Two weekends in a row, I’ve managed to get up to the mountains and explore some pretty awesome terrain. Once again this was a solo trip. I find solo trips enjoyable not because I’m antisocial or an introvert. Anyone who knows me knows that’s not the case. Mostly, it’s because I never really know how fast (or how slow) I’ll be moving. If the trail is flat and boring, I’ll cruise right along and not stop for long periods of time. If there’s a lot to photograph, I’ll take forever to cover short distances and not worry about making it to my planned destination. I just like the freedom to take advantage of what ever presents itself.
Every time I hike Franconia Ridge, I look into the Pemigewasset Wilderness and think to myself I really need to go there. The last couple of years, for one reason or another, I’ve failed to make it. I’ve been wanting to do the “Pemi Loop” and I’ve been putting it off until I was in better shape. This very well could be the summer it happens.
My plan was to leave my car at the Lincoln Woods trail head and start from somewhere off of Rt 3 and hike over the Bonds. I tried to find someone that might be heading in that direction on a couple of my favorite websites for local hiking, http://www.hike-nh.com and http://www.vftt.org, but had no luck. I swapped a few messages with a woman who was hiking with her son to meet her husband at Zealand hut, but they were doing the same route in the opposite direction so we weren’t much help to each other. I did end up meeting her husband on my hike and then a short time later I met she and her son. It was kind of neat to put a face to the name. I ended up catching the AMC shuttle at Lincoln Woods to the Zealand trail head for $15 (http:// http://www.outdoors.org/lodging/lodging-shuttle.cfm). The shuttle driver, Joe, was well worth the price of admission. He came complete with some great history of Lincoln Woods and some really bad jokes (ask him why chicken coops have two doors, I dare ya!)
I got a much later start than I normally would have, (almost 1 PM) but based on my conservative travel time estimate, I figured I could make it to the Guyot (pronounced Gee-oh) before dark. The first couple of miles are flat and easy going and before I knew it I was at the hut. I had a quick chat with one of the hut volunteers, topped off with water and was back on the Twinway trail. Just before I reached the hut, there was a short steep section and it continued up to Zeacliffs where I attempted to stop for lunch. The black flies were out in force and with no breeze, they were relentless. Back on the trail I was anticipating one more short steep pitch and then some nice ridge cruising but it was a little more up and down than I thought is would be (not bad, just not what I thought I saw on the map). It kind of reminded me of my trip across Garfield ridge but not as rough. Have you ever had that happen to you? You look at a map where the contour interval is 40 feet and every steep pitch on the trail must be 39 feet because it never shows on the map? I hate when that happens. It keeps things interesting, right?
Once I popped out of the trees and got my first look into the Pemi and saw Franconia Ridge from this side, I was pumped! It was even better than what I had an thought it would be. All the peaks from the notch I’ve been on in the past laid out like that. I snapped a bunch of photos thinking I wanted to be sure to remember this first glimpse. I know I’ll be coming back here. Awesome scenery and I had it all to myself!
I came to the junction of the Twinway and Bondcliff trail and took a left and headed south towards Guyot campsite. I reached the campsite well before dark and found all the tent platforms occupied, which was kind of surprising for a Monday night this early in the season. I ended up in the shelter where there was a young lady from Massachusetts, Valentina, who was out doing the Pemi Loop. We swapped stories while we did camp chores, cooking dinner, setting up gear, reading maps etc. It turns out that for someone who’s only in her mid twenties, she has packed in some pretty awesome adventures. She’s been backpacking around Europe, has lived in Africa, and has done some rock climbing. She had great stories to tell. I have to admit I felt a little old, All my adrenaline filled, thrill seeking adventures are a couple of decades old now. I was in my bag asleep by the time it was dark. Sometime around 10 PM, we were joined by two gentlemen from Miami. They had a long day on the trail and stumbled around getting setup and cooking something to eat. By the time they settled in, it was after 11 PM. I have to give them credit, they did attempt to keep quiet. Ahhhh! Shelter sleeping is a special experience.
I was up early, packed and back on the trail. I think I took my first photo of the day around 5 AM, on the summit of West Bond. Wow!
What a spot to be at that time of day. Absolutely beautiful. I’m not sure how long I stayed but just didn’t want to leave. The morning light was divine! As a photographer, these are the scenes I dream about. The only reason I left was so that I could catch the morning light from the summit of Bond.
The summit of Mt. Bond looking down to Bondcliff reminded me of Franconia Ridge, a little more rugged without the hoards. With the Summer Solstice so close, the position of the sun was perfect for a view of the ridge from this perspective. One side was bathed in the morning light and the other more rugged rocky side, in shadow.
Next it was down to Bondcliff, to the location were hundreds if not thousands of epic photos have been taken on the block of Granite that hangs over the valley. These are the shots that made me want to come here in the first place. While I have not been everywhere in the White Mountains (yet), these are quite possibly the finest views around. Epic.
From this point on, it was the hike down into the trees again and down to the valley floor, along the Black Brook and then the east Branch of the Pemi river. It’s a long flat stretch that gave me time to reflect on one of my most favorite hikes to date, and to start planning my return!
To see all the images from this trip please check them out here: http://www.dmkerr.com/Backpacking-in-the-White-Mouta/The-Bonds/