June 23, 2012. This hike is going to be a doozy, The Bonds, not James, rather Bondcliff, Bond and West Bond! There are two options for this hike. One is to do a traverse from the Kancamagus Highway up five peaks and then to Zealand Road just off of Route 302 a distance of 19.5 miles. The other is to do an out and back from the Kancamagus Highway for a total distance of 22.6 miles. The former requires a car spot which means having someone either move the car to Zealand Road or someone dropping me off at Lincoln Woods to hike back to the car at Zealand Road. Neither option was available today so an out and back it would be. I have never attempted a hike of this length yet so it would be an excellent test of my endurance and willpower. The longest hike to date was Owl's Head back in February of this year at 16.5 miles. That hike consisted of only one peak and this one will be three peaks but climbing back over two of them on the return trip essentially making it five peaks.
Got up a little earlier than normal for this one as I had a hard time staying asleep so I got up and out of the house at 3:00 in the morning. A tactical error as I made it to Lincoln around 4:30 and since Dunkin Donuts does not open until 5 I had to wait in the parking lot. I had not eaten breakfast yet and lately have been stopping here for a breakfast sandwich before my hikes for a good energy boost. A quick catnap in the car until they open and one sandwich later I am heading back on the road to Lincoln Woods Trailhead off of the Kancamagus Highway. I arrive at the trailhead at 5:15 and ten minutes later am off and walking (not running). The first three miles of this hike are along the Lincoln Woods Trail which is a very flat and wide, for trail standards, trail that was once an old railroad bed not in use since 1948. Quite the difference from four months ago when I was on this section of the trail heading to Owl's Head.
The next 1.8 miles is part of the Bondcliff Trail and also follows an old railroad bed. It is a long hike just to this point and very little elevation change. A great walk in the woods these sections of the trail. The bugs are for the most part still sleeping until I reach the turn going up Bondcliff Trail where the elevation starts to really pick up. I stop and put my hiking poles against a tree and hang my sunglasses on a branch to apply some bug spray. I finish up and put my backpack on and grab my poles and get about fifty feet before I realize I forgot something, sunglasses hanging on the branch! I walk back to get them and continue up the trail until I reach a point about an hour from the left turn and it is a strange spot. There is an old stream bed of boulders and absolutely no water. It's curios as to what has happened to cause the water to disappear in this bed.
There are two of these strange anomalies one right after the other. Shortly after the trail opens out to a small clearing and the first glimpse of Bondcliff can be seen from deep in the ravine I am in.
Within another hour and I make the scramble up a ledge that is more of a wall and I am rewarded with some very cool views into the Pemi Wilderness. I've made it to the top of Bondcliff, a little over 9 miles, in 4 hours and 10 minutes. I get a first hand look at the cliff ledge that everyone gets a picture of themselves on and views all around from Carrigain to Garfield. Even a shot of Washington can be seen past the shoulder of Mt Bond.
After a short break and it is time to move on to peak number two for the day, Mt Bond, a little over a mile away. Of in the distance I can hear voices but have not been able to see where the people are. I head down into the col between Bondcliff and Bond and for the first time of the day I come across other hikers. I meet them at the bottom of the col as they are coming off of Bond heading towards Bondcliff. We stop and chat for a few minutes and off on our separate ways we go. Five minutes over an hour and I am on top of Bond. Another impressive viewpoint with 360° views. A look back at Bondcliff and a shot of where I still have to go, West Bond.
Quite a few pictures later and it is time to head over to the final peak of the day, well not as far as the hike goes but for the 48 count the final peak, West Bond. Down into another col and then a left turn onto the West Bond spur trail and a quick 55 minutes from Bond I am on top of peak number three for the day and number 46 for my journey. There is a lot of talk about the Bonds and how magnificent it is up here and I agree whole-heartedly. It is one of my favorite spots now. I can only imagine the views during the winter on a cool crisp day without the haze of summer. The peaks all capped in snow, this is a big return trip for this winter. I get one shot of the valley below. Out there somewhere in the distant valley is the trailhead in Lincoln just past the last bare spot of where the river is seen through the trees. It is just a mere 11.3 miles by trail away.
It took me six hours and ten minutes to get here this morning. This particular journey is half way done and it has been an incredible one. I can't wait to return here someday. After a fifteen minute break for some food and views it is now time to head back the way I came. Down and up over Bond and again down and up over Bondcliff. Essentially five peaks in one day. The trip down to the flat railroad bed takes a little over four hours and the last five miles, even in real time went quick at an hour and a half, seems like forever. But I have completed my goal for the day and surprisingly not feeling too bad for almost hiking a marathon. This hike will stay with me for quite some time as being one of the more remarkable and memorable ones. 46 down and only 2 left, Zealand and then Waumbek.
Final numbers: 22.6 miles, 12 hours and 5 minutes, 3 peaks, # of peaks to date - 46.