Sunday, August 2, 2009

heart of the pemi

Yesterday I did a hike / run combo that I've been dreaming of for a while: a 23-mile circuit through the heart of the Pemigewasset Wilderness in New Hampshire's White Mountains. 

From Lincoln Woods, the start is 5 miles of gradual uphill through northern hardwood forest, followed by a steep, 2-mile uphill climb of Bondcliff and Mt. Bond. The open alpine scenery at the top provided the primary draw of the day. I love it up there. Then it was a rugged ridge run, first over the sweeping, open highland splendor of Mt. Guyot (a favorite spot in the Whites) and on through high spruce - fir forest to South Twin Mtn. Then the descent began. First, a very steep 0.8 mile drop to Galehead Hut, and a more gentle 2-mile descent to 13 Falls campsite. The day ended with an 8 mile jog back out the Franconia Brook Trail to the Wilderness Trail and finally back out to Lincoln Woods.

About halfway through, I met up with a woman and her dog who were, most improbably, doing exactly the same loop. She started after me, but caught up as I was snapping away in the alpine zone (by far the heaviest thing in my pack was the Nikon and, oh stupid me, TWO weighty lenses). It was very nice to have company on the second half of the journey. We had plenty in common, and it turns out we both went to the same college!

The weather was most fine, if a bit muggy. Blackflies were biting, but a nice breeze kept them at bay up top. It's rained a LOT in the northeast lately, so brooks and streams were running very high, and more than a dozen stream crossings required wading up to my knees in fast-moving water, but the cold water felt good on tired legs and feet.

balsam fir forest on Mt. Bond in the White Mountains
balsam fir forest on Mt. Bond

Bondcliff ridge
on Bondcliff ridge

[edit: yes, the mud was truly worthy of the term "slog"!]