Hiking/Trekking Jeanne & Peter


Owl’s Head

Posted on June 23rd, 2014
by PeterD in Hikes

With a distance of 18+ miles and a book time of 10-1/2 hours, this is one of those hikes that one just has to “get through” as part of bagging the 48 4000 footers. We knew we’d have to face it at some point, and none of the literature said it was a hard hike, except for two things: the length and the slide to the summit itself.    No, the real challenge for this hike was going to be just staying in the game to get home in time for dinner!

starting out

Months earlier, we’d booked a room at our favorite B&B in the area – the Wilderness Inn.  The weather really cooperated this time, the forecast was for clear skies, with not a drop of rain in sight!

Of course, we needed to get in our obligatory photo op, with smiles and all before heading out for the day.    Fortunately, even though we were in the Lincoln Woods parking lot before 8AM, the lot was already over half full, so it was easy to find a willing photographer to snap our photo, here on the suspension bridge just beyond the parking area.

Once done, we set out, on the Lincoln Woods trail, and started walking, and walking, and walking!  The trail is an old (converted) logging rail bed, so the going was easy, as you can seen in the photo below.  That’s Jeanne, ahead in the orange, eager to start making some distance on the easy part of the trail!  Off in the distance, you can also make out another group of hikers.

Logging Rail Bed - Lincoln Woods Trail

Logging Rail Bed – Lincoln Woods Trail

I’d done some reading about a bushwhack that would cut off more than a mile of the distance.  With the string of good weather we’d had (dry conditions), we decided to attempt it – diverting from the Lincoln Woods trail at the junction to Black Pond trail.   – the bushwhack starting at the end of the Black Pond trail, north to the Lincoln Brook trail.

All the instructions for the bushwhack said head due north from the end of the Black Pond trail, and after slightly over a mile, you’d intersect with the Lincoln Brook trail which ran perpendicular to the due north heading.

Shouldn’t have been a problem.  Except one really does need to follow the compass (or use that fancy GPS thingie to track to the stored waypoints).  We nearly missed intersecting the Lincoln Brook Trail, as you can see that in the recorded tracks (click on the image below).

Everytrail.com link

And check out the full track at Everytrail.com

The bushwhack took us nearly an hour – it was tough going through the woods, and it didn’t help to get off course – so, it was good to be back on the trail and making headway again. Thankfully, the trail was still mostly easy going – with only gradual elevation gain and generally good footing. We had to cross the Lincoln Brook a few times though it was fairly easy rock hoping to get to the other side.

We arrived at the junction to the Owl’s Head trail, though the junction was a little hard to spot.  It was confirmed by another hiker who was also making the trek to Owl’s Head (a cairn and some markings in a tree).  We arrived there around 11:15 – overall we were making good time.

Owl's Head trail marker

Owl’s Head trail marker

“Owlie” isn’t one of those popular peaks, such as the Presidential’s or the Franconia Ridge, that people naturally gravitate toward. No, it’s mainly for the peakbaggers, so while it was surprising to see so many other hikers on the trail (we probably saw 40+ people), the frequent question was “what number is this for you?”. And true to human nature, many of the answers we heard were in the 40′s, people choosing to leave it to near the end!  And we were no exception to that – this was 45 for us!

From the junction, the trail started gaining elevation rapidly.  The junction is at about 2600 feet elevation, the summit is 4025 feet, and we had 1.1 miles to go – about 25% grade!  After a short time, we got to the base of the slide.  While not quite as dramatic as the slide on North Tripyramid or Flume, it was still tough going – characterized by many smaller rocks, rather than bigger bouldering.  The going was slow, tough there was a reasonably clear path, switchbacking its way up the slide, eventually re-entering a woodsy path and leveling out.   Yes, that’s Jeanne above me on the slide!


Jeanne, ahead on the Owl’s head slide

We made it to the summit at about 12:30, quickly traversing the .5 mile or so on the ridge path from the “old” summit (falsely marked years ago) to the “new” summit.   There were a few other hikers already at the summit, and much to our surprise, we bumped into someone we’d known from church in Hopkinton years ago – small world!

At the summit - #45

At the summit – #45

By now, we’ve figured out the lunch and eating thing, so we munched on our sliced turkey and cubes of cheddar cheese.  After catching up with the old friend and getting caught up on a little trail talk, we were back on the trail.

Going down, especially on slides always seems a bit more precarious, since it’s tough to know what footing will be good footing.  This slide was no exception – the smaller rocks often sliding underneath foot falls.

Also, the path down the slide wasn’t always clear and at one point, we got slightly off the trail (though still on the slide).  Even so, we made it safely down and back to the junction with the Lincoln Brook trail – again bumping into a number of other hikers!

While most of this hike is trails through the woods, or brook-side, it was nice to have some great views of the Franconia Ridge from the slide itself.

franconia ridge

The Franconia Ridge, with Lafayette off to the right, and Lincoln nearly center stage.

The balance of the hike was mostly uneventful, with the exception of a significant brook crossing, which we’d been fortunate to avoid because of our bushwhack! It took us nearly 10 minutes or more to figure out how and where to cross the Lincoln Brook, opting to rock hop rather than take off our boots (as others had done). Once we navigated the brook, it seemed an eternity to do the remaining 5+ miles back to the parking lot. Thankfully, it was an almost imperceptible elevation change.

Back in the parking lot just after 5:30pm – a long and tiring day – though with plenty of time to spare before our well-deserved dinner reservations at the Gypsy Cafe in Lincoln.

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