Sunday, September 25, 2011

Owl's Head - 9-24-11

I think I'm finally done with the long walk of the Lincoln Woods Trail for a while. I feel like I've done it so many times, and in all hours of a day. This time it was my brother's call to Owl's Head as he continues his own quest for 48. With the weather iffy, and patchy fog expected, Owl's Head was the perfect choice for this hike. We left from the Lincoln Woods lot at 7am sharp. The suspension bridge is now closed, so we had to walk over the bridge and around. As we hiked down the 'ol logging road, finding our stride, it was only fitting that we heard the very loud call of an Owl, which rang out from deep in the woods to our left. Perhaps it was telling us a great adventure was ahead.

We hit the Black Pond Trail with a good pace to get to the Pond, anxious to start the bushwhack. Anxious because this is the stuff I go for; something that mixes a hike up and makes it adventure. Hiking into the Pemi Wilderness is an adventure, because its a place with a great sense of remoteness. I hiked to Owl's head and did the Black Pond Bushwhack solo at the break of dawn on July 30th. That time, it wasn't as easy. I hiked too far around the pond before going off on the correct bearing, which led me through some seriously thick stuff. I made out alright that time, just a little bit down river from the crossing. To read that trip report, click here.

I found my way then, but could Bill, leading the way, lead me back to Owl's Head? He sure could, and yesterday, he became a trail master. After a quick break at the magnificent Black Pond, we scooted over the bank and were into the bushwhack. Bill led us along a slightly beaten path, but it faded out quickly. After a while of passing through the open woodlands we hit what appeared to be an old logging road. Game trails were everywhere, and they made for easy travel occasionally. Eventually, we came right onto a pretty distinct path, and we popped right out the at the bootleg campsite by the river crossing. Bill had guided the way perfectly through the bushwhack, and we were in super high spirits. Knowing some common sense map and compass skills can help you out of the woods if you lose the trail or you have to wait for morning. This is the perfect place for a novice hiker to learn because at some point you will cross a trail if you lose the way for real.

We headed up the rocky Lincoln Brook Trail with spectacular scenery with the Lincoln Brook flowing loudly to our right and with yellow and red leaves at our feet. It was so pretty there were a few stops for pictures. Here, we really got the sense that fall is now here, especially in the mountains. Miles from the roads of the White Mountains lies this remote, rugged, but beautiful trail. Eventually after crossing the brook and with it now at our left, we came to the base of the slide. We took a few minute break to have some food and water before the trek up.

After so many miles we were now starting to ascend. This makes Owl's Head unlike any other 4000 footer, as the slide is the only major elevation change. After a few minutes, the path opens up onto the loose gravel and rocks of the slide. The valley was a beautiful shade of yellow and green and the fog was still chopping off the mountain tops. All morning it had been wet, and the majority of the way up the slide was wet rocks making it a challenging ascent. We neared the top, hopping over the dozens of blow downs that litter the path. We passed the quarter mile to the summit sign, and you wouldn't think you have that much to go. Finally, we made it to the summit of Owl's Head. Bill reached his 33rd four thousand footer of the year. For me, it was just another peak off my grid, but this trip turned out to be much greater than just a couple of peakbaggers trying to check off Owl's Head.

After a nice relaxing lunch break on the summit we set off on our descent. Descending the terrain near the top was good going, and we were back out onto the slide quickly. We passed two hikers descending, who asked where we had been. We were at the summit obviously, and they weren't, so they appeared puzzled, but we continued on and descended quickly down the slide. The views opened up slightly to give us the best view of the valley we would get, but still the fog never fully dispersed. We got to the bottom, and we had to filter and re-fill our water in the brook before we got going.

It felt great to be down from the slide, and our legs were good and ready to go for the way out. We moved much more quickly on the way back south on the Lincoln Brook Trail. Again it was beautiful hiking surroundings and we took at all in as we trotted back to the river crossing and the start/end of the bushwhack. Going into the bushwhack the first time in July, I had no clue it was going to come out at such a distinguished area on the trail (bootleg campsite). The fact that Bill was able to lead us directly to that spot was amazing. We headed back up the well beaten path to start the bushwhack back. We started on the way back for several minutes staying on a due south bearing towards Black Pond. We followed the well beaten path a good distance until it became unrecognizable. Eventually, we discovered that we were in a different location than anywhere on the way in.  We then started to bear left slightly at about a 160 degree bearing. The terrain became tougher than anything we saw either way. We battled a few tough sections, and then we noticed the terrain was a bit more dramatic, dropping significantly to the left (southwest) and in front of us (south). Looking at the contour lines, Bill put his finger where he thought we were (and we were). We headed through some tough stuff again until we heard running water. We descended on an angle down a steep bank. As we neared the river's edge, an overgrown path became visible. After about 5 to 10 minutes, I pushed through some branches and could see a trail sign just a few feet ahead. It was the sign labeled "End of Trail" for the trail to Franconia Falls. I could not believe that it turned out so perfectly. I was certain that Bill wouldn't go two for two on these bushwhacks, but as the map and compass holder, he mastered the navigational challenge and earned his summit of Owl's Head. We had just took this Owl's Head experience to a different level. There's not much words to explain how awesome it was for this to turn out the way it did.

We went down to the river's edge to take in the majestic Franconia Falls as we talked about what we just accomplished. As we hiked out to the Lincoln Woods Trail, there were more people in the area, but overall, I think the suspension bridge being closed kept many away. We felt great in mind and body until we hit the Lincoln Woods Trail. That's when the feet started to hurt. They always do as soon as you start walking on the flat stuff. Even though it was mid afternoon, the fog was just finally lifting and it gave us a bit of sunshine, brightening the fall colors and again showing us that fall is truly here.

Hike Stats
Trails: Lincoln Woods Trail, Black Pond Trail, Black Pond Bushwhack, Lincoln Brook Trail, Owl's Head Path, Lincoln Brook Trail, bushwhack, Franconia Falls Trail, Lincoln Woods Trail
Distance: 16 mi. (+/-)
Elevation Gain: 2,850 feet
Book Time: 9:50

To view the full album, view or click on the slide show below. This is a good one to view as a slide show.

Here is an edited video of our bushwhack out and back:

1 comment:

  1. Way to go guys! Call me crazy, but I'm actually looking forward to Owl's Head.