Bondcliff Trail Run
Sunday, Sept. 13, 2003
Rob Jagnow, Becky Hopkinson, and Chris Rycroft

I frequently find that I have difficulty conveying my passion for intense athletic activity - particulary in the outdoors - to many of my friends. Upon returning from my weekend trips, it's not unusual to swap weekend stories with my coworkers.

I'll come into the office looking particularly refreshed and say, "I had a teriffic weekend up in New Hampshire. Did you get away for the weekend?"

Which will typically prompt a response like, "I went down to Foxwoods Casino and pampered myself at a nice hotel. And you?"

"I went for a 20-mile trail run up the side of a mountain in the pouring rain."

This is typically followed by an awkward pause while the coworker tries to formulate an appropriate response. "...... Well, I'm glad you enjoy that sort of thing."

After a practice crew race on Saturday morning, I spent the day running erands and finally took off for the MIT Outing Club's Camelot cabin in central New Hampshire. It was the weekend of the MITOC Intro Circus, so I joined about 40 or 50 other campers who had come from Boston for the weekend to find out what MITOC is all about.

Late Saturday night, each of the trip leaders announced their planned excursions for the following day. My plan: Run 4.7 miles up the Lincoln Woods and Wilderness Trails, which follow the Pemigiwasset River upstream from the Kancamangus Highway. This long, flat stretch of trail follows the bed of an abandoned logging railway making for a quick, easy run. From there, make a quick 4.4-mile ascent to the summit of BondCliff - one of the more dramatic stone faces in the White mountains. Then backtrack via the same route or - time allowing - via the slightly longer East Branch Rd. The AMC White Mountain Guide (which incidentally features Bondcliff on the cover of the 27th edition) gives the estimated one-way trip time as 6 hours and 35 minutes. I aimed to complete the round-trip in under 8 hours.

Becky and Chris were the only two hikers who expressed interest in the trip, which set us up for a small, fast-moving group. We set our departure time for 7:30am and enjoyed the raucous campfire banter late into the night.

Sunday morning, we had a leisurely breakfast at Dunkin' D's before winding our way to the trailhead at 9am. We kept our packs as light as was safely possible, taking 3-4 liters of water each, extra food, and warm clothing. Departure time, 9:13am.

Despite the rutted railroad ties along the trail - which require a fair amount of concentration to navigate - we made excellent time, always staying close together. Before we knew it, we had already completed the 4.7-mile run to the Bondcliff trailhead. Guidebook time, 2 hours and 30 minutes; our time, 53 minutes.

Even as we started the ascent up to Bondcliff, we kept an excellent pace, jogging when the trail would allow it. Mocking my repeated assurance that my online sources predicted fair weather, the fog grew thick as we approached the summit, and for the last mile before the top, we found ourselves drenched in rain. But our spirits could not be dampened and we pressed on with continued speed. Guidebook time for the ascent, 3 hours and 35 minutes; our time, 1 hour and 43 minutes.

We spent a short time at the summit, grabbing a quick bite to eat and taking photos of the classic precipice. But with the continued rain, we decided that the best way to stay warm was to keep moving. We started the descent shortly after noon.

Given that we were well ahead of our anticipated schedule, we took a little more time on the descent, arriving back at the Wilderness Trail in just over two hours. By this time, the old railway bed was a muddy mess with deep pools of water between adjacent railroad ties. Thus, we chose to bypass the Wilderness Trail, opting instead to return via the East Branch road, adding an extra 1.6 miles to the total route.

We ran upstream for a half mile and then crossed the suspension bridge to the south side of the river. After stopping for a few photos of the bridge with some early fall color, we continued the remaining 5.8-mile run back to the Kancamangus highway, arriving back at the parking lot at 6:30pm.

Total trip: 19.8 miles in 6 hours and 17 minutes.

With plenty of daylight remaining, we bathed in the cool waters of the Pemigewasset River before driving to Concord for a filling Mexican dinner.

Another stunning weekend that leaves me with the question - how will I ever explain this much fun to my coworkers?

Becky Hopkinson, Rob Jagnow, and Chris Rycroft at the Lincoln Woods bridge Becky, Rob & Chris
Chris Rycroft and Becky Hopkinson running the Lincoln Woods Trail The Lincoln Woods Trail
Becky Hopkinson, Rob Jagnow, and Chris Rycroft at the Bondcliff summit At the summit
Becky Hopkinson and Chris Rycroft at the Bondcliff summit Becky & Chris
Chris Rycroft and Becky Hopkinson taking shelter from the rain atop the Bondcliff summit Taking shelter from the rain
Quantum and Chris Rycroft at the Bondcliff summit Quantum & Chris on Bondcliff
The Wilderness Trail bridge Wilderness Trail bridge
The Wilderness Trail bridge

© Copyright 2003 by Rob Jagnow.