Category: Hiking

Let’s Try This Again

Hello to all the lovely people who visit this site. Although I don’t know you personally, I feel we have a kinship of sorts, a love for the mostly peaceful, yet sometimes exhilarating, nature of hiking. Although I haven’t been out with my camera in quite a while, far too long, I am always making plans to re-enter that magical world and jump start this blog again.

As I may have mentioned, I have been sitting on photos from about 30 great hikes. Problem is, whenever I look at them I have trouble remembering. Trouble remembering not just important technical details, such as the name of a mountain I’m looking at for instance, but how I felt at that moment and what inspired me to take that photo in the first place. Too much time has passed now and those details have been lost.

But I am going to do my best to remember, and refer back to other sources when possible, and start posting those hikes. For those of you who read these new entries, the experience won’t be the same. But I hope you w..

Hello to all the lovely people who visit this site. Although I don’t know you personally, I feel we have a kinship of sorts, a love for the mostly peaceful, yet sometimes exhilarating, nature of hiking. Although I haven’t been out with my camera in quite a while, far too long, I am always making plans to re-enter that magical world and jump start this blog again.

As I may have mentioned, I have been sitting on photos from about 30 great hikes. Problem is, whenever I look at them I have trouble remembering. Trouble remembering not just important technical details, such as the name of a mountain I’m looking at for instance, but how I felt at that moment and what inspired me to take that photo in the first place. Too much time has passed now and those details have been lost.

But I am going to do my best to remember, and refer back to other sources when possible, and start posting those hikes. For those of you who read these new entries, the experience won’t be the same. But I hope you will still find enough value to continue to visit. Through the years I have always appreciated all the kind words of support given by you, the readers. Soon, after all these old hikes are up, new ones will arrive. Let’s continue this adventure together.

Thank you,

Silent Hiker

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CDT Part 2 – Day 7 – Butte

Date: 7/31/21

Daily Miles: 17

2021 CDT Total Miles: 132

Overall CDT Total Miles: 2202

We finally had our first cool night of the trip…perfect sleeping temperature. We seem to have gotten into our routine for packing up in the morning…first put on socks and shoes (Beardoh is much faster at this since he stores his in his hammock), get the bear bags down from their hanging spot, pack up, stretch, and go. Somehow that all takes us 40-50 minutes each morning.

The walking today was quite nice. One of the main reasons we decided to take this longer route by Butte, instead of taking the Anaconda Cutoff several days ago, was that we had heard how nice the trails are around Butte…and that has certainly been the case. In some ways, it feels like the trails around Lake Tahoe, with their gentle ups and downs and soft tread.

We had plans to meet a trail angel at the I-90 overpass at 4pm, which meant that we could have a pretty relaxing pace, but just not stop for too long. We got to our meeti..

Date: 7/31/21

Daily Miles: 17

2021 CDT Total Miles: 132

Overall CDT Total Miles: 2202

We finally had our first cool night of the trip…perfect sleeping temperature. We seem to have gotten into our routine for packing up in the morning…first put on socks and shoes (Beardoh is much faster at this since he stores his in his hammock), get the bear bags down from their hanging spot, pack up, stretch, and go. Somehow that all takes us 40-50 minutes each morning.

The walking today was quite nice. One of the main reasons we decided to take this longer route by Butte, instead of taking the Anaconda Cutoff several days ago, was that we had heard how nice the trails are around Butte…and that has certainly been the case. In some ways, it feels like the trails around Lake Tahoe, with their gentle ups and downs and soft tread.

We had plans to meet a trail angel at the I-90 overpass at 4pm, which meant that we could have a pretty relaxing pace, but just not stop for too long. We got to our meeting spot about 15 minutes early and just sat in the grass while we waited.

We were very appreciative of Dane giving us a ride into town, since Butte was 10 miles away and it probably would have been hard to hitch at an on-ramp. He dropped us off at the hotel where we had reservations and luckily they had two rooms ready for check-in, so we were able to get in right away.

After seven days on the trail, we are very ready for a shower, laundry and some pizza while watching Ted Lasso. Looking forward to a day for our bodies to be able to rest.

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CDT Part 2 – Day 6 – Interstate

7/30/21

Daily Miles: 22

2021 CDT Total Miles: 115

Overall CDT Total Miles: 2185

We all managed to have a good and comfortable night’s sleep. We headed out on the trail by 6:20am, with the sun coming just over the trees, looking like a big bright orange ball.

We headed down to the flat and barren land between two mountain chains. As we got closer to the valley floor, the trees really started to thin out. We stopped at a nice creek and did a bit of laundry since we missed it yesterday.

After the creek, we got onto a gravel road and headed in the direction of I-15, which cuts through the valley. We had several miles before we were walking on the frontage road right next to the interstate with cars going 80 miles per hour. This trail certainly has some extremes.

We crossed under the interstate and continued up the dirt road for several more miles. As we were walking, we saw two bike packers riding towards us…our first sight of bikers on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route! We were ..

7/30/21

Daily Miles: 22

2021 CDT Total Miles: 115

Overall CDT Total Miles: 2185

We all managed to have a good and comfortable night’s sleep. We headed out on the trail by 6:20am, with the sun coming just over the trees, looking like a big bright orange ball.

We headed down to the flat and barren land between two mountain chains. As we got closer to the valley floor, the trees really started to thin out. We stopped at a nice creek and did a bit of laundry since we missed it yesterday.

After the creek, we got onto a gravel road and headed in the direction of I-15, which cuts through the valley. We had several miles before we were walking on the frontage road right next to the interstate with cars going 80 miles per hour. This trail certainly has some extremes.

We crossed under the interstate and continued up the dirt road for several more miles. As we were walking, we saw two bike packers riding towards us…our first sight of bikers on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route! We were so excited to see them with our current fascination with bike packing. They were really excited to see CDT hikers and we ended up chatting with them for a solid half hour. They were in their 60’s probably and seemed to be having a great adventure.

We finally had to say goodbye so we could keep walking. Shortly after leaving the bikers, we ran into a CDT section hiker. We just chatted a few minutes and didn’t even get her trail name, since we felt like we needed to keep walking.

Shortly before lunch we ended up back on trail tread. We were glad to be off the dirt road, since our feet were rather sore. Mace got the first blister of the trail, with one inconveniently located on the ball of his foot. Definitely painful.

When we are hiking, we pick up small bits of trash that we find on the trail. It is not really common to find much trash…in the first five days, we only found one candy wrapper. This afternoon, we started seeing more trash – six pieces. They were almost all parts of an energy gel wrapper. We know that these are often used by racers, and that there had been a mountain bike race last weekend around Butte. We eventually saw some flagging that said “Butte 100”, so we were pretty sure that the trash was from the racers who were careless with their garbage.

The trail this afternoon has been in great shape. It is a bit surreal as the forest around the trail looks like it has been through the wringer. There are piles of dead trees all over…it looks like a complete mess. But, then there is this perfect trail cutting right through it. Certainly a lot of trail maintenance in the area.

When we stopped for water a few miles before camp, SweetPea found a painted rock. Apparently there is a Facebook page for the rock to see how far it gets carried. It is written on the rock that you can keep it or re-hide it. Although SweetPea is not one to carry rocks in her pack, she put the small stone in her pack to re-hide somewhere else. Now she just needs to decide where to leave the rock for the next person to find.

Tonight we are camped a short bit off the trail. We are near a dilapidated cabin and the most amazing spring we have ever seen. The water coming out is so forceful that it sounds like there is a raging river right next to us. We have never seen a spring like this one. We even got to hang our bear bags over a dead tree which fell on the cabin roof.

Today was the least smokey day we have had so far this week. It was nice to see the blue skies.

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CDT Part 2 – Day 4 – First Steps on Road

7/28/21

Daily Miles: 20

2021 CDT Total Miles: 76

Overall CDT Total Miles: 2146

We ended up just getting a few sprinkles last night (not enough to affect the smoke today). It was a warm night, but we were still able to get a good night of sleep. When we got up at 5:30am, we felt pretty good.

A few miles before the end of yesterday’s hiking, we came to a trail junction where the CDT had been rerouted. Our navigation app (Guthook) and our paper maps didn’t show the reroute, but some comments by other hikers in Guthook indicated that the reroute was about seven miles longer than the old trail (a mixture of gravel and paved roads actually). We didn’t feel like we had the buffer in our schedule (mostly food-wise) to add an extra seven miles, so we just stuck to the old route.

That meant that the bulk of today was spent walking on a mixture of gravel roads and a paved state highway. The gravel road walk at the beginning of the day was pretty pleasant. It was cool out and we didn’t see a..

7/28/21

Daily Miles: 20

2021 CDT Total Miles: 76

Overall CDT Total Miles: 2146

We ended up just getting a few sprinkles last night (not enough to affect the smoke today). It was a warm night, but we were still able to get a good night of sleep. When we got up at 5:30am, we felt pretty good.

A few miles before the end of yesterday’s hiking, we came to a trail junction where the CDT had been rerouted. Our navigation app (Guthook) and our paper maps didn’t show the reroute, but some comments by other hikers in Guthook indicated that the reroute was about seven miles longer than the old trail (a mixture of gravel and paved roads actually). We didn’t feel like we had the buffer in our schedule (mostly food-wise) to add an extra seven miles, so we just stuck to the old route.

That meant that the bulk of today was spent walking on a mixture of gravel roads and a paved state highway. The gravel road walk at the beginning of the day was pretty pleasant. It was cool out and we didn’t see any cars at all. We passed by a Boy Scout Camp and some private residences. Definitely a pretty idilic place to live.

The paved road was pretty quiet too, and we had nice views to look at as we walked. The road seemed to cut between two mountain chains, so we got views of some ranch land with silhouettes of mountains in the distance.

Once the old and new routes reconnected, we were on an old logging road for quite awhile. We spent most of the afternoon climbing, but it was so gradual, you could easily forget that you we gaining any elevation. That is, until near the top of the climb, when we got on a snowmobile trail, which got really steep. Surely those steep trails are fun in a snowmobile, but for us walking, it was tough.

Since we had so many miles of easy road walking today, we were able to finish our day pretty early, and we got to camp around 5:00pm. It had started to sprinkle, so we tried to set up quickly, with the hope that more rain would be coming. Luckily, we are now getting a nice light rain, so hopefully the fire will get some relief.

Since starting four days ago, we have been having an issue with the toe socks we wear. We have worn Injinji socks for years and feel like they help us to avoid getting blisters. Usually Beardoh will start to get holes in his after about 500 miles. For SweetPea, the last two pairs she’s had (she carries two pairs and switches each day) lasted 3,000 miles without any holes. We both got two new pairs of socks for this trip, and already we have four holes between us. Ugh. At least the rest of our gear seems to be holding up well.

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CDT Part 2 – Day 3 – Rainbow Mountain

Date: 7/27/21

Daily Miles: 19

Total Miles: 56

It was another really warm night. We were hammocked across the trail, and during the night, SweetPea heard a deer or something walk down the trail towards us, then stop (presumably after noticing our hammocks in its way), and then bound off into the woods.

Sadly, none of us have slept well yet. It makes it hard to have sustained energy for the day without enough sleep. We are all hoping for a solid eight hours of sleep tonight. Hopefully the fact that we are in bed by 7:45pm will help.

We could smell the smoke in the morning at camp. We had a few miles of descent before we started our big climb of the day. We stopped partway up to do laundry and met another CDT hiker, Windy. He seems to be doing big miles and was planning to walk the 100 miles of road to get around the fire closure.

The trails today were pretty spectacular. Several areas looked like there was so much work involved in creating the trail…this morning there was a nice pa..

Date: 7/27/21

Daily Miles: 19

Total Miles: 56

It was another really warm night. We were hammocked across the trail, and during the night, SweetPea heard a deer or something walk down the trail towards us, then stop (presumably after noticing our hammocks in its way), and then bound off into the woods.

Sadly, none of us have slept well yet. It makes it hard to have sustained energy for the day without enough sleep. We are all hoping for a solid eight hours of sleep tonight. Hopefully the fact that we are in bed by 7:45pm will help.

We could smell the smoke in the morning at camp. We had a few miles of descent before we started our big climb of the day. We stopped partway up to do laundry and met another CDT hiker, Windy. He seems to be doing big miles and was planning to walk the 100 miles of road to get around the fire closure.

The trails today were pretty spectacular. Several areas looked like there was so much work involved in creating the trail…this morning there was a nice path through a giant rock slide. In the afternoon, they had created a great set of switchbacks for a comfortable descent along what would normally just look like a almost vertical rock wall. Sometimes we are reminded of all the work that goes into creating a continuous footpath through rugged terrain.

After we made it to the top of our climb (Rainbow Mountain), we sat down for a snack as we took in the views. The descent was another great trail as we worked ourselves back down to the valley for a brief visit.

As per our current “usual”, the trail headed right back up to the same height we had just been at. We were able to get good views back to Rainbow Mountain and see how far we had come. It looked so far, but in reality it was probably just five miles.

Near the top of our last climb, we came to the junction with a notable alternate called the Anaconda Cutoff. Many hikers take this alternate in order to save something like 90 miles. Since we don’t have a rush, we are opting to stay on the regular CDT, mostly because the alternate has a lot of paved road miles. For thru-hikers it makes sense to shorten the overall route when possible, because it is hard to finish the trail in just one season…they are always running against the clock.

Some highlights for today – lots of wildflowers (there was even a whole stream bed filled with wildflowers)…we saw a marmot, a fox, and something which Beardoh is convinced is a ferret (it was standing on its back legs looking at us in the trail)…it is starting to sprinkle now and hopefully this means a night of rain which will help the firefighters and hopefully knock down some of the smoke.

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CDT Part 2 – Day 5 – Into Joel’s

7/29/21

Daily Miles: 17

2021 CDT Total Miles: 93

Overall CDT Total Miles: 2163

Beardoh and SweetPea had a good night of sleep, but Mace unfortunately had a mostly sleepless night. He has been dealing with some low energy because he hasn’t been eating much…just the thought of food makes him nauseous. No sleep and not eating much isn’t a very good combination. Perhaps the elevation is still bothering him. Hopefully he’ll be feeling better soon.

Shortly after leaving camp, we came up on an elk. We seemed to surprise it, because we got pretty close before it took off. It only went a little down the trail and then ran again as we got close a second time.

The trail felt pretty easy today…mostly a mix of dirt roads and snow mobile trails. In the early afternoon, the landscape seemed to change with giant boulders dotting the mountainside. It was a different look than the terrain we have been seeing.

In the early afternoon, we walked a mile off trail to the seasonal cabin of a trail ange..

7/29/21

Daily Miles: 17

2021 CDT Total Miles: 93

Overall CDT Total Miles: 2163

Beardoh and SweetPea had a good night of sleep, but Mace unfortunately had a mostly sleepless night. He has been dealing with some low energy because he hasn’t been eating much…just the thought of food makes him nauseous. No sleep and not eating much isn’t a very good combination. Perhaps the elevation is still bothering him. Hopefully he’ll be feeling better soon.

Shortly after leaving camp, we came up on an elk. We seemed to surprise it, because we got pretty close before it took off. It only went a little down the trail and then ran again as we got close a second time.

The trail felt pretty easy today…mostly a mix of dirt roads and snow mobile trails. In the early afternoon, the landscape seemed to change with giant boulders dotting the mountainside. It was a different look than the terrain we have been seeing.

In the early afternoon, we walked a mile off trail to the seasonal cabin of a trail angel who let us drop off a resupply box. This was really helpful so that we didn’t have to start the trail with seven days of food in our packs. We were able to break it up into a five day carry and a two day carry. We walked to his cabin, grabbed our box of food and headed back to the trail.

As we were walking back to the trail, we could hear thunder and started to feel some sprinkles. It kept sprinkling and the wind started to pick up. We had been planning to camp at a spot a few miles up where the trees stopped and a flat plain started. We decided it might be better to camp in an area with more trees for protection if a storm was going to be coming through. So, we’re decided to stop 1.5 miles early.

Since the walking had been easy today, we ended up setting up camp at 4:00pm…super early. It was starting to rain as we set up our tarps, but by the time we were totally set up, the skies were starting to clear. It turned into a beautiful afternoon, so we just accepted that we were getting some extra relaxation time.

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CDT Part 2 – Day 1 – A Smokey Start

7/25/2021

Daily Miles: 17

Total Miles: 17

Yeah! We’re finally back out on the trail! After several days in Butte and one day in Jackson, we are finally walking. The time spent in town buying and boxing up food was strangely exhausting. SweetPea was also sick for part of that time, which didn’t help. But we managed to have one relaxing day before heading out this morning.

The Trail Creek Fire is still very active and blanketing the skies with gray haze. In fact, more miles of the CDT have now been closed due to the fire. The closure has impacted all of the miles we had originally planned for our first stretch and includes many miles south to Lemhi Pass, which we hiked last year. For CDT thru-hikers this year, they are left with doing a 100 mile road walk around the closure. Yuck. It seems that many CDT hikers this year are opting for a little used alternate, called the Butte Super Cutoff, which cuts off a lot of miles in MT and completely skirts the current fires.

This morning we w..

7/25/2021

Daily Miles: 17

Total Miles: 17

Yeah! We’re finally back out on the trail! After several days in Butte and one day in Jackson, we are finally walking. The time spent in town buying and boxing up food was strangely exhausting. SweetPea was also sick for part of that time, which didn’t help. But we managed to have one relaxing day before heading out this morning.

The Trail Creek Fire is still very active and blanketing the skies with gray haze. In fact, more miles of the CDT have now been closed due to the fire. The closure has impacted all of the miles we had originally planned for our first stretch and includes many miles south to Lemhi Pass, which we hiked last year. For CDT thru-hikers this year, they are left with doing a 100 mile road walk around the closure. Yuck. It seems that many CDT hikers this year are opting for a little used alternate, called the Butte Super Cutoff, which cuts off a lot of miles in MT and completely skirts the current fires.

This morning we were brought out to the Mussigbrod Lake Trailhead, where we took a 5+ mile trail to hook up with the CDT. This is the point recommended by the USFS to start hiking north on the trail. The air was looking pretty smokey as we started the drive to the trail.

As we got close to the trailhead, we saw a momma moose and her baby just off the road. It seemed that Mussigbrod Lake is a paradise for moose, because we saw three more moose within the first twenty minutes of hiking. Definitely a cool start to the hike.

The approach trail was quite nice as we climbed up to the ridge. As we got closer to the CDT, we started to see some downed trees in the trail. We would come to see that those were only the beginning of lots of downed trees to hop over today.

We walked through multiple stretches of forest that were damaged from various eras of fires. There were stretches which seemed to have burned in just the last few years, and then stretches which had some saplings growing amongst the burned trees. While there was little protection from the sun during these stretches, we were delighted to see all the wildflowers coming up there.

We climbed to almost 9,000 feet during the day, and luckily none of us were affected by the altitude. What a major change from our first few days on the CDT last year, where SweetPea was popping Tums to alleviate her problems with the altitude. Definitely a bonus for us to be coming to the trail straight from Mexico, where we can regularly hike up to 8,000 feet.

We took lots of breaks during the day, as we all felt rather tired. We made it to camp by 6:30pm and we are camped near a really nice stream. We all did our laundry, washed up, stretched, and hung up our bear bags. We’re in bed a little after 8pm and it is still completely light outside.

Even though it might be hard to fall asleep in the light, it feels good to just be lying down for the night. Between the three of us, we have all the classic aches and pains covered…knees, feet, hips, back, shoulders, etc. Hopefully a good night of sleep will be restorative.

Our first day with our new ULA Ohm backpacks was generally good. They carried the weight well, but our bodies have to get used to new pressure points of the packs. Our hips feel fairly tender from the hipbelts, and SweetPea’s spine (which is rather knobby), is very red and irritated from the seam on the back panel for the hipbelt. We’ll have to try to rig up some extra padding on her back tomorrow…there a good chance a sock will be involved.

All in all, it was a good start to the hike. The sky was not as smokey as we had feared, the mosquitoes stayed hidden until we got to camp, we saw 5 moose(!), we got some nice views of the Anaconda Pintler range, and we got to walk through the mountains with one of our favorite people.

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CDT Part 2 – Day 2 – Rollercoaster

7/26/2021

Daily Miles: 20

Total Miles: 37

It was really warm last night. We had a hard time regulating our temperature…swinging from hot and sweaty to very cold. We have come to expect that the first nights of sleep on a trail is going to be poor, and last night met expectations. It always takes us a few nights before we are sleeping soundly through the night. Surely the exhaustion from hiking will help us sleep.

We got up at 5:30am and were on the trail by 6:15am. It was cool enough that we started with our windshirts, but had them off within 20 minutes. The day started with a bit of a descent and then right into the rollercoaster of the day.

Before leaving camp, we rigged up some padding for SweetPea’s back which was irritated by the pack yesterday. We used some string to dangle a pair of socks off the back of her pack. Then she just had to position the socks in the right place between her spine and the pack. Even though the socks didn’t provide much padding, they actually helpe..

7/26/2021

Daily Miles: 20

Total Miles: 37

It was really warm last night. We had a hard time regulating our temperature…swinging from hot and sweaty to very cold. We have come to expect that the first nights of sleep on a trail is going to be poor, and last night met expectations. It always takes us a few nights before we are sleeping soundly through the night. Surely the exhaustion from hiking will help us sleep.

We got up at 5:30am and were on the trail by 6:15am. It was cool enough that we started with our windshirts, but had them off within 20 minutes. The day started with a bit of a descent and then right into the rollercoaster of the day.

Before leaving camp, we rigged up some padding for SweetPea’s back which was irritated by the pack yesterday. We used some string to dangle a pair of socks off the back of her pack. Then she just had to position the socks in the right place between her spine and the pack. Even though the socks didn’t provide much padding, they actually helped the pain quite a bit.

We had three passes today and another random climb. Basically we were either climbing up to a pass or descending from one. There wasn’t much for flat trail today. As we started our first climb to Pintler Pass, we could really smell the smoke in the air. Sometimes it is hard to tell if the smoke has cleared or if we have just gotten used to the smell and no longer notice it.

The views today from all the passes were really great. Several valleys had pristine alpine lakes which we would walk by on the descent and then get a nice view of from the pass. When we got to the top of Rainbow Pass (our second pass of the day), we looked over to the next valley and saw that it was filled with smoke. It is interesting to see where the smoke seems to accumulate during the day.

We saw two hikers over the course of the day. The first one looked like he could be a CDT hiker, but we just got a quick greeting from him as we passed by. You can usually tell which hikers are interested in socializing, and this guy just seemed focused on hiking. Later in the day, we met Day Late who is hiking southbound on the CDT. He is finishing up a section hike of the CDT and will be done at Yellowstone, though he might keep going further south.

Luckily, our third and final pass (and fourth big climb) of the day was the easiest. Even though we were starting it at 5pm and we were already quite tired, the trail was quite nice up to the pass. The grade felt very friendly and the sun was hidden behind smoke, so we had some shade for the climb.

We made it to camp at 7:30pm and we are all pretty beat. Our legs feel like spaghetti and we are ready to just go to sleep. We tried to finish our camp chores as quickly as possible so we could lay down and completely relax.

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Single Day Pemi Loop (with West Bond and Galehead)

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The Pemi Loop is one of the most classic backpacks in the Northeast. It's also one of the best ultramarathons you can cut your teeth into. This was my fourth Pemi Loop. Each one has been a little different. My first was clockwise in two days, the second counter clockwise solo; both of these with North Twin, West Bond, and Galehead. The third was a clockwise Super Fancy Pemi which included all of the optional peaks plus Zealand. This one would be all but Zealand and North Twin.

Alex, Julian, John, Andrew and I started from Lincoln Woods around 6:45, a little later than we had hoped. But when you have five dudes trying to coordinate a start time, it can get messy.

Lincoln Woods Trail is always a fun way to start out the day. Instead of going the typical clockwise route, we went counterclockwise because in my own words “it isn't ..

Buy my new novel Take to the Unscathed Road now! Follow me at facebook.com/justinraphaelsonauthor, instagram.com/jraphaelson, and twitter.com/jcxc44!
The Pemi Loop is one of the most classic backpacks in the Northeast. It's also one of the best ultramarathons you can cut your teeth into. This was my fourth Pemi Loop. Each one has been a little different. My first was clockwise in two days, the second counter clockwise solo; both of these with North Twin, West Bond, and Galehead. The third was a clockwise Super Fancy Pemi which included all of the optional peaks plus Zealand. This one would be all but Zealand and North Twin.

Alex, Julian, John, Andrew and I started from Lincoln Woods around 6:45, a little later than we had hoped. But when you have five dudes trying to coordinate a start time, it can get messy.


Lincoln Woods Trail is always a fun way to start out the day. Instead of going the typical clockwise route, we went counterclockwise because in my own words "it isn't as bad." I changed my mind by the end of the day. But it was nice to get it out of the way.


The Bondcliff Trail is always fun. It's a steady climb and goes by quickly. We made great timing up to the top in about 2 hrs 20 mins.

It was a near bluebird day to start and the temps were perfect. You really couldn't have asked for better.




The climb up to Mount Bond is fun to start, but gets a bit blah once you reach the woods, where you have to climb up wet, massive boulders to the summit.

But the view looking back on Bondcliff from the top is always special. We saw dozens of backpackers, the most I had ever seen on a trip up.


One of my favorite stretches of the trail is the section from Mount Bond to South Twin with the quick detour to West Bond, which in my opinion has the best views of the day. This section of the trail is easy on the knees and is the most flowy section next to Lincoln Woods and the last few miles of the Osseo Trail.




We opted not to tag Guyot nor North Twin. They never were really in our plans unless we were feeling invincible. We all had varying levels of nausea and pain which precluded us from doing them. The climb down from South Twin was as slippery and treacherous as always, but soon we were at the Galehead Hut and took a more than extended rest. Andrew and I ran into an acquaintance from college and talked for quite a bit, and we got some coffee cakes and filled up water at the hut.

The trip up to Galehead was swift and easy, but of course, nothing can prepare you for the worst section of the hike from here up to Lafayette. The Garfield Ridge Trail is one of those trails that gives me nightmares. It's wet, it's rocky, and it goes up and down erratically. But it's what gives the Pemi Loop its reputation.






Despite the trail's difficulty, we were all in quite good spirits up to Garfield. The views were lovely and there were quite a few people up there. Garfield has some of my favorite views on the loop, but the descent and climb up to Lafayette is one of the toughest and steepest sections of trail on the loop.









But our spirits were elevated as soon as we hit the summit of Lafayette. The stretch from Skookumchuck over to Lafayette is my preferred approach on the ridge. Why? No crowds!!

Because it was later in the day, we didn't see as many people as we headed over to Lincoln and then Little Haystack.










The journey over to Liberty wasn't so bad, but the traipse up to Flume was difficult as we neared 10000 vertical gain on the day.





And then we reached the stairs! From here it was smooth sailing to the bottom! Despite a few health issues along the way, we managed to do it in great timing, but we took the luxury of taking long breaks to make it a more enjoyable trip. We weren't trying to break any records, but we sure did have fun!

Total Time: 10 hrs 27 moving, 13 hrs 21 totalTotal Distance: ~31.33 milesTotal Elevation Gain: ~10400 vertical gain

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NH 4K: North and South Kinsman to Flume/Liberty Figure Eight Loop

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Sometimes in the middle of a solo hike I decide I want to do something a little different than planned. I was feeling a little sluggish on my tracing journey to finish up most of the Franconia region's trails along the Kinsmans. But I decided to be a lunatic anyway and do a figure eight loop of the Kinsmans and Flume/Liberty.

I camped with friends the night before in the Lonesome Lake Campground legitimately right next to the trailhead. Consequently, I started at the Lonesome Lake Trail and went onto the Hi-Cannon Trail from there, cut over to Lonesome Lake on the Dodge Cut-Off and then walked around the lake.

It was a gorgeous blue day, and it made for a perfect time to loop around the lake for the first time. I've been up to it many times, but this was the first time I actually got the classic, gorgeous views of the Francona..

Buy my new novel Take to the Unscathed Road now! Follow me at facebook.com/justinraphaelsonauthor, instagram.com/jraphaelson, and twitter.com/jcxc44!
Sometimes in the middle of a solo hike I decide I want to do something a little different than planned. I was feeling a little sluggish on my tracing journey to finish up most of the Franconia region's trails along the Kinsmans. But I decided to be a lunatic anyway and do a figure eight loop of the Kinsmans and Flume/Liberty.

I camped with friends the night before in the Lonesome Lake Campground legitimately right next to the trailhead. Consequently, I started at the Lonesome Lake Trail and went onto the Hi-Cannon Trail from there, cut over to Lonesome Lake on the Dodge Cut-Off and then walked around the lake.



It was a gorgeous blue day, and it made for a perfect time to loop around the lake for the first time. I've been up to it many times, but this was the first time I actually got the classic, gorgeous views of the Francona Ridge in solitude along the boardwalks.





After this warm up, I hit the Fishin' Jimmy Trail. This is one of my least favorite trails in the Whites due to the heavy traffic and insane erosion. It's certainly unique and exciting in some places, especially where the built in wooden steps are. But it's slow moving and tough on the joints.




From the junction, I headed up the Kinsmans. There were a decent amount of people on the trails, but nothing out of the ordinary. I snapped some pictures at the top of North and quickly jaunted over to South where I rested for a bit and enjoyed the sunshine.





Now the fun would begin. I was pretty tired already, but I had some trails to knock out. I took the Cascade Brook Trail (AT) all the way to the bottom where it meets the Liberty Spring Trail. This section of trail was terrible until you get to the Basin Cascades. It's eroded and uneventful.





But the Basin Cascades are always nice! And the next section of the AT past the junction was spectacular. The trail was in great shape, and this is likely because most people hiking up to Lonesome Lake take the Basin Cascade Trail versus the AT.

At the Liberty Spring sign, I had two choices. Get back to the campsite at 1:30 PM, or keep going. I was quite beat by this point, but I obviously had to keep going or I would have been sitting alone for 5 hours twiddling my thumbs waiting for my friends to finish their respective hikes.


I did what any self-respecting lunatic would do–I hiked up the Flume Slide Trail! It was my second time in the last 9 months doing it. The last time I broke the Strava record up to the summit of Flume. This time, I tried hard not to cramp and destroy my body, as I had foolishly run out of water toward the middle of the slide. I opted against filling up at Lonesome Lake. This was a total noob mistake, but I never felt uncomfortable. I would just have to keep a steadier pace and take it easy. Don't be like me–my rationale for not refiling was that I thought I was going to bail on Flume and Liberty, but I did them anyway…


But despite the foolishness and suffering, the views were magnificent. There were a ton of people on the summit despite it being after 3 PM by this point.


I jogged on over to Liberty where I got equally fine views, and then descended the Liberty Spring Trail back to the bike path, and ran the bike path back to my campsite. This was a supremely difficult figure eight loop. Arguably it was even harder than a Pemi Loop or Presi Traverse because you have to descend all the way back down to the valley and climb back up again. A standard Pemi Loop is just over 9000 vertical gain without the optional peaks. This figure eight loop is approximately 7400 feet over arguably more difficult terrain with steeper drops and gains. Not to mention it's 10 miles less than a Pemi Loop. Would I do it again? Unlikely. Will I do it again? Probably. 😉


Total Time: 6 hrs 23 minsTotal Distance: ~20.29 milesTotal Elevation Gain: ~7400 vertical gain
Check out my hike on Strava.
https://strava.app.link/pr3Qa9Xu5hb

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