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Bond Cliff is a Fantastic Test for Time.

For weeks now, I have been wanting a larger hike. I've wanted to test myself out hiking in the dark and I've also wanted to visit The Bonds. Thanksgiving provided the time as an extra long weekend with enough time to recover both from the meal and the eventual hike. Watching the weather, it was a toss up between the two days (Friday or Saturday). So, considering I needed a day to sleep off my Thanksgiving meal, I decided on Saturday. Lucky me, I was able to get up at a decent dark hour. Driving up in the dark, we greeted the sunrise at the Lincoln Woods parking lot. I had saved a Gluten Free Muffin that I had bought the day before so, I had that for Breakfast (this was a great idea as I usually don't eat). Lil' Nugget and I were under way around 7am. I had layers and I chose to wear my winter boots (another good choice at least for the water crossing). First up was the long flat walk out to the Bond Cliff trail. 

There is not a whole lot to be said about the Lincoln Woods Trail out to the Wilderness boundary. It's long and flat. We made good time for it, even with stopping for snack breaks (Lil' Nugget) and actual food breaks (me). The weather was warmer than I thought it would be so, I quickly lost the hat and gloves. I thought about taking off the coat too but figures that would be pushing it. Lil' Nugget and I just kept walking over the railroad bed out to the boundary. Hopping onto the Bond Cliff trail, it was another hour out to the bend in the trail where the climb begins and the trail actually looks like a trail an opposed to a railroad bed. Once we reached this point (after another hour), I took a break for food again. I was not feeling hungry this trip at all due to constantly eating and replenishing calories. The day itself was kind of grey and I was hoping that the weather would clear as it was suppose to. Lil' Nugget and I headed into the woods and began our meander to the real elevation gain. I was taking note of trees and landmarks as I knew that if the day went to plan, I would be coming out in the dark. The leaves were overtaking the trail itself and the seeps were easy to step over. I also noted that we are in desperate need of snow. Everything gets filled in when it snows. 

At a certain point, the trail turns and you begin climbing and climbing, and climbing still. There are rock stairs to help with this. I'm feeing OK but I do note a hot spot in my right heel which I should take care of (it takes me a while). After another hour, I stop for a snack and I check my head lamp. It's dead. A moment of panic as I look for batteries, change the batteries, and it's still not working. I cleaned it out and try one more time... Blinded by the light. Success and we don't have to turn back. It was at this point that I decided that if need be, Bond Cliff was great for today. I was not turning back now until I got there. The water crossings (3 major and one minor) were no problem as I wore my winter boots which are highly waterproof (Merrill Whiteouts). I did carry Lil' Nugget through most of them so, that we could keep moving. The terrain was varying throughout the upper trail. Sometimes it was sand, sometimes rocks and roots. We continued to climb and hit ice around 4000 feet. It's not consistent enough for microspikes at this point and there is no snow either. We ran into a Scottish hiker who was on his way down. He got a view and was quick to add that it had clouded over again. We continued to the steps. A great piece to climb on going up. We broke tree line and entered the clouds.

We came across the rocks and over to the iconic summit of Bond Cliff. You of course, couldn't pay me enough to go out there in the clouds today. Even with no wind, I was not going to chance it as I usually get dizzy out there. So, we sat and ate. I got Lil' Nugget to pose with the summit behind her by holding up a piece of cheese. As we got ready to head back, I took my selfie as well. I did look to the nonexistent view of Mount Bond and decided that walking through that thick cloud was really not that worth it for me. So, we made our way back to the stairs. Not so fun going down with a dog. I tossed my pack down and guided myself and the dog. Stressful but we did it. Now it was just a matter of getting down. Easy when you know that it's really all down hill. I navigate the ice again and just... Keep.... Going. Amazingly, I ignore the hot spot on my foot and navigate everything in reverse. The water crossings were a breeze and before I knew it, I was back at the junction. It was 3pm at this point and I wanted to get back to the car by 5pm. It's not that simple as that long flat walk is not something that gets sped through on the way out. It drags and drags. From the junction to the bridge back to civilization, it was a long half an hour.

Once we crossed the bridge, I tried to push it to the next landmark (Black Pond trail) but had to finally stop and look at my foot. One huge blister reminiscent of my LT days, I grabbed my moleskin to at least get me to the car. It helped... A little but I do regret waiting too long. I would not have lost any time early on had I look at it then. We continued on the Lincoln Woods trail and ran into a few walkers. The sun was getting low and close to the new trail section, two hikers were coming towards us with heavy packs. They were on their was to the very place we came from as one was celebrating 48. It will be a cold night but so worth it for a view tomorrow. Shortly after that, we crossed the bridge back to the car around 4:30pm. What a fantastic way to spend the day, meandering through the woods and climbing into the clouds. I changed and got ready to head home. Lincoln was crazy so, I stop for coffee in Campton to get me home. Thanksgiving leftovers for dinner would be welcome and Lil' Nugget would finally go to sleep. 

If there is one thing I can reflect on today it's that the long flat trail so brought me back to the LT. Seeming to have no destination in mind, I walked and looked around and enjoyed the crisp day. I had been missing that feeling on my shorter day hikes. Today, more than making the 3 summits, I wanted to test myself hiking out in the dark. It makes no sense to me that I have headlamps and I go out of my way to avoid using them in these short days of the season. Basically, I'm busting my butt so that I don't use them or I go out of my way to limit myself because I am solo. The only thing I should be concerned about is my dog and that's about how I reframed hiking for the season and for Winter. I will do nothing that my dog can't do. Fortunately for me, there is not a whole lot she won't do. Which also makes it up to me to decide... I played it conservative by skipping the other two summits. But I still made a fantastic discovery... 18.2 miles round trip in 9.5 hours is a 2mph pace on 3245feet of vertical gain is a fantastic day.

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