I ran away again... The weather was way too nice to stay home so, I ran away and left everything behind. I needed to calm the chaos that was building so, I planned another 3 day in the Pemi. This time I'd go in over the Bonds and end on Galehead with an exit by way of 13 Falls on the third day. It's 4th of July weekend and the trails are packed... What could happen?
Day one begins with me ACTUALLY thinking of canning the whole weekend but I push out the door after some convincing, Isis did too. We arrived at Lincoln Woods to a packed parking area (I expected this). After moving my car once due to the car behind me containing a pack of pups, I got everything together and paid my fee (with a little extra). The pack was hoisted and we were on our way across the bridge to a weekend adventure....
DAY ONE.... THE BONDS
At 7:30am, I head down Lincoln Woods along with a conga line of hikers. I kept to myself but I did say hello to Milo (another Shiba Inu) who was also hiking the Bonds with his owner. I'm not feeling very social this morning and trying to shake off civilization. My feet feel good and Isis is doing OK. Lincoln Woods smells like every dog that lives in and visits New Hampshire so, to hike her in can be a bit of a patience tester as she smells everything. I try and back down and let her and I try and shake my "gotta get there" mentality. I have 3 days... Slow down! We pass all the other trail entrances and stop over the bridge before entering the Bond Cliff Trail. Lincoln Woods is of course in great shape. It's so well traveled by tourists, how can it not be? I feed Isis and myself and also take a few deep breathes. Things will be OK, I tell myself. Milo and his group catches up and passes us. Of course Milo and Isis have words... Well, Isis has words for Milo. I love her... She's very protective of me and speaks her mind. Other's don't like this but she's still the best trail partner I've had. I'm determined to take my time and enjoy the weekend. We head down the lower Bond Cliff trail which is mostly flat and wooded. There are no new blowdowns to contend with and the water crossings at this low point are very easy. The crowds are building and a group of what I think are college kids comes up behind us. I happen to mention to one that his sleeping bag was coming unraveled (he had it cinched under his pack without a stuff sack or other waterproof bag). I though he might want to not get it wet... I was brushed off. I began to go inward at this point. Time to sort out my thoughts... Isis and I kept climbing, keeping to ourselves.
We rest and judge the crowds who seem to be in disagreement over where the summit is. After the crowd thins, Isis and i head over to the summit and ask Milo's owner to take our shot. This summit always get's the butterflies stirring. I may have gone to therapy to help with my fear of heights among other things but, this summit always brings it back. Keeping several points of stability and getting Isis to sit still as well, I brave the small rock. I want off the summit immediately after my picture is taken. I need to take a few deep breaths once I am back on the trail. I go back to my pack after a thank you and eat. Isis also gets treats. She's already showing signs of being tired. We begin to make our way on the Bond Cliff Trail to Mount Bond. The winds are intermittent depending on the bend in the trail. It's a spectacular hike on the ridge and everyone we start running into here seem nice and easy going. We appreciate this as we begin climbing. I take my iconic shot looking back over the ridge prior to summiting. And also prior to summiting, another hiker tipped me off to a camp site over on West Bond that was suppose to be very nice. I'm hoping that with the crowds, no one else takes it.
Summiting, there is another gentleman waiting at the top. He's so peaceful that I do not want to bother him. I respect that. Isis and I settle for another rest considering the amount of energy this is taking, as long as I make it to West Bond Around, 5pm, I'll be happy. We are joined by a crowd of I believe college students at various stages of their college career. One particularly outspoke woman questioned me about hiking as she was on her first backpack as well as slowly ticking off the 48, and struggling a bit with being tired. I tried to explain that it's really all in how the pack fits. She kind of scoffed at it saying she didn't know how to strengthen her hips. She was also insistent about getting to the tent site at Guyot to secure a site for their group of 12. I had fun talking to this group as they seemed genuinely interested in learning about hiking and not just fascinated by Isis. After a good rest here, we began to make our way to the spur to West Bond. Again, there trail remains is good shape. Easy to travel and even though my feet are getting tired, we make the turn on the spur in great time. Keeping my eye out for that spot and not really knowing what I am looking for, I'm getting closer to the summit. I get nervous that we'll need to search for a spot but then I see it. A nice flat area about 5 minutes from the top. I drop my pack and set up the tent. It's just about 5pm and it's dinner time. I have my dehydrated pork chop (cut up) and mashed potatoes. Isis has dehydrated fish and threw a little attitude at me. I guess, a note about Isis... She has no formal training so, she's rough. But I love that about her. I don't need her to roll over or give paw. She hikes the trails and keeps me in line. I'm the boss but she has the right to tell me if I'm doing something wrong. I gather up my cup and wine while Isis is calming from her meal and we begin to head up to the summit.
We are not alone up there but the company is nice. Unobtrusive and settled in on a peaceful mountain top. For those that have been here, you know how small West Bond is. A crowd is a recipe for disaster. I chat with the couple who is having dinner at what they called a 5 star restaurant. I smiled and agreed, Mountain house on a peak like this. Beyond 5 stars! I pull out my wine and they smiled at my idea. Heaven was happening right here. I finally got that feeling that I wanted and I started to cry. Things just felt right and as though I belonged here. I was surrounded by something that rendered me speechless and my rambunctious dog suddenly crawled into my lap and looked out on the world with me. We would chat in-between long periods of silence and it turns out this couple knows a few people that I know and I have met the guy when I hiked Lady Grey's grid finish back in 2013. Such a small world. I was happy to share the summit with this crowd who called me accomplished and I had no clue how to respond. I wish I got their names. Isis and I continued to shift around and watch the colors of the sky change. At around 7:30pm, the winds shifted and I caught a chill that had me wanting to move low and into my tent. I stood up and took in the expanse of scenery around me and bid good night to my summit crowd. It was a good thing we exited when we did as a very large black dog was coming up... This would have been that recipe for disaster. Isis just doesn't like other dogs and after a long battle with myself, I am OK with this. This night is now a top ten in my journey. I've dreamed of this. As I settle in for the night, I recharge my phone and listen as people file past. Isis hears them too and growls a little. She can't see them due to the position of the tent and this is now her home. Of course she will protect it... And me. I sleep in my long johns and my fleece liner only to start. Isis get's my 40 degree bag and we curl up. She slowly works her way onto my sleeping pad through out the night and I slowly work on my socks. My hat is out in my pack so, that will have be gone without. She curls up next to me and I pull my 40 degree bag over me like a blanket. The wind picks up and dies down throughout the night. I sleep because I can remember dreaming of my home... Who dreams of home out on the trail? Someone who has a lot going on there.
In the morning, I have breakfast and another tousle with Isis who also has breakfast. Change has a negative reaction to this dog and she's off her usual morning routine (I can't figure out how to pack in hard boiled egg!). We begin day 2 with a bit of refocusing as I head to Guyot shelter for water.
Day 2: The Twins and Galehead
After settling our disagreement, Isis and I make our way to Guyot shelter to fill up on water. It's a crazy maze of tent sites that are full beyond capacity and it's down a little (a lot) so, the climb back up will take a lot out of me. Isis and I reach the shelter and cut through a camp site to get to the water source. Most people milling round seem to be scowling and sullen. Come to find out that people are stacked on top of one another and that can't be fun. It just reminds me of a frat house and as we wait in line for water, I realize that I'll be waiting forever for people to pump and treat. It's flowing really good so chances of contamination are minimal. I find a tributary that is flowing and fill up my bladder and Nalgene in no time. Repack my pack and get out of there but not before Isis has words with another dog. The maze of filter lines in the spring was unreal. How can this be fun? I'm so lucky to have had the night I had and to be able to have experienced something so peaceful as I did on West Bond. We are originally going to Zealand but first we need to get to Guyot. My feet are tired and I know that this will be a long day. I'm trying to keep it light as Isis feeds off of my moods.
It's a hard fought climb in and out of the scrub to the junction of The Twin Way. I start going Zealand but before I get too far in, I stop and look at m map. I judge my level of energy and the distance. I'd rather be near my exit point with less miles down and more time than getting stuck out near Zealand. So, I turn Isis around who again does not like change and it takes some convincing. We come back to the junction and notice a woman coming up behind us. She continues to follow and we think nothing of it. The trails are packed this weekend. This trail is tough in spots. Lots of loose rock and my feet are tired. Isis continues to push forward and like riding a tandem bike, we try and get in sync. We leap frog with a number of groups and all seem to say the same things... She's so white, how does she stay so white? She looks a lot smaller than her pictures. She's a love. She's got such short legs. It was a pleasure to meet a fellow hiker who is "Peak Bagging for Parkinson's" today too. The Twin Way heading to South Twin is a mix of rocks, dirt trail and mud. To answer the how does she stay so White question, she does not do mud. She avoids it the way any hiker should. She's got the concept of least impactful hiking down. AND she takes advantage of water crossings.
We begin our final approach to South Twin and are stopped by a group resting in the middle of the trail. The same lady we saw coming up behind us at the junction is there too with a map. She is wondering if this is the way to Zealand. She had become separated from her partner and is now fced with over 2 miles to reconnect with her around Zealand. I gave her some quick tips of how to wear her pack which was causing her discomfort and she took a deep breath and began her long hike back. This is why you never separate from a group! Isis and I continued to the summit of South Twin which was over come by people. The day is chilled and we had a great conversation with a Thru Hiker on the summit. It seemed as though I connected with him rather than those that were milling round. He was heading over the the Garfield shelter and heading south so, we parted and I was heading to North Twin. Energy was ticking away and my temper was shortening but luckily, I was keeping to myself. It seemed to take forever to get to North Twin and as I enjoyed the Col between the two peaks, I longed to be at Galehead and resting. Isis and I took a break after the ups of the North Twin Spur and sat at the outlook in the company of another hiker and his dog. We sat some distance from them as I really wanted to get her some food and I was unsure of her reaction. We were also joined by two other hikers who where heading to the same place I was.
Making our way back to South Twin, I kept a meditative pace and really just focused on one foot in front of the other. I was not struggling but I was not fully into it either. I wanted some really good food (French Fries!) and some comfort. This was a low point. We began climbing to South Twin to be greeted by another group of what I think was students. Younger students and possibly some kind of Outward bound group. I paid them no mind and got a few shots but left the summit rather quickly. The chatter was just really getting to me. My heart was unsettled. It was .8 straight down to the hut and it was rocky. Really rocky in a lot of ways. As we made our way through the maze of those coming up, we stopped and chatted with a Nobo thru hiker who had a mutal love of Vermud (another name for Vermont at this time of year). He wished me well on my Long Trail hike which was something that I needed to hear. There was a mutual respect there and I was glad to have briefly met him. We battled with the larger rocks, mud, water, and various other obstacles coming down the Twin Way. And made it to the Hut.
Several other Tru Hikers were milling around. Again some good conversations but not the same mutual respect as the one I met coming down from South Twin. They did not seem interested but rather were eating and making plans for the night. I told them that I was heading up to Galehead to camp and continued to discuss lightening my pack. I think this is why they had the reaction they did. My pack is big but really I do not notice the size or the weight. I use everything and really, it's the water and the food that make up the most weight. After a few more words to others from Isis, it was time to go. She gets very vocal when she is tired and probably hurting over those miles. I've very conscious of this now as she is so lovable a the beginning of a hike. We make our way up the Frost trail to Galehead but not before I take a significant fall and cut my hand. It's bleeding pretty good but I don't want to stop. There's no real place to stop anyway. And we climb up to the outlook but pass it in favor of getting our spot. I go a little deeper and settle down. We have some dinner and I set up the tent. Isis has words with me and I really just need to let her be but we head to the summit after a number of people also head up. I hold m breath hoping there is no confrontation. At the summit, there are people coming out of the woods in all directions and they are just talking and talking. I'm usually very tolerant but it's just noise to me and I'm really longing for quiet. The group of boys from South Twin are now on their way to the outlook where I had planned to have another glass of wine. I'll wait.
I move the tent back at our spot and I'm pleased with the resettling. What I am not thrilled about is the condensation buildup inside. Everything is damp. I do my best to stay in the middle of the tent and careful not to brush the walls but it's hard in cramped quarters. I know that Isis is in pain and I am tired. I really am looking forward to the walk out tomorrow for some reason and as I settle down for the night, I am thinking two things... The first is that I will figure out a way to pack my 2 person tent (less condensation) when I take my hike on the Long Trail and the second is that maybe next weekend will be a Zero Weekend. Surprisingly, I sleep through the night but I am glad I covered my pack with the rain cover as I think I heard some rain drops. At about 4am, I am awake and really wanting out of the tent. It's just too wet but I settle until 5:30am. Then, I am out and about in my long underwear. I walk over the to outlook leaving Isis to sleep. There was no view... Completely clouded in. I begin making breakfast for myself and trying to decide how I will handle feeding Isis. I settle on eating first and then letting her eat while I pack up. The tent is packed away dripping... Luckily, I've eaten a lot and the weight for the way out is down. I have enough water to get my to 13 falls. At 7am, we begin our exit in the clouds.
Day 3: Exit 13 Falls
Heading down Twin Brook, it's a struggle to get Isis moving and I again find myself questioning my Long Trail trip with her. Can she really handle it? Can we manage each other? I try and show her as much love as I can while keeping her moving. She's receptive at least. And we navigate the trail as best we can on very tired feet and bodies. It seems as though I just zone out and do my best just to make it to the next junction. It seems to take forever but we make it to the junction in good time. People are milling round and making their way to the falls. Isis and I do the same and I settle to clean the cut on my hand and bandage it up. My hands are stiff and my body is sore. I feel old today. I wash up at the falls too and feel a little better. Isis is restless. I fill up the Nalgene so we will at least have water for the ride home. There are not too many people on Franconia Brook Trail except for one family that we seemed to leap frog a little. Most of the water crossings were good with water shoes although I did fall in twice when I didn't use my water shoes. I was fine with this. I really just wanted to to get back to the car. Why? I have no idea. I'm a mixture of I want to be home and hell no. As we approach "civilization" or the Lincoln Woods Trail, I use the woods one last time and try and put the breaks on. Maybe I don't want to go back so quick.
The crowds are building as we make our way to the car. Everyone smells was better than I do but I'm fine with that. What I was not fine with was the kid who came at me with a stick raised above his head and a look of death as if he was going to hit me or my dog... Come one people! Really? The dog and I are just trying to get back to the car. As I approached, I ask him to "Please stop. Please don't do that." and just kept walking past who I think was his mother. What an intro back to the Lincoln Woods Trail... I keep to myself for most of the way. Smiles and hellos aside, there is very little stopping. We get back to the car and load the gear to looks and what not from people milling around. I appreciated the bikers who parked next to me who recognized he smell of 3 days in the Pemi. As I try to leave, my back door will not shut tight... This is not good as home is southern New Hampshire. I find the ranger (Fred) and he and another ranger bring tools to unstick my door. I thank them very enthusiastically and we talk for a while about hiking and what I just experienced. In particular, the experience I had on West Bond... My eye light up when I talked about it. I could feel in but it was time to head home. Isis was tired and I needed a shower. I thanked them again and was on my way.
I got stuck in a little traffic on the way home (one nasty roll over accident and one back up due to the holiday)... Hot and sweaty with a head full of weekend memories, I made my way through the maze of civilization. It's so loud down here was what I noted. It's loud and crowded and somewhat unforgiving. I suddenly didn't want to be in the space that I was in. Nothing seemed right about being home and everything seemed wrong and broken and well beyond my control. I suddenly wanted to reverse myself and head back as well as reverse my decision on a zero weekend for next weekend. There are things I need to do for sure... I now have to get my car looked at and I need a dress for an up and coming wedding... But I long for the silence of the woods. At night, it's just so peaceful and cool. And despite my uncomfortable living quarters, I was truly happy up high. I hike and I hike a lot to some times avoid that which I have no control over and that which I am avoiding but I need to pay attention to things at ground level... There's alway Sunday if I get things done... I'm still unsettled. I long for something and I'm not even sure what it is.
Over Three Days, I hiked six peaks... The Three Bonds, The Twins, and Galehead. I left everything I had on those trails... Everything except what was waiting for me at home.