Saturday, March 16, 2013

Owl's Head 3/15/13

Working title: The end of a season

Peak: Owl's Head

Trails: Lincoln Woods Trail, Black Pond Trail, Black Pond bushwhack, Lincoln Brook Trail, Brutus bushwhack, Owl's Head Path

Mileage/time: ~17 miles, ~3100 feet of gain, book time of 10:05, actual time of 10:10

I started out this winter season, with a daunting task in front of me. While I did not finish up the winter 4000 footers list, I at least got all but 8 of them. Many things got in the way, weather, my fickle (at times) body, and just life in general. The plan was to start on December 21st, but I managed to not meet up with Mike and Wayne, at the correct location anyway, and with no cell service, I bailed home. A few days later, a planned Osceolas/Tecumseh traverse ended in failure, thanks to a lung issue, that hasn't surfaced since. Since then, with few exceptions, we've been out on the trails on one, if not two days a week. Sure, things get in the way, that's life, but I'm confident when I say that the goal was doable. So, here's to this season, and here's to finishing in the next.

After Cabot on Wednesday, I was beaten, sleep deprived, and out of it... so I slept. Thursday was spent doing not much of anything, in preparation for the long slog out to Owl's Head. I spoke briefly with my friend Keith, who told me that he'd be doing Owl's Head as well, I looked forward to seeing him there. Mike was tired, and wanted to start later than the usual "it's going to be dark for hours" start time, and I was more than alright with that. With less than 6 hours of restless sleep, I got up, and got myself on the road. Coming through Kancamagus Pass was its interesting snowy, somewhat icy self, but the Subaru handled it with ease, and I pulled into Lincoln Woods about 6:45. What shocked me, was that Mike wasn't there! However, Keith and his hiking partner Priscilla were there. I chatted with them until Mike, and to my surprise, Inna arrived.

Keith told me that he had seen a conditions report from the previous day, and that he wasn't bringing snowshoes. My feet, if they were able to utter sounds of joy, would have done so. I'm beginning to look at, and reference, my snowshoes as medieval torture devices. They're just evil, and hurt the hell out of my feet. They do work though, so that's their saving grace. Keith and Priscilla took off before we did, Keith all the while, telling me that we'd catch up to them. We started out shortly thereafter, crossing the suspension bridge over the East Branch of the Pemigewasset.

The Lincoln Woods Trail, was its usual, flat, straight, boring self. The weather, on the other hand, was good. The skies brightened by the minute, and there was a distinct chill in the air, but the trail was well packed and solid... there was even bare ground in spots!

Just because the trail is boring, didn't mean there was nothing to see. There were some nice views from the washed out section along the river, and some nice ice in a small cascade next to the trail.

After about 40 minutes of walking, we turned on to the Black Pond Trail, a new trail to me. Mike and Inna put on spikes a short ways up the trail, but I was determined to stick to my bare boots until traction became necessary. Upon nearing the pond, we had a great view up to the southern horn of Owl's Head.

Beyond the pond, we started into what would be the first of our two bushwhacks for the day. Following the tracks of others made it easier, but the bushwhack was far more trail-like than some trails I've been on. The woods were open, and while the packed track meandered, it brought us right to the Lincoln Brook Trail in short order. Now we had two crossings to deal with, before we'd reach the start of the bushwhack, on the southwest corner of the mountain.

The first crossing was a solid snow bridge, with only one small section to rock hop. The second crossing proved to be more tricky. Due to the sound of the rushing water, my companions did not hear me when I yelled to them that I had found a way across, downstream from the actual crossing. I made it across using two downed trees, and some conveniently placed ice. My compatriots weren't so lucky. They tried upstream, where Mike got across, but Inna could not. I followed the trail up to where the start of the bushwhack was, and waited for a minute. Then I could no longer hear their voices, so I started up the trail towards the normal summer route, and began to hear their voices. I bushwhacked into the woods back to the river, and eventually found them, having crossed safely, about 0.1 miles above the crossing. We returned to the turnoff for the bushwhack and started up.

This was where all our elevation gain was! I can't say that it was as steep as the herd path up Mt. Nancy, but it was pretty steep in places. The bushwhack brings you up away from the river onto an old skidder road, which deposits you into a steep gully. There was a feeder stream up in the gully, and the sound of it was lovely.

Mike had forged on ahead, and I stuck with Inna, we wouldn't see him again until the summit. Just as the track moderated, approaching the summit ridge, we ran into Keith and Priscilla on the way down. You're faster than you give yourself credit for my friend! We wished them well, and continued upward, running into a solo hiker and a group of two. Views poked out here and there, through the trees, and the sky was crystal clear. Meandering around, we finally found Mike, sitting on a blowdown, that the bootleg summit sign used to adorn. We relaxed, and took in the spectacle of 360 degree trees.

After a short break, we headed down. There were a couple of trees I thought about clambering up to get some better views, but erred on the side of caution instead. I did manage a framed shot of Bondcliff with some lenticular clouds from the summit ridge.

Our descent was uneventful, and we soon found ourselves back on Lincoln Brook Trail. Now to get everyone across at the same place! While we were successful, I managed to dunk a boot when the ice I was standing on decided to just give way with no warning. A scraped leg is better than falling in. My companions became worried as we walked out, because I became quiet. Really, I was just lost in thought, thinking back on the winter season, and trying to make sense of it all. No worries guys, I was all set!

We got back to Lincoln Woods in one piece, and in daylight, and made our way into Lincoln for dinner. The Thai place we stopped at was alright, but busy, and understaffed... oh, and expensive.

So, Winter 2012/2013 is in the books for me, and here's how it shaped up:

Peaks done this winter: 30
New peaks: 25
Peaks remaining: 8
Mileage (including attempts): 175.3
Elevation gain: 58,600 feet

Now, this guy has a lot of other things to concentrate on, since calender winter will no longer be upon us as of my next hike. Skiing is the major one, neglected as its been this winter, and I plan on getting out Wednesday at the very least. Thursday I'll be back at the hiking, hitting Sandwich Mountain with Random Group of Hikers (my first time leading a group!). Then Saturday, I'll be heading up to Tuckerman Ravine with Samantha to try my hand at skinning up and skiing down.

Here's to spring, and to all those who completed their winter lists, and single season attempts!

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