Backpacking the Bonds: sometime during the summer/fall of 2009


I heard a good quote recently, which said that “Its better to have a short pencil, than to have a long memory”.  In keeping with that quote, here’s an old story from last summer: my solo backpacking trip up and around the Bonds.

I don’t remember exactly when this was, but shortly after I had moved in with Miriam and Adam near Manchester I decided that I wanted to take a weekend off and just relax in the woods somewhere.  So, after talking with Miriam about a few possible routes, I decided on heading into the Pemi wilderness, to either hike the loop, a partial loop, or just to chill out in the valley for a few days.  I left plans for all three at my car and with Miriam just in case, but went out with enough food and supplies to do whichever of the three struck my fancy at the time.

I parked at the Lincoln Woods campsite and started in right after five or so on a Friday, with perfect skies and warm weather.  Not hot, but not cold either.  That perfect backpacking weather where its warm enough during the day that you can pull off your shirt, but cool enough at night that you can curl up in your sleeping bag.  Friday was a rather light day where I only walked in about 3 miles, and I made camp right over a lip on the side of the trail.

Now, the key to this trip is that I didn’t bring a tent.  No, instead I was trying out a Hennessey hammock, specifically Miriam’s hammock that used to belong to a rather epic NUHOCer named Travis, who died the summer before I joined and has since turned into a legend amongst the club.  Because of this hammock, my setup and takedown time for camp was almost nil; though it did take a little bit of time to learn how to pick the right trees to set the hammock on.

My dinner for the night was my usual motley of snacks and food: canned chicken and rice pilaf with some bread and cheese.  And for a drink: hot cocoa.  Like I said, at night it was just chilly enough to want the cocoa, and to be happy that I had the sleeping bag.  But not cold enough that I didn’t want to sit outside for a good hour before sleeping, just watching the clouds go by and the stars spin above me.

I got up at a reasonable (for me) time on Saturday, ate a quick breakfast of bread, cheese, and some leftovers, packed up camp, and started back onto the path.  By this time I had pretty much decided that I wanted to do the partial loop this weekend: hiking from the campsite up Bondcliff, over Bond, to Guyot, over South Twin, and down past galehead and past thirteen falls before linking back up with the Lincoln Woods trail.  Of course though, this is me that we’re talking about, so I was not in a rush at all, and ended up taking a long lunch break at Lincoln Falls to do some photography and swimming.

After packing up from lunch, I continued on up the Bondcliff trail towards Mt. Bondcliff itself.  While on the trail I met up with a group of backpackers from Northeastern, though they weren’t from NUHOC.  We talked and walked together for a bit, but I ended up heading out ahead of them to make sure I got to see the sunset from the top of Bondcliff.  My plan was to summit Bondcliff right before sunset, and then finish the short hike from that summit to the Guyot shelter as night fell.  I got to the summit about fifteen minutes before the sunset started, and got to take a very nice rest on the rocks as I watched the sun dip below the horizon.

By the time I was ready to move out, the group from Northeastern had caught up to me and told me that they were heading to Guyot as well.  As we started walking together darkness started to fall on our little group, and a few headlamps came out.  By this time I had started to notice how… unique… this groups equipment was; two people had some of the fanciest backpacking gear I’ve seen on the trail, and the other three were in skateboarding shoes, jeans, and were carrying their gear in shopping bags.  I started to get really worried when I noticed that only two people in the group had any lights: one headlamp and one mag-light for the five of them.  So, I broke out my extra headlamps, passed them around, and we continued on to the campsite.

As we got closer to the Guyot shelter, we started noticing a worrisome trend: all of the random campsites and overflow lots were full.  We knew even before we got to the actual shelter that we’d be out of luck to find a real campsite.  Luckily, I had the hammock with me, so I ended up stringing it up right beside the natural spring that the site was built by, and starting my dinner cooking right away.  Te other group wasn’t so lucky however, and ended up camping on a rather annoyingly large slope a ways up the trail.

For dinner, I was blessed enough to have a rather timely miracle save me from a salty doom: I had made up some salmon and rice to go with my bread and cheese, but ended up putting significantly too much salt in the water before I boiled the rice, and thus made my meal all but inedible.  However, about two tents down from my sneaky camping spot there was an AMC group who had just finished the 48, and were celebrating with wine and stew.  And boy did they have extra of both… they each brought at least one bottle of champagne, and between the seven of them had around 5 gallons of stew to go through.  I was more than happy to assist them in their eating and revelrys, and ended up sleeping extremely well that night.

The next day saw me up bright and early, due to all the people getting water for their day.  After talking with the shelter-keeper for a while, I finished my breakfast, packed by camp, said goodbye to the NU crew (after making sure they were ok and getting my headlamps back), and started out towards South Twin.  For those unframiliar, South Twin is a rather tall mountain; easy to get to from Bond, but a hellishly steep descent towards Galehead.  Although I was definitely not expecting the decent to be that steep, I made it down just about fine, and cruised over to Galehead to see the peak, and then continued down towards 13 falls; after getting some quick lemonade at Galehead Hut of course.

13 falls… I had never heard of it before looking at my map, but seeing it made me very glad that I had decided to take this route.  The falls were gorgeous, and the water was just warm enough that you could stay in it for a short time, though cold enough that you definitely didn’t want to stay in too long.  I took a lot of pictures here, and generally relaxed and rested my knee

But, by the time I reached 13 falls I was starting to notice a rather significant tweak in my left knee.  Looking back at it, I think I descended South Twin way too quickly, and probably hurt the knee that ay.  So I iced and warmed myself at 13 falls, and decided to build myself a make-shift brace before continuing on.  The brace held really well (glad I decided to bring extra pack-straps), and I started trucking back along the trail, headed for home.

This portion of the trail, following the thirteen falls trail, was nearly flat and walked through fairly non-descript woods, so I started to zone out as I walked, finding a near-perfect rhythm to my hike.  My footfalls echoed in my head as my arms swung back and forth, moving the trekking poles to help push me along.  This portion of my trip became one of the most serene moments in my hiking career, rivaling long climbs and relaxing bike-rides in terms of letting my mind empty and just be free.  The pain in my knee did keep me grounded, but provided just enough of a distraction to keep me in the moment, and not wandering into a complete fantasy world.

I hiked nearly the entire way back to my car this way, only breaking my silence and meditation when I started hiking alongside a man who was going camping with his husky.  He ended up walking back to the parking lot with me after he realized that the dog could definitely not keep up, and wasn’t really ready for a summer camping trip, what with her thick winter coat.  We talked about life and work, camping and climbing, and the conversation made the last two or three miles fly past like they were only a few yards.  As I got back to the car and started unpacking my gear (and re-clearing my head), I started preparing myself for the work-week to come, and started thinking about the next trip that I could head out on.

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