Semi-Pemi – Three Night October 2016 Fall Color Trip

Semi-Pemi – Three Night October 2016 Fall Color Trip

76 pictures from a killer Pemigewasset trip along with the usual random thoughts that came to me along the way. Bonus video will be posted in a few days. For now enjoy the sights, but thankfully not the smells, of this beautiful four day visit to New Hampshire for some of the best backpacking the White Mountains have to offer.

dsc00220aBy the second week of October the days were already getting short fast. Getting on the road early meant a chilly ride on the scoot, but I didn’t want to get caught on the ridge come sunset.

The East Branch of the Pemigewasset River was looking mighty low, but despite the lack of water the trees had some pretty good color going on. I flew down the flat section that starts the trail covering about a mile and a half in twenty minutes even with my pack fresh from the parking lot and full of goodies.dsc00221aThen I slowed down as the Osseo Trail began its ascent towards Mt Flume. The first sign of real progress is literally a sign. It made no sense the first time I read it, but now I know it means what it says.dsc00222aThe trees here block the view a bit and I’m not one to get too close to the edge, but you definitely can look down at this spot.dsc00223aYou can look out as well, but that is common in these mountains. Common enough that the down is what was worth noting on the sign at least.dsc00226aI didn’t get any pictures of me enjoying my lunch here, but I did get this shot of me looking down at the downlook.dsc00228aThere is a bit more work in the trees before breaking out to this sight which welcomes you to Mt Flume’s rocky summit. Thankfully the wind was light so heading up this open, rocky section was fun rather than terrifying.dsc00229aYou can see how the deciduous color gives way to the evergreens as the elevation climbs.dsc00230aEvergreen gives way to rock in the higher and more exposed spots. From here on Flume I could see Liberty waiting for me next. Previous experience kept me from thinking it was as close as it looked and I knew I’d drop down into a col before having to climb up to reach that peak.dsc00231aLooking a bit beyond I could see Franconia Ridge waiting for tomorrow. That view really leaves me anticipating the following day but there is little time for daydreaming with the sun already heading towards the mountains in the west.dsc00233aWell maybe a few minutes longer to soak up that golden colored sun that Autumn brings.dsc00234adsc00235aUp on Liberty the light was even better though it hinted that it wouldn’t last long. There were only a few people on the trail this being the middle of the week. It would have been relaxing to sit here and just think or even be thoughtless which seemed odd as this summit is often full of people.dsc00236aThere was one group of day hikers who climbed down to a spot out of the wind. They said they’d spent hours up there though they were going to have to leave soon.

I did as well and headed on to make camp at the Liberty Springs AMC site. The caretakers were gone for the year, but I do believe we filled up every platform that night with late season backpackers. I met a family that was almost done with their loop and a couple of younger guys from Texas who were just starting on theirs.dsc00242aI left room in case anyone needed a spot as my tent doesn’t take up much space, but had no takers. It was a cool night in the upper 30s so most everyone seemed to turn in early.dsc00244aAfter the incredibly steep ascent back to the ridge from the campsite the legs were warmed up and ready for the day. I was happy to be on the ridge which is challenging, but a lot easier than most of the trails that get you up there. dsc00246aWorking my way up Little Haystack there was a nice view looking back at the previous day’s peaks. Flume is sort of hiding behind that tree and Liberty in the center looks pointy from this side. That might explain why it felt that way going up.dsc00247aLooking right down the notch of valley that separates Owlshead from the ridge up here. There is a little piece of trail down there that remains in my quest to redline the Pemi.dsc00251adsc00255aTopping out on Little Haystack I met the first intersecting trail and my first day hiker. This is a great spot for second breakfast before the real climbs of the day begin. One of the benefits of a popular trail with lots of people is that folks can take turns taking pictures of one another. So much easier than trying to set up selfies on a mountain without falling off.dsc00263aThis climb up Lincoln is harder than it looks I find each time I come up here. After the big rocky section there is a steep final pitch up to the top. Thankfully there is a great place to get out of the wind behind a big rock just over the ridge because the wind was really picking up by this time.dsc00265aIt was getting harder to hold the camera still so I wasn’t taking much time to set up shots. Literally point, shoot, put the camera away so I could grab my hiking poles to keep myself on my feet.dsc00267aComing around these rocks and suddenly being exposed to the full force of the wind was almost enough to knock you over. Thank goodness for a heavy pack to keep me on the ground!dsc00274aThe climb up to Lafayette from Liberty is easier than it looks or at least I feel that way about it. Mostly it is just a gentle slope with a few sections that tilt up a bit more steeply. dsc00275aIf you look carefully you can spot these two folks eating lunch in the col if you scroll back up to the previous picture. They were tucked into the scrub trying to stay out of the wind while they relaxed in the sun.dsc00276aI’d just had elevensies on top of Lincoln so had no excuse to stop again though I’d have liked to sit there for a bit. Instead I took advantage of a quartering tail wind as I ascended the open slope of Lafayette.dsc00280aNearing the top there was nothing to block the wind and it was a constant challenge to keep pointed in the right direction.dsc00282aPretty sure I was hiding behind a rock to stand still enough to get this shot of the valley below.dsc00285aEverything was dry up there. I mean crackling brown and dead. Very strange for a place that is often wrapped in clouds. Hopefully we have a good snowy winter to get things wet up there again.dsc00288aJust this final section of rock to climb. The wind was strong from my left as I worked my way up. I was glad that it was a wide slope rather than a spiny ridge I was ascending. Plenty of room for error ๐Ÿ™‚dsc00291aOnly a few hearty souls were hanging out at the summit. Usually you can’t find a place to sit up here but I noticed that almost everyone who arrived kept moving. A few stopped to take a picture or two, but these folks hiding behind the rocks were the only ones who stayed long.dsc00294aAgain it was really hard to hold the camera still so I was just pressing the buttons and hoping for the best.dsc00295aThis guy was taking an epic selfie with his beard and hair flying back from his head. He looked pretty stoked about it too ๐Ÿ™‚dsc00296aThe wind was clearing out the sky some, giving better light. One of the reasons I was making this trip was because it was cloudy the last time I was up here. This wasn’t a perfect day, but it was definitely worth the effort.dsc00298aAgain enlisting help from a day hiker I got this pic because I have almost no pictures of me wearing the Unaweep. This pack rocks and I intend to do a Trailspace review on it soon so getting some action shots was nice.dsc00301aAnother great action shot of the pack for my review. Shame it is blocking Mt Washington, but the rest of the view isn’t exactly terrible.dsc00304aGarfield peak lies tauntingly close from here at the end of the ridge. Only about a mile and a half as the crow flies, but I’m an old fat guy with a backpack so my route would be a bit longer. First down off the ridge via a steep descent, then a couple of serious PUDs on the knobs in the middle before the final steep ascent of Garfield.dsc00307aTime to enjoy the views up here before giving up the high ground. The trail is mostly tree shrouded once you descend so good to soak up the sun while you can because the other side of the peak will be in shadow.dsc00309aAbout half way to Garfield from the end of the ridge and it looks at least twice as far away as it did before. Thankfully I had a nice Fall day with cool temps so overheating or running out of water were not an issue. Just a matter of keeping the legs moving.dsc00311aShot from the same spot with some zoom applied this pic gives a better account of Garfield’s true peaky-ness and the climb that lies ahead.dsc00315aPassing by the pond is always a good sign that progress is being made. I think I’d like to plot a trip that involved staying the night in this area below the mountain some time. It would mean a nasty climb first thing in the morning no matter which direction you were traveling the loop, but it seems like a nice bit of forest after a day on the rocky ridge.dsc00318aSpeaking of rocky…the first time one runs into a “trail” like this it can be a bit unsettling. After traversing this feature a few times I have a longer, but safer route for when it is wet or a more direct and dangerous route for when it is dry enough that I think my feet will stick to it. This time I took the direct route and enjoyed saving the time.dsc00320aThat left me more time to enjoy my time at the top. This rocky ledge is a required stop where food is eaten, pictures taken and the fact that the summit is in sight is celebrated.dsc00321aThere is still a little more climbing to go, but it can be really windy up there so I always do my eating down below before going up.dsc00322aAfter some time in the trees it is great to be out in the open again. Once again it would be tempting to sit and enjoy this but I know the sun won’t last and the shady side of this mountain always seems to get dark early.dsc00325aThat Autumn light in the afternoon brings out so many beautiful colors and shadows.dsc00326aNever know when you’ll be back so best to appreciate these spots when you can. So much effort to get there, but worth every step.dsc00327aThe boys from Texas that I’d met the night before popped out of the woods and agreed that their efforts had been rewarded. If I hadn’t heard via trail chatter that they weren’t in front of me I’d have assumed they were. Young and strong folks tend to go fast but it seemed they were wise enough to go slow and appreciate the amazing trip they found themselves on.dsc00331aThey headed down from the summit towards the campsite below. I reminded them to take water from the spring before climbing the steep trail as I’d learned the hard way last time. dsc00333aThen I settled back to enjoy a few moments alone in the sun. I wasn’t going all the way around the high loop on this trip so this would be one of my last chances to enjoy this sort of view before heading down into the trees for good.dsc00338aThe wind was whipping around the shelter when I arrived. There was a couple there that put up their tent inside the shelter thinking no one else would be around. So long as I could find a spot to lay out my bed I didn’t care, but it seemed sort of silly since there were no bugs and the shelter is almost fully enclosed. Normally I’d prefer to sleep out in the woods in my tent, but that wind convinced me the sleeping would be better inside no matter who I had to share with.

Seeing how happy I looked in there the Texas twosome decided to drag their stuff inside as well. We had another hiker join us a bit after dark, while several other parties poked their noses inside and opted to set up tents rather than keep us up late. Amazing how many people you can meet on top of a mountain even in October.dsc00340aThis was also amazing. I took this shot without a tripod. Just elbows against ribs and holding my breath. The image of the moon was dancing back and forth in the digital display as the computer wizardry tried to process the image on the fly. I took one stab at the button thinking it would be a blurry smudge and was amazed to find this when I got home.dsc00341aOne of the folks in the shelter apparently set an alarm for 5am in hopes of catching the sunrise from the summit. The sky was socked in so I’m pretty certain he didn’t get much of a view, but he did get everyone else moving early which wasn’t the worst thing in the world.

The clouds were swirling around the mountain on gusty winds leaving everything wet. Perfect weather for descending one of the steepest sections of trail on the entire AT. I took my time knowing that my plan called for turning off and heading down from the ridge just a bit further on. No sense in breaking my leg before I get to enjoy the easy trail.dsc00344aTime to redline the 2.2 miles from here to 13 Falls. Virgin trail to me this was. One of the last few snippets that had been missed over the last few years of exploring the Pemigewasset Wilderness.dsc00345aTurning off the rocky AT onto this side trail was a complete change of terrain. Mud and bog boards replaced the rocks except for the spots where there were rocks to stay out of the mud.dsc00346aFranconia Brook wasn’t exactly roaring, but at least there was some water to be found. The leaves down at this elevation seem to have taken a beating from all the wind, but there were still some left in the trees.dsc00348aNormally a good flowing series of small falls the Lincoln Brook Trail crossing was almost dry. I sat down for second breakfast on rocks that are often under water. dsc00349aBad weather was forecast and setting up at 13 Falls campsite was my emergency option if needed, but so far the skies were still looking gray, but not dark. I was debating if I should hike out to my scoot and try to head home, but figured I’d just end up riding in the rain if I pushed my luck.dsc00351aAs nice as it was hanging out at the falls I didn’t really want to spend the rest of the day just hanging around camp so I decided I’d head down the trail and figure out what I was doing as I went.dsc00352aRather than worry about what was to come I was just happy it wasn’t raining yet. The colors might have been better with sunshine, but it was interesting to see the trees from down below after looking down on them from above the past few days.dsc00353adsc00362aSince it hadn’t started raining yet I began thinking I maybe should have stayed on the ridge loop and hit South Twin and then Guyot. I still could zip up Twin Brook if I wanted to, but I knew that would probably end up a cold and wet mistake.dsc00363aThis dismal looking swamp is usually a much more vibrant pond. I’d never seen it looking like this before. Usually I will stop and watch birds here as there are often several paddling around.dsc00364aThere was something splashing way out in the water but I never saw it clearly. I think I caught the splash in this shot, but not the splasher.dsc00365aFrom this side it looks a bit more like a pond. Still, it would be great to have some serious snow to fill these things back up.dsc00367aWith only a few miles left to get back to the parking lot I realized that I really didn’t want to go home. Inspired by the thought of setting up camp early and eating away the evening I bushwhacked my way towards the East Branch when I hit the bridge. Crossing was easy on the exposed rocks so I didn’t bother taking off my boots. Never done that at this spot before.dsc00368aI even stopped to get this pic in the middle of the river. Never been in that spot with a camera before so I thought I’d better document it heh.dsc00369aIt pays to have a good camp routine sometimes. Setting up my tent before cutting up sausage and cheese for a late lunch saved me from getting wet. I’d no more than put the first bite in my mouth when the skies opened, but I was able to dive into the tent and finish there before taking a quick nap to the sound of rain on the fly.

Later there was a nice break of about forty minutes that gave me time to cook and eat dinner just before dark. Just after it got fully dark I noticed some lights bobbing in the trees so I turned my headlamp on and off a few times to let them know I was there. Nice couple came wandering up asking about the campsites. I was a bit surprised that they bushwhacked and crossed the river without knowing where they were really going. Turns out they had camped at Garfield the night before and I’d pointed them towards the tent platforms when they came in.

dsc00372aThe next morning dawned brighter and the rain had really brought down a lot of leaves. It was a beautiful morning and I only had a few miles to walk so I was in no hurry. Chatted with a guy who’d shown up after dark and set up camp between storms. He was talking about doing some big miles that day on the ridge which made me feel even better about being a short timer.dsc00374aI headed down to the river as the sun was just starting to hit the peaks. Figured I’d best enjoy this season while I can because it will likely be deep winter before I get back to this spot again.dsc00375aThere were still a few leaves on the trees after the rain, but those were short timers too. Fall is so pretty, but you know it could turn to Winter on a moments notice so it seems fragile. Best enjoyed as much as you can before it gets away.dsc00377aThe river doesn’t get any deeper it is liable to freeze solid this year ๐Ÿ™‚ No clue what will come, but I know that if this river wants to flow the cold can’t hold it back. I’ve seen car sized chunks of ice tossed into the woods and was glad I wasn’t there when the tossing was going on.dsc00379aThis shot was for my wife, but I figured I’d share it here too. She has a thing about pictures looking up into the trees so I took this one for her.dsc00381aThe Hubba does blend into the forest well in all three seasons it is fit for service. The new ones are red, not sure if that is to keep from losing them or what, but I’m not a big fan. dsc00382aIf I want color I’ll let Nature provide it. The morning sun was certainly bringing out all it could from the remaining leaves. The perfect sky again made me wish I’d stayed on the high route until I thought about descending steep wet slopes in this light rather than the easy trail I was on. dsc00386aYup, I could be content right where I was. Things could always be done differently, but what matters is enjoying where you are right now.dsc00388aThis was a fine way to wrap up the season if it was the end. I have a feeling I might sneak in one or two more quick trips before the snow flies, but we’ll see. I knew heading out that morning I’d be off trail for at least a few weeks so I took my time. It has been a month now with nothing but day hikes due to scheduling issues so I’m finally caught up on trip reports. I’ll either have to write about something else or go on a trip ๐Ÿ™‚

Two Night Carrigain Lollipop – May 2016

Two Night Carrigain Lollipop – May 2016

As hinted at in my last trip report, I decided the Limmers were ready to try some climbing so it was time to find a mountain. The views of Carrigain had reminded me of how much I’d enjoyed my first trip up the Desolation Trail. I found a few days I could go AWOL and loaded up the scoot. The snow was all gone at lower elevations and I had an uneventful first day’s hike out to the Stillwater area.

IMG_6006aI camped on the same knob above the river as last time, but with the snow melted it looked a very different place. The established ad hoc site was clearly visible with its rarely used fire ring and frequently used sitting log. LNT says use what you find so I set up there and then spent a while trying to find the spot I’d camped on the last trip. I finally found it the next morning on my way out by recognizing the little tree that took a bite out of my Patagucci pants, but there was no trace that anyone had camped there.IMG_6004aThe late afternoon sun was lingering later just a few weeks further into Spring and certainly appreciated. The bug house was up, but only a few random flies were around. Later I would put the roof on to keep a chilly breeze out as the night dipped into the 20s. I brought both quilts along which was overkill, but very snuggly that night.IMG_6007aIn the morning it was time to go find that mountain. Passing through the new growth of the Stillwater area there were occasional glimpses of Carrigain waiting for me up ahead. The trail through here is all very flat right up until you start the actual climb which I find amusing. It sort of sneaks up on you and then you find yourself on the mountain.IMG_6009aWell, I guess there is some warning. The name of this trail has always appealed to me, long before I dared to think about climbing it. I recall wishing I was the sort of person who could do that but the elevation profile scared the heck out of me. Now here I was coming back to use this climb to test out how well my boots were breaking in. IMG_6010aThe crossing at the base of the mountain was really low for early May. I like easy crossings, but I’m a bit concerned about how dry this year is going to be. My plans have me traveling mostly to other areas this year so I’ll have to keep an eye on other folks trip reports to know how water supplies are holding up since I won’t be seeing the Pemi nearly as much this year as last.IMG_6011aThen it was time to head up. For most of the climb there are views of the Vose Spur off to the east which I like to use to gauge my progress. I know it stands a bit lower than where I’m headed so as long as it is above me I shouldn’t get my hopes up I’m almost done.IMG_6012aThe first thousand feet or so of climbing was done on relatively dry trail. It was a nice cool morning which is my favorite for going up mountains and I was really enjoying the day.IMG_6015aIf you are going to go to all the trouble of climbing mountains it should be on a day with views like this. There was a little haze, not perfect, but Washington in the distance looked pretty clear to me.IMG_6016aThen I hit the ice! There are no more pictures of the climb because I was too busy to look anywhere but my feet. So long as the trail has some flat spots walking on ice isn’t that hard provided you have your spikes on. It was the more vertical sections that posed the real challenge. Even without ice there are some really steep sections that make you work for every foot of gain on this trail. With the ice there were a few spots that scared the crap out of me heh. At one point I became stuck on the middle of a section that seemed more wall than floor and found myself wishing for an ice axe. After carefully sliding down about twenty feet I stopped on a ledge and found a different route up. This was, at least as far as I’m concerned, some pretty serious stuff.

Then, just as I was approaching the summit, I met a man coming down towards me with just a pair of low hiking shoes on his feet. Despite my encouragement to reconsider, he said he’d probably be OK and continued on. No traction, no satcom and over a mile of serious ice ahead of him on a trail that wouldn’t likely see another hiker for a week or more, I wished him luck and meant it. I think I saw his footprints at the base of the mountain the next day, at least I hoped so.IMG_6017aThe summit was of course worth the effort. Despite my dislike of climbing towers I raced right up to the top this time. With a seriously chilly breeze blowing up there I didn’t stay long. Not much winter snow left on the high peaks, but I bet there is still plenty of ice up there. IMG_6018aI love this perspective looking back over most of the Pemi from the top of Carrigain. So often I am somewhere else out there looking at this peak, I’ve even spotted the tower from the Bonds. I’m going to miss this place this Summer. Last year allowed me to really explore this place, but other trails are calling.IMG_6021aNever having seen the other side of the mountain I’d planned this trip as a loop so I could do some exploring outside the wilderness before turning around and heading back in. The view looking back up at the tower as I descended Signal Ridge shows this side is pretty steep too, but the trail was much easier with switchbacks easing some of the vertical. There was still some serious ice and I had to put my spikes back on several times.IMG_6022aLooking down from the ridge I could see the notch far below. After descending to my right I’d be heading back to my left climbing up that notch. Seemed like a lot of work still to be done, but I comforted myself with the thought that I’d finally redline that missing mile or so of Pemi trail I needed on the Carrigain Notch Trail.IMG_6023aBesides it was a beautiful day for a hike and I was on virgin trail I’d never trampled before. So I’d hike down only to go back up. What else is new?IMG_6024aThese fancy signs make it clear we’re not in the wilderness anymore. Wide groomed trails with clear signage are nice, but I was glad to be headed back into the Pemi rather than out to the highway with the day hikers. Sorry to say the camera crapped out on me at this point so no more pictures. Thinking I may need a new trail camera, but if you’ve ever shopped for photography equipment you know the dilemma of deciding between spending too much money or buying cheap crap. If you’ve found a good middle ground solution I’d love to hear about it.

Anyway, I toddled up the notch as the afternoon wore on. It was a bit of a climb, but never very rugged and then a bit swampy on the way down to the Nancy Pond trail. I set up for the night on this side of Stillwater and headed out the next day. Then it was time to spend a few weeks landscaping the front yard. I guess that is one way to keep in shape between hikes and I’ll be spending plenty of time out on trail soon!

Technical Info:

The map and profile below cover the day of the climb only. I ended up running low on light so camped short of Stillwater the second night rather than back where I’d started the day; A difference of about a mile.

carrigainloopprofileThe actual climb is about 2500′ via the Desolation Trail and the good or bad news is it is only about 2 miles to the top, depending on how you feel about climbing.

carrigainloopmapNot sure the .gpx matched up correctly with the satellite picture in this image, but it gives you an idea of the route at least. Travel was counter clockwise around the loop. You’ll want to bring a real map with you if you go rather than relying on this ๐Ÿ™‚

Stillwater-Shoal Pond-Thoreau Falls Loop April 2016

Stillwater-Shoal Pond-Thoreau Falls Loop April 2016

28 Pics from an April Pemi lowlands loop. Less than two weeks after the Bonds trip I found myself headed back to New Hampshire. This time I figured I’d keep the terrain a bit more simple in hopes of keeping my new boots on my feet for more than just one day. Leaving the spare boots at home and bringing only a pair of trail runners as back up gave me good incentive. Thankfully a different lacing technique loosened up the toes a bit and seemed to resolve the problem I had on the last trip.

IMG_5867aSince my last trip there had been a pretty good snowfall. It had melted in the sunny spots down low, but there was still some lingering. It seemed odd because there was no snow at all at this elevation just a few weeks prior.IMG_5869aThe sky was an amazingly clear blue. No haze or stray wisps floating about. Just that beautiful Spring air and sunshine, though the birch buds were being cautious. Can’t blame them for not wanting to be fooled after all the false starts Spring gave us this year.IMG_5871aA littler farther on the snow was more than lingering on the Wilderness Trail. There were spots where it was six inches deep in the places where the sun was hard pressed to reach.IMG_5872aAfter the previous trip spent in spikes for much of the time it was nice to just bare boot my way through the snow. One or two minor slips, but I never felt any need to reach for traction.IMG_5873aHome sweet home! The chilly nights on the early April trip made me decide to bring both quilts along this time. I was super warm both nights as this combo is good below zero and the nights were only around 20ยฐf.IMG_5876aThe days were getting longer and it was still quite light out when I decided to move the party indoors. I sat there for a couple of hours with my legs under the quilts and watched the light fade.IMG_5881aMorning came with another clear sky. I enjoyed breakfast and coffee from my perch above the brook below. As the sun and coffee warmed me I began to shed layers and pack up.IMG_5883aThe Carrigain Branch crossing was amazingly low for April. Most years I’d be worried about crossing with it filled from snow melt, but with no snow there was no melt.IMG_5885aThe Stillwater crossing seemed to be missing a few key hopping rocks this year even with the low water level.ย  I eventually found my way across and headed up towards Shoal Pond.IMG_5887aThere are some interesting growth patterns along this section with older and newer generations of forest competing as they recover from the clear cutting done here years ago.IMG_5888aIt was a bit cool following this notch up towards the pond and there were multiple crossings of Shoal Pond Brook to deal with. The sun was able to reach down into the open areas, but the shadows were filled with snow.IMG_5889aThe light had that special Spring quality to it; Something about the color tells the brain that even though you see snow Winter is not coming back.IMG_5894aThe icy crossings were a definite challenge though. The water wasn’t all that deep, but you’d hate to fall in. It was hard to tell which rocks had ice on them so I took to tapping with my stick to check before making my next hop.IMG_5895aNot certain if this spike came from a bog board or the old logging rail lines. Either way it counts as an artifact now so I took a picture without disturbing it and moved on.IMG_5896aDid I mention the ice water crossings? This area took me some time to navigate as the first couple of attempts ended mid stream with only questionable next steps.IMG_5898aFinally I reached Shoal Pond where there was no sign of ice. I stopped for some serious snacking and to soak up a little sun. By now the temp was pushing 40ยฐf but it felt nice be out of the trees for a while.IMG_5899aLooking back towards Stillwater gave a nice view of Carrigain beyond. From here it looks quite dramatic and it is a bit hard to imagine the Desolation Trail going pretty much directly from bottom to top. (Insert ominous foreshadowing music here…)IMG_5902aSoon after the pond came the Ethan Pond Trail intersection. I only had a half mile to enjoy it, but this flat, wide section is a rare thing of beauty in the White Mountains.IMG_5905aThis view is from the footbridge looking down stream towards Thoreau Falls. After all that time in the wilderness it seems like such a luxury to come upon this little wooden bridge and I always enjoy the crossing.IMG_5908aSoon it was time to leave the well manicured Appalachian Trail behind and then it was on to Thoreau Falls. The fresh snow since my last visit gave it a very different look. I spent quite a while here soaking up sun, soaking up snacks and of course taking too many pictures.IMG_5909aI never get tired of this spot. You can’t camp here or everyone would and it would be ruined I’m sure. So you stay as long as you can and take as much of it with you when you leave as you can carry.IMG_5911aThis view towards the Bonds never gets old. Snow, greenery or Fall colors, it always makes me stop and say “Oh, that is pretty!”IMG_5912aThis time of year with at least a moderate flow the falls were pretty as well. Much of the year they flow more than fall, but they had a bit of a roar going this time.IMG_5915aOne last look and then it was time to move on. I was a bit concerned about following the trail as the snow was pretty thick in this area and there had been no foot traffic. Then, as soon as I leaped across the falls I was amazed to find a fresh set of footprints in the snow. Someone had walked out to the falls and turned around so they’d done the hard work of trail finding for me! Wilderness trails come without blazes so when you can’t see the ground due to snow or leaves wayfinding can be a real challenge. I was really stoked about these footprints!IMG_5918aLate afternoon along the North Fork. Another few miles on and I set up my camp for the night. I got in early for a change and had a long time to enjoy dinner, soak up some extra water and just relax and watch as the light faded. I was just dozing off in my tent as darkness began to settle in when I heard something that made me sit up. It started out like a coyote but then faded with more of a howl than the coyotes I knew out west. It called three times in quick succession and then fell silent. Not sure what was out there, coyote, banshee or hellhound I opted to zip up the bug net on my tent. I’d planned on sleeping with it open to increase air flow and cut down on fly frost, but decided it was better to close it in order to prevent whatever was out there from licking my face while I slept. As any good woodsman would, I fell asleep a few minutes later without a care as to what demon stalked the night ๐Ÿ™‚IMG_5920aMorning dawned chilly again, low 20s so I fueled up and hit the trail. Soon I reached my old friend, the Thoreau Falls Trail bridge. I know they want to pull this bridge and they don’t want to replace it, so every time I pass through I appreciate it while I can. With it gone I’m not sure I’ll be able to come this way any longer and that makes me sad. This river is nothing to mess with though even above the North Branch.IMG_5922aWalking across this old beauty is even more magical than looking at it. The tilt from the broken stringer varies as you cross and there is just a hint of a wobble in the middle. I think they should build a modern duplicate to replace it with that same twisting sag and some old weathered boards under foot, but I don’t think they care what I think heh.

Soon after crossing the bridge I turned onto the Wilderness Trail and was soon surprised to meet a hiker headed the other way so early in the day. We stopped to chat for a moment and it turns out this was the man who had walked out to the falls the day before and left me those wonderful footprints in the snow. He may have thought me a bit mad for thanking him profusely several times, but it really had made my walk so much easier not to have to find the trail on my own. Well and he was the first person I’d seen in three days so I was in a pretty good mood.IMG_5923aSnack break at the Cedar Brook/Eastside/Wilderness intersection. The Bonds and Guyot visible through the leafless birches. Always bittersweet to be here…almost time to go get that cheeseburger, almost time I have to go home, always really happy to be done climbing this hill in either direction ๐Ÿ™‚

By the way the boots did pretty well on this trip. The welt still leaks like a sieve, but I think the looser lacing solved the angry toe issue and I was able to put in three days and about 25 miles with no real complaints. Guess maybe next time we’ll have to try some climbing.

(Insert more ominous foreshadowing music here…)

Four Day Bonds and Thoreau Falls Loop – April 2016

Four Day Bonds and Thoreau Falls Loop – April 2016

42 pictures from a great Spring trip taken in mid April. Finally able to get the scoot on the road to New Hampshire for a long over due walk and the weather was perfect, so long as your definition of perfect expands to include a bit of chill at night.

IMG_5791aThe East Branch was looking mighty low for this time of year. Normally the melt would still be going strong up above or even at this elevation and the river would be roaring.

IMG_5792aThere were plenty of patches of snow among the trees though the temp was around 50ยฐf as I set out just after mid day. The trail had plenty of squish to it in spots and the small flows were burbling so it felt like Spring.

IMG_5796aI’m including this picture because I have a good sense of humor and very little pride. You’ll just have to take my word for it, but I’m really not pregnant. The tight pack belt combined with the shadows and my leaning forward posture makes it look like I might be though heh. You can really see how dry the forest floor is in this pic. The lack of snow left the leaves looking more like Fall than Spring.IMG_5798aSpeaking of falling springs…I cobbled together this gravity system out of an old Sawyer Mini and a couple of Platy bags I’ve had for years. Ordered a new full size Sawyer to use later, but brought the old one in case I forgot to sleep with it and it froze. Really liking the lack of effort involved in filtering water this way, but I think I am going to get a zip top bag for easier filling in standing water.IMG_5800aWith the sun sinking behind the ridge early I decided to camp relatively low, just past the second brook crossing if I recall correctly. My first real trail day in the Limmers had resulted in some pinkie toe discomfort so I was glad to put on my camp shoes along with my fuzzy camp clothes. Recently added to the fuzzy camp clothes collection was the ibex Meru with the snazzy Trailspace stitching.IMG_5801aAt this elevation the snow was more abundant, but still patchy. It had gotten down to around 20ยฐf overnight so I was glad I had some sunshine pretty early in the day.IMG_5805aMy tube of olive oil had turned into olive slushie. Note the kettle is on the stove there in the background. Getting that on was a definite priority.IMG_5806aDon’t think I can go back to instant now that I’ve been enjoying the good stuff. More Trailspace swag; both the Innate insulated mug and the GSI coffee screen are part of my mess kit in any weather, but a real favorite on cold mornings. IMG_5808aDay two took me higher up and onto a track that was still covered in hard packed ice in most places. Definitely a good time for traction and I was glad I had my Hillsounds many times over the next few days.IMG_5810aThe weather had been alternating between rain and hard freezes for a while so there were lots of interesting ice sculptures to be found. IMG_5813aThe early Spring light had a wonderful sparkle to it. It was tempting to stay and watch it in spots like this, but I had some climbing to do.IMG_5816aWell, OK, this spot had to be appreciated for a few minutes. It was an ice flow from the steep slope above the trail that was decaying as it was exposed to the sun.IMG_5818aIt didn’t take long to reach the rock face that signals the base of Bondcliff. You can see I’ve tossed my poles on up so my hands are free for the climb. I took off my gloves not to use the camera, but to scarf down some dark chocolate espresso trail mix. Just the motivator for scampering up a cliff with a 35lb pack.IMG_5819aActually this was my real motivation. This cliff is a pretty darn neat place to be most any day, but if you can get up there on a clear day like this it makes the effort seem a small price to pay.IMG_5820aLincoln and Lafayette rising up beyond Owls Head still seemed to have snow on the peaks and in the chutes, but I’m pretty sure that is all hard ice. I wasn’t headed that way this time, but I sort of wished I was.IMG_5822aHancock and Carrigain looked mostly snowless. Very different from last year when I was trying to snowshoe up Cedar Brook and breaking through waist deep snow in spots as it came apart under my snowshoes.IMG_5826Each time I come up here it seems the same, yet very different. The ice and snow made interesting contrast with the rock, but what I really noticed was the different color of the sun this time of year. Even though mid day was approaching it was a gentle light that brought out colors rather than blinding. Well except in the icy and snowy sections heh.IMG_5827aLincoln, Lafayette and Garfield just barely sneaking in the picture on the right. Can’t help but remember walking that trail last fall, though that day was cloudy and gray.

IMG_5828aI am a big fan of giant holes in the ground and have visited many in my travels, but this is one of my favorites. The empty space is almost palpable and I’m always reminding myself not to reach out too far to touch it when I’m up there.IMG_5829aOut beyond that space Flume and Liberty mark the beginning of the Franconia ridge. Again it is hard to look at those mountains without recalling climbing them. I especially remember the col between them and how I was annoyed going down knowing I’d have to go right back up ๐Ÿ™‚IMG_5830aSpeaking of going up…time to head up to Bond Summit. The exposed areas were mostly ice free so I did this section bare booted. Once I got up into the scrub closer to the summit I had to put the spikes back on or risk violating the family “No Breaka You Neck” rule.IMG_5831aOf course at the summit I was met by the local Gray Jay contingent. Oddly enough I also met a human up there. He arrived from West Bond on a day hike and headed out onto the cliff leaving me and the Jay alone.IMG_5833aFrom here on the summit looking over West Bond you get a better sense of the size of the ridge in the distance. The same spot, yet very different from my visits here last Summer. The wind on the summit was brisk so I certainly didn’t stay nearly as long this time.IMG_5836aWell, long enough to get yet one more pic of the big Presidents. I guess some day I’ll have to go over that way, but admiring them from here seems a lot easier than climbing them heh.IMG_5837aThe trail on the north side of the summit was snow rather than ice and I’ll admit I took advantage a few times to buttslide in the steep spots. IMG_5838aArriving at the Guyot camp in the middle of the afternoon I had the place to myself. The view from the shelter porch was pleasant enough and I spent a few hours soaking up snacks and rehydrating.IMG_5841aThe bear boxes were just poking out of the snow down below in the cooking area. Don’t think the bears were a worry this time of year, but I was hoping there weren’t any shelter mice.IMG_5843aOf course there were a couple of Gray Jays hoping I’d let them steal my food, but I know better. They seem cute, but they are fearless and will take the food from your hand on its way to your mouth.IMG_5844aIf I look pretty happy to be sitting on the porch in my fuzzy clothes it is because I was. Those little chairs weren’t very sturdy, but to have some place comfortable to sit out of the snow seemed pretty great to me. Surprisingly enough I had two separate hikers toddle in over the next few hours. Pretty sure each of us had expected to be there alone, but we managed to share the shelter and survive the night.IMG_5846aMorning from the front porch was cold, but worth getting up for. Thankfully it wasn’t the solstice so I didn’t feel I’d needed to get up early and shoot and video ๐Ÿ™‚ I shot this and crawled back under the quilt for a few minutes before getting up to make coffee.IMG_5848aThis Gray Jay was looking pretty fat for the time of year, but the lack of snow cover had probably helped him find food. Some from the ground and probably more from hikers heh. He was getting none of my breakfast cereal that day I can assure you.IMG_5849aThis sight made me a little sad. The friendly host long gone I had no one to share afternoon coffee with on this trip. Good memories though ๐Ÿ™‚IMG_5850aAgain the morning light was fantastic. As I made my way up Guyot towards the Twinway I kept stopping to look at the peaks around me. I knew soon enough I’d be in the trees so now was the time to enjoy the views while I could.IMG_5853aThere was some snow in the scrub trees along the ridge, but most of the Twinway was covered in hard ice, much of it wet with melt. I was hanging from my spikes and using my poles for all I was worth to keep myself stuck to the ground on the steep sections.IMG_5855aIn between exertion and terror there were of course these amazing views every few minutes. It was a bit hazier on day three, but still there were some far horizon lines. I always love seeing the far ridges beyond the other ridges that are beyond the ones in front of me. Comforting to know you won’t run out of mountains any time soon I guess.IMG_5857aAll this time, about three hours, I had yet to see another soul. This was a Saturday and the weather was astoundingly clear so I’d expected to run into throngs headed up the way I’d come from on this trail. Maybe it was the ice, maybe they were all climbing Washington in the nice weather, but I was really enjoying the peace.IMG_5858aNo idea if it was crowded up there, but again, a lot easier to look at it from here. Certainly worth looking at from pretty much any angle.IMG_5859aYou can sense it is time to head down from this shot I think. No more pics for a while because going down this icy trail took all my attention. In some ways it was easier because the rocks were all buried, but even with spikes, walking down steep hills covered in ice uses up a lot of energy.IMG_5861aReaching the crossing just before the Zealand Hut just before lunchtime seemed a good sign. I snacked there for an hour, chatting with the hutmaster as he started greeting his guests for the day. There were some hikers here heading up as well. I was glad my hard work was done for this trip and my spikes were tucked away.IMG_5864aAfter a few easy miles on the Ethan Pond section of the AT, I made my way down to Thoreau Falls. Listening the roar as I approached started to worry me and at first glace I wasn’t sure I wanted to try crossing. Then I remembered the rocks I’ve used before and hopped over with no issue other than a pounding heart.IMG_5865aDefinitely another one of my favorite places to be. I didn’t have much time to enjoy it on this trip because I knew I had a few hard miles to cover before I’d get to where I wanted to camp that night.IMG_5866aThis is where I’ll leave you as far as pictures go. If you haven’t seen it already check out the waterfall video below. The rest of the trip was mostly about stomping my way back to the scoot. The legs are feeling pretty strong considering what felt like a lazy Winter season. As usual keeping the body happy is the biggest challenge and I really need to focus on drinking more water I think.

I know I haven’t been posting here, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot going on. I have a few more gear reviews that need to get out and I’ve already been back for another few days in the Pemi just last week. Look for a report on that trip as well as maybe a few rants that came to mind while I was out there ๐Ÿ™‚ Also been using a Delorme inReachSE to keep in touch with the girls on the last few trips so I’d like to get out some initial thoughts on that.

Oh who am I kidding? The weather will turn nice and I’ll just want to go hiking ๐Ÿ™‚

Here watch this pretty waterfall and I’ll post when I can!

Two Year Blogiversary

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Well, that year certainly went fast! Lots of great adventures, alone, with family and with friends. I’m usually focused on what comes next, but sometimes it is good to turn around and look where you’ve been.

Last year we had plenty of snow by this point, so there were lots of day hikes and even a few overnight trips on snowshoes. With the lack of snow this year I’ve been limited to remembering rather than doing. Still, that is why we stockpile those memories; They keep us going when things aren’t as great. This winter weekend trip to New Hampshire has been on my mind while working on the pulk I’ve been building. I’d expected to be making regular trips to the Whites by this point, but snow has been sparse there as well.

There were a few Spring trips last year that straddled the mud season’s worst. A trip up the back side of the Hancocks on snowshoes in early May was followed up with a snow free trip up the back side of Carrigain late in the month.

The Summer started with a trip to the Bonds for the solstice. Captured an amazing sunset video that I turned into a time lapse I find very relaxing to watch. There were family trips to Baxter with wife and daughter as well as the annual visit from the Texas boys. There also was a second attempt at the 70 mile loop down the length of BSP and back up via the International Appalachian Trail, this time successfully, albeit quite wet.

With my Long Trail plans delayed for another year the Fall was spent working on redlining the Pemigewasset Wilderness including finally doing a traditional Pemi Loop.

I’m still a bit behind on my Fall trip reports, but there were a few more trips to the Whites and a very relaxing week up in Baxter for a late season trip with some new friends. Of course I did my annual failed attempt at doing the Grafton Loop clockwise and even managed to get up to the Bay of Fundy for the Winter solstice (sunrise video).

If you’ve been reading here since the start you may have noticed I’ve been a bit quieter this year than last. What I haven’t been doing is writing opinion pieces or waxing philosophical. Even gear reviews have been sparse this year, though I have several items in the pipeline currently.ย  Partially that is because the more time I spend in the woods the less important words seem to be to me. I still passionately desire to inspire others to get out into the world and experience it, so I try to post reports on my adventures that both make people want to go themselves and be realistic about the difficulties and dangers of back country adventuring.

Some of the opinions I’m not expressing here are pretty dang cranky too as I’m not too keen on some of the things I see on trail or in online backpacking communities. That also accounts for some of the quiet as I’m not sure my ranting would do any good and I hesitate to engage in pointless bickering when I could be happier forgetting it all and going for a walk in the woods. We’ll see what this next year brings though. Might be time to go on a rant or two ๐Ÿ™‚

Definitely some adventuring on the agenda though! Once again the Long Trail is back in the plans, hopefully in late September/early October. Still hoping to try out my crazy, three week, unsupported attempt. To that end I have a two week, 200 mile, practice trip planned for June that would take me from Stratton to Katahdin. With those big adventures bookending the Summer that still leaves a lot of time on either side and in between for shorter trips. It is good to look back sometimes, but as usually I’m looking forward to what comes next.

Hope you have enjoyed reading here over the last year and that you’ll stop by from time to time again this year to see what I’ve been up to.ย  It might inspire you to get out there in search of your own path less traveled!

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.ย  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.ย  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?

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.ย  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!