Last summer, while working on the list, Cameron realized that he did not have any of the peaks on the Pemi Loop and asked if he could finish his list with a 4 day Pemi Loop backpack to finish on Bondcliff. I didn’t think too much about it, but said if that’s what he wanted to do, then we’d see if we could make that happen. This spring, he had 24 peaks done, leaving 24 to go. We’ve been pretty diligent about getting out there and bagging 14, to leave him with the last ten: Flume, Liberty, Lincoln, Lafayette, Garfield, Galehead, South Twin, West Bond, Bond and Bondcliff.
With the last two peaks of South and Middle Carter done on Monday, and a reasonable four day weather forecast, we load our packs with gear and food and headed to Lincoln Woods on Wednesday morning to start the hike. Splitting the Pemi loop into four days meant that mileage and elevation gain would be split up nicely. Each day was about 7.5 miles, with the except of the last day, which would be 12 miles. Cameron has certainly hiked double digit days, so I wasn’t too worried about the last day, especially since we would hike the loop clockwise and have a relatively easy walk out.
Day One: Lincoln Woods to Liberty Spring Campsite.
Over the suspension bridge we went and down the flat trail to the Osseo Trail. We took it easy, as our packs were at their heaviest. After the turn onto the Osseo Trail, we continued up at a steady pace, taking regular breaks, made it up the switch backs, up the ladders, across the flat spot and then up the final approach to our first peak: Flume. Up until this point, the weather hadn’t been too bad, a mix of sunshine and clouds. Once we popped out of the trees and saw the final approach to the summit, we discovered that we were definitely in the clouds, with not much of a view. We had enough of a view to see that Flume was quite a steep place, and after Cameron pitched a rock down the slide and heard it bounce a long way, that was confirmed. None the less, we headed over and claimed our first summit. Due to the weather, we didn’t spend much time there, but headed over to Liberty, hoping that the clouds would pass. Arriving there, we had even less visibility, but were happy enough to bag the peak and know that our campsite was pretty close by. We left the Franconia Ridge Trail and took a left down Liberty Spring Trail to the campsite. After a look at the campsite map, we claimed the furthest tent platform, #10. This was Cameron’s choice, as it was far enough away from the bear box and the full group platforms. This is where we met a camp group doing a similar hike to ours. We’d see them off and on for the rest of the hike, as we were staying at the same campsites. They were really a nice group, well behaved and had two great leaders. We set up camp, cooked dinner and settled in to enjoy the sunshine that now was quite abundant, of course after we were off the peaks! After playing cards, it was time to settle down for the night. We fell asleep, and close to midnight, I was awakened by some crashing in the woods and some loud sniffing at our tent. My heart was racing as I laid there very, very still. Oh yes, it was a big bear! It climbed onto the tent platform, crossed it and made its way into camp. Soon enough, I heard quite a bit of noise from the rest of the camp, first the sound of the bear box being tossed around like a toy, and then other campers yelling at the bear and banging pots. Various groups yelled at it to go away as it made its way back through camp, getting closer to our platform. By this point, I was praying that it would just go away into the woods and that I wouldn’t have to yell and make noise too if it came back to our tent. Thankfully, it crossed in front our platform, snorting and snuffling along back into the woods. Shortly thereafter, there was a storm complete with thunder, lightning and heavy rain. Cameron didn’t wake up during the bear incident, but he did for the thunderstorm. What a night.
Day Two: Liberty Spring Campsite to Garfield Campsite.
When the camp got up the next morning, we surveyed the damage left by the bear – the bear box, which was full to the brim had been batted around, several packs had been slashed and one bear canister had been rolled down the hill. Several guys got the bear box right side up again, and we were able to get our things and pack up for the day. We climbed back up to the Franconia Ridge Trail and were on our way for a one of the most spectacular ridge walks in the Whites. We had a really lovely morning , with sunshine and a light breeze, so when we came out of the trees at Little Haystack we could already see what was before us to enjoy. As we moved along the ridge, we claimed Lincoln and then headed to Lafayette. This is where the clouds started to roll over the ridge, and by the time we got to Lafayette, we couldn’t see too much. This didn’t dampen our spirits too much, as we had already seen quite a bit of beautiful scenery. We picked up the Garfield Ridge Trail at the summit of Lafayette and started the long walk toward Garfield during which the weather cleared giving us more views. It was nice to descend for a while, which then became a long while as the afternoon started to wear on. Soon enough, we passed over the one little bump before Garfield and then started the ascent up Garfield. This part of the day seemed to go on longer than it should have, but we finally arrived at the summit of Garfield, happy to be there and relatively close to our campsite. We started the descent and it was rough, probably one of the roughest we’d had so far. The descent was very rocky, a bit steep and we were getting tired. The footing did not improve until we got to the turn off for the campsite. We then discovered that the campsite was uphill and the water source was downhill! The campsite, once we climbed up to it, was nice and we found a platform in a quiet spot away from the group platforms and shelter, which again were full. We set up camp, had dinner, dropped off our items at the bear boxes and were on our way back to our tent when we saw a nice brown bunny in a mossy, grassy area munching on some plants. It was fun to watch, and a little unusual since we could hear the camp groups making noise up the hill, but in our little spot it was so quiet. This was a wildlife encounter that was delightful, rather than scary!
Day Three: Garfield Campsite to Guyot Campsite.
With no bear or weather activity the previous night, we got more sleep and were ready for another day of hiking. Our tent was now dry, too, so I wouldn’t have to pack and carry a wet tent over South Twin. Day two was tough elevation wise, but I wasn’t so sure that day three wasn’t going to be without its own challenges. I figured if we made it to the summit of South Twin, we’d be fine to finish to the whole hike. So far, we’d done well, but this morning we faced the rest of the Garfield Ridge Trail, and I was prepared for the worst. This trail is pretty notorious for its rolling terrain, but for some reason, this morning, it wasn’t so bad. This time, the section between Lafayette and Garfield Shelter spur seemed harder. There was some trail work being done in this section – new bog bridges and a ladder – and much appreciated. We chatted the whole way to the hut and enjoyed a nice break before leaving our packs and heading up to Galehead. After a visit to the outlook and summit, we headed back to the hut for some soup and snacks. We took a long break at the hut before heading up the last major climb of the trip, the steep ascent to South Twin. We took our time, keeping a slow, but steady pace and taking as many mini breaks as we needed. After getting to the top, Cameron said it wasn’t as bad as he’d thought it would be. The weather was perfect – a good breeze and nice visibility – which allowed us to take in the views of where we had been in the past few days. With about three miles to go until the campsite, we took off for an easier afternoon of ridge walking over to Guyot Campsite. We had talked about going to West Bond before going to the campsite, but once we got to the campsite junction Cameron decided that he just wanted to make camp even though it was 3:30p. That was fine with me, as I knew Guyot campsite is busy especially on nice weekends in the summer. We headed down, down, down, the spur and arrived at the campsite, which was already filling up. We got some good advice as to the tenting situation from the camp group we’d met at Liberty Spring, since they arrived before we did. We were blessed to get one of the last spots on the tent platforms, sharing it with a nice couple who were out for a few days hiking the Bonds. Thank God that Cameron had decided he was done for the day, as I’m not so sure there would have been any space had we hiked West Bond. The only wildlife we saw here was an aggressive red squirrel, which was much easier to deal with than an aggressive bear!
Day Four: Guyot Campsite to Lincoln Woods.
We woke early, filled with a bit of excitement, yet sadness that this was our last day. We knew it would be an easier, but longer day, with 12 miles to the car. We also knew that Ethan was going to meet us at the summit of Bondcliff to be there for Cameron’s big finish. Of course we weren’t even sure he’d be there. We had lost cell signal at South Twin and didn’t have an recent messages. He was also bringing us some snacks to supplement our food supply, which was running low. Do you know how much an 11 year old boy can eat on a hike like this?!? He now totally understands how AT thru-hikers get so hungry! I figured we needed to be heading out around 7:00a to be on Bondcliff at the meet-up time of 10:30a, so we were ready on the trail a few minutes early, supplemented by a few bagels graciously given to us by a group of guys on the next tent platform. We set off for West Bond and soon were at the spur to drop our packs, for the easy hike to the summit. The summit was perfect and in the early morning sunshine, we enjoyed all the views including the view to Cameron’s final peak, Bondcliff. We also finally had some cell signal and knew Ethan was definitely on his way to meet us. Before Bondcliff, we had one to go, so we went back, picked up the packs and headed up to Bond. Bond did not disappoint either, with great views all around including Washington. After a break, it was time for our last climb of the trip and Cameron’s final peak. We were ahead of schedule and would be on Bondcliff early. We descended Bond and we noticed a hiker coming down Bondcliff, dressed in bright blue. We thought it might be another trail runner, as we had met one on Bond and he said there were a few more behind him. This person was moving too slowly to be a trail runner, and we guessed that it might be Ethan as we knew he had a bright blue shirt. Sure enough, as we started the ascent and came over a little rise, there he was! We were really happy to hike the rest of the day with him. He got up really early, came up to Lincoln Woods, rode his bike to the wilderness boundary and hiked up to Bondcliff to meet us, covering 9 miles just to be there for Cameron’s last peak. We got ahead of Cameron before the summit, and made an arch with our poles so that he could walk through to his last summit. What a perfect morning – the views were fantastic and we were able to share Cameron’s moment with him. After some snacks and pictures, we decided it was time to head down. We made it to the Wilderness Trail junction in good time, but started to notice how hot and humid it was. Being up at a higher elevation, we forgot how hot the valleys can be! We then began the long five mile hike out in the heat. This was tough, and we moved as fast as possible despite the fact that our feet were starting to hurt on the bottom. We made it to the stone bridge where Ethan picked up his bike, and then it was just the two of us again for the last three miles. Those three miles were tough, but we soon enough we were close to the suspension bridge where we saw Ethan walking toward us to join us for the last few minutes. At this point, we were tired, but really happy just to finish.
What a trip. This was one of those trips where I wasn’t sure how things would turn out, as we had never done such a large trip. It was a big undertaking for my son, but he did a great job, soldiering on up and down through the whole trip. Overall, God blessed us with safety, very good weather, health, and strength beyond what I thought we could do. We both agreed that we had a great trip and if we could change anything, next time we’d bring more food than we think we need!
Cameron is very happy with his NH48 finish, and we’ve got future plans for more hikes and more adventures!