Opt Outside: White Mountains

If you live in New Hampshire and enjoy the outdoors, backpacking is a must. This past weekend I had the opportunity to get into the Pemigewasset Wilderness just northeast of Laconia and it was so refreshing.

Friday morning my friend, Max, met me at Hannaford to grocery shop for our trip. Max and I met in Montana when we were both Crew Leaders for the Montana Conservation Corps. We hadn’t seen each other in a year or so, so it was great to be able to spend some time together again. After repackaging our meals and sweating over shoving our backpacks full, we were off.

The game plan for the day was to park at Lincoln Woods Visitor Center and take the Lincoln Woods Trail to the Wilderness Trail, visiting the waterfalls and ponds along the way, and camp at the bottom of Bondcliff. The main trail, a former logging railway, parallels the East branch of the Pemigewasset River, so the first couple miles are mellow and had it been a super-hot day, we would have jumped right in! It was a pleasant hike and nice to catch up with Max.

That night, we camped near the intersection of the Wilderness Trail and Bondcliff trail, 200 feet from the trail and the river of course! It was the first time I had slept in a tent this summer, and it brought back a lot of old memories of previous times in the woods.

At 8am we were off and started the steep climb up the Bondcliff Trail. We summitted Bondcliff and ate lunch at the top of the mountain, taking in the 360-degree views of the mountains. The views of the White Mountains felt humbling in a way that is hard to put into words; it made me appreciate the beauty of where I am from. I love that I live so close to such amazing views.

After lunch, we headed back on the trail, summitted Mount Bond, West Bond, Mount Guyot, and Zealand Mountain: stunning views. As we were headed from Mount Guyot to Zealand Mountain, I noticed a woman coming from the opposite direction wearing a Montana Conservation Corps shirt. As I was mentioning this to Max this woman screamed both of our names! It was Aislinn, a woman we had both worked with in Montana. I couldn’t believe how all our paths crossed on top of a mountain in NH; small world. After chatting, taking a photo, and saying our goodbyes, we headed east on the Twinway Trail. Our goal was to make it to the bottom of Zeacliff Trail for the night. Oh boy, the map really doesn’t lie when its contour lines show how steep Zeacliff Trail is. This trail looked like someone had recently come through and lopped branches out of the way, but otherwise, it was wild. Of course, it started raining on us, I had just run out of water, and it was nearing 6:00pm… I just wanted dinner. At last, we crossed the river and camped shortly after that. The rain had stopped and it felt good to get into dry clothes. Our mashed potato slop was satisfying and we headed to sleep quickly after, it was a good 14-mile day.

Up and at em’! 6:00am had come too quick! Leaving by 7:00am we had 13 miles to go to get back to the Visitor’s Center, and I had to work that afternoon so it was a bit of a race against the clock. My body was sore, but the good kind, the kind when you know you’ve been working hard, and it was a beautiful day.

We headed down Thoreau Falls Trail and spent our time identifying trees species and admiring the beauty of the woods. We made it out of the woods by 1:30pm. It felt so good to exchange my boots for sandals, I tried not to think about having to waitress that night because I didn’t want to move my body any more then I already had.

Reflecting on the trip now, it was such a great experience. My advice to you: get out in the White Mountain National Forest while we still have summer left, maybe you will even run into someone you know!

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