Tuesday, September 6, 2011

One Day Pemi Loop - 9-4-11

I couldn't let Labor Day weekend pass without a hike. I decided Saturday night around 7pm that I'd go for a hike on Sunday, nothing else was going on, weather looked ok, and I wasn't letting it go to waste.  I'm always ready to go at any moment, so its all good. Quick check of the map, and I decided on a Pemi-Loop. I left my house at 1am and arrived at Lincoln Woods in the dark around 3:30am.

I started across the bridge at 3:45am. The bridge is currently limited to a 5 person max weight. The river was roaring loud, but it was much lower than I thought I would see. I moved quickly down the Lincoln Woods Trail. There is one section marked off where the earth (half of the trail) was eaten by the Pemi. Its quite a big drop down; its pretty significant damage. I continued to the Osseo Trail junction.
Caution barricade and 5 person max weight for now
Warning sign of dangerous conditions
At the junction, I took off my pant legs and got out the trekking poles. On short and most hikes, I have given up my trekking poles for good. This is such a long hike so I thought maybe they would help in a few places, so I started up the Osseo Trail, still deep in the middle of the night. The trail was flat for a good amount time on the lower sections of the trail and the footing was excellent, allowing me to take long strides and move quickly. Even in the middle of the night, I really enjoyed this trail. I made it to the summit of Mt. Flume in exactly 2 hours, before the sun came up. I did have a pinkish glow to the east through the clouds, one of the better views of the day, which is shown at the top of the post.
Osseo Trail
Summit of Mt. Flume
A half hour later, I made it to the summit of Liberty. Although Flume and Liberty's summit cones are mostly wooded, they both have rocky high points, ledges, and impressive views.
Summit of Mt. Liberty
Not wasting any time on these first summits, I continued on quickly. I passed the Liberty Spring Trail and was then on the Franconia Ridge Trail. This section before Little Haystack had its mix of nice flat ridgeline trail and large boulders. The trail is wooded just about all of the way to the summit of Little Haystack. I snapped a photo and kept on moving. It took me just under an hour to hike from Little Haystack, over mount Lincoln, Mt. Truman, and to Mt. Lafayette. There were very limited views of the slides, but the feeling you get when hiking through something impressive remained the whole time. Mt. Lafayette is one of my favorite of the 48 peaks. It was quite different coming from this direction, but nevertheless the summit was great and it was good to be back.
Approaching Mt. Lafayette
Mt. Lafayette summit
There was a volunteer forest worker from the AMC on the summit, enjoying the morning I guess, just standing there by himself. He mentioned I stepped off the path on my way around the last rock to the summit. Oh woops, theres about a million gravel paths that go all over the place above treeline, I guess you'll have to build the wall up a little better. I mentioned the illegal campers I passed before Flume, who were camped in a bootleg spot 2 feet from the trail. With that aside, we talked for a few minutes when a couple of trail runners had caught up with me coming from Lincoln Woods.
Trail runners from Montreal; their first time in Whites
I headed off down the trail making it to the Garfield Ridge Trail. Since I had not hiked this section before, I knew it was going to get more difficult, and it did, and it started to noticeably slow me down. I was with the two for most of the way until they found some flat spots to run, but I had passed them twice on some of the rocky sections :) There was slight clearing before heading into the trees, but nothing more than hints of sun and the slopes of Garfield Ridge. It was definitely one of the toughest sections of this hike. Here are a two examples, one from the middle of this section and one from near Garfield Pond.

The summit of Garfield was vacant but under a thick cloud. It's really nice being able to enjoy some of these summits all by your self, when you have that opportunity. (I had every summit to myself, except Lafayette) I always keep in mind to have breaks off the summit so someone else approaching can enjoy it too. I knew I was getting close to Galehead Hut, but I really needed to have a solid break, because the next easy section of trail I knew about was a good distance away.
Looking up at the summit of Mt. Garfield
The Garfield Ridge Trail on the way to Galehead Hut was wet and slippery. Although I had a break and snack on Garfield, I did not eat lunch yet, so when I got to the hut, I busted out my turkey sandwich from the store. There were several people at the hut, including the two trail runners. They had taken a long break at the hut. After I finished my sandwich and filled up my water, I headed up to Galehead. I put my pack down shortly up the trail, and then bolted to the top for a quick photo at the summit and a peek from the outlook just below it. I came back down as quick as I went up, but then started the Twinway.
On the summit of Galehead Mountain
I really don't know what is tougher, the Twinway from Galehead to South Twin, or going up Carter Dome from Carter Notch, both are similar, but the Twinway, to me, is one of the toughest .8 miles in the Whites. I was doing fine in terms of time and feeling good, but I had set my mind to just pace myself going up this section and to not tire myself out. The rest of the way I knew was not bad, but its still a long way to go.
Twinway Trail
Eventually, I reached the summit of South Twin. I still didn't have any views, except a peak towards North Twin. I was contemplating heading out on the spur, but opted to skip it on this one. The main reason was because I could hear thunder all around me since Galehead Hut. With the sky already cloudy, I had no clue if weather was moving in. Thunder seemed to be getting closer and closer as I ascended. Making my decision final, I headed down into the scrub off South Twin towards the Bondcliff Trail.

This section of trail is nice with some flat sections and good footing. Once down from South Twin its mostly flat to the Bondcliff Trail junction. I had some glimpses of the slides on South Twin, but that was about it. I took a quick break for some trail snacks before heading out above treeline again. Here, the thunder was still booming to the west, but I continued on. I moved quickly along this section getting to the West Bond Spur. I set my pack down, grabbed my camera and water, and bolted for West Bond. I ran the whole way to the summit, getting there in less than 10 minutes. I was completely socked in up there and it also started to rain lightly, but it was just passing and lasted a few minutes.
Summit of West Bond
Mt. Bond is a short distance from the spur. I posed for a self picture and consumed a Clif energy gel for the walk to Bondcliff. The rocks and boulders that make up the next section of trail are tricky and put your foot stepping and balance to the test, especially right as you descend Bond. After that, the trail became less difficult, but more beautiful (even in clouds) and eventually I was making my way up Bondcliff. With not a soul in sight, I stood on the cliff (for a few short seconds) looking down into the misting abyss. I quickly hopped off, and I set up the camera for a picture sitting on the cliff. I already have a photo standing up here, so no reason for me to lose my focus by rushing back out there to beat my self-timer for another. Clouds or sunshine, above treeline along Bondcliff is a dramatic place to be, especially all by yourself.
Sitting on Bondcliff
I pressed on descending into the scrub on the Bondcliff Trail. The footing was difficult for a short distance, but then it evened out and became much better. A little of the way down, I busted out the headphones and some tunes, which I had never done before while hiking, and I was off to the races descending like I was running from a nuclear explosion. I paused at the two small brook crossings for a break and to cool down in the refreshing stream I wanted to sit in. I either ran or jogged most of the way to the Wilderness Trail, descending the 4.4 miles in approximately 1.5 hours.

My legs were still doing pretty good, but my feet were really sore at this point. I put away my trekking poles since the rest of the way was flat. The Wilderness Trail was a like a tunnel of fog and it was silent, very eerie looking. One foot in front of the other, I made it to the wooden bridge near Franconia Falls. From here, it remained a dreadful walk, but I focused on long strides and being able to change out of my soaked gear. Amazingly and thankfully, I made it to the suspension bridge in 15 hours and 46 minutes, leaving the parking lot in my car just before light faded.
Lincoln Woods Trail between Osseo and Franconia Falls
I really enjoyed hiking this loop. It would have been nice to have a bit of clearing somewhere along the way for some views, but I've already experienced the summits in some condition, so the loop as a whole and the sections of trail I had not been on before were the points I was most looking forward to. I was also curious about the storm damage from Irene, and there was visible damage in just about every section. It's amazing what the water can do to the ground, and there were broken trees everywhere. I feel like I've really worn out the Pemi Wilderness lately, but the truth is there is so much to do. There are so many hike variations to enjoy this area, which I'm sure will be bringing me back. I never thought reaching my goal of all 48 for the first time would be easy, but to think back that I just hiked 10 of them again in one day is both crazy and awesome.

Hike Stats
Trails: Lincoln Woods Trail, Osseo Trail, Franconia Ridge Trail, Garfield Ridge Trail, Frost Trail, Twinway, Bondcliff Trail, West Bond Spur, Wilderness Trail, Lincoln Woods Trail.
Distance: 33.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 9,760 ft.
Time: 15:46

To view the full album from this trip, view or click on the slide show below:

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