Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Owl's Head with East Bushwhack Descent - 6/6/15

Oh the dreaded but awesome Owl's Head! Still after twelve summits, its one of the most fun of the 48 in my book, and never the most dreaded.  On this day, I was rewarded with spectacular weather and great views, which I had not experienced on Owls Head in quite some time.  The previous 4 summits in 2015 were winter conditions or at night, or at night in the pouring rain, so it was exciting to have good weather, and it made me a little frisky for an extra challenge.
Black Pond Trail 
The front of Owl's Head from just before Black Pond 
As I started from Lincoln Woods at noontime, the National Forest rangers had their information tent up. I couldn't walk by without them asking, so I said I was heading out to Owls Head.  As the gentleman looked at his wrist, I said that it would be 12th time out there, to which he replied, "your a better man than I". At the bridge, I started my GPS track, and I was off, with plans to hike the Kinsmans and Cannon later that night.
The view from Black Pond. There was a beautiful breeze and cool clouds shooting up over the Bonds, and no one around. 
The trek through Black Pond Trail and into the bushwhack was so peaceful with no one around. Having done Owls Head four times previously in this year by way of the bushwhack, its almost unnecessary for me to check my map, compass or GPS in this stretch. Its really fun. This time, I came out a little short of the clearing, maybe 100 yards, which has been the case most of the recent times, but it all works out.
Somewhere along the Black Pond Bushwhack
Lincoln Brook, Pemigewasset Wilderness 
I saw a couple on the Lincoln Brook Trail who were having trouble keeping the trail towards 13 Falls. After some short conversation with me, it looked like they were going to give it another shot towards 13 Falls. It was warm out as I made my way up the slide, but there was a cool breeze and it was not as humid...all around beautiful day and it was hard not to take it that opportunity for views from the slide.
Franconia Ridge from the Owl's Head Slide 
Selfie action shot with my favorite peak in back 
Moving very quickly up the slide, I caught up with a younger pair of hikers in sandals (sigh).  Then literally moments later, I passed someone who asked me if I've seen a missing shoe.  I then catch up to the one with a missing shoe. She was just about to summit Owls Head with only one shoe. That's amazing! Another hiker and a young boy were with her.  They were having some challenges, including the need to get back to 13 falls.. with a shoe-less girl and a water-sandal problem with the little boy. I encouraged them to stick to the trail, as there was the other couple heading that way. They had come from 13 Falls. On a more positive note it was a joy to listen to the little boy call his dad from the summit of Owl's Head. I hope they had a great experience this weekend.
Girl summits Owl's Head with one shoe! Congrats!
Owl's Head Summit 
Some of you may remember the hike I did in 2013 with my brother called the Cross Pemi Bushwhack, which included a bushwhack down the east side of Owl's Head.  Since then, I've had an itch for a while to go for it solo, and today was the day. The name of the game is to stay up on the descending ridge and avoid getting down into one of the ravines. Between about 3,400' and 2,800' is a steep ravine to the right, and basically the steepest part of the descent. In 2013, we dipped into it a little bit and had to correct ourselves, but this time, I kept inching left as the ridge curves slightly right, and I avoided all trouble. I did jam my finger bracing myself when I fell through a hole, but even with a light pack, I still had some first-aid to take care of it.
Leaving the summit directly behind the cairn 
Broke some skin, shed some blood, falling into a mossy covered hole 
Even with a drastically reduced pack, never forget the essentials... 
Absolutely beautiful bushwhacking 
Not many people have ever seen this view.... 
Getting flatter and closer to Franconia Brook 
All of the river crossings so far were not a problem, and I didn't imagine any problems with Franconia Brook.  Often times the river looks passable, but there is a deep channel on one side.  When I made it to the river, within view, I couldn't find a spot to hop across, but there was a spot where I could walk across.  At the same time, it would be nice to dip my feet, so put two together, and I made the quick decision to remove my boots, strap them to my pack, and walk across.  I used an extra shirt to dab my feet dry, put them back on, and in just a few minutes, I found the Franconia Brook Trail.
I waded across Franconia Brook with boots off in this area, felt so good.... 
I couldn't believe that it had only taken 4 hours to hit the summit, and reach the trail by bushwhack. This motivated me even more, and I jogged the approximately 6 miles back to Lincoln Woods in just one hour and fifteen minutes, finishing in 5:17.  Even though it was done quickly, this hike was a journey with a lot of great parts to it, especially views, the personal challenge, and the success. As I push for my November goal and get closer and closer, this is all just becoming more motivating, fun, and exciting, and I feel like I'm in the best shape possible.  ....that's why when I finished, I grabbed a chicken parm sub before heading over to Lafayette Place to ready for my hike of the Kinsmans and Cannon to finish my 8th Round.
Beautiful view from the beaver pond along Franconia Brook Trail 
Returning to Lincoln Woods at the Pemi suspension bridge
Owl's Head - 12th Round
5th Summit of Owl's Head in 2015
Beautiful views from the slide, and of the Bonds from the bushwhack and Franconia Brook Trail
Personal fastest time to Owl's Head, even with the Black Pond bushwhack and east bushwhack descent.
Owl's Head - 12th Summit
Trail Conditions:
All of the trails on this hike were mostly dry, except for the typical muddy spots along the river and from runoffs. The streams after the Black Pond Bushwhack were low enough to rock-hop, and are pictured below.  After Owl's Head, I descended down the east side of the peak.  While it is very steep, the terrain was mostly dry and solid. There are numerous mossy covered holes which can be deep and leg swallowing, but other than that, the woods are tame to travel through. Rather than waste time finding a decent location to cross the Franconia Brook, I removed my boots and went across a shallow section. The rest of the trails out were dry and smooth sailing for jogging out.

Black Pond Bushwhack 
One stream crossing...
The other.... 
Owl's Head Slide
Hike Stats
Trails: Lincoln Woods Trail, Black Pond Trail, Black Pond Bushwhack, Lincoln Brook Trail, Owl's Head Path, bushwhack, Franconia Brook Trail
Distance: 15.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,056 ft.
Actual Book Time: 5:17
Garmin Adventure
Photo Album Link

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