Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Long Hike to Owl's Head

Today's hike would take me deep into the Pemigewasset Wilderness. The weather was looking good except for some possible afternoon showers. This would be another hike with fellow hiker Denise who would be completing #45 of the 4,000 footers. The plan for this hike would take us along Lincoln Woods Trail to Franconia Brook Trail turning onto Lincoln Brook Trail and finally the climb to the summit up the slide known as the Owl's Head Path.

Starting the long hike

East Branch of the Pemigewasset River

There was plenty of parking available at Lincoln Woods and we were on the trail at 7:00 am. It was a beautiful morning and the sun was just rising up over the mountains as we followed the trail along Lincoln Brook. There was a nice cool breeze blowing and it felt like an early Fall day.

The Lincoln Woods Trail is wide and very straight as it is an old railroad bed. We were making pretty good time and it wasn't long before we passed the Osseo Trailhead and were soon at the Black Pond Trail. I was not at all comfortable bushwhacking from Black Pond to the Lincoln Woods Trail and we continued on to the Franconia Brook Trail.

Temporary bridge

Another 1.7 miles and we turned onto the the Lincoln Brook Trail. There were many water crossings, two were rather challenging in the sense that it required some good rock hopping. The first one we wore water shoes and the next one we managed to rock hop. Higher water would have been very challenging over all water crossings.

Bridge across Franconia Brook

The trail followed Lincoln Brook with its many beautiful waterfalls and water slides spilling into crystal clear pools. But there would be no time for a cool dip today. There were many more miles of hiking to be done. The elevation gain was minimal and the trails were in very good shape except for the occasional blowdown and some slippery roots.

It was along this section of trail that three hikers passed us, a mom and her two adult sons. We would meet up with them again. They were soon out of sight. After 3.4 miles we reached the Owl's Head Path. It was here that we met the three hikers again as they were eating lunch. We also decided to eat before tackling the slide up to Owl's Head that awaited us.

Tree burl

The other hikers were very friendly and it was nice to talk with them as we ate. After a short lunch break it was time for the most challenging section of today's hike. So off we went with the other three hikers ahead of us. It was at this point that I realized my water shoes had dropped off my pack. I figured I'd find them somewhere along the trail on the way back.

Dry water crossing

We were soon at the slide and it appeared to go straight up. It promised everything that I had heard and read about, steep and loose, emphasis on both. One has to be very careful not to send loose rocks down onto hikers below. We got past the loose stuff unscathed keeping in mind this section would be repeated on the descent. The exposed slide would be the best chance for photos of the Franconia Ridge.

Indian Pipe

After a long grind up the slide the trail leveled off and it was a narrow twisting path to the actual wooded summit. There was a small cairn in the woods to greet us but there would be no rewarding, spectacular views and no customary panoramic video that I have normally taken on previous summits.

Beginning of the herd path to the slide

On the slide

More steep and loose

We once again met the three hikers that were ahead of us. After another brief break dark clouds started forming overhead. It appeared that showers might be on the way and we decided to commence our descent. We were hoping to beat any rain that might fall on the slide adding slick and slippery to steep and loose. Sure enough, it started to rain but it was light and didn't last long.

And more up

Clouds move over Franconia Ridge

The summit of Owl's Head

As we were leaving the summit two more hikers were arriving. I asked them if they had seen my water shoes. They did and placed them on a rock so they could be seen when we went back. I thanked them and we departed for our trip back.

View from the slide

Starting down the trail I soon found that there were many paths leading from the top and it was very easy to veer off the main trail. So veer off the trail is what I did. There was just a maze of trails going in every direction. We could hear the other hikers. We made our way over to where they were and followed them down to the slide.

Blowdown and water crossing in one step

The descent on the slide proved to be just as challenging as the ascent and once again caution was required to prevent rocks from tumbling down onto any hikers below. We reached the bottom without any problems and it was nice to be off the slide.

Denise crossing the Lincoln Brook

Wet water crossing

Another short break and we started the long hike back to Lincoln Woods. It was then that the sky opened up and there was a downpour that soaked everything. Seems the hit and miss showers were more hit than miss. Fortunately we were off the slide. We put on waterproof shells and continued our hike.

The end of another successful hike

About halfway back on the Lincoln Brook Trail we spotted my water shoes on top of a large rock. They were securely attached to my pack and I would use them one more time for the last significant water crossing. I probably could have found a spot to rock hop across but I looked forward to getting my feet in the cool water, it felt great!

First blister after 35 4,000 footers

It was a long and uneventful trip back to Lincoln Woods. We passed several hikers beginning their hike into the Pemigewasset Wilderness obviously planning on an overnight trip. The footbridge over the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River marked the end of another successful hike. We completed the 18 mile round trip hike to the summit of Owl's Head in 11 hours and 15 minutes. This was #35 on my list of completed 4,000 footers. I found it to be an adventurous and enjoyable trip into the Pemigewasset Wilderness!

The final approach to the summit of Owl's Head

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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