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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Owl's Head (#44) -- July 25-26, 2009

Ascent route: Lincoln Woods Trail, Black Pond Trail, bushwhack intersecting with Lincoln Brook Trail, Owl's Head Path up slide to summit.

Return route: Owl's Head Path back down slide to Lincoln Woods Trail, Franconia Brook Trail, Lincoln Brook Trail.

Total distance: around 17.4 miles

A month ago, I asked MadRiver if he would plan a trip to Owl's Head with us. He graciously agreed, so we set the date. Soon afterward, DaveBear mentioned he was looking to do Owl's Head again...I let him know when we were going but I wasn't sure if he was going to come or not. I was pleasantly surprised to find him at the trailhead when MadRiver and I pulled into Lincoln Woods.

MadRiver, Alex and myself started out while Dave took care of a few odds and ends. He would catch up to us before we began our bushwhack from Black Pond.

We crossed the suspension bridge (which Alex greatly admired) and headed toward the trail sign.

We took the customary "begin" picture...

...and headed along the very flat and wide Lincoln Woods Trail.

It was an enjoyable walk. The path lies on the west side of the Pemigewasset River's east branch. The sound of the rushing water and the level trail made for a pleasant morning.

It wasn't too long before we ran into two familiar faces -- Gwynna and Diamondridge. They were hiking out after 4 days on various trails and bushwhacks. It was nice to see them. We stopped for a few minutes to exchange greetings, then continued on our way.

Soon we reached the Black Pond Trail.

This trail was typical -- narrow, with a few ups and downs. It too was a pleasant walk, taking us gently through the woods and leading us to the scenic Black Pond.

The three of us took a sandwich break and enjoyed the views.

DaveBear arrived and we all discussed the imminent bushwhack. DaveBear had a particular version he preferred to follow. MadRiver and I went the usual NNW way. The three of us agreed we would meet up on the Lincoln Brook Trail.

We set off, DaveBear going one way and MadRiver, Alex and I going another. At first, the bushwhack looked like a herd path and was easy to follow. Soon after rounding the west edge of the pond, however, we lost all signs of hiker traffic. MadRiver and I both held our compasses as we walked and continually double-checked our direction with each other.

It was tough -- we fought through tall plants and low branches, climbed over logs, and generally had a miserable time of it. Alex was not amused, and she asked several times if we were lost. I assured her we were not, that we were following our compasses and that we would eventually pop out on the Lincoln Brook Trail.

It was a long eventually. Took us an hour and a half to come across the trail. We were thrilled to set foot on it.

Our paced picked up considerably, though we did stop once in a while to admire the gigantic mushrooms.

We caught up with DaveBear close to the second minor stream crossing, then we looked about for a place to camp for the night. We ended up finding a nice place, more than the required 200 feet off the trail (a ranger who was checking around for illegal campsites found us while we were setting up...our first choice was only 150 feet away from the trail, unbeknownst to us...he asked us to move back a bit further and we happily obliged).

After setting up camp, we set off to tackle the Owl's Head slide and tag the summit. It was nice to be free from some of the weight of our packs!

On the way toward the slide, we ran into eddie (VFTT), his 14 year old son, eddie's brother-in-law, and HIS teenage son. They all looked so fresh, clean and strong that one would have thought we were meeting them half a mile from the car instead of 8 miles into the wilderness. This was their 47th NH48 peak...they were to do their final summit on Carrigain the next day. We said our hellos and wished each other well, then we continued onward.

We arrived at the base of the slide in short order -- DaveBear pointed out the entrance, and also a few ways to distinguish the start of this bushwhack/herd path. The ranger who had checked on our site had apparently taken down the cairns that had reportedly been there a couple of hours before.

Up we began, first on loose dirt and scree...

...and then onto the slide proper.

Not long after we began the climb, we noticed something standing to our left, just behind a few branches, right on the edge of the slide and the woods.

It was a juvenile moose. This little guy/gal was just standing there, looking at the hikers that were climbing up and down right beside him/her. It was not afraid, and we all seemed to think that something was wrong.

After looking at him/her for a few minutes, we continued on our way.

Eventually we reached the top of the rock slide and entered the steep dirt-trail part of the hike. I turned and took a picture looking down, but the photo doesn't do the grade justice.

After much huffing and puffing, we reached the "old" summit. The blue squares which used to hold up a sign are still there on the high point's tree. Alex points up to them in the picture below.

From there, we trudged the 0.2 miles toward the "new" summit.

We exclaimed our few hurrays, then went back toward the "old" summit and took a nice, long break.

Going back down the slide made me very nervous -- not for myself, but for Alex. She likes to talk a lot on the descent, and this time around was no exception. The problem is, when she talks, she forgets to look where she is going. I had to declare a very strict "no talking" rule for a while, for her own protection.

We reached the area where we had previously seen the moose...and there he/she still was.

Exactly the way we had seen the fella earlier...over 2 hours ago. Alex and I were sad, we figured something wasn't quite right.

After a bit of surmising as to what might be the matter with the young thing, we headed down and went back to the campsite. I wished I could make that moose better, take care of it somehow. Alex wanted to know why its mother wasn't there. I've no idea, maybe at that size it doesn't need mama anymore? In any event, something was up with the poor critter. (DaveBear alerted the rangers at Lincoln Woods the next day).

We got back to the camp late. We ate dinner and retired to our tents for the evening.

The next morning, we decided to head back over the established trails. Alex and I were through with bushwhacking...we would figure out the river crossings somehow. With three adults and a lot of rope, we were optimistic about getting everyone safely across. Worst came to worst, we would turn back and bushwhack if we absolutely had to.

Turned out we were worrying needlessly. Both crossings were inconvenient, but in no way were they dangerous. I held onto Alex firmly and we waded through. The water went up to her knees at one point, but she was fine, especially with me holding onto her.

The rest of the hike was uneventful. We were all extremely tired and ready to be back at the car. Alex was the most tired I have ever seen her on a hike. She was in very good spirits -- singing, swinging her poles, chatting up other hikers...but she was truly beat. It was a slow walk out, and we paused now and then to take rests and snap a picture or two.

Thanks, DaveBear and MadRiver, for the great company. We were very happy to hike with you both.

Four more peaks to go.


  1. Yet again another amazing tale!! Wow I am soo enjoying all of these and the pictures you are sharing! I can NOT WAIT until Alex bags her 48th!! Keep up the GREAT work!! You both are inspiring! And the moose thing was very odd? I fear something happened to its mother..

    Doug Albanese
    West Lebanon NH

  2. Thanks, Doug!

    The finish date has been set, weather permitting. August 29, on Moosilauke. Maybe we'll see you there..?

  3. Hi,

    I posted a while back that you should write a book about hiking with young children.

    I saw your open call on VFTT for the Aug 29th hike and have been reading your trail reports on VFTT.

    I would like to be there to help celebrate.

    Since I am not a VFTT member yet, I thought I should ask you rather than just show up.

    Thank you,
    Tom Murphy

  4. Hi Tom,

    Yes, please do show up! It would be very nice to meet you. No need to ask, though it was kind of you to do so. I don't yet know our ascent route or ETA on the summit, but I'll post that closer to the time of the hike.

    As for a book...I have been writing a memoir of the kids' times on the trails, as well as the growth that's occured within all of us as the hiking months have gone by. Since I'm a full-time homeschooling mom (and soon going back for a second Masters at Harvard, at night), I've only been able to dedicate a couple hours each night to writing. I hope to finish the book by the end of the year. Then maybe I'll send it out to folks and see if anyone's interested in publishing it. Takes a lot of time...for the blogs, I generally write quickly to get it published online, then go back to my busy life with the girls. With a book, much more time and care goes into the writing and construction. I've been losing a lot of sleep lately trying to find the time to work on it.

    I figure if no one wants to publish it, that's okay -- I'll still have a really nice collection of memories written down to look back on later. Which, in and of itself, is a very good thing.

    See you on Moosilauke,

  5. I enjoyed your post! That moose was just bones when I saw it on Labor Day. How sad! The water crossings were rather easy with all of the recent dry weather.

  6. Have you ever seen this report? This may be the poor moose you saw on the slide. Kind of graphic just to warn.

  7. Hi there, yes, that's probably the same moose. I remember reading and hearing about that moose from other Owls Head hikers as the poor thing decomposed throughout the weeks following our hike. :( Such is nature.


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