The Semi-Pemi loop and finishing the NH 4000 footers

I have a confession to make.  I am not a good backpacker.  I have flat feet that roll inward, straining my ankles, which in turn strain my knees (high five to my fellow messed up foot crowd!! what? no high fives?).  So, I’m pretty much a huge whiner and spend most of any backpacking trip complaining about how much my feet hurt (or any hiking trip… whatever…).  When David and I did the 3-day Semi-Pemi loop in August, it was no exception 😉 My gear list was:

  • Gregory Cairn 58 pack
  • Golite 3 person tent
  • Camp stove
  • Food n’ stuff
  • EMS Boreal 20F Sleeping bag
  • Sea-to-Sumit Thermolite reactor + liner
  • Exped airmat basic
  • Therm-a-rest camp pillow
  • Rain pants
  • Rain jacket
  • Sweater
  • Wool t shirt
  • Leggings
  • 3 pairs underwear
  • 3 pairs wool socks
  • 3 pairs sock liners
  • toiletries
  • headlamp
  • camera
  • ugly crocs to wear around camp
  • hiking poles!
galehead hut, complete with real toilets and sinks

galehead hut, complete with real toilets and sinks

I needed to do the semi-Pemi to finish up the White Mountain 4000 footers list.  The semi-Pemi is a modification of the classic “Pemi loop” hike, which if you google it, you will get approximately 10 billion results.  Backpacker magazine also mentions the Pemi loop at least 3 or 4 times every calendar year, based on my super rigorous assessment of trying to remember how many times I’ve seen it mentioned since I got a subscription several years ago.  The semi-Pemi cuts up the middle of the traditional loop to bag Owl’s Head, then rejoins the right half of the classic Pemi loop to bag Galehead, South Twin, and the three Bonds. We broke the trip up into 3 days, which were:

  • Day 1:  Start at Lincoln Woods trailhead, climb Owl’s Head, then continue on the Lincoln Brook trail to 13 Falls tentsite.  Total: 13.7 miles
  • Day 2: 13 Falls to Galehead, South Twin, to Guyot tentsite.  Total: 7.5 miles
  • Day 3: Guyot tentsite to West Bond, Bond, and Bondcliff, continuing down Bondcliff trail back to Lincoln Woods trailhead.  Total: 12 miles

Day 1 was a slog and made me want to give up on life.  The Lincoln woods and Lincoln brook trails are relatively flat, wet, and monotonous.  No one goes back there unless they need to bag Owl’s Head.  It was threatening to rain all day, but we made it up Owl’s Head without incident.  Of course, it began to rain as we descended Owl’s Head.  For anyone familiar with this peak, this is probably the nastiest, steepest little stretch of trail that one needs to complete to finish the 4000ers.  There is a steep scree slide that constitutes the “trail” and it wasn’t particularly fun descending it in the rain.  Some crab-walking might’ve been performed.  On the plus side, David saw a snake?

After descending the wet scree we continued on the wet, boggy, miserable Lincoln brook trail to 13 falls, where I fantasized about helicopter rescue or an all-terain segway or a magical pegacorn to whisk me away. Super secret pro tip: For the love of G-d, bring exact change for the tentsites.  It’s $8 per person, and our poor tentsite steward was struggling to make change for all the jerks people who came into the woods with $20 bills.

viewpoint at the hut. REI, please endorse me and give me free stuff

viewpoint at the hut. REI, please endorse me and give me free stuff

Both 13 Falls and the Guyot tentsite had stream access for ample water, you just need to bring a filter (duh!).  I had read trip reports about water sources possibly drying up during certain times of year but we had no problems in late August.  We filled up at 13 Falls, the Galehead hut, and the Guyot tentsite.

Even though it was summer I still thought the nights were chilly and needed to use a sleeping bag liner to stay comfortable.  So if you sleep cold like I do, be warned!  Bringing extra socks was also essential, considering my not-so-waterproof-anymore boots were thoroughly soaked and so were my socks.  The boots didn’t completely dry out by the next day, but my new dry socks kept me from feeling the cold clammy boot interior.

100% sure this tent at the top of Bond is 100% not allowed

hey kids, camping above treeline is a no-no!

Day 2 was sunnier and thankfully shorter.  We ascended out of the boggy woods onto the ridge trail that constitutes the Pemi loop and quickly bagged Galehead.  I got to brush my teeth and wash my face at the Galehead hut, and then we began the short yet steep trail up South Twin.  South twin has some pretty baller views and we sat for a good long while until continuing on to the Guyout campsite. The campsite was absurdly busy, and my small 3-person tent was crammed in with 3 other tents on one tent platform.  Needless to say, BRING EARPLUGS!  I think we were about a foot away from the guy in the tent next to us, and not too much further from the other 2 tents on the platform.

hiking to bondcliff

hiking to bondcliff

On the final day we had the Bonds, which are, in my humble opinion, the most scenic stretch of trail.  We hit West Bond right after breakfast when the low clouds were still in the valleys.  The trail from Mt. Bond to Bondcliff is turbo scenic (see photos!) and we finally made our way to Bondcliff, my last 4000 footer.  I can’t say that I was feeling particularly celebratory, since I knew we had 9 miles to descend and my feet were pretty well pummeled from the 2 previous days.



tranquil yoga pose on bondcliff: a lie

tranquil yoga pose on bondcliff: a lie

On that 9 mile descent much complaining and delirious song singing was done, and those last ~3 miles on that flat Lincoln woods trail had me wishing for more pegacorns.  Especially since many casual walkers passed by with their dogs and children telling us “it’s only 10 more miles to the trailhead, haha!”  If I had that pegacorn, I could’ve really let them have it.  Somehow I made it back to the parking lot, and proceeded to sit nearly motionless for 30 minutes, save the stuffing of Doritos into my face.

i hate you, never-ending happy lincoln woods trees

i hate you, never-ending happy lincoln woods trees

And that’s how I completed the White Mountain 4000 footers list.  The End!

my shiny new 4000ers completion patch!

my shiny new 4000ers completion patch!


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