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Friday night I drove up to Wesleyan University's (my alma mater)
Harrington Lodge in North Woodstock, NH (BTW $15/night, open to anyone.
If you're interested - backchannel me and I'll provide details).  Threw
some logs into the fireplace, enjoyed a roaring blaze and some stovepipe
retrop.

Got up Saturday morning and drove to the Lincoln Woods trailhead &
visitor center at the Southwest corner of the Pemigewasset Wilderness.
Paid $20 for a WMNF annual parking permit.  Mistake?

Packed and hit the trail.  The plan was to circle Owl's Head Mt.  I
would head north via the Franconia Brook Trail, then bear left on to the
Lincoln Brook Trail.  About 10 miles later this would rejoin the FB
trail at 13 Falls, where there is an AMC campsite, and where I would bed
down for the night.

A couple miles into the hike I decided to check out a spur trail leading
to Black Pond.  My knee was already feeling not right, and as I departed
the former rail bed for the rougher spur, I could tell that the
orthopaedist was probably wrong about the ilialtibial band syndrome, and
that a torn meniscus was most likely the culprit.  I could have turned
back, but the hike profile was fairly mellow, and I vowed to gut it
out.  The pond was tranquil.  I decided to cut corners, and head due
north.  If successful I would hit Lincoln Brook just as the LB trail
crossed it.  Even though I had never sriously bushwacked or even used a
compass before, I figured I was safe.  Either I would hit the trail or
the river.  If I hit the river, I would simply head upstream until I
came upon the ford.

The bushwacking was really quite fun, and I ended up exactly where I had
hoped to - less than fifty feet from the ford.  The Lincoln Brook trail
turned out to be wonderful.  I came upon four other hikers over the
course of the afternoon.  It had a very remote feeling.  The trail
itself was hardly blazed, so that several times I had to look for boot
scuffs on the ground to avoid following a phantom path.  Beautiful birch
glades abounded, but what I saw seemed to be too flat, not to mention
rather remote, to justify a bc ski trip.

Eventually the Lincoln Brook & Trail parted ways, as the former headed
up towards the peak on Franconia Ridge, and the trail crossed a saddle
and descended into the Franconia Brook drainage.  The trail now seemed
to be more or less a stream bed.  In even slightly wet periods the trail
would be quite messy, and stream crossings would be challenging.
Eventually the trail crossed Franconia Brook, just around the top of 13
Falls.

I found the AMC campsite nicely laid out, and with more than several
tent sites empty.  I set up camp, and then returned to the falls.  There
were many perfect swimming holes, so I found one to my liking and dove
in.  Many were not only wide, but quite deep - well over my head.  After
drying off I returned to my site, cooked dinner and chatted with several
other hikers.  By then the site had more or less filled up, though no
one was left without a spot.  As I returned to slip into my bag and read
a little, I noticed a mouse dart away from my stove.  I read for a short
while, and then turned off my Petzl Tikka (come on, if we're only
getting paid in plaid by Wes, where's the sponsorship dough?), and began
to snooze.  Suddenly I felt an animal - not an arachnid - crawling on my
arm.  As I yelped in surprise and grabbed my Tikka, I heard a mouse
scurry off.  The rest of the evening was spent scaring off the critter,
who kept attempting to investigate me.  He was worse than a dirty old
man when school gets out.  This despite the fact that my food was far
way in a bear bucket system that the AMC had set up!!  There was no food
on me, and yet the mice seemed to have learned quite well that man =
meal.  Eventually I slept a bit.

When I awoke I looked forward to oatmeal, oranges and a bit of chocolate
and tea for breakfast.  I strolled down to the bear bucket rig, and
lowered my bucket.  I found my oatmeal and chocolate devoured, and mouse
shit all over everything else.  I later found out that the buckets were
supposed to have tops - none of which were to be found.  Fortunately the
Cabot Pepper Jack, my Bridgeford Pepperoni, Twinings Tea (Earl Grey,
Lady Grey, Irish Breakfast, English Breakfast and Prince of Wales
blends), and California Navel Oranges were all untouched.  So, slightly
peeved, I ate my oranges and sipped my Twinings Earl Grey Tea.  Once I
had finished I packed up my tarp, stowed my MSR Whisperlite
International Stove in my Lowe Alpine Contour III 70+15 pack, filled and
iodined my Nalgene water bottles, and hit the Franconia Brook Trail,
headed back down to Lincoln Woods.  The FB trail is pretty much just an
old narrow guage logging railroad bed.  Perfect for my knee.  About
three miles before the trailhead I took the spur trail to Franconia
Falls, a spectacularly shaped bit of rock through which the brook
gushed.  I stopped to lunch and swim in the largest of the holes.  After
having my fill of both food and frigid water, I hit the trail and sped
back to my car.

The hike was wonderful - save the mice it was perfect.  Splendid autumn
weather (nothing but sunshine), and spectacular surroundings (especially
given the foliage - mostly vivid yellow leaves of birch and silver
maple).  I discovered that a hike through valleys can be just as
stunning and rewarding as one that climbs peaks and traverses ridges.
And thanks to Merck's Vioxx (rofecoxib) and the relative absence of
climbing and descending, my knee was bearable - no limping required.  I
will definitely return to sample other trails in the Wilderness!

Ben K.

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