Monday, July 10, 2006

Owl's Head

    Today I picked up my dad's car early and drove to NH for a very long climb up Owl's Head mountain in the Pemigewasset Wilderness of the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  Owl's Head is a very remote mountain that is about 8.8 miles from the trailhead at the Hancock Campground off the Kangamangus Highway (route 112). 
    When I got to the trailhead at noon I noticed people with mountain bikes... damnit!  If I had mine Owls_head_004
I could have biked the first 3 miles in and out and saved myself over an hour of walking for the day... Oh well.  The walk in was along the Pemigewasset River and was beautiful (see pic).  I was moving at a pretty good pace because I wanted to be out well before dark.  When I hit the Lincoln Brooke Trail to start skirting around Owl's Head the black flies and mosquitos started to pick up so I threw onOwls_head_014 some bug spray.... right in my eye by accident, which forced a couple angry remarks about my own stupidity.    At about 2500 feet I began looking for the herdpath leading off to the right from the
marked trail.  I soon came upon a small pile of rocks (a cairn at N44 08.258 W71 36.952 see pic) marking the start of the Owls_head_016
herdpath up a very steep land slide on the side of Owl's Head which offered great views of the backside of the Lafayette Lincoln Range (see pic).  As you can see from the picture the  slide was simply a very steep jumble ofOwls_head_015
rocks that would give way and slide under my feet with almost every step.  No wonder they didn't make the herdpath an official trail... too many people would slip and get hurt climbing it!  Near the top of the slide I reached the ridge line and after a short walk found myself in a well trampled down area with a small fire pit.  Thinking this was the summit I checked my GPS and noticed that the true summit was still down the ridge... I never would have known this without my GPS telling me my exact location and apparently most Owls_head_018
hikers didn't have a GPS when they reached this point because there wasn't really a trail from this point on.... After about 20 minutes of struggling through blow down, ferns, thick brush and spruce trees (see pic)I cameOwls_head_019 upon a small pile of rocks in the center of the ridge marking the true summit which my GPS verified.  I logged this as a waypoint (N44 08.665 W71 36.298 for those
who care) and continued back down the crumbly land Owls_head_032slide to the Lincoln Brooke Trail.  On the hike out I noticed a lot of toads in the
woods which made me happy because I haven't seen that many frogs or toads in years which I had feared was just another sign of environmental change for the worse.  The bugs were once again bad so I threw on some more bug spray.  At one point I had my head down while some branches brushed past my face and when I took another step I hit a downed tree over the trail with my forehead knocking my ass to the ground hard nearly blacking out for a moment.  haha.
    On the way out I hiked an extra .6 miles to Franconia Falls to check them out.  It was a beautiful area of rock smoothed over by the flowing water into pools and eddies.  If it wasn't nearly 6:30 pm atOwls_head_036
that point I may have thought about jumping in for a quick swim.  I snapped a few pics of the area and then headed out down the "never ending trail" (see pic of trail corridor through the woods) arriving at my car at 7pm exhaused after the 18.8 mile hike.   It was supposed to thunderstorm all day but I lucked out.  I also forgot Owls_head_041
to pay the parking fee of 3 dollars which could have resulted in a $200 ticket but thankfully I lucked out on that as well.  I stopped at McDonalds (yeah yeah, I know their food sucks) for a burger and a coffee for the very tiring ride home.  I got back to my parents 3 hours later at 10:30pm.  It turned out to be the longest hike I've done in over 6 years and was probably one of the least rewarding because there was absolutely no view from the summit (see pic).  Oh well... only two more hikes till I'm done!!!


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