There are so many other possible subtitles for this hike. "How To Turn 10 4k's Into One", "How Not To Get Started Backpacking", etc. I think my choice however would be something more like "Turning a Potential Disaster Into an Awesome Trip".
Warning: This may turn out to be move of a novel than an trip report so if you're into trail conditions and hiking stats you may want to stop now.
Another Warning: Diehard peakbaggers and hardcore backpackers will likely be shaking their heads. You too may want to stop now. If you are the kind of hiker that can appreciate time on the trail and a leisurely afternoon on a summit rather than bagging a few more that are within reach then you may want to continue...
For those that prefer the abridged picture book version the complete photo album is here: http://picasaweb.google.com/mtruman4...eat=directlink
This trip had been in the planning since sometime last winter when we asked our teenage daughter what she wanted to do for "camp" this summer. Last year was a 5 day backpack in the 100 Mile Wilderness with an AMC teen group while my wife and I did Mt Washington (Seek the Peak) followed by a 4 day hut-to-hut. She loved the trip last year and we figured that she'd want to do one of the AMC trips again. After showing her all of the available trips for this year she announced - "what I'd really like to do is go backpacking with you guys". Wait, did I hear that right? Yup, that's what she said. "Would you like to do the huts Jamie? We had a ball doing them the last two years." Nope - backpack. "Honey - our daughter is asking to spend time with us this summer!!!" No possible way to turn that down. OK - off to REI to add the requisite backpacking gear. A few weeks later and the new tent, stove, sleeping pads, cook set and all the other gear not required for the huts is acquired and ready to go. Now for the plan...
We knew that we were going to do Seek the Peak again so the plan would revolve around that. Jamie has been hiking in the Whites with us since she was about 6 and doing progressively tougher hikes each year and her backpack last year proved her ability on the trail. She hadn't done any NH 4k's yet and after we'd knocked off quite a few without her we wanted to get her to some great peaks. Mt Washington would be #1 (and it's all downhill from there...). After a lot of consulting with friends and many great recommendations we finally decided on a 5 day Pemi Loop. We'd done close to 1/2 the route with our hut hike last year so we knew the degree of difficulty and just how awesome a route it would be. Not to mention knocking off 10 4k's in 5 days. We left our options open based on the last minute weather but coming down to the wire it looked like all systems go. After a fantastic day on Mt Washington on Saturday (with Jamie kicking our butts up and down the mountain) we took a down day on Sunday and were ready to rock Monday morning.
The plan was to stay at an off-trail campsite on the Bondcliff trail on Monday night (thanks to a tip from some wonderful friends - your secret is safe) and then to stay at Guyot, Garfield and Liberty Springs tent sites the next three nights. Nice doable days similar to the distance between the huts. The perfect plan. Or so it seemed...
Monday morning we packed up at Moose Brook and were at Lincoln Woods and ready to go at noon. I had sort of checked the pack weights at home and they seemed reasonable for the extra gear (we were carrying about 25 pounds the last couple of years and that was fine - a few more pounds wouldn't be too bad). When I put my pack on (or more accurately tried to pick it up) I said - "hmmm, seems a bit heavier than I thought". Just that first day on the trail weight adjustment... We met a family of 5 that had parked next to us and was packing themselves up to head out. I said hello and asked them where they were headed. The youngest daughter (nine) piped up and said "to Bondcliff to die!". Her parents and siblings laughed and shook their heads. She seemed quite serious though. We told them our plans and said we'd see them on Bondcliff tomorrow.
We set out with a few clouds drifting around in the sky on a beautiful day. About a 1/2 mile after the junction of the Wilderness Trail a few raindrops started to fall. No problem - actually felt good on a pretty warm day, About a minute later came the huge BOOM followed about 10 seconds later by the heavens opening up. We were drowned in what seemed like seconds. First order of business - get the pack covers on. First backpacking neophyte mistake. Don't assume that the pack cover that always perfectly fit the pack before is still going to fit when it's stuffed and strapped with backpacking gear. And of course they didn't. Get them to cover as much as they can and just plod on. In about a half hour the rain stopped and the sun came back out. Too late. Everything was soaked and our boots were sloshing. So much for that nice waterproofing job before we left...
We kept going and made it to the camp site in a couple of hours. Never would have found it without the great directions and map. It was as nice a spot as could be imagined for a back country site and we quickly went about setting up camp. Wasn't long before we were settled in and wet clothes were hanging from the trees everywhere. When we started unpacking the food and getting ready to make dinner I finally figured out why the packs weighed so much. Turned out that we'd brought enough food for an Alaskan expedition. I have to take the blame for this though. When Natalie was showing me what she had planned for meals I commented that just soup and such for dinner seemed pretty light compared to the huge meals we'd been eating at the huts the last couple of years and wondered if it would be enough fuel for those long tough days. Big mistake. That was when the mothering instinct clearly kicked in. " Oh my god, my family may starve - I have to provide for them". While keeping the family fed is part of the mothering instinct, death by pack weight is apparently not. While we didn't know it at the time we each had about a 45 pound pack (which isn't really heavy by backpacking standards but is not good when you have 50L packs that aren't meant for that load and a long tough route ahead). We also started to realize how much extra work backpacking is. Several hours at night to set up camp, cook, clean, hang the bear bags, etc, etc, etc and then more of the same in reverse in the morning to get ready to go. Obvious when you think about it (which we hadn't). And if the weather is bad all of that just gets worse. (This would be about the time that any hardcore backpackers that are still reading are saying "ha, sissies").
At this point I had reached the lowest of lows. The day hadn't been all that bad and being in camp was good. The realization that our plans were almost surely shot put me (and all of us) into a real funk. We cooked dinner (which by now none of us was really in the mood for meaning we hardly made a dent in all that wonderful food) and then set about getting ready for the night. Next trick - hang bear bags. With the expedition food resources safely stowed in 3 large stuff sacks I set off to find a suitable tree. Turns out that there are less huge oak trees with big strong branches in the White Mountains than one would imagine . I finally found a pine with a branch the right height slightly larger than a pencil and after a number of interesting attempts managed to get the bags up. For future reference the PCT hanging method works well (http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-...technique.html) although I actually had to run the rope over the branch twice to get the extra leverage to get those heavy bags up. Having had enough fun for one day we turned in before dark and slept fitfully all night.
Happy and ready to go
Not so happy after the rain
Sun's back out soon
Home sweet home
How much food???