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Old 01-02-2019, 02:25 PM   #1
arvinsmee
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Advice for a Winter Dix Trip

Looking for some winter camping advice.

I’m planning a trip this month or next to Dix Wilderness.

We're planning to park at the winter lot by Clear Pond and ski up to Lillian Brook Shelter, and set up camp there. The next day we plan on summiting Dix, then returning to camp. The day after that we’ll ski back to the car.

First off, I’m wondering what’s the best way to do Dix. From where they diverge, the Hunter Pass Trail is 2.8 mi to the summit and the Beckhorn Trail is 1.8. In the summer I’d probably go up Hunter Pass and down Beckhorn, since it looks like that trail has some pretty awesome views you’d get less out of if you were going uphill. But I’m not sure how winter changes things - is Beckhorn too steep for a winter descent? Or ascent for that matter? It looks pretty gnarly from what I’ve seen. I did the whole Dix Range a few summers ago, but we came from 73, so most of this will be new ground for me.

The second question is in regards to equipment. I’ve done some winter camping in the Dacks and Catskills and I’m well geared up for that. I’ve never climbed anything close to Dix this time of year though. The closest I’ve done is Pharaoh Mt. (2556’) in February and Hunter Mountain a week ago (~4000’). Does a climb like Dix require crampons or technical snowshoes? Ice axes? My brother and I have microspikes and I’m hoping we don't need to invest in too much new gear for this trip.

Thanks!

Edit: One other question - what are the chances we could get flowing water from Lillian Brook?

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Old 01-02-2019, 04:53 PM   #2
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Hey - a comment about spikes. There are three well known kinds. The very popular Kahtoolas have 3/8 inch spikes. My Hillsound Free Steps - which we have winter hiked a few peaks with, are only 1/4 inch. The Hillsound Trail Crampons have spikes that are 2/3 of an inch.

So if you have not purchased spikes you may wish to try the Trail Crampons. I have heard a few very experienced hikers on this site have success with Hillsound Trail Crampons and snowshoes alone.

This time of year we always bring snowshoes. If there is 8" on ground they are required by DEC. I rent mine from ADK Loj, Mountaineer, REI and EMS. Our favorite seem to be the simple MSR Evos. You want something not huge for the tight trail work and good "lateral" grip (The Evos and other MSR shoes have two grippy blades that run the length of the shoe). We have hiked both with and without the pop-up bar for ascents. It was neat but I quickly found it troublesome since at times I am going uphill, at times downhill briefly, etc.
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Old 01-02-2019, 05:14 PM   #3
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This time of year we always bring snowshoes. If there is 8" on ground they are required by DEC. .
FYI-the requirement for snowshoes has been changed to 12 inches. We're in need of some fresh snow up there. The Dixes might see 11 inches on Sunday night per the long range forecast. Kahtoola has a new crampon that is worth taking a look at. A bit beefier than the microspikes, but not full on crampons.
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Old 01-02-2019, 05:41 PM   #4
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I would go with Kahtoolas and snowshoes that have spikes. You never know when you might encounter drifting that would make snowshoes helpful/necessary. I would bet L Brook has open water.

Good luck! A great place to be in any season.
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Old 01-02-2019, 06:06 PM   #5
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FYI-the requirement for snowshoes has been changed to 12 inches. We're in need of some fresh snow up there. The Dixes might see 11 inches on Sunday night per the long range forecast. Kahtoola has a new crampon that is worth taking a look at. A bit beefier than the microspikes, but not full on crampons.
Do you have a source for this regulation having been promulgated? This is a proposed change (along with a number of other proposed changes to the High Peaks regulations) but AFAIK it has not actually been implemented yet. The current regulation (requiring snowshoes when the snow is 8 inches or more deep) is still in place.
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Old 01-02-2019, 06:19 PM   #6
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Generally speaking, yes, you do need snowshoes. Regardless of the regulation that requires you to have them, they are essential for climbing High Peaks in the winter (rare is the day in which you can make it to a High Peaks summit and back in winter without needing to use snowshoes).

Crampons are hit and miss- whether you'll need them depends more on the weather conditions in the days and weeks leading up to your trip and less on the specific trails you pick (although steep, south facing trails do tend to be icier). FWIW, I used crampons on about 10% of my hikes when I did the Winter 46, so you don't need them often- but when you do need crampons, you really need them and no other traction device will suffice. I will also say that it's been pretty icy in the Adirondacks generally as of late.

Regarding your itinerary- Hunter's Pass gets relatively little use (even in the summer) and so the trail is not very likely to be broken out. Accordingly, any attempt to traverse that trail carries a high likelihood that you'll be breaking trail through deep snow on snowshoes. When going uphill especially, this can be a long and tiring experience. Even to descend through Hunter's Pass while breaking trail could be a substantial effort, as the trail does level off significantly where it turns south after you've descended to the pass itself, and you can't count on having gravity to aid you the entire way down.

Accordingly, I'd personally plan to ascend the Beckhorn Trail and very possibly also descend the same way. You can make the decision on the summit whether you want to try the Hunter's Pass Trail depending on how early you arrive at the summit, how everyone is feeling, etc.

I'd also recommend reading through this thread on Winter 46 ascents and overnights for a ton of additional good information that you might find useful.

EDIT: One other comment- Lillian Brook is actually a short but not insignificant distance north of the Lillian Brook Lean-to (maybe 200-300 feet) and it's somewhat easy to not realize there's a substantial water source nearby if you don't continue beyond the shelter. After you get to the lean-to and drop your gear, return to the main trail and continue north. You'll soon see/hear the brook. If the lean-to is full (possible even in winter so go prepared accordingly), there's 3 designated tent sites clustered near the bridge across the brook- 2 on the south side (1 on the right side of the trail as you approach the bridge, and 1 on the left side down a short connecting trail) and 1 tent site on the north side of the bridge, on the left side of the trail.

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Old 01-02-2019, 06:41 PM   #7
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Do you have a source for this regulation having been promulgated? This is a proposed change (along with a number of other proposed changes to the High Peaks regulations) but AFAIK it has not actually been implemented yet. The current regulation (requiring snowshoes when the snow is 8 inches or more deep) is still in place.
See page 127.



https://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/lands_fo...wcumpamend.pdf



I'll give you this, DEC websites are onerous at getting this information and I see that Dix Wilderness is folded in to the High Peaks now and I believe that change was made in the above management plan amendments, so that would seem to indicate to me, that the 12 inch rule would no longer just be a "proposed change".

If I understand it correctly, prior to being folded in to the High Peaks zone, you could do things in the Dixes, like not have a bear canister and even not use snowshoes, but that all changed after the UMP amendments.
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Old 01-02-2019, 06:57 PM   #8
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Thanks for the link to the 46er thread DS - that's super helpful.

Looks like we're going to need to rent some snowshoes. I think we got the rest of the gear covered though. I was also surprised to read that the summit views are usually obscured by clouds. I'll guess we'll just have to try our luck.

I was a bit surprised with what you said about -20 degree bags though. For my last three winter camping trips I brought a 15 degree bag and was fine. I think the lowest it got was 10 degrees. In my REI Arete, temps were closer to the mid 20s to low 30s once we warmed up the tent. On the coldest nights I wasn't exactly cozy, but I slept fine. I know people have different comfort levels but I thought I'd ask because that's a pretty huge discrepancy (-20 to 15) and I want to make sure we're safe out there. Camping at Lillian Brook would put us about 1000' higher than previous trips.
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Old 01-02-2019, 07:40 PM   #9
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See page 127!

https://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/lands_fo...wcumpamend.pdf

If we're going to say they're "proposed changes", then isn't it also a "proposed change" and thus not yet done, to fold the Dix wilderness in to the Eastern High Peaks and apply the same regulations, but since they're still "proposed", it was my understanding that snowshoes are not yet a requirement in the Dix Wilderness area, until the "proposal" is permanent?
Warning: Long DSettahr post ahead (sorry arvinsmee for derailing your thread!).

So, there's three things involved in your comment, and while they are intricately (and somewhat inextricably) related, they are ultimately separate things and have differing affects with regards to how they influence what the public can and can't do on Forest Preserve lands in the Adirondacks. Those three things are as follows:
  • The Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (APSLMP)
  • Individual Unit Management Plans (UMPs)
  • State Land Use Regulations

The Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (APSLMP or "slump" as it is commonly pronounced) is the guiding document that establishes the boundaries of each Wilderness Area, Primitive Area, Canoe Area, Wild Forest, etc. The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) is the state agency that is primarily tasked with amending this document as more land is acquired by the state, as well as when it becomes clear that certain areas warrant a reclassification.

Individual Unit Management Plants (or UMPs) are the guiding documents that set the framework for how the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will manage each individual Wilderness Area, Wild Forest, etc. The DEC is the primary agency tasked with writing these documents as well as amending them, although UMPs and UMP amendments are not considered "finalized" until they have also been approved by the APA.

The State Land Use Regulations are the actual rules and regulations that legally govern what the public can and cannot do on state lands under the jurisdiction of the DEC (this last bit is important because the NY State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, or OPRHP, also manages some state lands in NY and they have their own regulations separate from the DEC's that apply to those lands). Along with the DEC's other regulations (hunting and fishing regulations, pollution regulations, etc.), these actual, written and enforceable regulations constitute a document that is entirely separate from UMPs and the APSLMP. The DEC alone creates and amends these regulations, as authorized to do so by the NY State Legislature through the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL). (The ECL is often confused for the DEC's regulations but is actually something else entirely.)

Both the APSLMP and the UMPs are an example of policy- they first and foremost set the framework for how the relevant state agencies are to achieve their objectives (in this case, protection of state lands). In a nutshell, their intent is to primarily to say what the APA/DEC can and can't do regarding management of state lands in the Adirondacks. UMPs specifically can propose changes to the regulations (and they often do), but just because a UMP with proposed changes to the regulations is approved, that doesn't mean that those proposed regulations automatically become enforceable- the process by which new regulations are actually finalized is entirely separate from the drafting and approval of UMPs and UMP amendments. (There are some proposed changes to regulations contained in UMPs that were approved years ago that still have not been promulgated into the official, enforceable regulations. This includes even the UMP for the former Dix Mountain Wilderness, which proposed new regulations for that area that were never implemented.)

That's not to say that both the APSLMP and the various UMPs can't influence how regulations are enforced- they certainly do. For example, the High Peaks regulations listed in the State Land Use Regulations apply to the area defined by the APSLMP as the "High Peaks Wilderness:"

Quote:
(5) High Peaks Wilderness Area means those lands in the Towns of Keene, North Hudson, Newcomb and North Elba, Essex County; Harrietstown, Franklin County; and Long Lake, Hamilton County described in the most current copy of the “Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan Map and State Land Map” on file in the offices of the Adirondack Park Agency. The High Peaks Wilderness Area shall include the Adirondack Canoe Route Zone, the Western High Peaks Zone, and the Eastern High Peaks Zone.
Similarly, a UMP for a specific area might define the location of all designated tent sites, which in turn influences how the "150 foot rule" is applied and enforced with regards to a specific management unit and where the public can and can't legally camp within that unit.

Accordingly, as there are 3 relevant documents that need updating, the process by which the APA and DEC are making changes with regards to the management of the newly expanded High Peaks Wilderness has three steps, as follows:
  1. Amend the APSLMP so that the "High Peaks Wilderness" is defined to include, among other things, the former Dix Mountain Wilderness, the Boreas Ponds tract north of Gulf Brook Road, relevant portions of the MacIntyre East and West tracts, etc.
  2. Amend the High Peaks Wilderness Area UMP to address relevant management issues within the new areas that have been added to the High Peaks Wilderness under the new APSLMP.
  3. Promulgate new regulations as needed for the newly expanded High Peaks Wilderness Area.

Steps 1 and 2 of this list have been completed- the APSLMP was amended by the APA in February of 2018, while the UMP amendment was finalized by the DEC and approved by the APA in July of 2018. The third step, the promulgation of the new regulations by the DEC as proposed in the UMP amendment, has yet to take place- and accordingly, the proposed regulations in the High Peaks UMP amendment (including the change from 8 inches to 12 inches of snow required for the snowshoe regulation) are not yet enforceable.

Because the process is not yet complete, it does leave the High Peaks in a bit of an interesting situation as far as the regulations are concerned. The change to the definition of what exactly constitutes the "High Peaks Wilderness" is complete- including the addition of the former Dix Mountain Wilderness. Yet the regulations have not been updated, and so the old "High Peaks Wilderness regulations" still apply, even to the former Dix Mountain Wilderness. Interestingly enough, one of the results of this is that the a strict reading of the regulations would indicate that the specific Eastern High Peaks regulations (including the bear canister requirements and the campfire prohibition) apply to the former Dix Mountain Wilderness, as that area does now technically fall into what is defined under the regulations as the "Eastern High Peaks Zone." (For what I think are fairly obvious reasons, the DEC has chosen not to enforce the fire ban or the bear canister requirement in that area, although it is worth noting that under the proposed regulations, bear canisters will be required in the former Dix Mountain Wilderness in the future.)

(FWIW, I'm not entire sure that the DEC is actually enforcing the old snowshoe regulation in the former Dix Mountain Wilderness either, but don't quote me on this if you get ticketed for violating it there. As it is, it's a good rule of thumb to follow in any case, and the simplest advice to give to the public is a blanket statement of "snowshoes are required in the High Peaks," especially since the new snowshoe regulation definitely will be enforced in that area.)

There is also apparently some interesting case law that influences how exactly the old (but still enforceable) High Peaks regulations can be applied to the new acquisitions that are now technically part of the High Peaks Wilderness, but I'm not 100% clear on the specifics of this.

TL;DR: Bureaucracy.

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Old 01-02-2019, 07:53 PM   #10
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Thanks for the link to the 46er thread DS - that's super helpful.

Looks like we're going to need to rent some snowshoes. I think we got the rest of the gear covered though. I was also surprised to read that the summit views are usually obscured by clouds. I'll guess we'll just have to try our luck.

I was a bit surprised with what you said about -20 degree bags though. For my last three winter camping trips I brought a 15 degree bag and was fine. I think the lowest it got was 10 degrees. In my REI Arete, temps were closer to the mid 20s to low 30s once we warmed up the tent. On the coldest nights I wasn't exactly cozy, but I slept fine. I know people have different comfort levels but I thought I'd ask because that's a pretty huge discrepancy (-20 to 15) and I want to make sure we're safe out there. Camping at Lillian Brook would put us about 1000' higher than previous trips.
Like I wrote in that post, if you're a warm sleeper, you can maybe get by with a -10 bag or possibly even a 0 degree bag if you pick your trips carefully based on the forecast... but yeah, if you plan to camp regularly in the Adirondack backcountry in Winter, it is only a matter of time before you encounter subzero nighttime temperatures (especially in the High Peaks). Every winter there's even usually a few days when the day time high doesn't climb above -10 F or so... and that's at the base of the mountains.

A 15 degree bag is definitely not safe for general use in Adirondack winters. I have a 12 degree bag that for me is pretty solidly a "late Spring/early Autumn" bag (and I consider myself to be a fairly warm sleeper). Here's my breakdown of temperature ratings for the bags that I currently use through the full breadth of the seasons in the Adirondacks:

Summer: 35 degrees F
Late Spring/early Autumn: 12 degrees F
Early Spring/late Autumn: 5 degrees F
Winter: -20 degrees F

Even the 35 degree bag gets a bit iffy towards the end of the summer, especially in the High Peaks. I steadfastly refuse to switch to the 12 degree bag until after Labor Day, though (and I usually suffer through a cold night or two in late August for it ).
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Old 01-02-2019, 08:10 PM   #11
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From the High Peaks forum. https://www.adkhighpeaks.com/forums/...d-hough-1-2-19
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Old 01-02-2019, 08:25 PM   #12
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Do you have a source for this regulation having been promulgated? This is a proposed change (along with a number of other proposed changes to the High Peaks regulations) but AFAIK it has not actually been implemented yet. The current regulation (requiring snowshoes when the snow is 8 inches or more deep) is still in place.
FWIW I ran into two rangers about two weeks ago and was told 12" snow base is the standard.
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Old 01-02-2019, 08:26 PM   #13
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Hey, that's my conditions report no worries.

Anyway,
I wouldn't say the route is skiable right now. You might want to ask again later.

Don
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Old 01-02-2019, 08:41 PM   #14
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Hey, that's my conditions report no worries.

Anyway,
I wouldn't say the route is skiable right now. You might want to ask again later.

Don
I certainly wasn't trying to imply it was my report. Just trying to help the OP out with up to the minute info.
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Old 01-03-2019, 10:48 AM   #15
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Not so worried about 12" vs 8". IMHO if you are sleeping back country in the ADK's in the winter you wish to have snowshoes with you. Waking up to unexpected snow a few miles from your car can be tough without shoes.

I used to not wear them as often as I should, with trails packed down. The person I hike with weighs less though, so a few times she would skamper down the trail ahead and I would try to skamper after her and would post hole. Annoying for the next person using the trail but also potential injurious to yourself (your leg stops moving up to your knee but your upper body and pack keep going downhill). Remember, moving downhill your boots are really hitting the trail harder than uphill if you are moving along.

We also plan a buffer of 15-20 degrees. So if my gear is rated for zero I am ok planning trips in -15F to -20F. But we layer our sleep system so I can move the rating around a bit.

I really like my breathable SOL bivy. It is dual use - goes in the day pack for emergency use and when used at night will extend my sleep system's rating.

I have used the "hot water bottle" trick for years but recently started using a body warmer stuck on my chest. Strictly to improve comfort - not survival (I do not factor it into any temp rating). They are not big/heavy and it saves on fuel for heating the water.

I also double up on head gear. A hat with a fleece hood. Really contains the heat loss out of your bag.

Tons of great cold weather camping advice here on this site. I will be out this weekend!
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Old 01-03-2019, 02:56 PM   #16
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Not so worried about 12" vs 8". IMHO if you are sleeping back country in the ADK's in the winter you wish to have snowshoes with you. Waking up to unexpected snow a few miles from your car can be tough without shoes.

I used to not wear them as often as I should, with trails packed down. The person I hike with weighs less though, so a few times she would skamper down the trail ahead and I would try to skamper after her and would post hole. Annoying for the next person using the trail but also potential injurious to yourself (your leg stops moving up to your knee but your upper body and pack keep going downhill). Remember, moving downhill your boots are really hitting the trail harder than uphill if you are moving along.

We also plan a buffer of 15-20 degrees. So if my gear is rated for zero I am ok planning trips in -15F to -20F. But we layer our sleep system so I can move the rating around a bit.

I really like my breathable SOL bivy. It is dual use - goes in the day pack for emergency use and when used at night will extend my sleep system's rating.

I have used the "hot water bottle" trick for years but recently started using a body warmer stuck on my chest. Strictly to improve comfort - not survival (I do not factor it into any temp rating). They are not big/heavy and it saves on fuel for heating the water.

I also double up on head gear. A hat with a fleece hood. Really contains the heat loss out of your bag.

Tons of great cold weather camping advice here on this site. I will be out this weekend!
I agree on snowshoes: Better to have them than not and get stuck/exhausted.

Sleeping bag definitely -20.

Also- double up on headlamps and batteries. Days are short.
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Old 01-03-2019, 08:04 PM   #17
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I certainly wasn't trying to imply it was my report. Just trying to help the OP out with up to the minute info.
Well, just for the record. Tahawus got about 6" of new snow today. Boreas Road was sloppy from the Northway; so, Elk Lake probably got something similar.

It was a short crust season.

Don
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Old 01-03-2019, 08:23 PM   #18
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Well, just for the record. Tahawus got about 6" of new snow today. Boreas Road was sloppy from the Northway; so, Elk Lake probably got something similar.

It was a short crust season.

Don
Likely over a foot due in Monday night
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Old 01-03-2019, 09:08 PM   #19
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Regards to the Route.
Most of the people I hike with do the whole range in winter. We're from the Albany area and prefer to climb Macomb and then return by descending Dix from the Beckhorn Trail.

Based on this I'd expect the Beckhorn trail will be more trafficked. The final ascent is pretty steep and rocky and since it can be icy I think this is the reason people prefer the descent.

I've climbed Hunters Pass Slide twice in winter. It finishes on the higher elevations of the Hunters trail and not all that far from the Junction with the Rt73 approach. On both occasions it seemed that Hunters Pass trail wasn't getting many people hiking there.

Don
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Old 01-05-2019, 01:52 PM   #20
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Thanks for all the words of wisdom. I'm gonna keep an eye on conditions, I think I'm either going to pick up a zero degree bag or postpone the trip if temps look like they're dropping below zero on our appointed weekend. We might also be shifting to something a little less hardcore. I really appreciate all the help though. I'm definitely gonna do a 46er in winter one of these years, might wait until I've got better gear for it though.

Along the lines of Plan Bs, I camped the last two years on Pharaoh Lake and had a blast. It was an easy ski in, but the lake was still pretty secluded and we felt like we were totally cut off from the civilized world. We were able to hike Pharaoh Mt and get some awesome views. Any other recommended locations like that? Especially in the Southern / Eastern Dacks with easy access to 87. My other thought was to head to Long Pond in St. Regis. Assuming there's not too much snow, it'd be an easy ski in from the Hoel Parking Lot. There's Long Pond Mt to catch some vistas from. The only problem is that it's a long drive from 87 and if there are snowmobiles on the railroad tracks we'll definitely be hearing them.

I also looked and Lila and Lows, but both seem like they're too hard to get to for a 2 nighter.
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