Traditional Pemi Loop – September 2015

Traditional Pemi Loop – September 2015

It wasn’t easy, but I culled several hundred shots down to 37 pics for this post. I can see why this loop is so popular, but I have no idea why folks rush through it so fast. Planning a leisurely five day trip, I had plenty of time to stop and pull out my cameras. Well and to stop and snack or just to stop and soak in the views.  Definitely some challenging terrain, but by keeping the miles reasonable and the feedings frequent it made for a fantastic adventure.

IMG_5241aI’d gotten a nice early start and arrived in time to enjoy a little morning light on the Osseo Trail. Gently at first and then steeper at times it soon took me up a few thousand feet, but views were limited as the forest was thick around me.

IMG_5242aNoting a sign for a view I stepped a few feet off the trail and was rewarded with my first sight of the land opening up below. This view is to the east with Owls Head and Bond the first few bumps.

IMG_5246aFinally I could see I was breaking out of the trees, but getting up there didn’t look to be easy. Actually with open sky and a little breeze inspiring me it wasn’t that bad.

IMG_5248aYou may need to enlarge this picture to see the blue blaze, but that is where the trail was headed next. Walking along that fully exposed rock section with my pack filled with five days of food was invigorating to say the least.

IMG_5249aAfter crossing over Mount Flume I headed on towards Liberty. There was a bit of a col between the two and as usual I cursed every foot of descent knowing I’d soon be having to climb back up. It is all part of the fun of course.

IMG_5256aGetting to the top of Liberty made it definitely seem worthwhile. There is an interstate down there, but if you can overlook that the view was amazing. The light was fading in the late afternoon with some haze giving everything a soft edge in the distance. I lingered here for a bit and was soon joined by a few trail workers enjoying a hike on their day off.

IMG_5258aSame shot but with me in the way this time. I was afraid to set up my timer and jump out there, but one of the guys was nice enough to take this one for me. It really was a neat spot with a nice breeze blowing, but I was looking forward to camp and dinner up ahead.

IMG_5259aYou can spot a couple of folks headed up the way I needed to travel down. Beyond this open rock section the trail would fall away to another col.

IMG_5263aThese trails are heavily traveled and very well maintained. Despite all the up and down sections the going wasn’t that bad. The trail down to the tent sites at Liberty Springs was a bit steep and knowing I’d have to climb back out in the morning made it seem longer than the signs claimed.

IMG_5266aIt was worth the effort though with a friendly caretaker who was a enjoying a late season change from being a trail worker. There were a number of other folks there but it wasn’t a very social scene. I ate dinner in the cooking area and headed off to my private platform for the night.

IMG_5274aThe next day was spent almost entirely on the exposed Franconia Ridge. The sky was cloudy all day, but the ceiling was high enough that there were still views. With a constant series of peaks there was a steady stream of climbs followed by victory celebrations that required pulling out a snack or two.

IMG_5276aEach peak gave views of the next with the trail clearly visible between. Very relaxing to enjoy a break while pondering the next short climb knowing there will be another excuse to stop soon enough.

IMG_5280aThe Greenleaf Hut seemed a bit out of place, but I’m sure the views are pretty nice on the front porch after one of their big dinners.

IMG_5283aI hit Lafayette just in time to meet the lunch hour crowds. It seemed a lot of day hikers had come up to spend some time at the summit so I snapped a few pictures before moving on to the next unimportant peak to have lunch alone.

IMG_5284aThe views were too nice not to stop for a bit though. Time enough to dig out the video camera for some panorama shots too.

IMG_5287aThere are the Bonds again. The angle is changing as I make my way around the loop. I enjoyed being able to see where I would be in a few days, especially because I had budgeted an extra day to just hang out when I got over there.

IMG_5288aFirst I had to get to Garfield Ridge Shelter and that meant getting over Garfield. Not a lot of miles left in my day, but Garfield is a pointy bit of mountain and I’d need most of the remaining daylight to get there.

IMG_5292aOf course before I could climb Garfield I had to descend. Sure I was above it now, but they don’t let you start climbs at the top.

IMG_5298aIMG_5301aThose two pics are for my wife. She has a thing about tiny flowers growing out of rocks and will often stop to take pictures of them when we are hiking. I felt it was my duty to bring her home a few shots of these because they were very tiny and the rock was very big.

IMG_5308aNearing the top of Garfield looking back towards Franconia Ridge. Again it was neat to be able to see the day’s route, this time from near the end tracing where I’d been.

IMG_5310aOne last pic on the sunny side of the mountain and then it was over the top and down to the tent site. Well down to the trail that leads up to the site at least. Definitely get your water before going up or you’ll end up making the climb twice like I did. Not fun after a long day of going up and down mountains.

It was a nice enough spot with a big shelter and a lot of large group tenting platforms. Thankfully I got a small one to myself as there was almost no one there that night. I did eat dinner with a lady from New Zealand who was doing the entire loop in two days. I’d met some others on an earlier trip this year doing the same. Seems way too nice a place to rush through like that, but I guess folks do what they enjoy.

I was visited by a camp host after dark who had just climbed up the mountain. After jokingly giving him a hard time about being late I paid the fee without getting out of bed. Talking with him in the morning he said he was late because he had to hitchhike to the trailhead. Late in the season the shuttles don’t run and he’d had a hard time getting a ride.

IMG_5314aI refilled my water supply at the spring and headed down the trail towards Galehead. Well you could call it a trail, but I had my doubts at times. This section was really just a pile of rocks. The only way to know it was a trail was that there was nothing better to be found so it had to be the right way.

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On my way down I began to catch glimpses of the Galehead Hut. Not sure if the terrain between me and the hut was more intimidating or South Twin looming beyond. The climb up that mountain last year did some serious physical and mental damage so I was already thinking about it. Now I was wondering how I’d feel when I reached the start because that hut looked pretty far away.

IMG_5325aOnce I got off the rock pile and the trail evened out a bit I was able to make great time. I soon found myself sitting in front of the hut looking back towards where I’d started the loop days earlier.

IMG_5326aWell I snuck a few peeks at South Twin while I was sitting there too. This time I knew I’d have to really work for my next snack break.

IMG_5328aWhich is why I spent a while sitting on the porch, soaking up the free water from the hut and fueling up for the climb. There was a steady stream of people coming and going so some conversation to be had as well. Finally it was time to do what needed to be done…

IMG_5331aSo I stomped up the mountain. The effort was well rewarded with a nice breeze and clear sky. The view of the Presidents from this spot is even better than from Bond Summit I think. Not nearly as crowded as Lafayette had been the day before it was a great place to relax for a bit.

IMG_5332aAgain I have to question the folks who race around this loop. I was glad to have time to stop and take it all in. Really taking some time to look at where I was and what could be seen. The chance to be in a spot like this doesn’t come along every day. It should be savored.

IMG_5333aI briefly considered hitting North Twin, but opted to head down the other side towards Guyot and the Bonds. I knew I was probably too late for afternoon coffee with the caretaker and was hoping I would be in time to get a good tent platform.

IMG_5343aNo need to worry. My latrine view suite was all mine for two nights. With the season starting to change the forest was thinning out and the latrine did seem closer, but still a fine spot to rest and relax. The Guyot site was very busy as usual. Watching all the various ways folks cook dinner is always entertaining and there is often some good conversation to be had.

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The next day I enjoyed a late breakfast followed by some time laying in my tent watching the shadows on the leaves. Thankfully the caretaker began to do some composting work at the nearby latrine which encouraged me to get up heh. I packed a lunch and headed up to Bond Summit for a few hours. I knew I’d have to climb it again the next day, but I figured the walk would do my legs some good.

I almost fell over when I put my pack on. After a few days of tossing the full load up on my back I was used to, the nearly empty pack was a shock. It certainly seemed a lot easier climbing the mountain with that load.

IMG_5347aIt was another gorgeous day up top. I shared the summit with a couple of folks for a while before they headed down, then had it alone for an hour or so before going down myself. My timing for this trip was really lucky with great weather and lots of solitude despite being on popular trails.

IMG_5351aAfter a second night of listening to a lonely moose calling down below it was time to head home. On my way across Bondcliff I caught a pic of these two having second breakfast a bit head of me on the trail. We chatted when I caught up; they’d been at Guyot the night before as well and were from the UK I believe. They were on a series of hikes in the Whites and rattled off trail names like locals which sounded funny given their accent.

IMG_5354aLast time the summit was hidden by clouds on my way out, but this time it was easy to trace the trail almost all the way to the top. This is a bittersweet view while headed down. I hate to go, but at least I don’t have to climb up there today. It is pretty to look at, though a bit steep towards the top.

IMG_5356aOne last look back towards Washington and then it was down into the forest for the hike out. I’ve spent a lot of time in this area over the last few years, but doing this loop added another perspective on the place. It is clear why so many are drawn to do this hike. It isn’t easy, but there are so many rewarding moments that you can’t really find time to suffer.

A little technical information:

PemiTradMap

Roughly 32 mile clockwise lollipop loop starting from the Lincoln Woods trailhead, traversing the western edge of the Pemigewasset Wilderness via Franconia Ridge, the northern edge via Garfield Ridge and the Twinway, then cutting down through the middle via Bondcliff. This route bypasses the entire eastern portion of the wilderness, staying on the high ridges for views for most of the time.

PemiTradProfile

My hand crafted elevation profile doesn’t reflect the mileage accurately, but it does give a pretty good picture of the major climbs and descents. What it can’t show is how rough the terrain is. This heavily traveled trail is well maintained and quite smooth in spots, but there are some rocky areas that can be challenging to say the least. No ladders or actual climbing required other than the 20′ or so vertical section of the Bondcliff. That spot, as I’ve covered in previous trip reports, does require the use of hand holds.

Both the big climb at the start and the big descent at the end are done via relatively gentle trails. Lots of elevation, but they seem much easier than they look on paper. The ridges in between however do go up and down steeply, often via large boulder hops. With lots of loose dirt and scree those with low shoes might want to think about gaiters.

Unlike the trails that pass through the middle of the Pemigewasset Wilderness, the trails on this route are all well blazed and maintained. Route finding was not an issue other than one spot on Garfield Ridge that looked more like a dry creek than a trail and had no blazes. There being no other option visible I took my chances and found that it was indeed the trail a few minutes later.

If you go, be prepared for changing weather. With so much exposure thunderstorms or just a good wind can make things pretty dangerous. Keep current on the forecast and be aware of where your bailout routes are to get down off the ridge just in case.

Redlining Zeacliff – August 2015

Somewhere along the way I noticed that all of these trips exploring the Pemigewasset Wilderness were starting to add up. Looking at my map I could see I had covered a large portion of the trails. From there it just seemed natural to try to cover the rest of them. Hitting every trail within an area like this is known as redlining from the act of marking completed routes on a map.  My version includes a caveat that the trails have to be walked as part of a backpacking trip rather than day hiked. This sort of thing is a fun game to play with yourself, much like peakbagging, but without the summit crowds. Redlining will take you to the popular summits, but it also takes you to a lot of other places where folks don’t usually go.

The downside to redlining is that it takes you to trails that you may have previously decided you’d never be crazy enough to do. This is the story of such a trip. When I first started visiting the Pemi a few years back I noticed the Zeacliff Trail and did some research on it. From what I found it sounded like my worst nightmare and I laughed at the idea of ever climbing it at all, let alone with a full pack.

ZeacliffAug15mapThe plan was simple enough…head out from the Lincoln Woods TH and up the Thoreau Falls Trail to spend the first night at the base of the cliff. The next day I just had to get to the top and head to the Guyot tent site where I’d spend the second night before heading down via Bondcliff.

ZeacliffAug15profileWith days of roughly 12, 5 and 11 miles it sounds simple enough unless you look at the elevation profile. As an old fat man I always look at the elevation profile when planning a trip so I knew what I was in for. I packed light in terms of clothes and gear, but made a point of bringing good food, including a special treat that will come up later in the story.

I left the scoot in front of the ranger station in what has become my regular spot and headed out at a good clip. I knew 12 miles was pushing it with the late start I get after my long ride, but I really wanted to camp right at the cliff to get an early start on it. I’ve covered the East Side / Wilderness route numerous times so no pics to share on this trip.

IMG_5182aAlways have to include pics of the Thoreau Falls bridge though. There has been talk of removing this old beauty due to one of the stringers being damaged. Hopefully that will be reconsidered and a suitable replacement can be built. As the only viable high water and winter crossing it is vital to allowing hikers and skiers to visit and enjoy the wilderness.

IMG_5187aHopefully they can create one rustic looking as befits this spot deep in the woods. The old one with its giant tree supports and weathered deck boards certainly looks at home here. It definitely has become an old friend over the years and even if replaced I’m going to miss this old one.

IMG_5188aThe falls still were running higher than usual for the time of year due to a recent storm, but you could see signs the water had been much higher the day before. A couple of Forest Service surveyors caught up with me taking a snack break here. They were out tracking forest growth, but were headed out after a long day of bushwhacking.

IMG_5190aI stuck around to enjoy the view for a few more minutes. Well and some more snacks too of course! There has been a lot of progress made on improving my menu between breakfast and dinner this year. Have to admit I’ve replaced dinner with snacks a few times because they are tempting, but that is better than not eating.

IMG_5196aEven with snack breaks I’d made pretty good time. The sun was still above the mountains to my west as I walked along the Ethan Pond Trail where it opens up below Whitewall Mtn. The late afternoon sun looked great on the jumbled pile of rocks and the cliffs above where they’d started out.

IMG_5198aThis trail is always a joy to walk on. Smooth and level, you’d never guess it was in the middle of the White Mts. I could see the shadows gathering down below so didn’t get to spend as much time enjoying it as I’d have liked. Never having camped at the spot I was headed to I figured I’d better not linger.

IMG_5200aWhen passing this sign before I’ve always stopped to look at the pile of rocks that counts as the start of the Zeacliff Trail. A narrow break in the low scrub and scattered signs of human traffic were the only guides. This pile of rocks was both unstable and very steep in places making for a very slow descent. By the time I reached the bottom the light was going fast so I didn’t stop to take pictures.

First I headed off the trail to the south where I’d been told there were some good sites. Along the way I found some bad sites where lazy people had camped and crapped right next to the trail. Then I came to the spot I’d been told of and while I could see it had been used many times at least the folks who came this far didn’t leave their poop laying around.

It took some effort to find my way back to the water I could hear nearby, but eventually I followed the right herd path to reach the Whitewall Brook. Despite looking clear and pristine I followed my usual protocol and filtered a few bags of water since I knew animals had been pooping in the woods upstream heh.

The night was very restful other than a bright full moon that actually woke me up a few times. I had to face the other way until it finally disappeared behind the mountain. Leaving the roof off to enjoy the view has downsides too sometimes I guess.

IMG_5201aThe next day I was treated to the sound of early morning hikers passing above my head on the AT. They had no idea I was still tucked under my quilt envying the flat trail they had ahead of them on their way towards Ethan Pond. I on the other hand was headed up. There aren’t a lot of pictures of the climb because pictures really don’t convey the reality very well. That and I was sweating pretty good and didn’t want to short out the camera heh.

There were two definitely steep sections separated by some easier climbing, but no real respite until the top. Thankfully it wasn’t a very hot morning because I was working hard. This was my first trip in about a month due to a long family road trip. The legs had lost a lot of strength from the lay off and weren’t very happy about having that pointed out.

IMG_5207aI just stopped and laughed when I got to this spot. The first ledge was about head high so wasn’t my first guess as to where the trail would be heading. Then I noticed an old blue blaze on a rock several ledges higher. Luckily there was a crevice I could get some hand holds on so I tossed my poles up and did some actual climbing.

IMG_5208aI’d like to say that it was over all too soon, but really, I was pretty dang happy when I got to the other end of the trail at the Twinway intersection. Sitting down to celebrate my successful ascent with a well earned snack I was soon greeted by the first of many folks I’d meet on this busy trail. There were families out for a day hike from the Zealand Hut down below, thru hikers headed towards Maine and a fair number of folks headed towards the Bonds as I was.

The weather was acting up a bit as I approached the top of Guyot Mtn with low clouds and a bit of mist at times. Clearing the summit the wind was pushing the clouds right into the ridge so I was glad when I made the turn off of the AT and put it at my back. By the time I reached the tent sites even a hot hiker like me was feeling the wet chill.

The same nice caretaker I’d met on my previous visit was on duty which I was glad to see as I’d come prepared to repay her kindness. Since she had been nice enough to share her coffee with me last time I returned the favor by making her one of my famous cocoacinos. Then just to show I’d been paying attention, I gifted her with a couple of Snickers bars I’d picked up for her since she’d mentioned they were a favorite. Food makes a very nice gift for someone stuck on top of a mountain so if you ever get the chance, bring them some!

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The next day the sky had cleared some, but there were still a few clouds bumping into the mountains. I enjoyed coffee and breakfast in the communal area and then headed up to the Bond summit. My legs were very cranky, especially the quads. The long layoff followed by the hard climb had really taken a toll on them. Mercifully the climb to the summit is less than a mile and not that hard other than the climb up to the trail from the camp.

IMG_5215aEven my cranky legs were happy with the summit views. The clouds were near, but not on my head. The shadows made for great patterns on the already interesting landscape. It would have been a great day to linger there, but as the saying goes, I had miles to go before I could sleep.

IMG_5217aLooking down from the summit toward the cliffs always puts things into perspective. The stone cliffs seem very different from here than they do up close. Whether I’m headed up or down I always trace the trail over the ridge and thinking about being there looking up this way.

IMG_5220aThis area really has become a new favorite spot for me. The views stay almost entirely within the mountains. Other than the Loon Mtn ski runs and the towers on Mt Washington when you can see that far, civilization is obscured by the wilderness peaks and valleys.

IMG_5236aThe cliff face in shadow shows a bit more depth to the cracks. This is another spot I could spend some time watching shadows move if I didn’t have to keep moving. Some extended time up here is in order I think. It might take a few days to really see it.

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Looking back to the summit the clouds had moved back in. Just as well I had only time enough to enjoy the view and move on it seems. This was a quick trip and as planned quickly over. My goals had been to climb that cliff trail and to test out my legs. Both were met, though I wasn’t happy to find out my legs were no longer the stomping machines they’d been earlier in the season. Oh well, I guess that means more hiking trips need to be scheduled. Maybe some more redlining?

Pogy Pond Rain

Quick video from the BSP/IAT week long loop. This was just the tail end of a whopper of a storm that caught me a few miles out from Pogy Pond. Never been wetter in my life even in my surfing days heh. Sorry there is no video of the thunderstorm that preceded this rain but I was too busy racing down the trail to document properly.

Long Pond Family Trip – Baxter State Park July 2015

Long Pond Family Trip – Baxter State Park July 2015

This impromptu family trip came together on just a few days planning. There was some time between the trip with the boys from Texas and my upcoming second attempt to put together a Baxter-IAT loop. Rather than sit home thinking about that looming over my head, a few days of relaxing at one of our favorite spots seemed like a great idea.

Whoops! Our spot, Long Pond Pines, was only available the second night, but we soldiered on by booking the Long Pond Outlet for the first. The plan called for starting from the trailhead near Trout Brook camp and looping around Trout Brook Mt counter clockwise. This trail was new to all of us, but we knew the distance was in our daughter’s range.

LongPondLoopThe trailhead seemed a bit confusing with three different trails leaving directly from the parking area. The girls actually started up the wrong trail that would have taken them straight up the mountain, but I caught them before they took more than a few steps.

 

IMG_4706aThe trail was moderately even with rolling ups and downs. It sees enough traffic from day hikers to keep it well trod and easy to follow. In one of the low sections we came across this beaver dam just up from the trail with a small pond forming behind it.

IMG_4715aIt was a warm and muggy day so we were happy to find the short side trail to our camp. There was plenty of room for tents at the site, but it didn’t seem as open to the breeze as the spot on the other side of the pond. We went topless to catch what breeze we could in the tent and to watch the stars.

IMG_4711aUnlike previous trips where we paid for canoe use by the hour the ranger at the gate asked us for two days worth of fees. Since it was paid for I hiked over to where they are stored and paddled it back to our camp. Well first I made the mistake of exploring the pond a bit and had to fight a strong, afternoon headwind to get back to where the girls were. It has been a while since I paddled alone and the wind had some fun with me before I eventually returned to camp.

IMG_4716aThe outlet looked to be barely flowing, but the air was filled with the sound of frogs, birds and bugs. This looked like a great spot for a moose to wander through, but family trips tend to be a bit too noisy for them to get close.

IMG_4720aOnce the afternoon breeze died down the pond became like glass. I love the reflections the mountains leave in these ponds. It is hard not to feel peaceful when looking at the reflections and listening to nature’s music.

IMG_4728aWe went out for a family paddle in the morning. Then later when it was time to move camp the girls walked over while I took most of the gear in the canoe. It certainly seemed like a relaxing way to travel.

IMG_4729aSpeaking of relaxing the plants around the water’s edge were certainly easy on the eyes. That feeling didn’t extend to the ears though due to some unusual “barking” frogs that lined this side of the pond. I’ve never heard this particular sound before despite having camped at this pond several times previously.

IMG_4736aStill it is hard not to feel at peace when looking at floating water plants. The girls spent some time splashing in the pond to cool off, but I was happy to just sit on the hill and soak in the day.

IMG_4746aThe roof was on the tent just in case, but furled to preserve the view. The Trail Ridge 3 is hard to fit between the roots at this site, but sleeping next to the pond is always restful.

IMG_4738aSpeaking of which, after a long hard day of play our daughter decided a nap was in order. Good thing she got her rest because the walk out the next day seemed a bit harder than the walk in. Maybe it was the heat, but we were all ready to be done by the time we reached the car.

IMG_4748aDefinitely worth the effort though! These moments when we all are out there together are so special. The downside is that my solo trips feel much more alone after one of these family adventures.

I’ll leave you with this quick video of moments from this family adventure. Hope you’ve had a chance to get out there with those you enjoy spending time with this summer. There is never enough time, but that is all the more reason to get out there when you can!

Early Winter Testing

Early Winter Testing

It may be a late Summer swelter out there for most of us, but that doesn’t mean I can’t start testing out my new Winter tent. A great deal on an Easton Torrent 2P came up a few months ago, but so far I’d only set it up in the living room. I bought it for snow camping as it has full double walls and extra structural supports to carry a snow load, but they claim it ventilates well enough to be used all year.

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We have great weather to test that out today with high humidity and light, intermittent showers. Hoping for some heavier stuff later to test out the seam sealing.

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This vestibule design with two stakes holding the side panels in place makes for a lot of options in using the door. I can imagine rolling it all the way up and peering out through that at the winter stars while snuggled in my quilts. For now I have the bottom open to pull air in with all inner and outer vents opened up top.  I’ll sleep out there tonight to test how well that chimney effect works.

Started catching up reporting on previous adventures, I have my eye on the weather for a possible trip next week plus the coming Fall season to plan for, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get a little excited about snow camping. Going to be a while before I can try this tent out in those conditions though so don’t expect a full review any time soon.

Hope you are getting out there when you can. I know I’m ready, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be carrying something lighter than this tent next week 🙂

Upper South Branch and Pogy – Baxter State Park June 2015

Upper South Branch and Pogy – Baxter State Park June 2015

As usual the boys from Texas came up looking for adventure in the wilds of Baxter State Park. Once a year they arrive freshly steamed from the south to enjoy our pleasant climate, eat lobstahs and try to find a mountain to make them appreciate their flatland home for another year. Time constraints forced us into an early date in mid June and we hit the trifecta as far as bugs go. The black fly bloom was at its peak, but there were already plenty of mosquitoes and deer flies as well.IMG_4577a

The plan was actually quite tame compared to some years. We had reservations for two nights at the Upper South Branch LT in hopes of doing the Traveler Loop followed by two days of relaxing at the Pogy Pond LT.IMG_4582a

We had great weather to start and enjoyed the relaxing two miles or so we had to hike in to our site. Mostly flat with a big ridge in the middle it provided lots of different views of the pond. This view is from the camp site looking at the ridge we came over which sits at the base of the main part of the mountain and would be the start of our climb the following day.IMG_4604a

The lean to at Upper South Branch is advertised as having room for four, but it definitely is one of the smaller ones in the park. The boys used their tents as bivies while I hung my bug net. I had a tarp prerigged so it could easily be deployed if a storm came up overnight as was expected, but we left thing open to enjoy the view and the breeze.IMG_4605a

Sunset brought a period of complete stillness as I often find to be the case in these mountains. No matter what afternoon breezes blow there seems to be at least a short period of rest before the evening comes on.

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There had been talk of a front coming through over night, but the red in the sunset made me think perhaps it had fizzled out. We’d have to see what the morning brought because this loop would not be safe to do if wet. Things certainly seemed peaceful as dark fell.IMG_4620a

That peace didn’t last too long though. During the night the wind began to blow through the trees with gusto. It wasn’t as loud as being in the White Mountains when the wind comes up, but it made for restless sleep.  Morning dawned to wind driven clouds covering the mountain. We never really saw much in the way of rain where we were, but we could see the peaks were scraping the clouds and at times the entire mountain disappeared from view.IMG_4629a

Being wise old men with slow healing bones the elder block voted to stay safely below and watch the storm roll by. The youngster was wise enough not to argue. Based on how slippery the rocks were on the Pogy Notch trail the next day I think we made the right choice. Later in the year there is enough traffic to wear some of the moss off, but even on level ground it was pretty slippery at times so I’d guess that ridge would have been mighty treacherous.IMG_4646a

So we moved on to Pogy Pond on day three. The storm had moved on leaving lots of sunshine and a pretty strong breeze. The bugs were bad here as well, but the views were fantastic.IMG_4656aThe wind made fishing a bit pointless so I kept up with the relaxation theme. Between swatting at bugs I found time to enjoy some of the good things Nature has to offer. These water plants had some very impressive blooms.

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The pond also had some wild life. There were a lot of these giant tadpoles swimming about near the shore. I’m not certain if they are related to the booming bull frogs we heard later, but those sounded big as well.IMG_4668a

The youngster studies bugs as part of his college program, but has a strong aversion to feeding them. He often relaxes completely covered from head to toe for protection. I tend to rely on swatting as much as possible so I don’t have to wear all those clothes.IMG_4672a

We did have one bug issue I couldn’t abide by. There were a couple of wasp nests inside the lean to. I’m a pretty big stickler for following rules, but opted to be an outlaw in this case and sleep outside. The price was a vicious no-see-em attack on the second night, but I’d never have been able to sleep next to those wasps.IMG_4677a

The boys took the canoe out for a spin and tried some fishing but the wind made both a bit challenging. Darn pretty place to paddle around though. I did some casting from a rock near shore, but the wind made it seem more like a comedy routine than fishing. IMG_4692a

I did get this shot of a huge dragon fly. Always happy to see these guys around as they love to eat mosquitoes. No wonder it was so big when you consider the food supply it had access to.IMG_4695a

The wind finally calmed down towards the end of our last day. Watching the sun set light up the mountain without having to climb it seemed a bit too easy, but still wonderful to enjoy.IMG_4698aNot the trip we had planned, but so much more relaxing than our previous struggles with roaring floods and gravity. The talk is of trying to get back to more serious efforts next year, but to tell the truth, I’m ok with this style once in a while.

June Visit to the Bonds

June Visit to the Bonds

Two nights resulted in hundreds of pictures and many videos despite some rain the first day. I’ve whittled it down to 39 pics for this post with several videos to follow including a great sunset time lapse.

The first day’s hike took me across the river and into the western side of the Pemigewasset Wilderness for a change. Previous adventures have taken me on the Twinway from Galehead to Zealand but I didn’t have time to make the side trip over Guyot to the Bonds before. While I knew I wanted to get this trip in before things got too crowded in this popular area the weather was uncooperative. It took three weeks before I could find enough breaks in the weather for both the motorcycle ride to NH and a trip up the mountain and even then I knew I’d see at least some rain.

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A trip last year saw me headed out as far as the intersection with the Bond Cliff Trail, but that time I’d continued out to 13 Falls on the Franconia Brook Trail. This time I followed the old rail bed into the wilderness with the sound of the Pemigewasset River coming and going through the trees but the water rarely in sight.

I ran into a group of young men at the intersection where the Bond Cliff Trail heads up away from the river and the now abandoned section of the Wilderness Trail that used to lead across Black Brook and then the Pemi via a couple of bridges since removed. They had been thinking of following the old trail and crossing the river but found both were obstacles better left unchallenged. I gave them some ideas on where to look for camp sites and warned them a storm was forecast to come though soon so they’d best not wait too long to get set up. Being young they may not have listened to my old man advice, but hopefully they stayed dry enough.

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I ambled up the beginnings of the notch that Black Brook descends from and soon began to feel a light rain begin to fall. There wasn’t a definite target for a campsite that night so as soon as I felt the light dim a bit and the rain begin to become more steady I stepped off the trail near one of the water crossings and found a place many before me had spent the night. Definitely a bit more over used than my usual camps, but it was there when I needed it.

Just before the rain began to get serious I managed to get a tarp strung up hastily from whatever anchor points I could manage quickly. That let me and my pack hang out under its protection while I snapped together my tent pole and set up as dryly as possible in a storm. The rain was pretty heavy for a few hours which gave me time to cook and eat dinner, set up my bed and even relax inside the tent in dry clothes for a bit before it turned to intermittent showers.

The rain had been incredibly loud pounding on both the tarp and my rain fly. I decided while laying there that when the rain let up I would take down the tarp so it didn’t wake me up if more rain fell during the night. The picture above is from when I was starting to take it down. While doing that I began to notice a birch tree near my camp that hadn’t caught my eye earlier. It was dead and in process of falling down around my camping area in small, but heavy pieces. The more I looked at it the more I didn’t like it, but finding a spot for my tent that wouldn’t also collect water if it rained heavily was hard. I went back and forth before finally moving a fair bit away to a spot I felt better about. I checked in the morning and nothing had fallen where I was, but I still slept a lot better knowing that thing wasn’t looming over my head.

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This little brook was not far from my camp and there was a nice fallen log there to sit on. I had breakfast there in the morning and watched a hiker with full pack slowly work his way across with no idea of me being there.

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I had the camera out to take a picture of my camp so I thought I’d get a shot of my new hat. Finally retired the straw hat last year and thought I’d try one of the popular light cloth ones to replace it. It doesn’t provide as much protection, but it does pack well unlike straw.

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After breakfast I started heading up through the wet forest. The trail soon went from a balance of rocks and dirt to mostly rocks in many stretches. There were several crossings of Black Brook as well as other wet spots. Combined with a couple of switchbacks this section picked up a little elevation before giving a view of what was to come.

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I was a little blown away by the perspective when the trees opened up and I could see what remained of this side of the mountain before me. That bit of rock poking out of the top was where I was headed, but it seemed much farther and higher than the map implied.

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That beautiful green canopy against the clearing sky the storm had left behind was a great motivator though. I laughed to myself that the only way to find out what it looked like from above was to climb up there and it wasn’t as though I was going to turn around without at least trying so I might as well get going.

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Soon after that I was rewarded with this great stretch of trail. With rare White Mountains dirt and a thick carpet of pine needles it made for a steady ramp that gained a lot of easy elevation while traversing the slope.  It also had the benefits of both views and breezes hinted at between the thinning trees.

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They don’t put up many signs in the wilderness, but this information was worth the intrusion. Life is hard enough on the plants in alpine areas and they can’t afford to take abuse from us. Of course some moron built a campfire on top of the cliffs, but I see that as all the more reason the rest of us need to do our part.

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Speaking of cliffs; I found those rocks I’d been looking for. Now I just had to figure out how to get up them. The ledges provided pretty good toe holds but not much for the hands. With a full pack I took my time working my way up reminding myself what I tell my four year old daughter when she is climbing things, “One hand. One foot. One hand. One foot.”

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Looking back down you can see not only the sign at the base of the cliff, but the first views of why I made the effort. Above the trees the breezes were free to roam and it was a beautiful day. Right after a front moves through is often a great time to be up top taking in the views.

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Looking down the Pemi valley back towards the trail head I came in from. You can make out the ski runs at Loon Mt beyond.

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So many peaks it is hard to keep them all straight with views like this, but I’m going with Hancocks in the left center with Osceola in the distance.

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These cliffs were amazing to walk along. The exposed stone seemed to make the empty space beyond more palpable. Whenever I was especially near the edge I could feel the void as much as see it and my feet seemed to step lightly rather than risk breaking the mountain.

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IMG_4469aThe last rise to the top of Bond Cliff. Thankfully there was just a nice cooling breeze as I was crossing. There really was a great sense of exposure from here and up the next part of the ridge towards Mt Bond. Not the sort of place I want to be on a big wind day for certain.
IMG_4472aFrom the top of the cliff the route up Mt Bond became clear though the ridge trail disappeared into some low trees near the summit. It looked simple enough from here and I stopped to chat with some folks I met coming the other way. They, like a man right behind them and many others I met on this trip, were doing the pretty standard Pemi Loop that takes folks along Franconia Ridge, across Garfield before heading up to South Twin and then out across the Bonds. They spent a big part of the day before hiking in the rain but still seemed very pleased with their trip. A beautiful day like this makes up for a lot of rain.
IMG_4474aLooking back at the cliffs as I worked my way up the ridge toward Bond. Seeing those rock faces from this distance seemed to make them look even larger than when I was on top of them. It was hard to fathom the size up close and only when seen as part of a bigger picture could their scale be fully realized.
IMG_4475aThe stunted trees managed to grow almost to the very top of Mt Bond, but you could feel this was a place life had to really hang on at times. A great place to visit but not one you’d want to be at when the winds were blowing. The views were open in all directions with ridges of mountains extending to the horizon most places you could see.
IMG_4479aLooking down on the Bond Cliffs below provides another new perspective. Having so recently been there looking up here I can trace my route down the cliffs and into the trees that led me to this spot. You can’t beat that for a sense of where you are and how you got there.
IMG_4482aThis little wind scoured ridge caught my eye. You can see how anything much taller than a blade of grass has been peeled off leaving no protection for any ambitious new tree or shrub to take root. Oh yeah, that may be Mt Washington in the distance beyond the Wileys, but really, look at this windswept hill.
IMG_4484aOK, now you can look at Mt Washington if you’d like. Actually a pretty good view of Whitewall and Mt Field too.
IMG_4487aI was lucky enough to have this platform at the AMC Guyot camp all to myself for the night. Sure it was the farthest from the kitchen area and water supply down a pretty steep hill, but if I have to camp in an organized site I like to have some privacy if possible.
IMG_4489aThe view was limited to the forest in front of me, but I just wanted a place to set up my bed before I went out hunting the famous West Bond sunset.
IMG_4490aThe water supply at the Guyot camp is some of the cleanest water you’ll find coming from a spring just above the camp. I still used my filter just because I don’t like to take any chances on getting sick, but I’m told that despite the warning signs many folks just drink it as is.
IMG_4493aThe bear boxes and cooking area are designed to centralize food activity. The caretaker said bears usually don’t roam this high, but that they still had a bear issue in recent years. Bears conditioned to know where to look for food is one of the reasons I don’t like to use these camps, but at least the caretakers try to keep folks in line unlike the unsupervised Franconia Tent Site.
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I had an early dinner and headed out to West Bond a good two hours before sunset. I had the place all to myself for most of that time before being joined by three nice young folks from MA.

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It is so rare to be able to relax in a spot like this and let evening come on. Most times I visit the pretty spots in the course of a difficult hike and then disappear into the woods below to spend the night.

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Feeling the light slowly change is always something special. The connection to the natural world was only magnified by taking it all in on a panorama of this scale.

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Slowly the light changed to yellow and then orange. The shadows deepened on the distant ridges of the Hancocks with Carrigain in the distance. At one point I could make out the fire tower I’d climbed there a few weeks earlier silhouetted against the sky. IMG_4564a

A bit of the alpenglow on Bond Cliff. Those few moments of light coming up through a sunset to splash this color across a rock face are one of my favorite memories to collect.IMG_4567a

Final moments of the sunset behind Mt Garfield. I have a bit over thirty minutes of this sunset on video which is probably more than most people want to watch, but look for a two minute time lapse version to be posted here soon.

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The walk back to camp was less than a mile but I was glad I’d brought my headlamp along. I was able to stay and enjoy a little sunset afterglow and still get back without breaking anything.

IMG_4574aTiny bit of sunrise visible from my tent platform. I packed up quickly because I knew I had a lot of miles to cover and last I’d heard rain was possible. Sure enough a few drops splattered on the tarp over the cooking area while I enjoyed my morning coffee with a big group of neighbors. There was one SOBO on the AT doing a major section hike, a grandfather escorting a couple of teen boys including his grandson who was finishing up his NH48 as well as the three folks from MA I’d shared the sunset with the night before. While I’m happier camping alone in the woods I can see where these camps make for a bit of social gathering place that many folks seem to enjoy.

Speaking of enjoying I have to mention the warm welcome and hospitality provided by the AMC caretaker at the Guyot camp. Much like my experience last year at 13 Falls I was given my choice of spots and allowed to get settled in before returning to pay for my site. Since it was early in the afternoon and no one else was around yet my host shared a cup of coffee and a bit of conversation before returning to her duties as other folks began to arrive. It certainly makes it easier for me to give up the privacy of wilderness camping when you get a chance to meet nice people in return.

With the threat of rain hovering over me as well as about 11 miles back to my scoot in the parking lot I finished my coffee and headed back up Mt Bond one last time and then on down beyond to the cliffs. I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to get down that last bit of cliff, but when the time came I just turned around and used the old one hand, one foot technique like I was climbing down a ladder.

I knew I’d be crossing Black Brook several times on my way down so kept my water bag pretty light in my pack. At each crossing I’d toss off my pack and grab my Sawyer Mini with drink tube attached to camel up water right from the brook. I was doing just that when two men came to the crossing also headed down. They didn’t stay to chat for long, but it seemed they were saying they were finishing up the “Pemi Loop” and this was only their second day. I thought either I’d misheard them or they were doing some sort of mini loop. I went flying past them soon after on the down hill, but they caught up as I was finishing my lunch. In talking some more it turns out they had indeed done the entire loop in just two days. Huge miles, but they stayed at an AMC hut so were able to hike long hours and then have a hot meal. Still I was quite impressed, though one of them came up lame coming down the last stretch.

Thankfully the rains held off all the way not only to the parking lot but all the way home. That many miles of trail is a bit more than I’d like before the long motorcycle ride home, but I wasn’t complaining. Not about the rain on the first day either. Those views up top were definitely worth any hardship I endured. Since I do still need to climb the Zeacliff Trail I’m thinking I might use that as an excuse to head this way again soon. It is a bit of a stretch, but if I make it up that trail I think I’ll have earned another chance to relax and soak up the views. Besides I’ve heard the sunrise on Mt Bond is as good as the West Bond sunset. Better bring the video camera!