Cait's Blog

Pemi Loop

"Backpacker Magazine didn’t name the Pemi Loop the second hardest day hike in America for nothing"...

The "book time" for this loop is about 20 hours 15 minutes.  According to NortheastHikes, "most people still in possession of their faculties make this a two or three-day trek."  We were shooting for sub-12 hours.  Well, Jesse was shooting for sub-12 hours.  I was just looking to 1) PR (previously 13:35) and 2) retain a modicum of what faculties I may have had at the outset of this adventure.  Regrettably, I must report that neither goal was accomplished - some epic weather and trail conditions obliterated both.

The rain started in earnest Thursday night and did not relent until we were well into the woods.  We hit the trail running and maintained a solid jog for the first hour or so.  Then the trail got steeper and more technical, so we switched to speed hiking.  Things were going quite nicely - pace was solid, body temp was sufficient, spirits were up - and then, as hindsight would show, the first sign of "trouble" appeared.  At the time, we simply observed, "Oh, that's cute!  A tiny spot of snow holding strong on this the 26th of May."  A little while later we saw another spot.  As we continued, the "spots" took up larger sections of the trail, but were still quite manageable.  Then we hit a "spot" that just....kept.....going.  I learned a new term after this hike: postholing.  I postholed, slipped & slid, and just plain fell down more frequently over the next couple hours than I did take legitimate hiking steps.  I'm not quite sure how Jesse was maneuvering this section so swiftly, but every few minutes I'd see him waiting patiently, his shoulders curled in and his hood cinched tightly trying to stay warm.

I was really working hard to channel this guy:

Buuuuuuuut, I think this this little fella may have been coming through:

At one point, well after my feet had gone numb and my lower legs had begun to follow suit, this exchange took place: 

Jesse:  "It'll be nice to be through this....The hut can't be much further."

me:  "Ok.....should we check the weather....the trail conditions once we get to the hut?....Will we have cell service?"

Jesse:  "We can try.  Once we get through this - after this peak - there won't be anymore snow.  Trails on the other side are more exposed."

me:  "Ok....'cause I don't think I can make it through another 20 miles of this...."

Jesse:  "Yes, you can."

me:  ........

Conversation over.  My thoughts?  "Son of a -!  Ok.  He is not going to bail.  Mother -!  Ok.  We're not bailing."

So on we carried.  "Soon enough" we hit the oasis that was the hut, and, Lordy, was it beautiful!  While the huts are not heated, they are enclosed shelters, AND they provide hot water.  I drank 3 cups of hot water, added another to my camelback, wolfed down some granola, and swapped out my soaking wet gloves for my full-on ski gloves.  Man, I felt like a new person!  You know that post-successfully-accomplishing-something-you-thought-might-do-you-in feeling?  I had that BIG TIME.  I was so cheery when we resumed our trek that I actually laughed when we had to double back after a few minutes on the wrong trail.

We hit a few more SMALL patches of snow, but nothing that took longer than a minute to cross.  We hit the remaining 7 peaks, running/jogging where we could, only stopping momentarily when absolutely necessary.  Even if we weren't riding the body temperature line, the views above the tree line  Looked something like this:

Shortly before hitting the final peak, Mt. Flume, the sky started to brighten, and as we dropped back below the tree line the sun made her way out.  At this point, with the drier conditions, we were really able to run.  I took off the two winter hats I'd been wearing since the start, but kept my ski gloves on - I have a slight affinity for suddenly lying down in the dirt when running in the woods.  Figured the gloves would be a nice buffer.

I was pretty blissed out by the time we hit the bridge that marks the start and end of the Loop.  There were high-fives and hugs and "we did it!"'s.  And then we drove back to the cottage for the best part of the day - a live Disney dance & sing-along starring the immensely talented Stella & Colin Kropelnicki and DJ-ed by The Chrissie Kropelnicki.  It was AAAAAWESOOOOOME!

Total time was 13:47:22.  Garmin details HERE.



Mmmmmmmm, muuuuuud.

5 down, 12 to go!  Up next: Mashpee Superswim 3-miler on Saturday  AND  Spartan Sprint on Sunday.  Oh BOY!

Thank you to all of those who have donated to the "17 in 2017" effort, helping us raise funds for More Than Sport.  Every dollar is immensely appreciated!

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