Half Pemi Loop completes the longest hike of the campaign so far – Sept. 12, Day 9

(This is the fourth of four short Trip Reports from last weekend’s campaign. We’re breaking down each day into a separate report so our friends at TrailsNH can more easily tag each individual hike. Enjoy!)

Golden Bonds: From the spectacular cliffs of Bondcliff, West Bond and Bond sink into twilight.

I had never tried anything like this before.

The plan for the day was to tag 6 peaks (both Twins, Zealand and the 3 Bonds) then exit the Pemi with a long 8 plus mile slog out to Lincoln Woods. In the morning, after a hearty peach pancake and bacon breakfast, I packed my sleeping bag and some other odds and ends into Meena’s pack and she headed down the Gale River Trail to a waiting car. The idea was that it would be easier for me with less weight and she’d come around to meet me at Lincoln Woods later that evening. I knew I’d been exiting at dark, but I had no idea how late it would really be.

I set out at 8:30 a.m. The hike would be 20.2 miles long.

Highlights:

Crazy weather: My first stop, South Twin, was less than a mile from the hut, but by the time I got to the summit the weather had turned and I was pelted by rain and high winds. But by the time I got to North Twin, only 1.3 miles away, the skies were clear and the sun was shining. Apparently that one cloud liked South Twin. The rest of the day was sunny and hot.

Trails: All clear. The Twinway between South Twin and Guyot is a wonderful two miles; clear, pretty, mostly flat and dry. I burned through it in 45 minutes. The Twinway from Guyot to Zealand is steep and rocky, but dry and free of blowdowns. And the Bondcliff Trail? One of the finest stretches of trail anywhere in the state. The Wilderness Trail is muddy but clear. The Lincoln Woods Trail however, is a mess. During Irene, the East Branch of the Pemi River had taken huge chunks of embankment from the trail and wiped out whole drainage feeders. The forest service has marked areas with yellow warning tape, but some caution is still advised.

Zealand: Last weekend, the one bad weather day we had prevented me from tagging Zealand Mountain from the east side. So, today, I had to go get it from the west side. This added, 2.6 difficult miles to my hike. I’m not a fan of Zealand Mountain, but I do like the elaborately carved sign at the summit.

Inner Pemi: There is nothing like the three Bonds anywhere in the world. The three sister mountains carved out of the same ridge form the inner lines of the Pemi Wilderness. On any one of the Bonds you can see the other two. They are far from any road, you can’t see them from any road. They make you work hard to stand on their summits. But they are glorious. From the spiked summit of West Bond, to the round bald spot on Bond to the incredible cliffs of Bondcliff that drop straight down hundreds of feet to the valley floor, these final summits capped an amazing day in some of the remotest parts of the Whites.

Home: I didn’t leave Bondcliff until 6 p.m. Sunset was 7:30 p.m. I rushed to get off the mountain, a long but moderate 4.4 miles after which I would have to follow an old railroad bed another 5+ miles before finally finding civilization in Lincoln Woods. I nearly made it out to the railroad bed, jogging down some of the less rocky sections. By the time I reached the railbed it was 8 p.m., pitch dark and I had already hiked 15 miles that day. I was sore and a little panicky since I knew Meena was expecting me at about 8 p.m., but I still had miles to go. I couldn’t get any signal on my cell. So, I did the only thing I could: I hiked fast!

But I was too tired, and found myself literally falling asleep while walking. One moment I would be following my headlight down the straight and wide railbed trail, the next I’d be up to my knees is scrub and having to find my way back to the trail. Several times I just wandered off without knowing I had!

Finally, with three miles to go, I saw a little white lump resting against a trail sign. At first I thought it might be a slumbering woodland creature, but discovered to my great joy it was Meena. She had hiked in three miles and waited over an hour for me to arrive, to help me out. Having her there was was the kind of relief I needed and was able to hobble out of there with her by my side. I had been hiking for 14 straight hours. What an amazing day!

Complete untouched and untoned pictures from the day can be found here: http://danandmeenakshi.phanfare.com/5275363

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