Owl’s Head (05/28/2016)

Hiked: Saturday, May 28, 2016
Cost: $3.00

I am a slow hiker and I try to allow for that during my hikes. I use time as a guide when hiking so on the way back I can figure out approximately how long it will take from point to point.

6:30 am – Start Lincoln Woods Trail. You cannot miss this one as it starts with a huge suspension bridge and the trail itself is about 10 feet across. It is an old railroad bed and you will see (and stumble over) some of the old railroad ties. Enjoy the walk and the view of the Pemigewasset River to the right. It is 2.9 miles to the 2nd suspension bridge and you will absolutely hate this walk on the way back.

7:00 am – (about 1.1 miles total) Osseo Trail Junction enters on the left. Continue straight towards Franconia Falls which is 1.8 miles away.

7:15 am – cross a wooden plank Bridge

7:30 am – (about 2.5 miles total) The Black Pond trail enters on the left. Franconia Falls is only 0.6 miles away now so you added another 1.4 miles in a half hour.

7:35 am – Check out the sign. How many paces in 200 feet? For me there were 74. Not sure what this is for, but it gave me something to think about for a minute.

7:40 am – I reached the second suspension bridge.

7:45 am – (about 2.9 miles total) Franconia Brook Trail enters to the left. Take it. You will cross Camp 9 Brook twice, but it is basically rock-hopping with no real worries.

8:45 am – (about 3.9 miles total) The trail swings to the right at this point, not straight. Beaver activity in this area has caused a few trail re-routes to avoid flooded areas. You will cross Camp 9 Brook again.

8:30 am – (about 4.1 miles total) The Lincoln Brook Trail enters on the the left. About 10 minutes into this trail, I really started to notice the roar of water. I knew that there were some tough brook crossings coming up and the adrenaline started flowing.

8:45 am – (about 4.6 miles total) The Franconia Brook crossing. This is where I wish I had water shoes with me. The water was 2-3 feet deep and it was moving at a pretty good clip. There were no visible areas to rock-hop without getting wet. Off came the boots and I rolled my pants. I planned on carrying the boots but knew I would lose my balance and drop them into Franconia Brook never to be seen again, leaving me stranded in the woods barefoot. So to be safe, I put them in my pack.

The water was ice cold, but felt good after all the hiking. Be careful of a few things if you are not familiar with stream crossings. If you go barefoot like I did, the rocks can hurt. There are areas that are fairly deep, next to shallow areas so watch each step. If you step onto a rock and plan on hopping across a few more rocks, note that the water rushing by is very disorientating and the rocks can be slippery. Get to the other side, dry your feet and put your boots back on.

9:05 am – (about 5.0 miles total) The Lincoln Brook Crossing. Same as before. I was able to head to the right side of the bank and find an area upstream that I could rock-hop across. Then just bushwhack in the general direction of the Lincoln Brook Trail until you find it. Simple. Seriously.

9:50 am – (about 6.3 miles total) Two streams converge. Cross the first one (I was able to rock-hop) and note that the trail is on the left side of the 2nd stream. You will be crossing this one shortly too.

10:12 am – (about 6.9 miles total) Two more streams converge. Again, I was able to rock-hop and there were cairns marking the trail on the other side. In 3-4 minutes you will see a small clearing to the left, which is the old camp 12.

10:20 am – (about 7.1 miles total) Cross (rock-hop) Lincoln Brook.

10:30 am – (about 7.5 miles total) You will see the Owl’s Head Path coming in on the right. As of May 28, 2016 there were 2 cairns marking the Owl’s Head Path and a few trees down partially blocking the path that continues to the 13 Falls Campsite, so finding the Owl’s Head Path was very easy today.

Note: Now the fun, scary stuff. The trail is not marked. Nobody wants to get lost way out here. Even though the Owl’s Head Path is not technically marked as other mountains you are used to following, I think that once you find the trail, it is impossible to mess up and get lost. Aside from the fact that enough hikers use this path so it is fairly well established, you should note this: if you are climbing up, and you are climbing on loose rocks causing them to carom down onto the hikers behind you, you are on the right path. That is it. Oh, and there are some cairns on the slide trail,  but you won’t need them.

There are times my pack was rubbing on both sides of the narrow trail. This is normal and the trail is obvious once you know what you are looking for. A few times the ‘trail’ seemed to be a stream and you are literally hiking in moving water, but it is not deep by any means and is preferable to the slide trail.

12:00 pm – (about 9 miles total) The path levels out and you pass the “false” summit. You know, the one that was perfectly fine for years and was still accepted by the AMC Four Thousand Footer Committee until recently. Enjoy the view (hahaha, there is not one) and note the nail heads and ribbon fragments from the old markers. Forge on as the trail hooks to the left and follows a pleasant path to the true summit. The path was full of blowdowns and I had to step over a lot of crap, but it was not terribly difficult.

12:15 pm – (about 9.2 miles total). Reach the summit marked by a 3-foot high cairn. Have a bite to eat and then start back. The really unfortunate thing about this summit is that it is in the center of the Pemigewasset Wilderness. Surrounding Owl’s Head like a horseshoe are some of the most beautiful mountains on the 4,000 footer list. To the west Mt. Flume, Mt. Liberty, Little Haystack, Lincoln and Lafayette loom in the near distance. To the north and northeast are the North and South Twin Mountains, Mt. Garfield, Mt. Guyot and Mt. Zealand. The east has Mt. Bond, West Bond and Bondcliff. But with the exception of the views from the Owl’s Head Slide, you only catch fleeting glimpses of these mountains through the trees.

6:20 pm – (about 18.4 miles total) Back at the car.

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