Owls Head, Lincoln, Liberty, Flume. or "Old guys who haven't learned"
Our original plan was to hike into Owls Head via the Black Pond bushwhack. Find the beaver ponds near the exit of Lincoln Brook. Set up camp and on Saturday bushwhack to the Lincoln Slide, climb the slide then head south over Liberty and Flume exiting the Osseo trail. After listening to several weather forecasts all indicating a wet Saturday, we made the decision to not camp out at the ponds but to continue straight for the slide rather than chancing a wet and potentially dangerous situation. Hopefully we could get to the Liberty Spring campsite before darkness falls.
The hike in via the Lincoln Woods trail was uneventful. The mosquitoes were not too much of a pain unless you stopped for more than five minutes. In no time we reached the Black Pond trail and headed around it for our first bushwhack of the day.
We had been here 4 years ago and I still had the coordinates loaded into my GPS so this section went by quickly. Our only change was to take a slightly more NW direction which put us further along the brook. Not too long after emerging from the bushwhack we ran into a good sized group of very friendly hikers also heading to Owls Head. The river crossings while tricky were rock hoppable and everyone was able to keep their feet dry.
The hike up the Owls Head slide went well. The bottom section was a bit wet and combined with the loose gravel kept you on your toes. The views from the middle of the slide were fantastic and there wasn?t a cloud in the sky. The Lincoln Slide making its first appearance stared over at us.
We were on the old summit before we knew it and quickly made our way over to the new summit. Its amazing how many herd paths there are between these two spots. Thankfully they all arrive in the same spot.
After a couple of quick pictures we were on our way again. On our way out we quickly ran into the other group that was tagging Owls Head. We stopped and chatted for a few minutes then headed down. At the base it was time to refill our water bottles. It was a nice day but a tad on the warm side so the water was going down quickly. Even though the Lincoln Brook was flowing strongly we still used a filter just to make sure.
From here on in we were on uncharted territory for us. We?ve been planning this for a while and even though there are bits and pieces on the internet most people tend to bushwhack down the slide as opposed to up. Finding the spot where the Lincoln Brook exits the slide was tough. We had to backtrack a couple times but eventually found the waterfall we had been hunting for. Entering the woods it got thick in a hurry. This was going to be an adventure. Everything we read said to keep to the height of land always keeping the sound of the brook within earshot. Doing this gave us varying results. There were sections of wide open woods where it looked like a trail existed. The section would then turn to thick nasty stuff within a few hundred feet. It would continue alternating like this the whole way to the base of the slide. When we finally decided we were close enough to the base of slide we headed towards the sound of the brook and with one final drop through the scrub we were there. What a wild and desolate spot it is.
As imposing as the slide looks from a distance up close it?s really just a collection of very loose gravel with occasional boulder thrown in. Our route was to hug the right side near the tree line. The footing is pretty unstable and in spots it was pretty tough just to keep moving up the way the ground gives way.
Thankfully up close it?s not as steep as it looks from a distance. You never really felt exposed enough that you were worried about falling. Picking the exit spot from the top of the slide was tricky. From all we had read there would be 15 or so feet of thick stuff then it opens to scrub and rocks but from the slide all you see is thick stuff. After a couple of painful entrances into the krumholtz we found a spot that looked shorter than the other spots we tried. Lo and behold just on the other side was a cairn. After a bit of rock hopping to stay off the delicate stuff we were on Franconia Ridge.
We had now been on the trail for almost 10 hours and our 50+ year old bodies were beginning to rebel against us. The views from the ridge as always were spectacular. The clouds had started to roll in but it was still dry. Our next stop was the Liberty Springs campsite 3 miles away. By this point it was just one foot in front of the other. We finally rolled into Liberty Springs just before 8pm.
The next morning woke up dry but windy. We knew it wouldn?t last so we decided to grab a quick breakfast, pack up and go. We were on the trail before 6:30 and almost immediately it began to rain. In the short time it took us to get to the top of Mt. Liberty it had begun to hail.
A couple of quick pictures and it was off to Flume. With weather like this we were glad we weren?t bushwhacking up a slide or in some deep woods. As sore as we were we knew our decision the day before was the right one. When we got to Mt. Flume the hail had stopped and the rain had decreased some. A couple more quick pictures and it was down the Osseo trail.
The Osseo trail really is a beautiful trail. By this point though it was tough to admire it, we were just too tired and beat up from the previous day. Now we were wet as well. From this point on it was just your classic slog in the rain. The Lincoln Woods trail for some reason always seems to get longer at the end of a hike.
All in all a classic hike for us. One of our group Mike got his 48th 4000 footer on Owls Head. Congrats there. 2 others Bill and Tom both picked up 3 more summits and are now just a very few peaks away. The Pemi wilderness is an amazing place. I got to see an area that people seldom venture to and did so with friends that love it as much as I do. Win-win there I would say.