Day One: Flume to Just past Tree line after North Lafayette
I did not take this trip lightly... When I woke up Saturday morning, I was feeling good. I had packed the car the night before and that pack was heavy! I didn't weigh it so as to not psych myself out. I wanted this trip to be a success. I was feeling good and after pulling into Lincoln Woods, saying hello to a few fellow hikers, paying my multi-day fee, using the bathroom, and hoisting that heavy pack on my back, Isis and I were off. To my surprise, the pack sat nicely on my hips and I did not feel the weight at all. It's early and the Ranger station is not open yet but the evidence of the busy season is there in the parking lot... Lots and lots of cars. I was hoping that the threat of cold weather tonight would keep the throngs away. I stopped to admire the bear warning and then to take the obligatory Lincoln Woods shot of the bridge... The Bridge to begin the adventure.
We walked from 7:06am to 8am and reached the Osseo Trail for Flume, Our first peak. Here, we took a break and said hello to some other early morning hikers. Many we would not run into again. Osseo is an easy grade and fun to walk. Isis and I kept a good pace and I noticed how light my feet felt in my trail runners. I was so happy I wore them but would I stay that way? As we climbed, I began thinking of bail out points... I need to be realistic here. I have my doubts as usual when things get hard. At 2800 Ft, there is a dusting of snow from the night before. Not a slip from the trail runners. Isis and I brake at the outlook on the ladders. No snow there and we gazed at the Bonds hoping to see them on Sunday. I tried to keep enough calories going to keep myself going and I tried to go light on the dog junk food too.
At 11am, we hit Franconia Ridge. Still making good time and four minutes later we were walking the ridge to Flume. The winds were whipping! I wondered about the ridge... We pushed on not spending a lot of time on the summit. Heading down, we encountered snow and ice. The last of the crumbling monorail. I carried spikes but to put them on, I'd have to take off my pack... I knew from experience that taking this off too many times would mean certain death to my trip. It takes a lot of energy to lift a beast on your back. We battled the monorail through the Col and then made the climb up to Liberty. We were standing on the summit at 12:15pm. The group we met up there was very nice. Everyone loved Isis and were amazed at our plan. A lot were celebrating their first of the 48 peaks too. I stayed a little while and chatted with a lone hiker who seemed to be just chilling on the summit. He had a good outlook and that's when I said it; "I should just put on my big girl pants and go for it!" and with that, I was heading for Little Haystack.
It took us until 2:19pm to reach Little Haystack. Once we got up the steeps and after battling some snow and ice, We stood with the throngs of foreigners... Languages swirling around us like the wind. Better to keep going than stay here. We began crossing the windy ridge and wouldn't you know it, a chorus of U2 songs played in my head as I walked. It seemed perfect. Not a whole lot of people on the actual ridge and the few that I met up with were friendly. The views were astounding and that's probably where my mind picked out U2... But the winds were bitting and I was determined. As we passed the peaks, we counted them off and then we had Lafayette in our sites... Man was it crowded! I miss winter... On the last push up to Lafayette, the gliders were flying over head. This was an awesome site to see. We hit the summit and didn't stay too long. Again, it was too crowded for us and I had to find camp. It was 4pm and as we headed towards the Garfield Ridge Trail, everyone else headed for the hut. I was glad for this. I am sure it was a sight for the gliders... One lone female hiker with her dog on the ridge. We approached North Lafayette and I was determined to make my peace with this sub-peak. It was a nightmare night that I was acquainted with this end of the trail and one that cut me up pretty bad. I saw my signs. I saw where I fell. I held my head high and went below tree line. One fist raised in the air. At 5pm, we camped for the night.
I set up the tent rather quickly. It seemed to be caving in but I was so tired that I wanted to just drop. I had difficulty making dinner which consisted of heating water for my chicken and mashed potatoes and peas... Dehydrated myself. Isis was so tired she didn't eat anything either. So, we hunkered down and heard people passing as we were not far off trail. One particular calming voice came through and asked if I was doing OK. I said I was, just exhausted. He agreed and said he was finding the next available site. The wind was howling still and I prayed that it would calm down. Sleeping was hard at 4350Ft. My head was in the wrong end of the tent and in the middle of the night I was woken up by the feel of wet condensation on my face. The tent had collapsed! I used everything I could to get it back up and prayed for the best. Total... Maybe an hour of sleep.
Day Two: Garfield Ridge Trail Mount Garfield and Galehead
At 6am, after no sleep Isis and I set out. We skipped breakfast with the hope of grabbing something later on down the Garfield Ridge Trail. We stopped to talk with the kind voice that checked on us. He was hiking the same direction but with different intentions and I think in the end he was heading for Owl's Head. He was such a calming force for a stranger. He had great energy. As Isis and I headed down the Garfield Ridge Trail I remembered that I did this on zero energy in the dark... Lost. Well, it was good to see this section in the light. How did I do this, was all I kept saying. It was tedious as is most of the Garfield Ridge trail. Isis and I stopped for a little food and to strip layers. The kind voice leap frogged us. Isis and I took our time and I thought about all that lay ahead of us. We made our way past Garfield Pond and this section was really kind of enjoyable. I thought about filling up my water here but could not find a clear path down and was told it was marshy and muddy. So, I figured I'd wait until the Spring at the the tent site. We hit Garfield at 9:42am. Not bad for today and maybe there is hope for a complete Pemi. The summit was getting crowded with dogs and Isis was embarrassingly vocal to all of them. I just wanted to run. So, we ducked down the spur which was completely... ICE. Do you think I put my spikes on? Nope. I hugged those trees like they were a long lost lover. Not a fun descent. At the bottom, we began encountering the throngs again. Some nice. Some not so nice with chips on their shoulders. We began to make our way to the Galehead hut... We leap frogged Liberty whom we met in the summit and her owner. Once catching up, the dogs had a chance to meet and Isis relaxed a little. She needs familiarity and will often lash out at unfamiliar dogs. But once she sees them a few times, she's cool. The problem is that this does not happen enough.
Garfield Ridge Trail is full of PUDS and we make our way careful to the tent site. We fill up my water bladder and nalgen bottle with the coldest mountain water. It felt so good and actually tasted good too. Once back in the depths of the GRT, Isis and I were alone except for a few other backpackers out there. I knew the next test would be the junction of the Gale River Trail to the hut. Hut traffic is the worst but first.... MORE PUDS! It was getting hot and I used sunblock to protect me and mask the stink... It can be deodorant too right? We ran into Liberty a few more times and then we broke at the junction. Isis managed to get some food before the throngs of unleashed and un manned dogs came and really unnerved her. Ahhh.... I MISS WINTER! We began climbing to the hut and I felt my tank draining. Not enough to eat today. Heat. And a lot of tedious trail. Isis and I were grumps. We hit the crowded hut at 2:39pm. Here's were we found a quiet corner and rested. I kept my pack on and it was in the sun. Not helpful but I had to sit.
We got the low down about the Bonds... Lots of snow before West Bond and I knew that I didn't have it in me to go up South Twin today. The winds were suppose to die out tonight but chance of rain in the afternoon tomorrow had me thinking... There might be a thunderstorm too. At 3pm, Isis and I made our way up Galehead. I took my pack with me where I usually leave it and come back. We were camping up there for sure and we'd evaluate after some dinner. At 3:30pm, we summited Galehead. This would be our last peak for the trip. At 3:40pm, we found a nice flat area just off the outlook and set up camp. I finally made Isis some Honest Kitchen dehydrated food... She devoured it. I made myself some dehydrated chili and rice that I had made about a month ago. It was fantastic. I took a chance in not vacuum sealing and just using ziplock bags.... It worked. Perfect meal for this night. My belly was full. Isis' belly was full. We crawled into the tent and set it up right. I had been using my 40 degree bag with a fleece liner. Barely enough last night, tonight was more than enough with a dog in it too. Tonight, I was in my top base layer, underwear (not my long underwear) and hat and still sweating. But the wind had died out and the tent was steady... I SLEPT! Somewhere around midnight, I woke up to Isis shaking and my legs doing a few jumps too. We were both hurting a little. She curled up next to me and we both fell back to sleep until morning.
Morning was more Honest Kitchen for Isis and a double dose of oatmeal and a coffee for me. I stepped out to the outlook to catch the sunrise... Day 3 was here.
Day Three: Twin Brook Trail to 13 Falls, Franconia Brook Trail, Lincoln Woods Trail, to the car.
At approximately 7am, after I took my time with breakfast and breaking down camp, we headed down the Twin Brook Trail. I decided in the night to not go to the Bonds. I didn't want to put myself in a no win situation with the Bonds. Too much unclear and unknown as far as conditions and forecast. I decided for the redlines instead. I know I made the right choice. The Twin Brook Trail is one of those trails that you follow and it doesn't feel like a trail. It's truly a walk in the woods. Lots of ups and downs that are more gentile than the GRT. There's a few tributaries for Isis and I am still feeding off the water from the Spring. I'm thinking that I'll fill up again at 13 Falls in necessary. Isis and I enjoy the new trail and I am still impressed with not feeling the weight of my pack on day 3 and my trail runners performance. Not an ankle was rolled so far. We meander through the woods and we do not run into a soul this morning. It's just us and the wildlife. I can hear the winds up top and I am glad I stayed low today. This weekend has been nothing short of fantastic. There's a few stretches of flat trail heading to the tent site that I am thankful for. It's still a big work out on the rocks for my legs. We reach the tent site at 9:41am. Here's a break for us and Isis is curled up at the sign. We take a peak at the falls and cool down a bit too. They are beautiful and I can see myself swimming here over the summer.
After this, the trails became more and more familiar. Franconia Brook trail was a big test for the water crossings. I took a chance and just walked through one. The water was cool on my legs and it felt good. Once across we walked down the trail a bit and my shoes were completely dry. Score another like for the trail runners. This continued through all the water crossings. I was very pleased. Each time they dried as did my socks. We hit Lincoln Woods... AKA civilization at 12:16pm. I so wished that I had used the woods before I hit this section... Too crowded and no privacy. Lots of people and really, no one looked happy. No one said more than hello to me. Honestly, give me the back country... People are awesome out there. It was the long straight walk out and we stopped at the Ranger Station... Gave them the conditions report and the rain started falling. This felt good on my shoulders. We got back to the car at 1:25pm and I was empowered. This weekend was a complete success.
This was the only real picture I took of me... Galehead Summit.
Total Miles: 28.7
I cannot tell you how important this trip was. I can only tell you how it felt to complete it, on my own terms. To have Isis complete it was even better. I am stronger than I give myself credit for and for a long time I felt weak. This brought my power back and re-energized me. I'm ready to face what ever is coming. I've shown that I can handle a lot more than I'm given credit for and I'll continue to head out there. My trips may not all be epic but they are all meaningful. Battling back from depression has not been easy and I sometimes feel like I have miles to go. Changes are coming to help out and June 1st will be another start. The count down to the Long Trail remains in tact and I think that by doing this trip, I am ready for it. Get on out there and chase your own power... Grab it and hold on. You'll go far. I hope we see you out there soon.