Day 1, Pemigewasset Wilderness Loop, 8.1 miles

( trip taken June 18, 2008 )

Today marks an official revisit of a classic White Mountains ( NH) backpacking loop hike. The first time Marcia ( Auntie Mame) and I ( Uncle Tom) did this loop we were still young people, braving the woods as a couple for our first time, way back in 1970, 38 years ago!
This particular loop made its way into Jeffrey Romano’s 2006 publication, Best Loop Hikes; New Hampshire’s White Mountains to the Maine Coast . Much of the data from this report was taken from Jeff’s excellent guide to this hike. It is listed as a 2-3 day hike, which is just about right. Way back around the Summer of Love, it took us 4 or 5 days to compete, but that’s when I was carrying a 60 pound backpack and the concept of ultralight gear had not been even conceived.
Today should be easy. We started at about 2 PM, leaving the parking lot at Lincoln Woods where the Pemigewasset River crosses Route 112, on the Kancamangus Highway, itself a National Scenic Byway. When we left the car, I predicted we’d be at the tent site at 5:20 PM. Our destination was the Thirteen Falls tent site, 8.1 miles, but just 1000 feet higher in elevation, away. Although it was a sunny summer day, we only saw two other couples on the whole ascent, those in the first 3 miles.
The first 3 miles of walking was along a straight-as-an-arrow abandoned logging rail bed. At the end of that section was a brand new footbridge that led to an intersection where we took a left hand turn , picking up the Franconia Brook Trail. This section was another abandoned rail bed, but beavers dammed some streams and made our travel a bit slower.

We made many stream crossings, perhaps 10. Four of those were challenging, as there was considerable water flowing down Franconia Brook.

I depended on my extended Leki trekking poles to help with balance on the sometimes slippery rocks.
There were wet areas on the trial as well, including one black muckhole obstructed by a large fallen tree that required me to get down on my hands and knees and crawl under. When my hat fell off my head it became instantly mud encrusted and unwearable.
At some, Marcia gave me the lead.
I told her, “You have a beautiful smile.” Later, I leaned that she though I said, “You had some beautiful miles”. At least she heard a compliment, and not a complaint.
Eventually we came closer to a series of loud waterfalls, and at exactly 5:20 PM we arrived at our destination.

There were only two other tents occupying earth platforms at the Thirteen Falls tent site. We set up our little tent, got water from the stream, and cooked up Brad Purdy’s excellent “Curry in a Hurry” dehydrated mix. In a tree nearby, a wood thrush was singing sweetly against the sounds of falling water.
We talked a bit with the other backpackers who were camping nearby. One of the men told us that he had visited the Galehead AMC Hut earlier in the day where he was told that they had no customers the night before. Zero.
We cleaned up after supper and placed our food bags in the bear proof lockers by the caretaker’s tent. He came over later and collected $8 from each of us.
I felt so reassuring to me to engage in the routine at the end of the day. It was settling to run though the things that need to be done to be comfortable in the woods: washing off grime, eating, making a bed space, jotting down notes, and listening to the sounds of nature as my head rested down for the night.
Best of all was to be in the uplifting presence of my wife, who has now hiked just about half of the 2,175 mile Appalachian Trail . She now understands why I need to be out here again.

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