Franconia Tab Finish

August 19-20, 2017.

Day 1. I have some nagging trails left on the Franconia tab that are in the middle of the Pemi Wilderness. I have been trying to figure out different routes to get these trails for quite some time and can never come up with an easy solution nor is it possible to do in one day as I only have 8.6 miles left in this area. As luck would have it Phil and Jen have always asked if I would do the Bonds with them as they were going to do it as an overnighter. Their plan is to come in from Zealand Road and traverse to Lincoln Woods. Seeing an opportunity to help me finish this section I met them at Lincoln Woods and they then dropped me off at the Gale River Trail. I would hook up with them later at the Guyot Campsite and we would hike out together the following day.

We met at Lincoln Woods early and I was dropped off at the trailhead for Gale River Trail nice and early as Phil and Jen with their friends Bud and Lauren drove over to Zealand Road. I have a huge goal for Day 1 as I need Franconia Brook Trail, Twin Brook Trail and the traverse between Galehead Hut and the West Bond Spur to finish this tab. Gale River Trail was done back when I was hiking the 48 4000 footers so I planned on knocking off a bucket list item along the way, Hawthorne Falls. The original trail use to lead up to Garfield Ridge via the falls and has been abandoned for at least 50 years. Five minutes before seven and I am off on my mine heading up the Gale River Trail. It has been quite some time since I have been on this trail. The first time was in January of 2012 when the temp was -18°. The only other time was in September of 2012 and I don't remember much about this trail other than the rerouted section being pretty muddy. The lower section at the beginning is also lost in my memory but pretty easy going.

 

I reach the spot where the trail was just recently rerouted (completed in 2011) and turn right up the relocated trail. I didn't care for this reroute the first time and this trip reaffirms my feelings. It's poorly drained as I remember from that September hike and it still is five years later.

 

After the crossing with Garfield Stream I look for the old trail and very quickly spot it. It is super grown in and soon I am soaked from the wet overgrowth. With a full pack I abort this little adventure. It is too bad because it would have brought me out right to the junction with Franconia Brook Trail and saved some miles. But I figured the mileage saved would take longer than taking the trails so I retreated back to Gale River Trail. Continuing up the valley and at a break in the trees a view up the Gale River with the morning sun burning off the nights condensation.

 

The trail steepens from this point and I have no recollection of this from either trip. Further up and looking off into the woods and the best picture of the trip.

 

Reaching the junction of Garfield Ridge Trail it was time for a break as I was soaked from the morning humidity. The hike from here to Franconia Brook Trail is what I was trying to avoid as it is an up and down section of trail. I would already be descending down into the Franconia Brook Valley and then back up and with all the miles today was trying to lessen the impact. But again this is probably the fastest way to get to where I needed to get to. The ups and downs begin almost immediately as I head out and thankfully the sun is not blazing down on me as I look behind me to Galehead Mt being smothered in the clouds.

 

This trail is also quite wet from the previous days rain and the high humidity. But I plug along and it wasn't all that bad as the trail goes up and down along the way. Just before the junction I run into a north bound thru hiker who is from down south. I stop to chat with her and discover she is a grandmother and making her way slowly across the ridge. We head our separate ways and just before the junction I see a path leading off to the right. Could this be the old Gale River Trail? I follow it for a hundred feet just to get a hit on the GPS for a future endeavor.

 

At the junction there is a more distinct path heading towards Hawthorne Falls and I definitely must return when all the vegetation has died off making it easier to follow down below. Another quick break before heading down Franconia Brook Trail. It's taken four hours to reach this spot as I set off down the trail for my first redlining trail of the day. It's just over two miles down to the next junction and this trail is also quite wet.

 

Some sections the trail is the stream or the stream is the trail depending on your perspective. But there were some nice pieces of the trail also.

 

A quick stop for some water and refill at a crossing of a branch of Franconia Brook. After crossing and another hiker is heading up which completely surprised me. I figured I'd never see anyone else on this trail. A few minutes later and another! What is going on? I make it to the end seeing no one else and I have completed one of five trails I need for this trip to complete another tab on the spreadsheet. Franconia Brook Trail comes out just above the Thirteen Falls Tentsite where I stopped by three years ago on a big loop around Owls Head. I turn up Twin Brook Trail as I begin to gain the elevation I just lost.

 

It is 12:30 now and I still have quite a few miles before I reach the Guyot Shelter with a daunting elevation gain to South Twin after I do this trail. Surprisingly the trip up is pretty mild and I have found a new trail to add to my favorites list. I only run into one other couple who are heading down before I reach the quarter mile sign for the hut. Here the trail changes and becomes much rougher.

 

At the junction for the Frost Trail I opt not to do the short trip up to Galehead. Time is of the essence as I want to get to the campsite before dark. I arrive at Galehead Hut and there is a crowd milling around outside as I drop my pack and go in for a much needed break. Potato soup is on the menu and I get a bowl with a couple of candy bars to wash it down with. A good thirty minute rest before I head off over to the Twinway. It is 0.8 miles to South Twin but a grueling 1150 feet of elevation gain. It's just before 3:30 as I set off and and I have about four miles to go for the day. In usual White Mountain fashion the trail descends before the big climb.

 

But atypical it is just a tease as the trail does indeed go up and nonstop all the way.

 

Higher up and a look behind me with Franconia Ridge and Garfield with Galehead Hut down below.

 

I keep pushing with intermittent breaks to rest the legs and lungs. Finally I see the end which turns out to be a false open ledge just below the summit. A few minutes later and I am on top of South Twin.

 

This time I am rewarded with views. When I was last here in January of 2012 the views disappeared as the clouds rolled in.

 

To the south I can see where I am heading to next. It seems so far away still as I need to get just beyond Guyot and Bond both visible in the picture between the bald spot in the distance. The trail leads down to the treeline as I head out down off of South Twin.

 

Soon enough the trail enters the trees and the descent levels off. Ahead I hear some voices and I recognize the southern drawl. A I get closer it is the same woman I met earlier this morning on Garfield Ridge. I am surprised I ran into her again and her slow pace she was moving at was no lie. She is hoping to make it to Guyot also but if she finds a spot along the way then is going to call it a day. I bid her good luck and to the best of my knowledge never made it to Guyot.

 

The trip along the ridge is one of the best. Fairly level all the way and for the amount of thru hiker traffic in pretty good shape. Although mostly in the woods there are a few spots off trail for some views.

 

The Twinway breaks out into the open just before the junction with Bondcliff Trail and it is dramatic. A look across the Redrock Brook valley with Franconia Ridge as a backdrop.

 

At the junction I turn left and head up to Mt Guyot as I need this small piece of trail. It's a quick and easy climb and again I am rewarded with views. When I came up here in July of 2012 there was nothing to see white condensed clouds.

 

The Twinway is done as I turn around and head back to the junction. Only two more trails left as I turn onto the Bondcliff Trail. The campsite is just twenty minutes away as I head up the last bump of the day, West Guyot. Ahead is tomorrow's destination, Bond. West Bond is off to the right but I probably won't be making the side trip as I have already done the spur trail.

 

Down I go and reach the spur just after six. A long day with over eleven hours of hiking as I turn left for the steep descent down to the tentsite and shelter. Everyone else is there and they are getting ready to head back up to watch the sunset from West Bond. I opt out as I set up my hammock across the trail from their tent platform. All set up that is it for me as I lay down around seven o'clock settled in for the night. Day one is done and it is time for some much deserved rest.

 

Day 2. Rolling out of the hammock and we all went down to the designated spot for cooking food. I made my Mountain House dinner of Chicken and Rice that I didn't eat last night. I wasn't all that hungry when I got into camp so as odd as it sounds it was quite tasty even for breakfast. Refilled my water and we all packed up to make the climb back up to Bondcliff Trail. It was a steady climb as it only took a few minutes to reach the junction for the spur trail to West Bond. Without any fanfare I have finished another tab on my redlining quest! Only three more tabs left and just over 40 miles to go.

 

I opt not to go to West Bond because of the long miles left for the day and the clouds are settled in so no views. The climb mellows out and one little push and I break out onto Mt Bond and it is disappointing with the lack of views. A minute later and the rest of the gang arrives out of the foggy mist.

 

For Jen and Phil this is number 44 on their run for the 48! There's no hanging around as the wind is blowing pretty good but the cloud is not going anywhere. We head down off of Bond making our way through the scrub to Bondcliff.

 

As we are making our way down right on queue the clouds begin to part and we are rewarded with a perfect look at Bondcliff.

 

The clouds above are ominous looking but no rain as the views keep opening up. A fantastic look down into Hellgate Brook valley where I'd like to do some exploring someday. Reaching the bottom and we have a short climb to the top of Bondcliff ahead of us. The wind is pretty stiff as it gusts and you can feel the push as we make our way across.

 

A look back at Bond and it is now cloud free. Noone is interested in returning to see the views it has though. Across the Pemi valley and there are strange lines on the northern flank of North Hancock. I've read they might be old tote roads from the old logging days. Ideas float in my head on how I could explore that area sometime to see what the banding in the trees is all about.

 

Arriving at the summit and Phil heads over for his cliff shot. Jen would only go this close!

 

Not going to miss the opportunity this time as I head out and Phil joins me. Lauren and Bud brave the winds and set out on the edge also.

 

Finally with a little bit of coaxing Jen inches her way out and has her moment.

 

Bondcliff would be number 45 for Jen and Phil with just the Tripyramids and Carrigain left. With nine miles of hiking left it is time to get going. Just before dropping back into the woods our path out can be seen as the trail follows the East Branch Pemi River to Lincoln Woods.

 

It's been five years since I have been up here and I forgot how remarkably easy the trail is with regards to the grade. What hasn't changed is that Black Brook is dry just as when I was last here.

 

Finally, at the third crossing of Black Brook there is water as it is an easy rock hop across. Some more easy hiking as we are making pretty good time on the way out.

 

Where Bondcliff Trail meets the old Wilderness Trail (now abandoned) I look for the old trestle bridge that is still standing. Down to the brook and looking downstream I spy it for the first time. Amazing that this is still standing after at least 70 years since it was last used by the logging railroad. Back at the trail I head down the old Wilderness Trail and pass by the remnants of Camp 16. There are pieces of artifacts in the woods and very quickly reach the trestle.

 

A drop down over the embankment and a good look at the skeleton still holding this bridge up. A view from the other side of the bridge and it might not last much longer as Irene and age are taking its toll.

 

All that is left is the long trek out which for the most part is pretty straight as can be seen below. Just under five miles to go as Lauren and I set the pace. I think I have met my match as we swap leads making our way to the junction with Franconia Brook Trail. There are two hikers there and I recognize them as we say hello and chat for a minute waiting for our group to catch up. It finally dawns on me where I have seen them before. Yesterday while I was heading up Twin Brook Trail they were heading down. Turns out they spent the night at 13 Falls and were heading out today.

 

Continuing on and we keep up the quick pace as we all just want to get off the trail. I flew by the Black Pond Trail as I never saw it and then in between that trail and Osseo Trail I see this on my right side. All the times I have been on Lincoln Woods Trail I can not recall seeing this before. A quick look at some old railroad maps show no tracks heading off into that direction. Another item for my future to do list and see if there is anything beyond. At an opening next to the river a look to Bondcliff (on the left) and where we were earlier this morning.

 

Time always seems to go in slow motion on this trail but in a blistering twenty minute miles pace we make it to the parking lot. A pretty good two days in one of my favorite regions. Four more peaks for Phil and Jen! A chance to see the old trestle before it succumbs to mother nature and some items added to check out for the future. Franconias Tab is done and just 41.7 miles to go! So close but it is going to take a lot more miles to get that 41.7!


Final numbers: 25.7 miles, 17 hours 45 minutes.

Redline Miles: 8.6, Total to Date: 1398.7