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Sunday, August 3, 2008

Mt. Osceola (#6) and East Osceola (#7), Aug 2, 2008

Mt. Osceola Trail, out and back, 8.4 miles.

The weather report was iffy today. Thunderstorms for the afternoon and possibly rain in the morning. I explained to Alex that we would have to save Mt. Field (which she wanted to do next) for a sunny day, since I didn't want to be on top of Tom, Field and Willey during a thunderstorm. I explained that we could get up and back from the Osceolas before the afternoon thunderstorms and therefore we should do those today and save Field for the next (sunny) hike.

Despite my explanations and the apparent understanding and agreement from Alex, when we got to the trailhead she loudly exclaimed, "That sign does NOT say Mt. Field, it says Mt. Osceola Trail!!"

I went through the explanation again, and reminded her that she had agreed to all of this. Nevertheless, she was a bit sulky for the first part of the hike.

We have poles now, and the novelty of using them helped dispel the this-is-not-Mt. Field blues. I LOVE using hiking poles. I don't know why on earth it took me this long to buy them.

Mt. Osceola Trail is a very easy, lovely stroll through the woods interspersed with moderate pitches.

Alex's attitude changed dramatically for the better as we hiked and she eventually became her usual, cheery self. She likes all the mushrooms we see on the trails. Bright, big, fluffy looking mushrooms. She took this picture of three grouped together.

We also saw this creature on the trail.

Upward we went, at a very comfortable pitch. The trail became moderately steep toward the top, but only for a tiny distance.

We reached the top and...the views were lovely. There were rain clouds over the other peaks. The wind was carrying the clouds right over the tips of the peaks and toward us. We stood there and watched as they seemed to fly right toward where we were standing, and then immediately up and over us. We watched the clouds change and move and fly, and Alex remarked that it all seemed like magic.

We stayed there a while, Alex elated with the view and feeling fine. There were clouds about that looked fairly dark, but not thick or wide. Much of the sky was clear, so I decided it would be safe to continue toward East Osceola. Also, I knew the trail to East Osceola was in the trees (as is the summit of East Osceola), so we wouldn't be very exposed. I pointed toward the peak and showed Alex where we were going. She felt strong and happy, so we continued on our way.

The trail from Osceola to East Osceola was a work-out!!! A few flat bits and then STEEP down down down.

Just before we reached the famed "chimney," we met a young man (early 20s?) coming up. He spoke in a large, friendly voice. He carried a pack and had a green tarp draped over himself (it was gently raining). He wore no shirt and was obviously in shape. I asked if he was staying at the campground on the other side of East Osceola. He said no, he was just camping here and there.

More on this fellow later.

We reached the chimney and did the rock "butt slide" to its left.

At the bottom of the col I told Alex we were halfway there.

A few seconds of flat trail, and then up. Very steep here.

We were both tired at this point, so this was difficult. We climbed up, up, steeply steeply up. Finally, we got to the wooded summit.

Alex remarked that this was an ornery mountain because there was no view. Some other hikers were right behind us, and they offered to take our picture.

We rested a bit, and then began the very difficult trek back toward Mt. Osceola. Going very steeply up and down tested the reaches of our endurance.

We took it slowly. We reached the bottom of the col and then tackled the chimney.

We went up the main bit, Alex first with me spotting her. I had just gotten her up and over, and was pulling myself over the top, when I heard the large, friendly voice of the man we had met before.

I looked up, and there he was. This time, he had a shirt on, but no pack. And -- I am not kidding here -- in his hand he held a large axe. The kind you cut down trees with. Or, the kind crazy people in slasher movies use on their victims. And there's Alex, standing right next to him, and here's me, not completely over the top of the chimney, still pulling myself up.

I hauled myself over, stood up, and said in a casual voice, "Hey, where's your pack?"

He cheerfully answered that he had left it down the trail, and that he was exploring the area around us. "You know, off the beaten path!" And with that he wandered through some scrub where there was absolutely no trail whatsoever.

After he left, I calmly but firmly urged Alex to get a move-on. She asked why, and I told her that the man made me a little nervous.

There were many other hikers today, groups that were constantly passing us and chatting with us, so I wasn't THAT nervous. But still...

Shortly afterward, a couple passed us and I asked if they had seen the man with the axe. They answered yes, and that he had been at the Osceola summit shortly before, chatting with everyone who was there. The man mentioned that he seemed like a nice guy out exploring. The voice inside myself agreed with him, but nevertheless, the last thing I want to see at the top of an exposed rock climb is a guy with a large axe standing next to my kid.

Onward and upward...

We finally made it back to Osceola.

Here we rested for a long while, and Alex took some pictures.

After chatting with a few fellow hikers, we began our descent.

We were both very tired now, so the descent felt long and hard. In reality, the grade is easy and mellow, but that trip to East Osceola did both of us in. We dragged ourselves back down, looking and feeling like zombies much of the way. After what felt like two days, we finally made it back to the trailhead.

Driving back down Tripoli Road, we saw two female hikers with their thumbs out. I pulled over for them -- they had gone up the Tecumseh trail from Waterville Valley and then accidentally taken the other way down, ending up on Tripoli Road, very far from their car. I gave them a ride to their vehicle and Alex happily chatted them up. They were very nice ladies, and they told me their names but in my fatigued stupor I promptly forgot them.

We dropped them off, and Alex and I had dinner at a restaurant before heading home. The delicious dinner revived both of us. I must bring other types of food on our hikes from now on.

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