpath follows the South Fork quite closely, crossing over it here and there. Again, the increased water flow was a problem, and it was tricky crossing the stream. As we ascended, the banks of the river became steeper and the going more rocky and rooty. There are occasional cairns and even a bit of red flagging here and there. Still, following the path was a bit of a challenge (probably due to all of the fallen leaves).
Crossing in Action, part 1
Crossing in Action, part 2