Owl's Head 3-4-12
A week late, but I've been busy and away enjoying other winter activities....
Lincoln Woods Trail --> Black Pond Trail --> Black Pond Bushwhack -->Lincoln Brook Trail --> Owl's Head Path (Up)
Owl's Head Path --> Brutus Bushwhack --> Lincoln Brook Trail --> Black Pond Bushwhack --> Black Pond Trail --> Lincoln Woods Trail (Down)
Distance: 15 mi. (Total)
Elevation Gain: 2,890 ft. (Overall) 3,218 ft. (Total)
Time: 7:57 (Summit) 12:09 (Total)
The trail starts off nice and gentle on the old railroad bed that leaves from the Lincoln Woods Visitor Center. The trail was packed smooth and wide all the way to the Black Pond Trail. I barebooted until here and then put on the snowshoes for the Black Pond Trail. While the walk along the Lincoln Woods Trail is 2.6 miles and pretty uneventful, it still went by pretty quickly.
Damage from Irene
When I started up the Black Pond Trail, I looked back down the Lincoln Woods Trail and could see a couple other hikers way off in the distance. The first of only a few I would see. Zig zagging side to side some while slowly gaining elevation, the Black Pond Trail has some nice scenery next to it. Soon you get enxt to a brook where I was entertained by tracks from a mink that had slide down some banks and hopped down stream for quite a distance. Before long, you come to the outlet of the pond and the view up to Owl's Head that is very common in trip reports (this one included).
The southern peak of Owl's Head from the outlet of Black Pond
At the start of the Black Pond Bushwhack, what had appeared to be two sets of snowshoe tracks now turned to one. I guess someone only hiked out the pond before turning back. The hiker ahead of me made the bushwhack easy to follow. Although, the couple inches of fresh snow hadn't hidden it much. The bushwhack featured some ups and downs but nothing major before the biggest drop at the end. The bushwhack dropped me and the two hikers that had caught up to me out just before the crossing of Lincoln Brook right where expected.
The Lincoln Brook Trail is a gentle trail that stay very near to the brook. It slowly gains elevation and only had a couple of tricky places where the track was narrow on side hills. Following the brook is nice as the water is good to look at and you start to get views of Owl's Head through the trees. But the trail seemed more interesting to me as it went out into the trees some.
Following the edge of the brook
After what is a long distance on this trail, you get to the crossing of Lincoln Brook. The brook isn't as wide this far up and the snow bridge was nice. Just after crossing over the brook, I saw what I believed to be the start of the Brutus Bushwhack. I looked at it and thought about taking it, but decided I didn't want to break trail up it. I didn't want to use the energy on it and having never done it before, didn't want to loose the track. Afterwards, I wish I had tried it though. I followed the trail that was broken by the now 3 hikers in front of me up to the base of the Owl's Head Path. At 6.8 miles so far to get here, I firmly believe there needs to be a bench here to sit at. I tried to have some trail mix and more drink while taking a break here.
One of the last brook crossings before Owl's Head
Having forgot them earlier, I put on my gaiters and headed up the path. Before long you are onto the slide and the steep climb begins. The climb didn't seem too bad to start, with a straight path headed up the slide. It was a little slow going, but it was a steady pace. As I got higher, it just became slow going for me. Even with my snowshoes on, it was hard to get good traction in places so you could push yourself up the mountain. I could tell that the hikers in front of me had had the same problem. In a couple places the trail/path headed up the edge of the trees. It looks like we all were pulling ourselves up by tree branches in places. I tried to take in the view from the slide, but didn't stop much for pictures. With all the snow, there weren't many good places to take a pack off and get out the camera. You get a bit of an uneasy feeling as you notice there isn't much to slow you down if you were to slip or fall here.
Early on the slide, pretty easy going here
It's a little steep as the path crosses the slide
The further I went up the slide, the more I wished I had tried to to the Brutus Bushwhack. Coming up the slide in winter has been the single hardest trail I have hiked ever. I kept going up, as I realized that even if I wanted to turn around, there was no good and safe place to do it on this trail. But after a hard climb, I eventually got back into the trees and off of the slide. Quickly you come to the upper end of the Brutus Bushwhack that had now been broken out by a group of 9 hikers that had gotten past us on the slide. I thought about turning down and bailing out here, but I was so close and had come so far on this long hike, that I didn't want to give up. Plus, now that the trail wasn't as steep, I was starting to do better.
View to Franconia Range from the slide
As I neared the old summit, the other hikers started to come down past me. I said hi to some of them and the ones that passed me in the morning were glad to see I had made it this far safely. Hikers sure are a friendly and helpful bunch of people. Soon I was at the sign on the old summit and headed over to the new summit. This quarter mile went by pretty quick an easy. I found what looked like the high point on the path, and went to take a rest at the large packed down area from the other hikers. I changed out my wet layers for some dry ones and took some pictures. You can see through the trees some, but since it had started to snow, the surrounding peaks weren't all that clear.
Franconia Range from near the summit
After some more to eat, I started down as it was already midafternoon and I was only at the halfway distance. Before long I was to the Brutus Bushwhack and I was certainly taking it this time. This path is a little steep near the top, but no where near as bad as the slide. Normally I am not a fan of when people butt slide down trails. But since it was slow going on snowshoes where others had done it and I eventually fell onto my butt and started sliding, I decided I was going to go for it. It's actually kind of fun after a tiring hike, especially when it goes for a long distance.
In what seemed like no time, I was back to the Lincoln Brook Trail and had a long gradual trek back to the truck ahead of me. As I knew I would be finishing in the dark, I was glad I brough both my headlamps with me. The large group that was hiking today told me they had broken out trail on an upper version of the Black Pond Bushwhack and I took this on the way back. I'm not sure if they intended to leave a branch in the trail marking where it started or not, but it got my attention either way. I was disapointed with how steep it started, but it ended up being good once it went downhill.
Heading back down the trail with a dusting of snow on the trees
I got to Black Pond at 6:15 and decided that half an hour after sunset, the trees were thick enough that I got out my headlamp. The hike from here out was uneventful and dark. Once back to the Lincoln Woods Trail, I took the snowshoes back off and barebooted back to the truck. In the dark with snow falling, it is hard to tell how much further it is back to the parking lot as there are only a few places that give you a point of reference to where you are on the trail.
All in all it was a long but good hike. It was great weather for Owl's Head being mostly cloudy but high enough clouds to still give a view when there was one. When I was back to the truck I was certainly tired and ready for a break. The two hours home wouldn't go by quick enough. I slept great after this hike.
For all the pictures from the hike, just go HERE
The Following User Says Thank You to sdways01 For This Useful Post:
Anna LeBlanc (03-13-2012)
Nice going Adam! Great account of a hike that frankly most of us don't look forward to very much. As tough as the slide and BBW are, winter is still probably the best time. I remember a friend telling me that you hadn't really experienced the 48 until you'd done Owl's Head in June amongst the mud and black flies. We may just get to experience that this year. That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger Nice pics BTW - actually makes it look like fun...